The Treatise on Dragons

Evgueni Tortchinov

Nathan of Gaza "Treatise on the Dragons" presents a very interesting example of the reformation of the Lurianic Kabbalah in the light of the character of the Sabbatean movement and Sabbatai Zevi's personality.

See Gershom Scholem's book Sabbatai Sevi. The Mystical Messiah. pp. 297-325
The original Hebrew text of the "Treatise" can be found in: Be'Iqvoth Mashiah, Ed. by G. Scholem. Jerusalem, 1944 (it is a collection of Nathan of Gaza's works).

Some principal points of Nathan's Kabbalah are:

1. New interpretation of tehiru, or the primordial space of creation which appeared after the contraction (zimzum) of the Light of En-Sof ('Or En-Sof). It contains the remnants of this Light, its traces, or reshimu, some of which counteract the idea of creation (thoughtless lights). These lights are the roots of kelippoth and of all demonic powers of "another side" (sitra ahra). Thus, the process of creation is thought to be the result of the dialectical struggle between two sides, or two aspects of the Absolute itself. The concentration of the reshimu of the thoughtless (i.e.having no thought to create) lights produces the dark world of kelippoth symbolically spoken of as the world of the serpents, or dragons.

2. Reinterpretation of the nature of the Messiah. The roots of Messiah are in the sphere of the highest Light. But En-Sof projects these roots to the world of the srpents because of the circumstance that only Messiah has ability not only to vin the victory over the serpents but to transform them to the abode of holyness. Thus, the spirit of Messiah from the very beginning dvells among the serpents of the kelippoth. He struggles with the kink of the dragons and sometimes this king overcomes the Messiah, torturing him. But at the end Messiah will liberate himself from the shell of kelippoth. he will ascend to this world with the mission of its redemption. But he must again descend into the abyss of the kelippoth to vin the king of the dragons and to change him and all his kingdom into the kingdom of Light.

It will be resulting in the completion of the dialectical process of the mystical purification (catharsis) of the Absolute, and the establishing of the kingdom of God everywhere. And (it is interesting to note) the Messiah himself will become the Holy Serpent (please, remember the Serpent made of silver which was erected by Moses in the desert to save Israelites from the poisonous snakes), or the Holy Dragon, the true King-Pharaoh (the gematria of the word "nahash" -- "serpent"is equal to gematria of the word "mashiah", "Messiah").  There were Gnostic sects (2-3 C.E.) of ophythes and nahasens (both words were derived from the Greek and Aramaic designations of the "serpents") who called the Christ (i.e., Messiah) the Holy Serpent who opened to the spiritualized souls (pnumatics) the mysteries of the Tree of Life. I do not believe in any possible influence of the Gnostic ideas on Nathan of Gaza's thought but the parallels are more than striking (probably, here we meet with the archtypal paradigm in the Jungian sense).

from a post to the DONMEH mail list
Saturday, 28 Nov 1998
Evgueni Tortchinov home page

The Treatise on Dragons - Prof. Avraham Elqayam's comments

Nathan of Gaza
Sabbatai Zevi
Jacob Frank
The Sabbatean Movement


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page uploaded 9 December 1998