Charles Mopsik – About the human body as a field of experience in Qabbalah
picture by Marc Attali.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is an another excerpt from Charles Mopsik’s final work, ‘Le Sexe des Ames, aléas de la différence sexuelle dans la cabale‘, Editions de l’Eclat, Paris, 2003 & 2021 for this second edition. Our Via-HYGEIA working English translation. 4 selections from pages 132 to 140. After defining what the sephirot are, Charles Mopsik tells us about the qabbalistic conception of the human body.
…In order to help the reader to grasp the manner how the body-as a field for knowledge, a space of gnosis for the qabbalists-was understood, we will quote a few lines from a major treatise by a famous Italian Qabbalist of the XVIIIth century, Rabbi Moshe Hayyimm Luzatto, commenting a few paragraphs of the Zohar about the ‘Song of Songs’: ‘The second science that comes (after the apprenticeship of the theogonic system that was developed in the preceding chapter) consists in ‘knowing one’s own body’, etc.‘ Here starts the essential teaching-following the teaching about the Tree (i.e. relative to the complex structure of the emanating configurations and of the sephirot). The first take-away is about the knowledge of the secret of this body, according to the wholeness of its shape, of its organs, of all the elements of its functioning, then, how it roots itself in the superior sephirot-that everything converges towards this level, which is of the likeliness (demout) of Adam. This is why, the making of Man was the last event of creation (according to Genesis), because everything converges towards that aim. In fact, everything converges towards him for him to be the sole agent of free-choice (note: libre-choix, in French)-even the soul does not have this free-choice outside of the body. ‘Who is he?‘ Who is this Man entrusted with this task-by asking this question, we will understand why he is the aim of all the creation and therefore, all the links between the sephirot and him become obvious. All the elements of this task, this oeuvre, are depending in this knowledge. ‘How was he created?‘ how did this body emerge? -here we will understand the modalities of the emergence of the material realities, of which the body is the main mode of expression. What happens to it after? What is the evolution of its history from the conception of its being up to the very end? ‘How is the body perfect?‘-here we will comprehend the mystery of this likeliness, what it is, according to the intentions placed in it. This is the recuring subject of the ‘Idra Rabba‘, the ‘Idra Zouta‘ and the ‘Tiqunim‘ (all from the Zoharic tradition), in clear, the relationship between the sephirot and the main law of the very functioning of the body in all its parts; all of this helps us to grasp the meaning of the verse:’From my flesh up i will see the divinity’ (Job 19:26), so to witness and understand all the activities of man and the totality of his movements that all take their root in the sephirot’. (‘Adir Bamarom‘, Jerusalem, 1968-folio 2a).
Among the elements worthy to be singled-out, we will enumerate these:
- It is by its insertion into the body that the soul acquires freedom, a dimension here considered positive.
- The human body occupies a special place at the heart of the material universe. It is not a random assembling of parts and composition of material elements.
- It is anatomically structured and it is physiologically functioning in a perfectly analog manner with the sephirot system and with the laws of their relationships.
- To sum up, to study and ‘know one’s own body‘ allows us to gain knowledge about the divinity, whose system of powers and emanations is regulated according to the same characteristics. The soul is not in prison in this dark and perishable receptacle, but its passing in a human body gives her access to the dimension of free-choice that paradoxically brings her closer to her divine model. In a body, it can freely achieve an oeuvre that allows growth and access to a superior rank. This oeuvre is in itself a necessary labor for the blossoming of divine emanation.
…The generation of bodies, in this eschatological perspective, gave birth to a conception of salvation linked with the series of births. A qabbalist of the first part of the twentieth century, Rabbi Juda Lev Aschlag, commenting a paragraph of the Zohar, about the necessity of a livirate mariage (Wikipedia note: Levirate marriage is a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother’s widow. Levirate marriage has been practiced by societies with a strong clan structure in which exogamous marriage (i.e. marriage outside the clan) is forbidden) to ensure a brother without children, an earthly off-spring-not only to the blood brother, but by a particular way to humanity in general-explains: ‘Even though death was decreed for Humanity, separating it from the eternal divine root, but not completely detached because due to the children that everyone engenders, each human being remains connected to his eternal divine root, because every child is a fragment of the parent’s body, likewise every human being is like a link in the chain of life, that started with the first human being, and that lasts until the resurrection of the dead, eternally, without interruption. And as long as for the human being the chain of life has not been severed, because it left a child behind, death did not operate towards it any separation from eternity, it is considered still alive.’ (‘Zohar’im Perouch ha-Soulam‘, tome III, Vayechev-London, 1070. Page386).
…It is helpful to indicate here a fact of quite some importance: What ever may be the central place the qabbalists gave to the body- which is, according to them, the field best suited for the acquisition of a gnosis linked with the supra-celestial worlds, the divine structure itself, body being able of theurgical actions upon these sacred domains-it did not become for them an object of plastic exaltation or esthetic contemplation. As far as i could venture into the writings of qabbalah, i did not catch any signs of adoration of the corporeal form: it remains essentially a carrier of the divine order’s signatures; it is a vector of knowledge, but it is not meant for the fascination of the eye. Which explains the sobriety of the drawings and other diagrams the qabbalists produced to illustrate their speculations-often very complex ones- that always avoided figurative representation in favor of more abstract sketches.
…In order to perceive that is wasn’t a simple catch-phrase for them to consider the fertile body as a fateful field in their journey towards God; they explored with precision and relentlessness all the paths the human body, with its organs and humors, its functions and movements, was opening for them, it is enough for us to refer to the diagrams they left, that are clearly establishing the correspondances between the corporeal limbs and the sephirot. It is certain, nevertheless, that if the body could take such a singular place, it is because the genealogy of the bodies manifests, in the eyes of the qabbalists, an invisible chain, which first links constitute the divine order itself, and which creative activity unfolds in human procreation.