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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Romancing the Tome: Lost Books of Heavenly Secrets

The Hebrew Scriptures make reference to a number of "lost" books, books which the Biblical readers would have known of to consult, but no longer exist, such as the The Book of the Wars of the Lord.




[Ornamented 18th Century siddur. Picture found at www.codart.nl/exhibitions/details/1052/]

But there are also occult books that are only mentioned obliquely. These are special books, books of secret knowledge. The tradition that there is a primordial book of power known to the worthies of the past appears multiple times in two overlapping Jewish traditions, the “Book of Adam” and the “Book of Noah.”

The Biblical basis is Gen. 5:1, “This is the book of the generations of Adam…,” assumed to refer to a book distinct from Genesis, which contains a genealogy of all the human generations that will ever exist.

It starts with the teaching that God showed Adam all the generations:

The Holy Blessed One, blessed showed Adam all succeeding generations, together with their preachers, leaders, prophets, mighty men, criminals, and their pious (Avot 5), and …that is what Resh Lakish meant when he said: What is the meaning of the verse, 'This is the book of the generations of Adam? It is to intimate that the Holy Blessed One, showed him [Adam] every generation and its thinkers, every generation and its sages. When he came to the generation of Rabbi Akiba, he [Adam] rejoiced at his learning but was grieved at his death, and said: How weighty are Your companions to me, O God. (Sanh. 38b).

Elsewhere in the Talmud, it is made explicit that the generations actually exist in book form:

And in that day the deaf hear the words of a book” (Is. 24:18) [this refers to] the book of the generations of Adam (Gen. Rabbah 24:1)

The belief that the book not only contains the names of all the generations but also has some healing powers probably got its start in this passage, where a physician consults it, though as the perceptive reader will see, Samuel does so only to determine his destiny, not his course of treatment:

Samuel Yarhinaah was Rabbi's physician. Now, Rabbi contracted an eye disease and Samuel offered to soak it with a lotion, but he said, 'I cannot bear it.' 'Then I will apply an ointment to it,' he said. 'This too I cannot bear,' he objected [even to this]. So he placed a poultice of medicines under his pillow, and he was healed. Rabbi was most anxious to ordain him, but there was no opportunity. Don’t you be grieved, he said; I have seen the Book of Adam, in which is written, 'Samuel Yarhinaah shall be called "wise'', but not "Rabbi'', but Rabbi's healing shall come through him (Baba Metzia 85b-86a).

The Noahide tradition of the “book” is as follows –

References to a “Book of Noah” first appear in the Apocryphal books Enoch I (passages 6-11; 39:1-2a; 54:7-55:2; 60; 65:1-69:25; and 106-107 are ascribed to the “Book of Noah”) and the book of Jubilees 10:13 and 21:10.

Fragments of a self-styled “Book of Noah” have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QNoah or 1Q19 and 4Q534).

Later medieval magio-medical books such as Sefer Asaf ha-Rofe claim the “Book of Noah” as their source material.

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

2 Comments:

Blogger Rupa Abdi said...

From the 13th Equinox till the year of the Scorpio,
All sins of men will gather under one Shadow.
The Good and Evil shall reflect each other,
The cedars of Lebanon shall grow no further.
All will be swept in the stagnant flow,
The cure will make the disease grow.
Those who awaken while the others sleep,
Will free Mankind from the dual grip.

1:21 AM  
Blogger Geoffrey Dennis said...

The last couplet does not quite work, does it? Sleep/Grip? I like it, though I don't know what it means.

8:53 AM  

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