Gershom Scholem


The Representation of the Astral Body*

Translated by Scott J. Thompson (1987)

Among those kabbalist teachings that present special difficulties for research, one especially deserving mention concerns the particular spiritual contour unique to each individual. The teaching first appears in The Zohar under the biblical expression, 'Tselem'. In my essay "Shiur Koma: The Mystical Form of the Godhead," I have discussed this concept's biblical significance, according to which Tselem denotes a kind of plastic image or form. The verse concerning the creation of man in the Tselem of God (Genesis 1:26), already a problem for later monotheistic theology, furnished the mystics with a key word having only the loosest connection to the biblical idea. For the kabbalists, the important question concerned the actual constitution of the particular essence unique to each person. Once the doctrine of metempsychosis had become unanimously accepted, the specifically solitary and irretrievable aspects of human nature were left an open question. If the theory of the transmigration of souls [metempsychosis] were adopted, then what could the principium individuationis of each individual existence be? Objections against the entire teaching of transmigration were raised in the circles with kabbalist tendencies, whenever such an individuating principle was not recognized. A mystic like Isaac Ibn Latif, standing in the middle between the already crystallized Kabbalah of that time (1270) and contemporaneous philosophy (The Zohar had not yet made its public debut), wrote vigorously against the docrtrine of metempsychosis. He refers to it as a heretical teaching, refuting it in his collection of mystical aphorisms and paradoxes [1] with the argument that the necessary individuating principle of each single existence would ultimately amount to nothing at all [were one to adopt the doctrine of the transmigration of souls]. He was evidently unaware of the teaching that was already circulating in kabbalist conventicles concerning that particular human endowment, which, as a specific instance of form [spezifisches Gestaltmoment], belongs to every individual life.

This instance of form, which evidently does not enter into the soul's transmigration, is designated as Tselem in The Zohar and other writings. This raises the question whether we are dealing with a kabbalistic variant of the doctrine of the self, considered as the deepest spiritual essence of the person, or with a version of the astral body or 'psychic body' that mediates as a self-sufficient third realm between those of soul and body. It could be hypothesized that these concepts are not mutually exclusive and that the occult self of the individual appears in the psychic or aetheric body. It is clear that the Tselem as the individual's pure form was an idea open to various interpretations. In the following analysis of kabbalist sources, I will nonetheless adopt the view that, despite the various versions, we are concerned here with the presentation of the astral body of the person as a constituent element of individuality.

Without direct connection to the details of the kabbalist teaching of the soul and its parts- i.e., how these details developed in the wake of the Neoplatonic psychology of the Spanish kabbalists and also in The Zohar-the conception of an imprecisely defined 'self' (which can manifest itself) makes its appearance in a kabbalist text with which we can begin. In Moses ben Jacob of Kiev's compilation Shushan Sodot, which has been ignored by scholars all too often, there are quite noteworthy remarks, not to be found in any other kabbalist literature known to me, about the occult character of prophecy as a self-encounter. This work was first compiled in 1509, but the passage relevant to our discussion belongs to the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries. It comprises various excerpts from more or less contemporary writings, of which at least one derives from a student of the famous Abraham Abulafia, the most important representative of an ecstatic 'prophetic kabbalah'. [2] The extremely personal coloring of the following account is especially striking since kabbalist literature does not look kindly upon such confessions. I am translating the text from the complete manuscript of the Shushan Sodot at Oxford: [3]

A great secret about [the statement of the Midrash] [4]: Great is the prophets' power that assimilates the form of the Creator. In what preceded, we have already explained the sense of what this secret appears to be, [5] but later I found a passage about this by earlier authors, and my heart urges me to write it down, for it contains nothing short of an explanation for the preceding. The text runs as follows: 'the late, deeply erudite Rabbi Nathan told me: Know that the complete secret of prophecy for the prophet is that he suddenly sees the form of his self standing before him, and his self forgets and becomes transported from him, and he sees the form of his self before him speaking with him and proclaiming the future. Concerning this secret, our sages taught: Great is the power of the prophets who compare the form appearing to them with the Creator. Thus spoke the erudite R. Abraham ben Ezra as well: the listener (during prophecy) is a man and the speaker is a man. [6] Concerning this matter, another scholar writes: I have happened upon the power of the combination (of God's names) and isolated meditation. Of the light that has traveled to me I have elaborated in the book Sha'are Zedek. [7] But I have not been so worthy that the form of my self has stood before me, and this is not in my ability. And another scholar writes the following: I know and recognize with complete certainty that I am no prophet and no prophet's son, that the Holy Spirit is not in me and that I have no power over the heavenly voice [8] -for I have become unworthy of all these things and have not cast off my vestments nor washed my feet [9] -and yet I call heaven and earth to witness, in heaven is my witness and my security is in the heights, that one day as I was writing down a kabbalist secret, I suddenly saw the form of my self transported from me, and I was obliged and urged to cease writing. And as we [10] composed this book and vocalized the fixed name of God according to its vowels, disturbing things appeared before our eyes, somewhat like red fire at sunset, until we became bewildered and drained, and we encountered this many times during our work. [11]

There is no mistaking the heightened emotion accompanying these accounts of at least three authors, two of whom have seen their 'selves.' To the third author, whose account of his mystical experience is known to us directly from his preserved writing Sha'are Zedek, the presentation of the self appears as the highest mystical experience, to which he was not permitted. On the other hand, the prophets have had this experience precisely in the moment when their pure self became the transmitter of their prophetic message. What they encounter is not something fundamentally different from themselves-such as the appearance of the divine or an angel-but is rather their own pure form. What has been called 'self' in this case remains undefined in relation to the traditional division of the grades of the soul. It could be argued that this self is one with the essential nature of the angelic self united to the person, and that what becomes visible to the person is his own personal angel. On the other hand, the accentuation of the moment of self-transport and self-forgetting in this experience is evidence that these kabbalists were searching for something that emerges from the depths of human nature itself and that is concealed from them within this self. The latter would accord with a conception of the self as an autonomously aetheric body, whereas the former points in another direction. But it is unlikely that the difference is as deep-seated as it first appears. I have translated the above-cited phrases as precisely as possible. It would also be possible to translate the sense of the Hebraic figures of speech without this strictness: e.g., "his own form" instead of "the form of his self"; "I was beside myself" instead of "my self transported from me," so that the problem of the visualized self would actually not appear in the terminology at all. He who sees himself, according to the interpretation of many commentators and investigators into this dimension, perceives an autonomous emanation of his essence that can very well be interpreted as his astral body.

