The nerve bible

Laurie Anderson (1995) calls the body the Nerve Bible – the most intimate of scriptures.

Elaine Pagels (1979, 62-3) cites gnostic sources for several ‘mystical meanings’ of Biblical images, which interpret them as references to the human body:

  • Paradise = womb
  • Eden = placenta
  • river flowing forth from Eden = navelcord
  • Exodus = passage out of the womb (Red Sea = blood; and what was Paradise has now become the land of bondage!)

She also cites examples of interpretations running in the other direction:

  • ‘pregnant womb of any living creature’ = ‘image of the heavens and the earth’
  • cry of the newborn = ‘spontaneous cry of praise for the glory of the primal being’

Gershom Scholem likewise notes the organic nature of Kabbalistic imagery:

… to the Kabbalist the unity of God is manifested from the first as a living, dynamic unity, rich in content. What to the Jewish theologians were mere attributes of God, are to the Kabbalist potencies, hypostases, stages in an intradivine life-process, and it is not for nothing that the images with which he describes God are first and foremost images pertaining to the organism.

— Scholem (1960, 94)

What the Kabbalist calls ‘the not yet unfolded Torah’ (Scholem 1960,
49) is what Gendlin calls the implicit intricacy. In Kabbalah the sefiroth which constitute the divine life itself and its creative power are symbolized as a language of revelation hidden behind the explicit language of the Torah, yet so precisely implicated with it that ‘if you omit a single letter, or write a letter too many, you will destroy the whole world’ (Scholem 1960, 39).

Arthur Green (2004, 38) says of the first sefirah, Keter:

There is no specific ‘content’ to this sefirah; it is desire or intentionality, an inner movement of the spirit that potentially bears all content but actually bears none.

The sefirot are implicit all the way down to the Shekhinah – which is still haunted by Plato’s ghost:

While the inner logic of the Kabbalists’ emanational thinking would seem to indicate that all beings, including the physical universe, flow forth from Shekhinah, the medieval abhorrence of associating God with corporeality complicates the picture, leaving Kabbalah with a complex and somewhat divided attitude toward the material world.

— Green (2004, 53)

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