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Sabbatianism, Tikkun and the Big Bang Theory

Yakov Leib haKohain

In previous essay I have alluded to the fact that Isaac Luria's 16th century, Kabbalistic notion of the "Sheviret HaKelim" (or "Shattering of the Vessels")  --  on which the Neo-Sabbatian concept of Tikkun, or "Holy Repair of the Face of God" -- is virtually identical to that of the "Big Bang" theory of 20th-century astrophysics. The importance of this is that modern science has literally confirmed the validity of Lurianic and, therefore, Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah and, by extension, the Jewish mystical texts, such as the Zohar, on which they were based. In this new series, I propose to explore this radical idea in greater detail and from the perspectives of Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah, astrophysics and Jungian metaphysics.


There have been three extraordinary developments over the past four hundred years which, when viewed as parts of an interlocking whole, promise to reshape the destiny not only of ourselves, not only of our planet, not only of our society and our species, but perhaps of the cosmos itself -- or, as the Kabbalists call it, "The Face of God."

The three parts of this larger picture are two men and an ancient explosion. The first is the Jewish mystic and Kabbalist of the sixteenth century, Rabbi Isaac Luria, who set about to discover a plan of spiritual redemption based on the laws of the physical universe and its primordial creation, as based on the "data" contained in Jewish Written and Oral Scripture, such as the Old Testament and Zohar. He called the cosmogony he discovered "Tikkun," about which I shall have much more to say later in this series of lectures.

The second part of the picture is is the great Swiss theologian and religious psychologist, C. G. Jung who was the first scientist to dare to develop a science of the soul based on his own direct encounters with God. His work as we have been discussing it in our Jung Seminar lectures, amplifies the dynamics of Lurianic Tikkun and brings it more appropriately into the twentieth century as what we have been calling, Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah.

And finally, the third piece of this picture is an event modern astronomers and physicists call the "Big Bang" -- a cataclysmic explosion in the cosmos which, they say, inaugurated the beginnings of the universe, just as Isaac Luria said the "Shattering of the Vessels" had four centuries earlier.

It is my premise in this series of lectures that the discovery by 20th-century scientists of this "Big Bang" and the astronomical events surrounding it validate Isaac Luria's Kabbalistic theosophy and the Neo-Sabbatian paradigm that has grown out of it. My intention in the lectures to follow is to garner whatever evidence I can for this conclusion from the literature of science, Jewish mysticism and Jungian metaphysics, beginning with the following direct comparison between the components of Sheviret HaKelim and those of the Big Bang.

Isaak Luria and the Tikkun of Creation

In his attempt to bring about the final Apocalypse, and the coming of the Messiah, Isaac Luria turned to an analysis of the laws of the physical universe and its Creator as encrypted in the Bible, Zohar and Jewish works of Written and Oral Scripture. Armed only with these tools of Kabbalah, he developed a cosmogony which is so strikingly similar to the findings of 20th century astrophysics that one can only conclude that they were all observing the same phenomena, but from different perspectives, and the conclusions of the latter validated those of the former 400 years later.

For the first time in history, Luria proposed that the Universe was created not by an orderly process, but out of a cataclysmic accident, what he called the "Shattering of the Vessels," by which he meant the breaking of the original Ten Sefiroth resulting from a cosmic destabization in the very fabric of God Himself. Fragments (which he called Holy Sparks, or "Nitzozot") from these Vessels of Pure Light scattered in all directions and fell into the dark realm of forms where they entered and created all "things" including man. These Sparks and the Vessels of which they are the fragments, are created by En-Sof the "Hidden God," or Deus Absconditus.

Classic Kabbalah defines En-Sof, the "No-Thing," as "Formlessness" and "Perfect Unity," the Monad of Gnosticism, Tao of Taoism, Brahaman of Vedanta, Buddha-Nature of Buddhism, etc. It is likened to a "Cloud" or "Vapor" filling and filled by -- which is to say, coextensive with -- the entire universe. At a certain moment, according to Luria, this En-Sof determines to Create; but since it is everywhere and everything no room exists within itself for anything else except itself. Consequently, Luria says, En-Sof "contracted into and away from itself" to make a primeaval space within which to enact the event of creation. This he called the "TzimTzum." (We shall see later in our discussion that modern astrophysics uses almost precisely the same metaphors to describe the Big Bang of creation.)

Now, in the process of TzimTzum, a part of En-Sof "held back" and remained lingering in the primeaval space. This part of God that "resisted" creating mankind and the world Luria called the "Reshimu," which he likened to the fragrance that "lingers" in an empty bottle of perfume.  It is the "anti-matter," so to speak, of creation, the dark residuum of God -- the "negative charge" -- that will later encrust and trap the "positive charge" of the Nitzotzot, or Holy Sparks, as Evil Shells. Within the Reshimu-Saturated environment of the Primeaval Space, the first manifestations to be created are the Ten Sefiroth, the "Vessels of Light". Even during creating them, En-Sof retains its perfect unity. However, the subsequent Sheviret HaKelim, or shattering of these vessels (the exact process of which I will later describe) destroys the wholeness of En-Sof, scattering itself in all directions in the form of Holy Sparks -- or what astrophysics will call the "debris of creation" 400 years later in the Big Bang theory. Now and for all time, these Holy Sparks will yearn and struggle to return to their "Root," their "Source," the Unity from which they fell. God, indeed, had been "One," but now was "Many." His "face" was "shattered" and mankind, the "divine afterthought," was needed to repair it or, as the Book of Genesis says, "to till the soil" (Genesis 2:5).

