The Jewish Zohar Shekhinah and the Christian, Mormon Holy Spirit

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Philo Sofee
First Presidency
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The Jewish Zohar Shekhinah and the Christian, Mormon Holy Spirit

Post by Philo Sofee »

This morning's research work. Enjoy!

The Jewish Zohar Shekhinah and the Christian, Mormon Holy Spirit

We are now 21 years (2+ decades) in a new Millenium, and we need, and truly ought, to expand our spirituality and accept the call for the remythologization for our new age we are now in. Just what does this mean actually? The great Jewish scholar Arthur Green describes this idea best of all: “We have seen the theology of despair which comes out of the Holocaust: we must now go beyond it to a renewal of real life. We have lived through the dead end of historicism as an ideology and have been crippled by the conclusion of the critical consciousness; we must now move from the critical to the post-critical age in our religious formulations. We have seen the unidimensional flatness and poverty which positivism and historicism have lent to our once sacred existence. The need for demythologizing is past; a remythologizing of the religious consciousness is what this hour calls upon us to create. And here it is the Kabbalist, the one who has most successfully accomplished that task in the past, who is to be our historic guide and mentor.”[1]

Renewing re-energizing theology is the calling need of our day. Radical with the heartfelt spiritual loving intent of expressing expansion of understanding rather than keeping things in the old stale grooves of “us vs them,” which served their purposes, but a bright new era has arrived and we are feeling the uplifting delicious sunshine, let us bask in it, breath in it and live in it. New scripture in the form of the Jewish Zohar has given us the impetus for “engaging Torah” as the rabbis in the Zohar love to say.

I approach the interesting expression “engaging in Torah” in a broad sense (I am not Jewish so am at liberty to go outside of Orthodox thinking, yet remain within the realm of valid theological spirituality none the less) of comparing religious expressions across the board, not limiting definitions nor concepts within any single tradition, which has just been far too narrow a methodology for centuries. We are in a new Millenium, and new contacts are simply demanding to be made, new visions, hopes, loves and expressive meaningful connections and work to disregard old prejudices, foibles, and anomalies across religious, historical, scientific, and spiritual frontiers.

Since Mormonism claims to be a part of Israel through Joseph, and the Jews are the ancient tribe of Judah, still with us today, amazingly enough, I have found it particularly interesting to compare and contrast and connect the two traditions (which is what they are supposed to be doing themselves all along, though they apparently aren’t getting the point and have lost the big picture) and begin hopefully seeing an expansion of viewpoints overall which I believe are quite helpful, even though, sometimes painful, since it means no longer imagining only one can be in charge at a time in God’s “Plan.” It’s supposed to be God’s Plan, not Judah’s or Mormonism’s alone. I can’t help but think that in a new Millenium it could be quite useful and fruitful to begin seeing if there are areas which can merge, even though perhaps it can be painful since some aspects of cherished traditions may have to give way to greater overall visions and views of reality than either are used to. Orthodoxy’s on both sides may have to become a bit more flexible than they have been in the past. Growth pains are never enjoyable to go through, but in the long run always are beneficial.

One thing that can become very helpful is eliminating old labels of perceived opponents (usually wrongly perceived based on limited understanding) such as “pagans” and “apostates,” and even “heretics” and “anti-Mormons”, “liberals,” and move into a larger arena of congenial embracing of the “other” instead of crowning oneself King of truth. There is only One King, and neither Judaism nor Mormonism nor Christianity nor Islam are it, but are a part, each a piece, not the entirety of that proposed “Kingdom.”

It may be an apt time to reassess our thinking in this regard and recognize we are part of something vastly larger than our own little selves, with our own pet “revealed” truths in the work of salvation. More Brotherhood across borders and less finger pointing and disdain are truly called for with all sides coming together in mutual approbation and humanly love. In other words, it’s perhaps time to recognize others’ cultures and their expressions as a part and parcel of the overall picture, not whether they are authentic or not based on our own supposed superior culture and knowledge as a basis for acceptance. All the expressions are authentic on the esoteric depth, a depth far too little visited, appreciated, and expounded on across borders of cultural police patrols keeping out putative enemies, which is vastly more illusion than reality.

