Lilith and the Ecology of Sacred Union

Ohad Pele  2020

One of the most unique Kabbalists who ever lived, Rabbi Avraham Abulafiya (Spain, late 1200’s), said that the mystical secrets of the Torah  can be perceived as a contradiction to its simplistic meaning. This is why in Hebrew the words “SeTeR” (hidden secret) and “STiRa” (contradiction) derived from the same linguistic root. Those who are accustomed only to the simplistic teachings of the tradition perceive the inner meaning as heresy. It contradicts all that they know.  

One of Abulafia’s great successors, Rabbi Josef Jikatilia (Spain 1200’s), wrote that the mystic journey can be seen as a journey into the heart of a hard nut. The fruit is the mystery inside, yet in order to enjoy it one needs to crack and cross three layers of shells. Each shell is a different veil of perception that blocks the mind from grasping the hidden seed of truth, but the shell is still important. No fruit could ever grow without its protection.

in this article i want to offer a taste of the nut itself. I intend to go nuts and crack the outer layers of the Kabbalistic tradition, because it is time and the nut is ripe.

The outer shell of the Kabbalistic tradition is indeed a very problematic masculine one. Monotheism that was introduce with the power of sword in ancient Judea (7th century B.c.e) brought forth the abstract masculine God as the sole creator of the whole universe. The worship of Goddesses and other nature deities was totally forbidden their shrines destroyed and priestesses killed. Mankind learned that it is created in God’s image and as God is not part of nature but its creator so does mankind – rooted above nature. The right to dominate nature was granted to man in the book of Genesis, as well as the right to dominate women, who are the root of sin and the cause of the fall from Eden.

Despite and in perfect contradiction to all the above, my years of dedicated research in Kabbalah brought me to understand that there are two divine forces in reality, which appear to us as “Masculine” and “Feminine” powers. Those powers can show up in love and harmony, or in conflict and disharmony. I realised that what all that we call “Nature” is connected to the feminine aspect of reality, that the ecological crisis which we experience today is caused by the unhealthy masculine domination in current global culture. Nevertheless, there are also deep processes in the hidden layers of reality these days that call the feminine to unfold and show herself up, creating the Sacred Union of both masculine and feminine as the fuel of a new civilization that is in the rise.

Let me introduce you to some main concepts of Kabbalah that when put together draw a new and ancient deep story that for me was a life changer.

Lurianic Kabbalah (Zfat, Israel, 16th century) describes in its rich symbolic language a process that takes place between those two main divine powers. This process is called “Nesirah” and has several stages of relationships between masculine and feminine in their growth process.

The first stage is symbolised by the masculine and feminine standing back to back without facing each other. Despite the fact that they turn their backs to each other they are not at all separated. Like Siamese twins they share the same back skin and are totally dependent on each other. In this stage the feminine is still very short in comparison to the masculine.

In the second stage the masculine is falling dormant, just like when Adam was put asleep when Eve was created. In this stage the masculine is showing up unaware and unconscious while the feminine unfolds her fullness. In the first stage she was receiving abundance via the mediation of the masculine, who was “taller” than her and closer to the above. In the second stage she grows taller and start to receives directly from the sources above. Since she is no longer dependent on him to receive her light she starts separating from him by building her own back skin. To distinguish herself from him she uses harsh energies that create boundaries and separation, known in Kabbalah as “Din”. What happens in this 2nd stage is that in order to separate from the controlling domination of the masculine and unfold herself as a sovereign being she start to estrange herself from him. This process sometimes go off and seems as a fight against the masculine, while actually she is fighting her old habits of dependency to gain full sovereignty.

The third stage is described as the stage in which the masculine wakes up from his slumber. Simultaneously the feminine has already relaxed into her independence thus no longer needs to use the energy of Din and fight. As a result the two now are able to turn around and finally face each other. In the 3rd stage they meet again, but now as equals. No one is dependent on the other. As a matter of fact it is said that in this stage the feminine is actually a little higher than her masculine partner.

