Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mochin: Divine Mind, Expanded Consciousness

In medieval Kabbalah, the term Mohin (or Mochin) refers to the stages of mental development that co-exists in both the Higher and mortal mind.

In the writings based on the teachings of Zohar and, later, Isaac Luria, mochin refers to the inner intelligence of the divine structures known as partzufim (“Countenances”). There are five of these divine countenances, and their interactions give shape to the cosmos. Sometimes presented as synonymous with the sefirot, the mochin emerge from the interactions (zivvugim, “couplings”) of the partzufim in a manner that is analogous to procreation and birth [1]. They grow and evolve through three stages: ibbur (pregnancy), mochin de-katnut (narrow- or constricted consciousness), and mochin de-gadlut (expanded- or broadened consciousness) [2]. The lower structures of the godhead are fed and nurtured by the mochin that flows to them from the higher one. This idea gives a very explicit and vivid form to the notion, implicit since the Bible, that God is a dynamic, evolutionary, learning being. God’s mind, as it were, expands with and through Her creation.

These states of divine consciousness are channeled from the higher realms into the mortal realms through religious praxis. Performing the commandments, even the seemingly inexplicable ritual commandments (perhaps especially these) in the most intentional and focused manner possible (with kavvanah) makes the transfer of this higher consciousness possible. In Lurianic though, prayer is the primary mechanism for the movement of mochin. Filling the world with this God-consciousness is central to the task of tikkun, of rectifying the world in the divine image. This is why Jewish prayer is cyclical and statutory – it is like a spiritual pump that must regularly facilitate the movement of this divine force between worlds.

This concept gets applied in other ways more specific to the human experience, especially in the Hasidic tradition. Pinchus ben Avraham Abba uses the concepts of katnut and gadlut to distinguish between the religious consciousness that results from Torah/Talmud study vs. that which results from the study of Zohar [3]. Schnur Zalman of Liadi also describes a human phenomenology of mochin. Rabbi Levi Yitzkhak of Berdichev teaches that the person who receives the divine emanation of mochin de-gadlut loses all fear of worldly events and is no longer subject to the influences of the Sitra Achra, the evil "other side" of creation (Kedushat Levi, parsha Yitro).

This application of the concepts of “restricted” and “expanded consciousness” to the human perspective in turn opens the way for the thoroughly modern use of these idioms by contemporary Jewish writers as a kind of Jewish “New Age” speak for personal spiritual development [4].

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

[1] Fine, Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos, p. 236.
[2] Giller, Reading the Zohar, pp. 152-153.
[3] Heschel, The Circle of the Baal Shem Tov, p. 6.
[4] Pinson, Meditation and Judaism, p. 187.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your blog is terrific. Could you point me to some verses in the Bible that speak to God being evolutionary and dynamic, like He/She changes with creation? Carl Jung postulated this in his book "Answer to Job", but i haven't found any other scholars willing to go that far.

It would make sense to me though, that God started creation so that he could add a new dimension to his consciousness. And as humans develop, so too does God.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Geoffrey Dennis said...

Great question. Right off we see God being surprised by human decisions (Gen. 3; 6; 11, the behavior of Israel through most of the wandering in the Wilderness).

The idea of an unfolding/growing God is present in Kabbalah in the model of the sefirot. In modern theology, look at the writings of Henry Slonimsky ("The Theology Implicit inthe Midrash" and "Theology of a Growing God") and Arthur Green. More recently, Jack Bloom wrote an article on the changing God for Reform Judaism Magazine.

11:17 AM  

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