In the kabbalist literature this conception is closely connected to other motifs that are preserved in entirely parallel associations throughout the history of antique religions and the Neoplatonism of the Middle Ages. There is an especially striking parallel between the remarks quoted above and the remarkable traditions, preserved in Arabic in numerous texts of early medieval occultism, about the 'perfect nature' of the individual and the appearance of one's 'own daemon' or personal angel. Particularly interesting in this context is the work Ghajat al hakim (The Goal of the Wise), which survives in a Latin revision under the title Picatrix, a work referred to as an "Arabic handbook of Hellenistic magic" [12] by the editor of the Arabic text. The compilation, which preserves some of the various pseudepigraphical sources (handwritten to a large extent) of a principally hermetic character, contains several fragments on the magical conjuration of a pneumatic being that is the 'perfect nature' of the conjuror himself. This being that proves its flawlessness to be a metamorphosis of the magician's 'own daemon' makes its first emphatic appearance in the Greek Magical Papyri, concerning which the Neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus developed an entire theory and theurgic praxis. [13] During the time when a Greek equivalent of the concept of the 'perfect nature' had not yet been established, the transition to this terminology is still clearly apparent when the magician in the papyri conjures his daemon with the words "Father of the unapproachable nature."

For the person who successfully enters into an allegiance with her, the 'perfect nature' imparts revelations of all things hidden and appears as the adept's spiritual guru who unlocks the bolt of wisdom and presents the magician, in his sleep and when awake, with the key to the portal. There Hermes declares:

When I wanted to discover the knowledge concerning the secrets of the Creation, I came upon a subterranean vault full of darkness, where the winds were blowing….Then an apparition of the most beautiful form appeared to me in sleep [which gives him instruction on how to conduct himself to attain the knowledge of the highest things]. Then I said: But who are you? He said: I am your perfect nature.

The magical four names of this nature, which divides itself into four pneumata as a consequence of an operation carried out by the magician, make up the secret of secrets. A pre-adamic sage is supposed to have been the first to have had this revelation of the perfect nature because "this man could see with pneumatic eyes and could discern with a pneumatic heart." To Socrates is attributed the explanation that the perfect nature is to be called "the Sun of the Philosopher, his root and branch." And Hermes is to have defined it as "the Pneuma of the Philosopher which corresponds to his star and guides him… and assumes the role of the Philosopher's advising teacher, inspiring the lad word for word and initiating him from one gate to the next." From the qualification given here, it follows that the 'pneuma' is connected to the biological essence and the psycho-physical nature of the person: "It grows with him and nurtures him," which is also the point of the remark that "the rays of the perfect nature dwell in the soul."

We are indebted to Henry Corbin for his valuable clarifications of the interpretations that this concept of the perfect nature has undergone amongst significant philosophers like Abu'l Barakat (a Jew who converted to Islam in his later years) and esoterics like Suhravardi of Aleppo in the 12th century. It is not only the divine intellect in man, but also the angel who protects and leads him. [14]

Helmut Ritter is of the opinion that, pondered through the spectacles of a medieval cleric, this personal daemon of the individual "suddenly assumes features well-known to us, and we recognize in it the devil of Dr. Faust, with whom this pact is sealed, initiating him into all the secrets of the black art." [15] In fact, passages from The Zohar below will demonstrate that such a transformation is not completely remote from the Jewish texts. In a context in which the concept of the 'perfect nature' would be appropriate, a text of Hellenistic magic like the so-called Mithra Liturgy, which speaks directly of the 'perfected body' of the person, could certainly be referring to a higher aetherial or astral body, which is not without connection to perfect nature. [16] Reitzenstein has already recognized this concept's connections to Iranian and Gnostic ideas, which demonstrate an awareness of a kind of heavenly prototype or double [Doppelgänger] of the person, being at the same time his heavenly raiment that is guarded above, growing with his good deeds in the world and adorning the soul in its return home to the upper world as in a famous Gnostic hymn.

Are we correct in recognizing these motifs of Iranian eschatology also in these conceptions that, to a certain extent, appear to be so different? I believe that this consideration of the kabbalist material shows that this actually is the case, and that these heterogeneous notions all still clearly survive in the kabbalist literature and are linked to the concept of the Tselem.

An oriental-gnostic pattern of thought is interwoven with a thread of philosophical Neoplatonism in the genealogy of the kabbalist imagery. Descending from a new reading of Platonic and Aristotelian psychology, this Neoplatonic strand has a clear position on the notion of the astral or aetheric, pneumatic body. [17] Yet, Greek instructions for attaining perception of one's own self are extremely rare in the rich material of the Magic Papyri. A recipe for just such a presentation of the self has, however, been preserved.[18] Socrates's old saying "Know thyself!" has been changed here to "Show thyself!" This is made explicitly clear in the instructions given by Iamblichus, for whom the conjuration of the personal daemon is of vital interest. Without necessarily reaching a conclusive result, the theosophic psychology of the esoterics from Iamblichus on was preoccupied with the nature of this personal daemon, whether it was part of the soul or belonged to a more perfect type of higher being. Plotinus's description in The Enneads (IV, 8, ¶1) of his intellectual ecstasy and his "entry into his own self" has also been reinterpreted to account for the presentation of the self as a part of the moment of enrapture. A paraphrase of this passage is given in the so-called Theology of Aristotle (originating in the Middle Ages), which was to become a locus classicus for many mediaeval authors. Like Abu'l Barakat, who was able to give a rational interpretation of the presentation of the 'perfected nature' (a notion coming from pseudo-hermetic circles), connecting this to the prophetology of Avicenna, certain Jewish authors presented rational interpretations of prophecy as self-projection. As a parallel to our discussion, the eminent Talmudist and philosopher Moses Isserles of Cracow (1525-1572) wrote a strictly rational explanation of the saying in the Midrash about the prophet's ability to project God in a human form. Paradoxically, he seems to have acquired his initial idea from the mystics. He quotes as a reference Judah Hayyat (1500), who compares the human form seen by the prophet in a vision (probably Ezekiel 1:26) with a reflection in which the prophet sees himself. Isserles has been inspired by the saying that all prophets have looked at God in a dark mirror, but that Moses looked into a polished or sparkling mirror. Isserles likens the dark mirror to the everyday looking-glass. There is a coarse material behind the plate of glass to prevent the light's penetration. The coarse material repels the light and by throwing it back produces images. The coarse material nature of man behind the polished mirror is, according to Isserles, the soul. When the soul transforms itself into a mirror, the prophet sees his own form in the inner vision, which is reflected to him from the light of the divine glory streaming down from above.

And this seems to me to be the true explanation of the prophetic visions: they saw the Kavod, the divine glory, in the form of a man that was the form of the prophet himself. The literal sense of the saying in the Midrash on the power of the prophets can thus be explained: they saw their own form transferred onto that of the Creator. [19]
Because the prophet has a material nature, his vision is a show or presentation of his self. Only Moses, who purified his material nature to the very limit, so that it no longer hindered the penetration of the light, attained a vision in which no form is to have appeared. The pure surface of light and nothing more appears to the soul that has purified itself to the utmost, and this light represents the divine. Here, too, we encounter a rational interpretation of an originally occult experience. As far as I can tell, the kabbalists did not go this far.[20] For them, prophecy is a metamorphosis of the person into his own angel, which then appears to him. We can read an illustration of this in Isaac Cohen of Soria (1270):

With prophets and seers the various [physical and psychic] abilities become weak and transform themselves from form to form until the prophet clothes himself in the form which appears to him, and his power is transformed to that of an angel. The angelic form takes his place within him and gives him the strength to receive the prophetic power, which is an influx from above, and this angelic form is pneumatically engraved in his heart. When the angelic messenger has disclosed all of his message, the prophet takes off the virtue of the form which has appeared to him and clothes himself in the virtue of his previous form. In this manner, he puts on the various forms. Then his limbs are all re-membered and his corporeal powers return to their previous state and he speaks and prophesies in the usual custom of the people. [21]