In the 3rd stage both are fully unfolded and independently expressed. Each of them is uniq and different, yet equally important and powerful. Now they can finally meet eye-to-eye, face-to-face, soul-to-soul. In Hebrew there are no vowel letters, therefore the word for face “Panim” is written the exact same way as the word for our interior “Pnim”. Thus by saying that they meet “face to face” the Kabbalists mean to express that they share their inner worlds and meet deeply on the soul level.

I am sure that many of you already have noticed that though this symbolic mythology is ancient it can still clarify some of the dynamics typical to the women rights movement of modern times: at the beginning, women were dominated by men (1st stage), then claiming their equal rights and fighting men (2nd stage) until men wake up form their lack of awareness and the two genders can create a new culture of love and soul (3rd stage).

I find the mythos of Nesirah (literally mean Sawing) applicable not only in the social level but also in the spiritaul and psychological levels of each indovodual. It applies to the inner relationships between the masculine and feminine aspects of each individual, the Anima and Animus in K.G. Jung’s terminology of depth psychology. The relationships between those two inside each one of us effect of course the collective culture. The inner union of M-F effects the relationships between men and women in society and that relationship in its turn effects war and peace, economy and ecolofy in large scales.

I will come back to this myth in regards to the relationships between humans and Nature as a feminine entity, but first I want to add an other Kabbalistic perspective:

LILITH  

When I was studying the mythos of Nesirah I was wondering wether the beginning of the 1st stage is indeed the beginning of the relationships between the feminine and the masculine or is there some kind of stage zero previous to stage one. This question lead me to find some fascinating material in the Lurianic Kabbalah that was a bit unknown to other scholars.

There is an old myth, that was already reclaimed by many feminists – the myth of Lilith. This myth had been an oral tradition for many centuries, and was finally written in the 10th century in Babylon (in a book called “Alpha Beta of Ben Sirah).  The core of the story is well known to many, yet the unique way it was interpreted in Lurianic Kabbalah is still unfamiliar to the public. The traditional Lilith story goes like this:

When human-beings were first created a man and a woman were made equally from clay. Nevertheless this first couple got immediately into a conflict: Each of them wanted to lie above the other while having sex, until the woman, named Lilith, had enough of it. She used magic powers and flew away from Eden. The guy, Adam, is left alone. He feels lonely and God listens to him, put him to sleep, takes one of his aspects (in biblical Hebrew the word for “rib” and for side or aspect are the same) and creates Eve. Lilith is found by three angelic messengers by the red sea (in Sinai), she refuses to come back and tells them that she had already had sex with “The Great Demon”. It seems like the question of who is above and who is below did not bother the great demon. He and Lilith had sex and Lilith starts to see herself as demonic too. She tells the angels that she will come to kill the babies of Adam and Eve. The angels make her swear to leave the baby if shec sees their manes written on the cradle. They also tell her that because she refused to return a thousand of her own children will die evey day. Lilith did not see it as a problem.

From the myth of Lilith we can clearly say that the Nesirah myth relates to the relationships of Adam and Eve, but what about the first and most original relationships of Lilith and Adam? It seems like there is indeed stage zero that serves as an unspoken story of what had happened prior to the beginning. Like in many dysfunctional families we as well tend to not talk about the first and hurtful relationships of our great grandfather Adam with his first partner.

Jewish feminists had already used this story to “prove” that the first woman was not subservient to the man and precisely because of that she was demonised. What I found in Lurianic Kabbalah was surprising me. while in jewish folklore Lilith was cast out as the dark evil demoness, Lurianic Kabbalah relates to her as a sacred feminine dark power that sadly was not yet integrated.

Lurianic Kabbalah also claims that the reason Lilith was not integrated lies in the mere fact that Adam (symbolising masculinity in general) is just not developed enough spiritually to understand a woman of her kind. Lilith was actually higher than Adam spiritually, therefore he could not get her, was afraid of her and preferred to partner with Eve, whom, at least in the beginning (stage 1) did not claim to be equal.

When we look deeper into the story of Lilith we can see that something hapens to her when she leaves home. At a certain point her self image becomes negative. This is a story of self-exile which many times can be seen playing in the psyche of young women who choose to go and explore their sexuality with the “bad guys”. They subconsciously accept the point of view of the home they have just ran away from and their self image becomes very negative.

