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Sunday, January 14, 2007

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.

http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

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

9 Comments:

Anonymous Charles Gregory said...

I wonder if this is the source for the Catholic concept of the "Mystical Body of Christ": that each member of the Church is a part of the body of the Church with the Christ as its head. Although this concept is treated more as an analogy these days, I believe it carried some literal credibility in earlier times.

8:14 AM  
Blogger FILLY4X4 said...

I believe the GUF is the hall of souls where the good souls go that are going to populate the new earth after GOD's rath on what we have done to a beautiful world he gave us that we have detroyed and no not all get to go. We have been give the same souls for years to see who's would stand the test of time to be corrected to continue on to the next plain that GOD has created for us.I can hardly wait and know I will be there I just have so much work to do a to learn as we will do.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Roberta Walk-Anderson said...

The Guf of souls as I Know it is a lovely place to be, so peaceful, until just before rebirth.
The following is my memory of that time.
I sit on a grassy hill gazing into the distance, all is peaceful, all is well. Very suddenly dark storm clouds rapidly fill the sky before me. In seconds I'm sucked into the biggest tornado you could imagine. Then it's as if I'm stuck in some wierd space that reminds me of old TV static and white noise. I feel like I'm trying to move through the thickest molasses and that some force is sucking away everything I know.
I remember begging "them" Not to take it all away because It's the most important and wonderful information ever. The next memory I have is in my infancy. (another story)
I will never forget this. I had bad dreams about it until I was 12 or 13 years old. I'd be so close to getting that wonderful memory back and then I'd wake up.
I know it all sounds like a compilation of The Wizzard of Oz and Poltergeist, But it's stuck with me 54 years; as if it happened yesterday.
Anyway, believe what you will. Good day to all.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Memorial to the Children at Vad Yeshem in Jerusalem is the closest one will get to see the Guf in this lifetime. The most beautiful, amazing place.

3:36 PM  
Blogger BELINDA said...

the guf as i can remember is a serene...peaceful...bliss...of lights outshinin the stars themself...contained inside a wall of swirlin winds...spreaded as wide as the milky way...appearin 2 be as cosmic as any galaxy...flowin as calm as the river...bein feed by a cystle lake...God said 2 me "these are the souls of the children that remain 2 leave from the guf every soul has 2 be born again. rest assure the guf is still in overflow

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Filly, you sound like one of those elitist fundamentalists that, by wholly adopting such belief, automatically condemns any one with differnet ideas.
Not very attractive. Don't be so sure there is a seat saved for you.Who decides who the good souls are and where does one draw the line?
What if it turns out that Odin is the one true god? Then we are all in the glue. OUCH!

6:02 PM  
Blogger willycastle28 said...

My earliest memory that I could regress myself to was shortly after my birth. I was amazed at my hands and fingers, when my parents came and looked upon me in the newborn basket. They were very young and I recognized them as my parents. I wanted to tell them how much I loved them, but I wasn't capable of speech yet.

4:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall in my earliest youth, my Grandpa talking about the Hall of Souls and Spirit. The Wheel of Life turns everlastingly. One comes in, one leaves. A tiny bird, sparrow ushers that flight. My Daughter has boarded a flight tonight to BC to pay respects to a young woman who chose to leave this world by her own accord, while I wait with another Mother who's Young Daughter is about to bring forth a tiny (3 1/2 pound little girl called Faith. In the end all that will really matter is Kindness.There are plenty of Souls (people) who inhabit our Earth, I believe The Legend of the Guf crosses all realms of religious thinkers. I am Catholic, 61, sometimes feel as tho I am a Born Again Pagan when I finish any research into the old ways; however...one comes in and one leaves prevails. Sparrow, Dove, Eagle, Hawk...

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely fascinating. I am watching "The Seventh Sign" so I just Googled "guf" and came across this awesome info. Grew up Catholic but am a Christian rebirth. I would love to know more.

2:24 AM  

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