According to this passage, the prophet who has purified his spiritual nature to its limit undergoes a metamorphosis of his own 'power' in which he is emptied of himself to allow an angel's power to clothe itself in him—-and only in this transformation is the prophet able to receive the message from the angel who has somehow become himself. During the influx of the prophecy in this most exalted state, the experience cannot be encompassed by human speech. Language is possible only after this ecstatic transformation has concluded and the prophet has returned to his own human form. Only then can he communicate his vision in human language. This interpretation is close to that of the 'perfect nature,' according to which the angel appearing to the prophet instructs him in the secrets of the intellectual world, and the things to which Abu'l Barakat attests. In both cases, the explanation o fthis angel as the man's 'own daemon' was obscured, though underlying both as an insinuated esoteric reading. The emptying of the prophet's quotidian persona allows him to receive his angelic self.

So far, we have been concerned with a special experience that is granted to only the select few. We can now retrace the steps the kabbalists took to turn the notion of the Tselem into a constituent part of their teaching on man in general. The writings of the German Hasidim (around 1200) clearly attest to the connection between the old motif of the personal angel or daemon of the individual and the Tselem, in which the person is created. Eleazar of Worms, who must have been intimately acquainted with occult and hermetic sources unknown to us, advances a conception that also occurs repeatedly in the extant writings of Merkavah mystics: there is a personal 'star' of every individual and an archon, who is the star's personal guardian angel. This angel is none other than the heavenly archetype, Demuth, a heavenly double of the person. When this archon is dispatched to the lower world, he has the form of the person over whom he is stationed.[22] The archon, therefore, is his Doppelgänger [ghostly counterpart or double], a conception unknown to the older Jewish sources of Merkavah mysticism. The transmission of the archon into the earthly realm is related to the appearance of this Doppelgänger. This experience is said by Eleazar to explain certain accounts of the Talmud, though he does not expressly connect the idea to the prophetic mission. According to Eleazar, this archetypal form is the Tselem in which the person has been created or with which he has been endowed since birth. When it is stated in Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his Tselem, in the Tselem of God [Elohim] he created him," the repeated Tselem is thought to refer precisely to the man's and to his star's angel, who has the man's form. The Tselem Elohim belongs to the angel, who imprints the man at birth or at his conception. Eleazar also pondered the question of whether it would be possible to conjure this personal archon. In contrast to Iamblichus, Eleazar denies the possibility. In other circles of Jewish esoterics, the tradition of such practice was kept alive.[23]

We can now begin to understand the relevant comments of The Zohar, though they presuppose a much more evolved form of kabbalist psychology. Replacing the conception of a completely personal angel, there is the notion of a pre-existent archetype, Diyoqna [a portrait, likeness or image], a pre-existent heavenly garment with which the soul is clothed in its prenatal, paradisiac existence. The pure spirits and souls also need a veil, even in their paradisiacal state, and only in very exceptional circumstances do they rid themselves of this aetheric covering and stand unveiled before God. In The Zohar there are lengthy speculations on the nature of this garment, and it will be demonstrated that the book's author has had recourse to older sources of the Spanish Kabbalah, further developing it in his own direction. The Zohar also defines the aetheric garment as a spiritual body, thereby adopting as its own the Neoplatonic conception of the astral body, albeit from a different psychological foundation. The strictly Neoplatonic form of this conception was also known to other Jewish literature and can be found in an 11th century treatise written in Arabic by a Jewish Neoplatonist in Andalusia.[24] Over and above the coarse material body the senses perceive there is a subtle body, made of a finer substance and outside the senses' ken. The subtle body acquires its attributes during its passage through the spheres of the heavenly bodies, conforming to the moment's specific character, a notion in perfect agreement with Platonic and Neoplatonic psychology. The astral body (the correct term here) acts as an intermediary between body and soul, both of which are too different to immediately affect one another. Though the kabbalists may have borrowed from the philosophical tradition the idea of the astral body's mediating function, with respect to the actual nature of this body they still fell back on the Iranian idea (already Judaized in The Book of Enoch and the Merkavah literature) of the paradisiacal "Robes of Life," which are woven out of light or heavenly aether.[25] The Zohar now defines the aetheric body belonging to every earthly body as the Tselem.

At this point, the Tselem becomes a biological principle operating in the human organism, changing in form as the organism changes. It sinks into the soul at conception, grows with the person, and extricates itself from him before death (Zohar I, 217b; III, 13b). Only once (III, 104a) is it expressly stated that this is the Tselem of the Genesis verse on the creation of man, though none of the other passages give any reason to doubt this. Like Dante's Purgatorio (25th Canto), The Zohar unites the astral body with the shadow, which association is facilitated by a play on words in the Hebrew. Tselem contains the word Tsel, shadow. The shadow the person casts seems to have been interpreted by the author of The Zohar as a projection of the inner Tselem, an interpretation that opened the door to a plethora of magical and folk notions on the shadow that I do not need to discuss here.

We can thus read in The Zohar(III, 43a):

In the hour when the man unites with his wife in a holy purpose, a holy spirit fashioned from the masculine and the feminine is called forth above him, and God beckons to a messenger stationed above the conception of human children, and God entrusts this spirit to the messenger, and informs him of the spirit's destination. And in Job 3:3 it is said: 'to the night he said, there is a man child conceived'; which means that he said to that angel [situated, according to Talmudic tradition, above the conception] called Night: from N.N. a male is to be conceived. And God instructs him in everything He wants him to know, as it has been explained.[26] Then this spirit [the soul] descends, accompanied by an image (Zulma, which is Aramaic for Tselem), namely the one in whose form (Diyoqna) he exists above in the heavenly paradise. In this Tselem he is created, in this Tselem he has his being and movement in the world, and thus is it said [Psalm 39:6]:'Surely man goes about as a shadow.' As long as the Tselem is in his presence, his duration in this world is assured….Come and see: in the hour when it enters this world, the soul descends [from its pre-existent abode in the heavenly paradise] to the earthly paradise where it sees the glory of the righteous spirits standing in long rows; afterwards it passes to the infernal regions and sees the wicked crying 'Woe, woe!', though no one pities them, and in all directions are witnesses bearing testimony against them. And that holy Tselem is above the soul until it enters the world. As soon as the soul enters the world, the Tselem comes to her and joins with her, and grows with her, as it is said: yes, man advances in the Tselem. In this Tselem are a man's days prefigured and upon it they depend, as it is thus said (Job 8:9): "because our days on earth are a shadow', and this is to be understood with mystical precision [for the shadow, Tsel, itself an omen of a man's life-span, is none other than the Tselem, which appears externally].