The actual real enemy is our ignorance, not a perceived outside enemy of “other” who doesn’t think and believe like we do. It is time to deliberately cultivate a mentality of less narrow thinking, and broader understanding of people’s cultural differences, and scriptures, with real kavanah, (heartfelt intention)not a smug fake Brotherhood in order to appear good so we get brownie points in heaven. But we are in genuine need of real goodness, that which stems from our hearts to “other” without labeling the “other” except as “one of us,” and treat him and his own spiritual truths with respect, care, and love. Granted, it’s a huge order, and I am not anywhere near the ideology, but we begin to move in that direction and let details work out as they will. I have decided to turn in my disdain for the “other” (those who don’t think, believe, and feel like I do, but I think they ought to since I am right and I have to convince them they are not - it’s this thinking that just has worn out its welcome isn’t it?) for the lofty ideal and see what comes of it.

With that very long preface and attempt to mollify disdain and outright outrage (a ridiculous reaction but one which happens none the less when one is called upon to perhaps change one’s view a bit to get a larger picture of truth) because of a radical something I am going to propose, let me begin.

Joseph Smith said on an occasion “What will save our spirits will save our bodies. Our actions in our earthly tabernacles will determine the future for our spirits.”[2] Isaac Luria, perhaps the greatest medieval Kabbalist taught “During the recitation of the Shema, the lower union transforms into the higher union. Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”[3]

I am particularly struck at the congruence of these two statements, the overarching truth manifest in them, directly, no deep scholarly elaboration, mystical ululation and difficult expression, no elaborate philosophical jargon and discourse, just two blunt statements of direct truth from two founders of two religions which still have enormous influence in the world today, one from a Mormon, the other from a Jew. And they are exactly the same principle, though culturally expressed with their own particular inflection.

The unification Luria is talking about is the human with the Divine to put it shortly and directly. That is the pure goal and alchemical gold of all esoteric meaning whether Jewish, Muslim Christian or Mormon. Otherwise there is simply no point to anything.

What energized me to write this paper is my reading (I do daily) of the Zohar, in “Parashat Mishpatim: - :Laws,” the “Sava de-Mishpatim” - “Old Man of Mishpatim,” where Rabbi Yose exhults on encountering Rabbi Hiyya - “How happy I am to see the face of Shekhinah.”[4]

Daniel Matt’s comment here on this is quite revealing! “According to rabbinic tradition, ‘whoever welcomes [literally, receives the face of] the wise is considered as if he welcomes Shekhinah…’ The Zohar transforms the rabbinic simile into an actual description of the righteous, who are called the face of Shekhinah ‘because Shekhinah is hidden within them: She is in concealment, they are revealed.’”[5]

Who is Shekhinah? In as short a possible way, She is God’s Wife. She is the Female aspect of God Himself. She is the wife, daughter, sister, everything to do with the Divine feminine God within humanity and God, the great unifier. Her symbolisms elaborated in the Zohar are innumerable as she is one of the singular most important parts of Jewish esoteric spirituality. And Shekhinah as “Mom” (I say this with reverence and adoration, not sarcasm, but holy reverence) is utterly celebrated, cherished, relished, praised, glorified, and loved as longly, loudly, and joyfully as humanly possible in the Zohar. All else may pass away, all things, all galaxies, the entire universe, “Mom” never becomes outdated, or irrelevant or passes away. “Mom” is eternal.

Judaism in its lofty spiritual accomplishment within the elaborate, ornate, and delicious Zohar has brought back a concept which Christian, Muslims, and Mormons can now begin to cherish greater, and appreciate on a vaster scale. This ties in with an astonishing occasion occurring in Jesus’ life which has gone missing in Orthodox Christianity, and which grooves perfectly with the Zohar conception of Shekhinah.

When Jesus was baptized, the image of a dove descended upon him and a voice was heard declaring him the Son. According to some of the Early Christians’ understanding (probably not all of them as they were never actually united in their theological ideas and beliefs), Jerome, one of the many early Christian Church Fathers, quotes the Gospel of the Hebrews which declared that Jesus was the Son the voice had been waiting for. Jesus described that voice as the Holy Spirit “My Mother.”[6]

Gershom Scholem described how Philo described the Creator Father of all, and the Mother of all, and the Son. The Father was the husband of Wisdom (personified wife of God) while the Hebrew Qadosh was described as the Holy Spirit, it was the same spirit who was the Mother in the Hebrew scriptures.[7] This same Godhead of Father, Mother, Son, who was birthed to them as the Logos(!) is further described by numerous biblical scholars, of which for now one reference suffices.[8]

