Carl Jung and the Jewish Mystical Tradition Part III
From the 1591 edition of Moses Cordovero, The Garden of Pomegranates
The Sefirotic Tree of Life
By Tony Woolfson, Ph.D.
In the winter of 1944 Jung lost his footing when out walking, fell, and broke his foot. Perhaps the symbolic significance of losing his footing contributed to his suffering a heart attack shortly thereafter. For several weeks he hovered in a liminal state, on the threshold of death, often with the feeling of being way above the Earth in an altered state entirely. He was certainly in a mystical condition, in an out of body near-death situation. The down-to-earth reality of the daily hospital routines irritated him intensely and about the only time he experienced a complete relief from the vagaries of his illness was late at night when the night nurse brought him some soup. Perhaps she brought him chicken soup, a symbolic cure-all that Jewish mothers will tell us cannot hurt, and it might even do some good. Jung even fancied that the nurse was an old Jewish mother figure, preparing ritual kosher dishes for him. And only then was Jung able to eat, and with appetite, as he describes it in his Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
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In addition, then, to his roles as son, husband, father, psychiatrist, professor, medical psychologist, and analytical psychologist, Jung was obviously something of a mystic, with leanings towards Jewish Mysticism as well as the more obvious mysticism of one so deeply immersed in the study of alchemical symbolism. And so, the seriously ill Jung had a most significant and highly symbolic vision. Associated in some way with his fantasizing that he was being cared for by an old Jewish mother figure, who even, he says, “seemed to have a blue halo around her head”, Jung then imagined or envisioned himself in a profoundly mystical Jewish place:
“I myself was, so it seemed, in the Pardes Rimonim, the Garden of Pomegranates in 16th. Century Jewish mysticism, and the wedding of Tifereth with Malchuth was taking place. Or else I was Rabbi Simon ben Jochai, whose wedding in the afterlife was being celebrated. It was the mystic marriage as it appears in the Kabbalistic tradition. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was. I could only think continually, “Now this is the garden of pomegranates! Now this is the marriage of Malchuth with Tifereth!” I do not know what part I played in it. At bottom it was I myself. I was the marriage. And my beatitude was that of a blissful wedding.”
Diagram of the Sefirot from Cordovero’s book
Yes, upon first reading this stuff one might simply say what a crazy man Jung was. Before going straight to that conclusion, however, it might be worth looking up the section of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections where he talks about this and other Visions he had in his immensely meaningful life. The bride in Jung’s vision is Malkhuth, the tenth of the sefirot in the Sefirotic Tree of Life, symbolizing the earthly, physical quality of female matter, as opposed to the ethereal, spiritual quality of Keter, the crown, the uppermost of the sefiroth. Four different images of the Kabbalistic Sefirotic Tree accompany this short commentary. Even more significant for Jung’s vision of being present at the marriage of Tifereth, Majesty, and Malkhuth is the fact that Malkhuth is another name for the Sheltering Presence, Shekhinah, and just that mystical wedding in Jung’s vision, or that coniunctio, was at the very heart of the Kabbalistic endeavour. The Kabbalists sought to re-unite the Shekhinah with the People Israel. Remember too the Sabbath story! And it
Oriental Kabbalistic Scroll from around 1605
might be worth tuning in this Saturday, April 11th at noon, when I will surely have lots more to say about Jung and the Jewish Mystical Tradition. See you then, well, not exactly, unfortunately, but I have learned that people from all five five continents have registered, and won’t it just be marvelous to think about that for a wee while … Thank you.
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Contemporary diagram of the Sefirotic Tree
Tags: carl jung, jewish, Judaism, jungian, mystical tradition, mysticism