The two motifs are clearly combined in this passage. On the one hand, the Tselem is a prenatal principle, on the other it is also the individual, biological life-principle, containing and determining the growth of the organism and its duration. It is worth noting that this passage avoids clothing the soul with the Tselem as a garment and allows it to hover above the soul. In other passages where the term Tselem is not expressly used, the same function is attributed to this garment of the soul as is attributed to the Tselem. Just as a man's days are prefigured (or designed) in the Tselem in the passage above, so too the subject of another extensive passage is a "robe of days" in which the soul clothes itself as it continues to weave the robe from its actions in the earthly world. The gown is also the soul's heavenly robe when it returns to paradise after death.[27] The author of the Zohar apparently had in front of him two different traditions, which he united. In one of them, the garment of souls that contains the person's earthly days is said to pass as an astral body into the semen, growing with the body. In the other tradition, the gown is woven out of the person's good deeds, accompanying him back into the upper world.
Of Abraham it is said, that as he grew old (Genesis 24:1): 'He came into the days', namely through his good deeds, and this is to be understood with mystical precision. As he ascended from this world, he came into those days with which he had clothed himself, and nothing was lacking to him of this precious raiment.

This last conception can be historically traced to the Persian idea of the Daena. According to the eschatology of Mazdaism, the Daena is an image the dead person encounters as his higher self, though it is thought to originate in his own good works that correspond to this true self.[28] It is not by chance that the Zohar has incorporated Persian sources. This conception first passed into Islamic eschatology, to which Buchari (d. 870) attests in several traditions.[29] The idea then filtered into Jewish circles. In his Arabic compilation of tales on the deeds of the righteous, Jacob ben Nissim of Kairawan (d. 1062) tells the story of a righteous man whose garment was still incomplete until he brought it to completion by performing an extravagant act of piety. It can be shown that a Hebrew translation of this collection was the source used by the Zohar's author,[30] whose eschatological imagination wavers between the various notions, distinguishing between them and combining them anew. He introduces alongside this fascinating conception of the garment of the afterlife that is woven from a person's good deeds the idea that the paradisiacal gown also clothes the soul again after death (e.g. Zohar II, 150a). These two notions are combined for him in the notion of the Tselem. As a principle of life, the Tselem is the garment of days, but it is also the raiment of the upper world, entering with the soul into the coarse material body and withdrawing from the body before death when it apparently returns to the world above. The conception, then, actually combines the idea of the individual's self with his astral body.

In a later passage from a reputed "Book of King Solomon" we learn that, at the moment of conception, God sends a form that already has the exact physiognomy of the growing organism. This form is inscribed with the Tselem, and it is positioned above this coupling. Were it allowed to be seen from above (i.e. were the person to be capable of such spiritual perception) he would catch sight of a form above his head that is shaped in the physiognomy of this person. The person is created in this Tselem. As long as this Tselem that God sends to him is not above his head, no person can be created (from this coupling) In the hour when the spirits (which are to enter into the person) depart from the (heavenly) abode, each spirit veils itself before the Holy King in precious forms corresponding to the physiognomy in which he will exist in this world. The Tselem emerges from this precious archetype as a third in accordance with the spirit, and it first enters this world in the hour of coupling, and there is no coupling in the world where a Tselem was not standing between them (the married couple) (III, 104b).

The indication of the Tselem as a third element in relation to the spirit can be explained by referring to The Zohar's psychology, which situates the soul of life, Nefesh, below the spirit. The Tselem represents a third element that mediates between the lowest sphere of the soul and the body itself. This definition shows that the author considered the Tselem to be the astral body. As it is further declared, Israel receives the Tselem from the realms of holiness, but the heathens (pagans) receive it from the impure and demonic realms. In the writings of Eleazar of Worms we have already become familiar with the idea that the Tselem has the physiognomy of the person himself. Were the Tselem to step out of itself during an occult experience and become visible to the person, it would be a Doppelgänger phenomenon in which the individual confronts himself. In this case, we can clearly see a parallel to the earlier idea of the image of the indivual's self that confronts him.

In Moses Cordovero's great kabbalistic work that was composed in Safed in 1548 the Tselem is treated as the astral body. We can actually find a remark that the Tselem is created in such a manner that "many of the pious already perceive its form in this world."[31] The same occult experience of the Tselem as the aetheric body of the righteous that can be perceived by those "whose vision has been purified,"[32] is also mentioned by Hayyim Vital (Isaac Luria's most prominent student), who has further adopted the noteworthy theory that the astral body necessarily mediates between the soul and body, for the soul would otherwise burn up the body as it entered.[33] With respect to The Zohar's teaching on the Tselem, we can note two more aspects. In one place, the author maintains that the Tselem is comprised of two components that have been united with one another. Of this, Solomon is to have said in the Song of Songs (2:17) that man should turn before "the day breathes and the shadows flee." The shadows, Tselalim, are to be identified here with the plural of Tselem (Tselemin). How this duality is to be conceived is not mentioned, and only late kabbalists (above all, those of the Lurianic school) have attempted in their psychology to comprehend the plurality of 'shadows' in the occult nature of man. This plurality is then designated as 'sparks from the Tselem'. We also discover in the same passage- and this is actually quite remarkable-that man can conjure these Tselamin or shadows through magical practices, placing them at the disposal of the 'other side,' i.e., when he pledges himself to the devil.

In the Grimoire of Asmedai we find that he who would practice sorcery by the left-handed path and would unite with these forces should stand by the light of a lamp or in a place where shadows are visible. There he should recite the words which are instructed for such conjuring. And he calls these impure powers by their impure names and invokes his shadows [or shadow forms, Zulmin, which emerge from the Tselem] [34] for the ones he summons; and in his declarations he voluntarily places these shadows at their disposal. Following these conjurations, two spirits appear and take human form in these shadows. They manifest things to him by means of which he may perform good or evil at specific times. And these two spirits, which are otherwise outside the quintessence of his corporeal nature,[35] are now contained in these shadowy images that give them form.

We can see a continuation here of Iamblichus's idea of the invoked daemon, though this personal daemon that had a thoroughly positive value to the old Neoplatonists now has become completely demonized. The sorceror who would enter into a pact with the forces of the 'left-handed path' surrenders his Tselem that is projected in shadow images and, instead of the two holy powers that would otherwise accompany him, two demonic spirits now clothe themselves in the shadow forms and officiate as his guides and advisors. The conjuration of one's own guardian angel is an idea unknown to The Zohar. The reference to what may have been fabricated sources, such as the Book of Solomon or the Grimoire of Asmedai, contains perhaps an indication of the author's occultist sources, similar in kind to the Picatrix, which in fact circulated in a Hebrew translation that has been partially preserved.