Mormonism has somehow missed out of this magnificent theological development of the “Eternal Family” of Father, Mother, Son, yet does have some esoteric teachings of the idea of eternal spirits of mankind, and the serious importance of the Holy Ghost. One of the truly exalting themes was told by B.H. Roberts, a prominent early Mormon theologian and church leader. He did say the Holy Ghost was a “pure spirit of intelligence.” Also a personage of spirit, not yet embodied. In light of that, he distinguished yet another spirit within Mormon theology which fills the immensity of space, a “creative and upholding power and vital force - intelligence-inspiring power - the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”[9]

In the Zohar, this is the Shekhinah. In the "Haqdamat Sefer ha-Zohar," Shekhinah with Binah (the Mother) as Mother and Daughter comprised the two ends of heaven, above and below.[10] In the “Parashat Hayyei Sarah,” we read “The sea resembles the sky, as we have learned, and the sky, the Throne of Glory.” Both Sea and Throne of Glory, which is in the very Highest heaven, is symbolized by Shekhinah.[11] Shekhinah in the “Lekh Lekha,” is the “et” of the Hebrew language, that is, she comprises the entire alphabet of divine speech itself! Cf. Jesus being the Alpha and Omega.[12] Shekhinah is the Moon, as well as identified with and as Metatron in the “Va-Yeshev.”[13] Shekhinah is the Tent of Meeting, which itself, was a model of the entire Cosmos, in “Va-Yhi.”[14] In the “Parashat Shemot,” Shekhinah is the Garden into which the rivers of heaven flow. The Garden is symbolic of the entire Cosmos, she is that.[15] And there is much more symbolisms and levels to the depth of “Mom,” which the Zohar elaborates. She is one of the singular most all inclusive symbols in all of esoteric literatures.

Now, putting together the three components, the Mormon one, the Christian one, and the Jewish one, seems to me a more desirable all inclusive completing of knowledge rather than a competing which one is more authentic type of thinking. We are interested in the whole truth, not fighting singular aspects of one culture’s ideas against another’s attempting in a silly manner to verify one and denigrate another. A coming together, and interweaving makes a stronger spiritual cloth in the blanket of truth than a single thread every time and always in my thinking. It encompasses, exalts, enlarges, and expands our intellect, our spirit, our appreciation for the total light we are receiving from all ends of the earth and from all humanity. They all three (Christian, Mormon and Jewish) mutually support, give credit, and coordinate in a delightful unifying conjunction of theological, cosmological, and spiritual excellence. It just seems to me this is a superior way to go.

Leonora Leet, “The Universal Kabbalah: Deciphering the Cosmic Code in the Sacred Geometry of the Sabbath Star Diagram,” Inner Traditions, 2004: 54.
“An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith,” Scott Faulring, editor, Signature Books, 1989: 466.
Isaac Luria, “A Discourse on the Nature of Circular and Straight Energies,” in “Kabbalah of Creation, The Mysticism of Isaac Luria, Founder of Modern Kabbalah, A Translation of the Gate of Principles” translated with commentary by Eliahu Klein, North Atlantic Books, 2005: 24.
Daniel Matt, “The Zohar,” Pritzker edition, Stanford University Press, (12 volumes), Vol. 5, 2009: 1, (2:95a). Hereafter cited as “Matt, The Zohar.”
Matt, p. 1, note 3.
Margaret Barker, “The Great High Priest,” T & T Clark, 2003: 242-243.
Gershom Scholem, “The Mystical Shape of the Godhead,” Schocken Books, 1991: 143f.
Margaret Barker, “The Great High Priest,” pp. 237f.
B.H. Roberts, “The Truth, the Way, the Life, An Elementary Treatise on Theology,” edited by John W. Welch, BYU Studies, 1994: 226-227.
Matt, Zohar, Vol. 1:6, note 30.
Matt, Zohar, Vol. 2: 203 and note 2.
Matt, Zohar, Vol. 2:57 and note 450.
Matt, Zohar, Vol. 3: 86f, and notes 9 and 10.
Matt, Zohar, Vol. 3: 458 and note 733.
Matt, Zohar, Vol. 4: 1 and note 3 and 4.
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