Since Lilith is rooted in high aspects of spirit, her disintegration is seen as a wound that needs healing. The rejection of the dark aspects of the feminine is a failure of our society, caused mainly by the fears of men. Adam, meaning patriarchal society, is afraid of the dark feminine as well as he is terrified of his own dark powers, symbolised as “the Great Demon”. The disability of patriarchal society to embrace those dark powers is the root of the cause to our current crisis, as i will show later.

Rabbi Itshak Luria explained that the story of Lilith is reflected again in the biblical stories of Jacob, his brother Esau and his wives, Leah and Rachel, the forefathers and mothers of the whole Jewish nation. Jacob, who is escaping from his wild brother Esau, falls in love with beautiful Rachel, but is manipulated to first marry her bigger sister Leah. Jacob is craving Rachel. Rachel, who after their marriage, is found to be barren, yearns for children. Leah, her sister, bares many children to Jacob, but all she wants is him, not the children, yet Jacob rejects her and yearns for Rachel who is not really interested in him sexually. Rabbi Yitshak Luria claims that Jacob is like Adam. His brother Esau, the wild one, is like the great demon, who is the shadow side of Adam. Rachel who yearns for children and not interested in sex is like Eve and Leah who is very fertile, yearns for love through sex and rejected is like Lilith. He then quotes the book of the Zohar (Spain 13th century) that claims that Jacob rejected Leah because she was higher than him in spirit and he couldn’t get her. He found Rachel to be beautiful because she was fitting his perception for a woman, but Leah, the sexual one, was just too much!

In the late 15th century Lurianic Kabbalah was already making the point that the real healing to the fabric of mankind society can only occur when we will be able to embrace our shadows and integrate the aspects of Lilith and the great demon into the picture of what is perceived as holy.

The wild side within us, our ancient animalistic side, has been long ago rejected and is usually seen as a dark power that has to be dominated by the more civilised parts of us. Esau and Lilith, our wild and sexual aspects and are seen as a threat to the good old patriarchal order, but this order is based on the domination of the wild and will bring humanity to a dangerous crisis. The only way out of that crisis is the way of integration of those wild parts, especially the dark-feminine parts that will lead to the end of patriarchal domination.

The vision that Lurianic Kabbala offers is the integration of Eve and Lilith into one whole integrated woman figure, which can be a devoted mother and a sexual free being at once. This needs to happen parralel to the integration of Jacob and Esau in the masculine side of things. The “good boy” persona of Jacob needs to stop escaping its shadow and reunite with the more wild aspects of the masculine, symbolised by Esau. They see it hinted in the sentence in Genesis where jacob promise his brother Esau he will come to his land and join him, but it never had happened yet. This is the integration that is still dew to happen, according to Kabbalah, the integration that can redeem humanity and be considered messianic.

The wild side of men (Esau) is connected to mans feminine side, because all nature is feminine. in the 2nd stage of the Nesirah process the masculine falls asleep. in this sleep time he dreams. According to the ancient Midrash he dreams about the feminine. The masculine is connecting to his inner feminine in the 2nd stage, while the feminine is connecting to her masculine sides which allow her to end the dependency on the man. The fruit of this time is gathered in the 3rd stage, which is still ahead of us as humanity. Waking up from our slumber and claiming our own shadows. reconnecting to our wild part is a reclamation of the innocence of those parts that because we were afraid of them we portraid them as demonic. If the woman is the moon Lilith is its dark side and Eve is its bright, but the moon is one and can not be divided. Lilith and Eve are just the two aspects of any women and we need to learn how to integrate them well as one. The only way though is for men to grow. Patriarchy is based on the terror of men from the dark power of women, the fear of Adam from Lilith, or of Jacob from Leah. It is necessary for men to grow and hold their wild aspect in honor to be able to not be afraid from the Lilith aspect in the women they meet.

We need to come to a new covenant with nature and according to these Kabbalistic teachings the path that leads there takes us through our sexuality, our wild sexual nature, because until we learn to fully accept it and integrate the dark masculine and dark feminine into the wholeness of who we are as humans the conflict with nature will remain.

The ecology of the future in the ecology of Sacred inner union.