There is a passage in The Zohar, however, which seems to indicate a familiarity with the representation of the higher self of the person (his Tselem) as his guardian angel, and this has become incorporated into the Jewish terminology of the Tselem. In connection with The Zohar's repeatedly occurring interpretation of Genesis 9:2: "And the fear of you and dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth," the deliverance of Daniel from the lion's den is explained thus: man's archetype (i.e., the pure appearance of the Tselem) which puts the animals to flight is to have been contained in Daniel, and the appearance of this archetype is said to have saved him. To counter the objection that the Book of Daniel (3:28) expressly states that God sent an angel to shut the lion's mouth, The Zohar, in a clever new interpretation (I,A), declares that this pure archetype, Diyoqna-in other words, the Tselem-is actually an angel that protected him. God sent Daniel this Tselem, which is described here as "that angel, in which all the forms of the world are imprinted." This, however, is The Zohar's constant definition of man's image in which all the world's forms are imprinted! The angel, therefore, is the angelic archetype of man himself, which by guarding man's godlike likeness strikes fear and dread in the wild animals at its appearance. The righteous one thus possesses his primeval image, his Tselem, as a guardian angel, which is practically indistinguishable from the representation of the 'pefect nature' mentioned earlier. However, we can deduce the identity of the Tselem from the 'perfect nature' of the hermetic texts by directing our attention to a thoroughly unmistakable detail. As it can be read in the passages quoted above, both the Tselem and the 'perfect nature' evolve with the person's psycho-physiological organism. It is already evident in the Persian traditions about the Daena and in the Gnostic hymn on the soul's 'gown of splendor' from The Acts of Thomas. There is a moral-metaphysical side to this development in which the higher self grows with the person's good actions. As previously mentioned, both of these conceptions have been preserved in The Zohar. As far as I can tell, The Zohar is the first to identify the Tselem with the astral body, and this interpretation was incorporated by other kabbalists.

Writing in 1400, Shemtob ben Shemtob declares that the Tselem unites itself to the drops of semen, and from these drops of semen the body of the person is organized. The soul binds itself to him and surrounds him on all sides through the intermediary of the Tselem, and through this Tselem the body grows and becomes larger….The Tselem is also of a subtle substance and cannot be perceived; it is a pneumatic body in which all the energies (of the soul) are fashioned in a corporeal but nonetheless occult manner. Only through the medium of the Tselem are the body and its energies fashioned, as it is said in the verse: 'God created man in his Tselem', meaning that only in that one specified for him [as principium individuationis], which brings about the connection between the body and the soul. [36]

As I've previously indicated, the representation of the Tselem as the astral body, appearing for the first time in kabbalist literature in The Zohar, is combined with that of the garment of the soul that the soul dons before birth and in paradise after death. The subtle aether that is the air of paradise corresponds to the subtle garment and is at the same time the holy aetheric or pneumatic body that veils the blessed spirits. Before the appearance of The Zohar, the Kabbalah, following the pre-kabbalist tradition of the Merkavah literature, was only familiar with an aetheric body that comes to the person after death. In accordance with this tradition, Nachmanides and his students also explained spiritualistic apparitions as spirits of the dead, who appear to the living in a kind of aetheric body. In the oldest writings of the Kabbalah, however, it is always a garment in which the soul clothes itself after death or which the transfigured Enoch or Elias put on before their ascent into heaven. Only when they took off the dirty husk of the earthly body were they able "to attire themselves in the ray-emitting body of brilliance (Ziwa)."[37] Nachmanides interprets the Talmud's paradoxical observation in Ta'anith (5b) in the same manner. In that passage, Jacob, whose death is recounted, is nonetheless said to have not died at all. The soul of the righteous one clothes itself with a gown of splendor in the realms of the blessed, so that it not remain uncovered, and it manifests itself upon the earth below in this gown, as the Talmud notes in numerous places. Instead of a gown of splendor, the more correct reading is of a 'second gown' Lebhushath ha-Shani, a term supplied by several students of Nachmanides in their interpretations of his kabbalistic passages. In place of the earthly body, they put on a second gown that comes to them when they have entered the state of blessedness.[38]When the righteous depart from the world, "God sends them a perfect, very subtle aetheric gown in which they wrap themselves."[39]

The atmosphere of these eschatological discussions in the school of Nachmanides is much like those in The Zohar, which was composed in Castile not long after Nachmanides died. Only one interpreter of this passage, however, has drawn the further conclusion that this 'second gown' is already contained in the individual's earthly body, thereby defining it as an astral body. This interpreter is Josef Angelino of Sargossa, who wrote in 1325 and was undoubtedly familiar with The Zohar, which he quotes in numerous passages of his work. Here, he incorporates the Neoplatonic version of the astral body that mediates between body and soul.

Because of her subtlety originating in the world above, the soul cannot enter into communion with the coarse material of the body until she has clothed herself in a gown of very fine material from the upper region, which despite its subtle nature is unlike that which still remains hidden. And this is the second gown, which allows communion with the body. When the soul departs from the body, the second gown accompanies her so that she not remain naked, and by virtue of her association with this gown, she protects herself from the yearning for the body when she is resurrected from the dead… . and this is a secret that is concealed in visions. [40]

Whether these concluding words allude to the author's own occult experience, which is entirely possible, or are meant instead to designate the teaching of the astral body as a kind of mystery revealed only to the visionary's 'pneumatic eyes', I cannot presume to decide.

It is evident, therefore, that for Josef Angelino the astral body, which is not affected by the person's bodily death, coincides with the Tselem of The Zohar. This will become the predominant teaching among the kabbalists and their students in Safed from the end of the 14th century to the 16th and 17th centuries. Their interpretations run parallel to those of their European contemporaries in the Christian world, who were influenced by Renaissance Neoplatonism, without being directly associated with them. Nevertheless, the doctrine regarding the various manifestations of the Tselem now becomes more sophisticated in accordance with the progressive complications of their psychology. Each aspect of the soul, which is considered to be capable of leading a separate existence, is now attributed to its own garment or Tselem, in turn enabling this part of the soul to affect the body. These gowns of the soul have their origin, like that of the soul itself, in the higher regions of the divine emanations and in the hidden worlds that correspond to them, and they themselves make up the projections of higher light beings within the soul's earthly existence. Nonetheless, these complications, especially in the writings of Hayyim Vital [41] and Menahem Asaria Fano [42] (who wrote in Italian, though he was thoroughly influenced by the Safed kabbalists), always retain the basic conception of the Tselem as astral body that can be perceived in occult experiences. Even among the latest kabbalists, the experience of self-encounter as the highest initiation has been retained, and it is explained by reference to the book Shushan Sodot, which was mentioned at the beginning of this essay. [43]

To the Sabbatian heretics, who have transformed this tradition into a messianic one, the notion still retains its power of attraction. Jacob Frank, the leader of the radical wing of this sect in the 18th century, is still aware of this idea. By leading his followers to abandon all exterior forms, he offers the prospect of mystical Jacob and his brother Esau. He promises them that if they would arrive at their destination, they would recognize their own selves there, "for they would behold their own image." Of himself, however, he testifies: "Myself I cannot yet behold, for my body is still too coarsely material." [44] Here, the vision of the self has been transformed from a prophetic to a messianic experience, in which all other forms and images fall away from the person and are swallowed up into the Nothingness of this religious nihilism. There, at the site of liberation, man encounters himself.