Luria's genius was not only to discover these phenomenal events, but also to propose what C.G. Jung later called "the remarkable idea" that man can enter into partnership with God by liberating the alientated Sparks from their reshimu-encrusted "Shells" and returning them to wholeness with their Source. By this "Tikkun," or Repair, Luria asserts, mandkind, the universe and even God himself are to be redeemed. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov two centuries later:

"The Holy Sparks that fell when God built and destroyed the worlds, man shall raise and purify upward from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being -- purify the Holy Sparks that are imprisoned in the world of Shells . . . And who, with the good strength of his spirit, is able to raise the Holy Spark from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being, leads it into freedom; and no setting free of captives is greater than this. It is as when a king's son is rescued from captivity and brought to his father."
(Instructions on Intercourse with God, p. 188 in Hasidism and Modern Man by Martin Buber.)

It was for this task of redeeming the Holy Sparks from the Realm of Ishmael that Sabbatai Zevi made his Holy Apostasy to Islam; likewise, Yakov Leib Frank, a century later, entered Christianity to redeem the Holy Sparks from their entrapment in the Realm of Esau; and we, in our own time, are entering the Realm of Balaam's Donkey to do the same as those before us. The work of repairing the Face of God is not accomplished in one brush-stroke, but in many -- each building on and adding to the ones that came before it.

Isaac Luria and the Big Bang Theory

Luria' proposed that the Universe was created out of a cataclysmic accident, or what he called the "Shattering of the Vessels,"  (the primordial Ten Sephiroth). He went on to say that fragments, or "Sparks" from these "shattered vessels" of pure light scattered in all directions and fell into a vast wasteland where they became encrusted with "Reshimu" or the "shell" of "anti-creation." From these Holy Sparks, imprisoned in their "shells", all things, including man, were created by En-Sof or the "Hidden God." For example, consider the following two accounts of creation -- one Kabbalistic, the other scientific -- the former written by an emminent Kabbalist (Rabbi Herbert Weiner) the latter by an even-more eminent astrophysicist (Dr. Robert Jastrow):

KABBALAH (16th Century)
(Herbert Weiner, 9 1/2 Mystics)
ASTROPHYSICS (20th Century)
(Robert Jastrow, The Astonomers and God)
"There is only God -- nothing else.  Then there is a movement. A space opens up as if within God himself; it is as if God 'contracts' himself.  The result is an area empty of God.That is the first act of the drama, an act called TzimTzum, that is,        concentration or withdrawal."  "The universe was created twenty billion years ago in a fiery explosion. That is the crux of the new story of Genesis. It has been familiar for years as the 'Big Bang' theory. The general scientific picture that leads to it is well known."
"The next act involves the reentry of God into the empty space. Obviously, it will not be that kind of  reentry which restores completely the condition that existed before, otherwise the drama will cease. It is only a partial reentry. This is the second step of the action, called 'hitpa-shtut,' and it is the opposite of the first act, the breathing out which succeeds the breathing in. Now,  something begins to happen in the space which was made by the withdrawl of God.  "The universe is blowing up before our eyes, as if we are witnessing the aftermath of a gigantic explosion. If we retrace the motions of the outward-moving galaxies backward in time, we find that they all come together, so to speak, fifteen or twenty billion years ago. At the same time all the matter in the universe was packed into a dense mass . . . The dazzling brilliance of the radiation in this dense, hot universe must have been beyond description.  The instant in which the cosmic bomb exploded marked the birth of the Universe."
"What occures next is a terrible catastrophe. The something which had just begun to form is shattered.  The outer husks or shell of what was formed is broken and the inner light, the creative life-charge of these emerging forms, is scattered in two directions. Some of this light, called Holy Sparks, returns to its source, that is, upwards to the divine root of light, to God.  But other Sparks are entangled with the shattered husks, the Kelippoth, and fall with them. "The latest evidence makes it almost certain that the Big Bang really did occur many millions of years ago. In 1965 Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of the Bell Laboratories discovered that the earth is bathed in a faint glow of radiation coming
from every direction in the heavens. 
"The divine harmony has been broken; 'things are not in their place.' The tension of the action has now been established. The Sparks yearn to return to their source and the husks to their place; both want to be lifted to the roots so that the primordial 
unity may be reestablished. The process of 'lifting the Sparks' to their roots and effecting a Tikkun or 'repair' is the task of man. A task in which all generations can play a role."
"It was the diffuse glow of the ancient radiation of the Big Bang, dating back to the birth of the universe, that they had discovered. No explanation other than the Big Bang has been found for this radiation."

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text content © Yakov Leib haKohain
posted on the Donmeh West mail list 12 and 20 Oct 1999
page uploaded 25 October 1999, last modified 12 July 2004