The Guf: Mystical Body, Well of Souls
I was just browsing on Wikipedia when I came across an article on the Guf, or Guf ha-Briyot, the Treasury
[Illustration: Doves suffused in radiance, Die Bucher der Bibel, E.M. Lilien]
of Souls, which entered pop consciousness with the 1988 apocalyptic horror film, The Seventh Sign, starring Demi Moore. The entry was very peculiar and had already been flagged as needing some attention, so I took a turn at tweaking it. This is more or less what I wrote:
The word Guf is derived from Hebrew for "body/corpse". The Guf can also be referred to as the Otzer (Hebrew for "treasury"). It is the source of every human soul. In some traditions the Guf is located in the celestial plane of Aravot, other times it is located beneath God's Throne of Glory, which resides "above" Aravot. Though some cite Isa. 57:16 as the source of the concept, Isaiah never uses the word, so the Talmud offers one of the earliest direct references to the Guf and teaches that the Messiah will not come until the Guf is emptied of all its souls (Yev. 62a-63b; A.V. 5a). This is given a longer, if more enigmatic treatment in a work of early Kabbalah, Sefer Bahir:
In its [? - there is no clear antecedent, perhaps the 'World to Come' discussed earlier] hand is the treasury of souls. In the time when Israel is good, these souls are worthy of going forth and coming into this world. But if they are not good, then [these souls] do not go forth. We therefore say, "The son of David will not come until all the souls in the Guf are completed." What is the meaning of "all the souls in the Guf [Body]"? We say this refers to all the souls in the body of The Adam [Kadmon]. [When they are completed] new ones will be worthy of going forth [Bahir 184].
The peculiar idiom of describing the treasury of souls as a "body," as I indicate in my translation, is connected to the mythic tradition of Adam Kadmon, the primordial human. Adam Kadmon, God's "original intention" for humanity, was a supernal being, androgynous and macro-cosmic (co-equal in size with the universe). When this spiritual Adam sinned, his cosmic-sized soul burst asunder and humanity was demoted to the flesh and blood, bifurcated and mortal creatures we are now. According to Kabbalah, every human soul is just a fragment (or fragments) cycling out of the great "world-soul" of Adam Kadmon. Hence, every human soul comes from a "guf ", that being the supernal body of Adam Kadmon. Part of the project of humanity it to effect the tikkun, the restoration, of the soul of Adam Kadmon.
In keeping with other Jewish legends that envision souls as bird-like (Derived from the Biblical notion that the dead "chirp" - Isa. 29:4), the Guf is sometimes described as a columbarium, a dove cote. This connects it to a related legend: the "Palace of the Bird's Nest," the dwelling place of the Messiah's soul until his advent (Zohar II: 8a-9a).
Again in the Guf we encounter the mystical notion of the whole universe being permeated with consciousness. It also reinforces the notion of the interconnectedness, the brotherhood (sorry, there just is no gender neutral idiom for this concept) of humanity which is at the heart of the Genesis account. The legend of the Guf, however, asserts our essential spiritual as well as biological relatedness.
I will further consider this with follow up entries on Adam Kadmon. See:
Adam Kadmon I: Spiritual Man, Primordial Being
Adam Kadmon II: The Human Cosmos, Conduit of Light...
Zal g'mor /Go forth and learn - more can be found in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050