[1] Sefer Rabh Pe'alim, ed. Schoemblum, Lemberg 1885, paragraph 21. This is one of the most remarkable books of Jewish mystical literature, and Schoenblum's appended commentary is, in many passages, hardly a match for it.
[2] Concerning Abulafia, see my book Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism.
[3] Ms. Oxford, Neubauer 1656, where the book can be found correctly arranged into its original 656 paragraphs, in accord with the numerical value of the Hebrew word Shushan. The title is also called "a rose bouquet of secrets." The fragment here is from folio 232b (or paragraph 451 in the printed edition, Koretz 1788, folio 69b). I have edited the corrected text in the Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, Vol. 74 (1930), p. 287.
[4] Bereshit Rabba, Section 27, Beginning.
[5] Paragraph 419 of the correct arrangement includes a short exegesis of the midrashic saying "according to itsl literal sense" which then refers to paragraph 451, the paragraph in question here.
[6] The quote is in Abraham Ibn Ezra's commentary to Daniel10:21; also at the end of his Yesod Mora, chapter 12.
[7] I have included this account of the anonymous author in my Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. He sees a light that emanates from himself and follows him wherever he wanders in the house.
[8] Bath Qol ("daughter of the voice"), a step in the revelation that is situated near Dignity beneath that of the Holy Spirit; often referred to in the Talmud.
[9] One of the mystical images for immediate, unveiled sight that is taken from the Song of Songs (5:3), which was also used by other kabbalists of the 13th and 14th centuries. See e.g., Moses de Leon's Mishkan ha-'Eduth, Ms. Berlin, folio 36b; Menahem Recanati's Torah Commentary, Venice 1545, folio 50a; and also Zohar Hadash, Jerusalem 1953, folios 4c and 40d.
[10] The following has apparently been added by the erudite anthologist Moses ben Jacob, whose book actually contains many passages of a magical and theurgic character. The various vocalizations of consonants of God's name play a significant role in this work. With respect to the nature of the visions, obviously these are more of a disturbing than a positive aspect in the author's experience.
[11] It cannot be said with certainty which sources influenced the compilation of the Shushan Sodot. But it is very possible that Isaac of Acco is the author of the work. Acco wrote during the first half of the 14th century in Spain, and he openly displays a keen interest in occult practices, particularly in his book 'Ozar ha-Hayyim, Ms. Ginzberg 775, now in Moscow. The aforementioned R. Nathan, who teaches the author this new interpretation of prophecy as an encounter with the self, may be the same who is quoted by Isaac of Acco in his Me'irath 'Enayim, Ms. Munich, folio 144a. "In the words of R. Nathan, God is to have protected him," advances Isaac in an extraordinarily interesting citation concerning the 'divine intellect,' its ascent and descent. Because R. Nathan is mentioned as deceased in the passage, it would have to have been taken from a book later in date than Isaac's compilation Me'irath 'Enayim.
[12] The Arabic text of the Pseudo-Magriti, Das Ziel des Weisen (The Goal of the Wise) was published by Helmut Ritter in the Studien der Bibliothek Warburg XII, 1933. The appearance of this book made possible the publication of Martin Plessner's translation and rich commentary. The passages of interest for our present discussion are located on pp. 198 ¬ 206. On p. 198 Plessner lists the literature up to the present day concerning this notion.
[13] In his work On the Mysteries, IX, 1-9. For Iamblichus, the personal daemon is in no wayu identical to the astral body, which is referred to in V, 26 in a completely different context. The confluence of these two conceptions apparently belongs to a later stage of its development. Iamblichus is without doubt the source for Agrippa of Nettesheim's discourse on the 'personal Genius', its function and appearance. See De occulta philosophia, III, 21-22.
[14] Compare this to Corbin's work in Eranos-Jahrbuch 1949, Vol. XVII, pp. 158-187, and to his Avicenna et le recit visionnaire, Paris, 1954, I, pp. 102-106. It is especially interesting that such a sharp-witted mind like Abu'l Barakat of Baghdad (who was beheld in amazement as the 'Wonder of the Age') has incorporated the doctrine of the perfect nature into his system.
[15] H. Ritter, Picatrix, An Arabian Handbook of Hellenistic Magic in the Vortragen der Bibliothek Warburg 1921/1922 (Lectures of the Warburg Library), Leipzig, 1923
[16] See A. Dietrich's Eine Mithrasliturgie (A Mithraic Liturgy), Leipzig, 1923, p. 4 and the discourses of R. Reitzenstein, Die hellenistischen Mysterienreligionen, 3rd edition, Leipzig, 1927, p. 178; Reitzenstein & Schader, Studien zu Antiken Synkretismus aus Iran und Griechenland, Leipzig, 1926, p. 76 and pp. 112-114.
[17] The genesis of the notion soma astroeides (or angoeides), the 'astral body', has been more thoroughly investigated by G.R.S. Mead in his "The Spirit Body: an Excursion into Alexandrian Psycho-Physiology" in The Quest, 1910, pp. 472-488, as well as in E.R.Dodds' appendix "The Astral Body in Neoplatonism" to his edition of Proclus' The Elements of Theology, Oxford, 1933, pp. 313-321. Concerning the resumption and survival of this notion in the Platonism of the Renaissance, see D.P. Walker's Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella, London, 1958, pp. 38-40, and also Walter Pagel in Ambix, Vol. VIII (1960), pp. 127-28 and especially p. 133 on Paracelsus.
[18] See K. Preisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae, Vol. II, p. 15, where there is a recipe for 'self-vision', and p. 23 where the conjuration of the personal daemon is to be found.
[19] M. Isserles, Torath ha-'Ola I, ¶14, Prague, 1569, folio 19b-19d. Opposition to this clever interpretation of the nature of prophetic vision can be found, among other places, in Josef Solomon Delmedigo's Nobloth Hokhmah. Whether Isserles in Cracow was familiar with and inspired by the Shushan Sodot, which had been compiled 60 years earlier in the Ukraine, cannot be determined. At any rate, he does not mention the work in this chapter where other kabbalistic works are discussed.
[20] Composed during the first half of the 13th century in the circle of the German Hasidim, Sefer ha-Hayyim (Ms. Munich, Hebr. 207, folio 5a) contains an interpretation according to which the prophet "in the light of God and His Glory, sees his own image as in a mirror." Reference is then given to Job 4:16, "an image was before mine eyes" apparently with the implication that in the vision described, Job's friend beheld himself.
[21] The text of the Mss. From Isaac's treatises, Madda'e ha-Yahaduth II, p. 254, which I've published, is severely corrupted. It can essentially be corrected with an anonymous quote in Meir ibn Gabbai's 'Abodath ha-Kodesh IV, ¶25, which is what I have translated.
[22] Eleazar, Homath ha-Nefesh, Lemberg 1876, Folio 17d-18a. Concerning this whole idea, see my books die jüdische Mystik (Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism), pp 126-127 and Ursprung und Anfänge der Kabbala (Origins and Beginnings of the Kabbalah), Berlin 1962, p. 100.
[23] A problem has been created in this regard with a peculiar pseudepigraph. In the German version, it has been given the title Des Juden Abraham von Worms buch der wahren Praktik in der uralten göttlichen Magie un in erstaunlichen Dingen, wie sie durch die heilige Kabbala und durch Elohym mitgeteilt worden (The Jew Abraham of Worms's Book of the True Praxis in the Ancient Divine Magic and Astounding Things, as They Have been Transmitted though the Holy Kabbalah and Elohim) allegedly from Cologne, 1725. In the more widely distributed English version it carries the title, The Book of the Secret Magic of Abramelin the Mage, as delivered by Abraham the Jew unto his Son Lamech, and it was translated and edited from a French manuscript by S.L. MacGregor Mathers in London in 1898. The conjuration of the personal guardian angel with its associated preparatory rituals is the central focus of this book. Whether it was actually written by a Jewish occultist of the Renaissance, as it purports (and in favor of which the author's especially thorough knowledge of Hebrew attests, or was actually written by a German author who sought a sympathetic understanding of Judaism, needs to be more thoroughly investigated. As evidence for the author's non-Jewish background are not only the frequent uses of Christian symbols, which were no longer recognized as such by the author-which could be interpolations-but above all, the fundamental association of "Kabbalah and Magic"as one of a sisterly pair in the divine science. This compilation betrays the mark of an author influenced by the Christian Kabbalah of Pico della Mirandola, who so vigorously introduced this conceptual pair to the world of Renaissance philosophy. In my essay "Alchemie und Kabbala" [in Monatsschrift für Geschicte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, Vol. 69, 1925, p. 95, I still accepted the opinion that the author was Jewish, and his dependence upon Pico had not yet become clear to me. The entirety of this completely interesting book deserves a separate study.
[24] Kitab ma'ani al-nafs, (Buch vom Wesen der Seele, Book on the Essence of the Soul), ed. I. Goldziher, Berlin 1907, pp. 19-20; in the Hebrew translation of Isaac Broyde, Toroth ha-Nefesh, Paris 1896, p. 25. J. Tishby first drew attention to the passage in a discussion of the Tselem notion in his book on The Zohar; see Mishnath ha-Zohar, Vol. II, Jerusalem 1961, p. 92.
[25] The Ethiopian Book of Enoch mentions these "Robes of Life" which the soul dons before the Lord of Spirits in Chapter 62. From this source, the image entered the New Testament and early Christian as well as Mandaean literature. In the Hebrew tradition, the image appears in the Sefer Hekhalot with the same terminology; see H. Odeberg, ed., 3 Enoch or the Hebrew Book of Enoch, Chapter 18, as well as his notes to the English translation, p. 62; also the appendix of Louis Canet on the "Vetement des Ames" (Vestments of the Soul) in Franz Cumont's Lux Perpetua, Paris 1949, pp. 429-431. Adam's garment of light, the Kuthnot 'Or is mentioned here. After the Fall, the garment of light is replaced with a garment of skin, the Kuthnot 'Or. This interpretation can be found before Origen's time in the Bereshith Rabba (ed. Theodor, p. 196) from the Aggadic tradition of the 2nd century.
[26]The Zohar's author refers to his sources in the "Midrasch von der Entstehung des Kindes" (Midrash of the Formation of the Child), where most of the motifs of this passage are foreshadowed, with the exception of the Tselem notion; see Jellinek, Beth ha-Midrash I, pp. 152-155, as well as the German translation by August Wunsche Aus Israels Lehrhallen (From Israel's Halls of Instruction), Vol. II (1909), pp. 213-218.
[27] See Zohar I, 224a/b as well as the German translation of the piece by Ernst Müller, Der Sohar, Das heilige Buch der Kabbala, Vienna 1932, pp. 157-159, 205-206.
[28] With respect to the representation of the Daena, which is considered the higher self of the individual, see esp. M.Mole, Le pont Cinvat et l'initiation dans le Mazdeisme, Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, Vol. 157 (1960), pp. 155-185, as well as August von Gall, Balileia tou theou, Heidelberg 1926, pp. 99-102, 111-115. G. Widengren has alluded to the connection between this representation and the Gnostic hymn of the soul in the Acts of Thomas in his The Great Vohu Manah and the Apostle of God, Uppsala 1945, pp. 85-86. There are Mandaean and Manichaean parallels to this in Alfred Adams Die Psalmen des Thomas und das Perlenlied (The Psalms of Thomas and the Hymn of the Pearl), Berlin 1959, pp. 69-70.
[29] In the Sahih al Buchari collection of the Hadith, Bk. I, Chapter 15.
[30] I have demonstrated this exhaustively in my investigation of the passage in The Zohar (I, 66a). There, the expression Haluka de-Rabbanan is used for the garment of the soul: see Tarbiz, Vol. 24 (1955), pp. 297-306. At that time, I could make no statement on the mediating term between J. ben Nissim and the representation of the Daena. In the meantime, D.Z. Baneth (Tarbiz, Vol. 25, 1956, pp. 331-336) has proven that J. ben Nissim's conception is terminologically dependent upon Arab eschatology, to which Buchari has attested. Though Baneth does not say that the Islamic tradition is already a vulgarization of the Daena conception, it seems clearly evident to me that this is the case. Thus, an unbroken thread runs from the Persian representation through the connecting link of Islam to The Zohar composed in Spain. Meanwhile, however, I have also discovered an important intermediate term in an apocalyptic text belonging to the Merkavah literature. There, R. Ismael sees "Hosts of serving angels who sit and spin the gowns of grace and make crowns of life into which they set precious stones and pearls"; compare this to the Hebrew text in the New York Ms. of the "Great Hekhalot" and to Jellinek's Beth ha-Midrash, Vol. 5, p. 168. He we learn that the "gowns of life" in the Book of Enoch are woven by angels. We can also infer that these gowns have a parallel in the "Crowns of Life" (which according to the Talmudic view are woven from the prayers of Israel). Thus, the conception seems to have its basis in the image of the gowns woven by the angels from the good deeds of Israel. It is also conceivable that the Jewish angelogical representation of the Hekhelot forms the mediating link between the Persian and Islamic eschatologies. Despite this Jewish source, the Islamic link in the chain and its continuation in the work of J. ben Nissim of Kairawan is clearly established by the details and the terminology. J. ben Nissim's book can now be found in J. Obermann's edition of the Arabic original, Ibn Shahin's Book of Comfort, known as the Hibbur Yaphe, New Haven 1933.
[31] Moses Cordovero, Pardes Rimmonim (Garden of Pomegranates), Chapter 31, ¶4, Cracow 1592, folio 205b. Furthermore, Cordovero explains the Tselem as a 'shadow' because it forms an aura above the person's head. For him, the Tselem is an "aetheric body in which the forms of the various aspects of the soul are imprinted with the form of a person." Here, the three aspects of the soul, Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah are dependent in their Neshamah, whereas the other two are the 'shadows'.
[32] Vital, Sefer ha-Gilgulim, in the complete edition of Przemysl 1875, Chapter 64, Folio 85c. He speaks of the Guf ha-avviri be-Sod Tselem ha-nir 'eh le-sakke ha-re'oth. In the preface to his frequently reprinted moral tractate Sha'are Kedusha (The Gates of Holiness), Vital says that there are supposedly men "whose angels themselves appear to them when they have purified themselves to the utmost, and their souls lead them along all the pathways." Obviously, the appearance of the soul is itself meant to be the Tselem. Vital does not say whether such an experience is higher or lower than the prophet Elias's Revelation to the Righteous and other similar experiences to which he refers in this context. With respect to the "purified vision," see Plessner's translation of Picatrix, p. 203, on the perception of the perfected nature with "pneumatic eyes."
[33]Vital, loc. Cit., Chapter 69, Folio 93b.
[34] Several interpreters of the cited Zohar passage connect the two shadows, which form the person or his Tselem, with a passage in the Talmud (Jabamot, 122a), where it is said that the daemons possess a reflection, Babbu'a, a likeness or a shadow, but that they possess no reflection of a secondary nature, making it possible to speak of two shadows.
[35] This undoubtedly means that these spirits actually have nothing to do with the people in question and are, for example, free-wandering 'naked' spirits that are searching for refuge in a body, or this may also refer to daemons that are expressly sent for this purpose.
[36] Shemtob, Sefer ha-Emunoth, Ferrara 1556, Folio 62a. In Folio 77a, he calls the Tselem the "occult body," Guf ne'elam, like the author of the Arabic text Ma 'ani al-nafs, who uses this name for the astral body.
[37] Compare this to the text of Sidre de-Shimmusha rabba, from the beginning of the 13th century, which I've published in Tarbiz, Vol. 16 (1945), p. 202.
[38] This was first interpreted in 1291 by Bachya ben Asher in his Torah Commentary on the passage. In his Kad ha-Kemach under the keyword Kin'a (ed. Breit, II, Folio 59a), Bachya speaks of the "second gown known to the Gnostics, with which the soul clothes itself in a corporeal form of the subtlest manner, and in which the soul has reality. And this is the secret of R. Yehuda Nassi's apparition that showed itself to his family even after his death on the Sabbath even, though this is not the place to explain in detail."
[39] In my essay on the veils of the soul (Tarbiz, Vol. 24, pp. 293-294), I've transmitted the pertinent passages of the interpretations of the Nachmanides material by Shemtob ibn Gaon and of Meir ben Solomon abi Sahula.
[40] loc. cit., p. 295.
[41] In the Sefer Gilgulim, Chapter 69, Folio 93b, Vital says that he has heard from his teacher, Luria, that there is a special garment outside those of Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah. This special garment surrounds them all. A detailed treatment of the particulars of this teaching and of the members of this aetheric body can be found in Vital's Etz Hayyim, Chapter 26 (Sha'ar ha-Tselem); in his Sha'ar ha-Kavvanoth concerning Sukkoth, paragraphs 6 & 7, Jerusalem 1873, Folio 106/107, as well as in Sefer ha-Likkutim, Jerusalme 1913, Folio 70a. These passages also develop the teaching of the sparks from the actual Tselem, which then compose the other garments or shadows. In the soul's various wanderings, the person restores the members of this Tselem, which accompanies the parts of the soul in their journey. This is a conception that obviously departs widely from The Zohar. The Zohar knows nothng of a transmigration of the Tselem.
[42] M.A. Fano's great dissertation on the soul, Ma'amar ha-Nefesh, Petrikov 1903, contains (pp. 3-10) a detailed exposition on the Tselem as astral body, an exposition that Fano has developed from the writings of Vital and The Zohar, though he does not mention them. Here, the Tselem is called the "Seal of the Soul." A shorter exposition can also be found in his 'Assara Ma'am in the Ma'amar Hikkur Din IV, ¶14, Venice 1597, Folio 40a. Parallel to the teaching on the Tselem, but without mentioning it by name, Fano speaks of an occult aether that is supposed to be the medium through which the works of men are held until the Last Judgment. There, he says (II, ¶12, Folio 16b): "The general book, wherein all the actions of men are recorded as soon as they are completed is the surrounding sapphire-colored aether (of the person). All the individual activities of man are engraved in it, the glance of the eye as well as the opening of the mouth, to the good as well as to the evil. Yes, even the heart's agitations of thought necessarily elicit joy or sorrow upon his countenance and (are thus woven into the aether). At the same time, a choice selection of the good works stands before God so that He who clothed them in the aether of this world may engrave them into the aether of paradise (so that they take the good deeds upon themselves to the Last Judgment all the more willingly), and this is likewise the case with the aether of Gehinnon as well." In the Ma'amar ha-Nefesh, pp. 23-24, it is expressly stated that this imprinting of the person's deeds first occurs in the aura surrounding him. In Hebrew this aura is called ha-Avir asher sebibav, the circumscribing aether. In Folio 49d of Yehuda Low ben Simon's commentary that is attached to the Frankfurt edition of 1698, it is said that this term was current "among the doctors". This refers to the contemporary doctrine of ambiens nos aer (which Dr. Walter Pagel has kindly communicated to me) agreeing precisely with the concept of to periechon hemas, which was familiar to Galen. It is also discussed in Paracelsus's work On the nymphs, sylphs and pygmies, Tract II, ed. Sudhoff XIV, p. 125. Here, the surrounding aether is not so much a uniform cosmic aether (as in Indian concepts) as it is the respective aura of the Tselem. The Talmud's "Book of Memories" that lies open before God is most likely one such "Akashic-Chronicle". See F.J. Molitor's Philosophie der Geschichte oder über die Tradition (The Philosophy of History or On Tradition), Vol. III, Munster 1839, p. 461 and p. 705 that refer to the passage in Fano.
[43] Compare to Pinchas Selig Gliksman, Beriche Sahab, Petrikov 1909, pp. 65-66.
[44] In Frank's sayings, "The Words of the Master," which have been preserved in Polish in the Cracow University Ms., ¶305 and ¶326.

Gershom Scholem (December 5, 1897 – February 21, 1982), also known as Gerhard Scholem, was a Jewish philosopher and historian widely regarded as the modern founder of the scholarly study of Kabbalah. Raised in Germany, he rejected his parents' assimilationist views, and immigrated to Palestine in 1923. He became a leading figure in the Zionist intellectual community of Palestine before World War II, and later became the first professor of Jewish mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Although a leading student of mysticism and an ardent Zionist, Scholem remained a secular Jew, rather than a religious one, throughout his life.

Scholem is best known for his collection of lectures, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941), and for his biography, Sabbatai Zevi, the Mystical Messiah (1973), as well as several other books on kabbalism. His collected speeches and essays, published as On Kabbalah and its Symbolism (1965), helped to spread knowledge of Jewish mysticism among Jews and non-Jews alike. He published over 40 volumes and nearly 700 articles. As a teacher, he trained three generations of scholars of Kabbala, many of whom still teach.
Scholem was awarded the Israel Prize in 1958, and was elected president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1968.

Translator's Note: This is published without permission. I am aware that another English translation exists by Joachim Neugroschel, a fine translator. In the mid-1980s, while a student of the kabbalistic poet David Meltzer, I translated this piece and another essay from the same book, "Shekhinah: The Passive-Feminine Moment of God," which was sent to Schocken Press. I thank them for their postcard informing me that they received it.—SJT

[*From Gershom Scholem: Von der mystischen Gestalt der Gottheit: Studien zu Grundbegriffen der Kabbala (1962), Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977, pp.249-271]
This revised translation is dedicated to two friends I adore: Jack Hirschman, Poet Laureate of San Francisco & Elisa Santucci, Benjamin scholar & Philosopher

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License