September 20, 2004

Spiritual Imprinting

A while back, jinnderella posted about sexual imprinting. This post is a timely (it touches on many themes of the season) companion piece to hers, for we humans are bisoular – we have two souls: an animal soul, which we share with voles and other creatures; and a spiritual soul, which is uniquely ours. Hebrew, in fact, has different words for them: nefesh (נפש), the animal soul, and: n’shama (נשמה), the spiritual soul. (Incidentally, n-sh-m is the root for breath, it is this that God blew into our nostrils in Genesis 2:7)

How many of you have fallen in love suddenly, as if struck by lighting? I have. (And have the double good fortune to be married to her.) It was not love at first sight, but at a certain point it hit me, like the proverbial thunderbolt. What happened? To answer that question, we have to go back a long way, in fact to the sixth day of creation, and Garden of Eden itself.

We are born in the Garden of Eden. It is a memory so powerful, that though we remember nothing of it, its shadow darkens every moment of our lives. We believe deeply that the world should be perfect; instead it is a place of thorns and brambles, where we eat by the sweat of our brow. Once we were one with the world, but now a great divide separates us. We live a half-life, circumscribed by the limits of our senses, disturbed by our dreams.

To some, our childhood is enchanted, to others, an enduring wound. But none come out unscarred by the collision with reality. No parent is perfect, no circumstance complete. Each yesterday a barrier to tomorrow, to the world, to life. And then we meet someone, and we know, we know that this person is our garden path to Eden: this person was made for me!

When God made man, he didn’t make him like the other animals: male and female. He made only one: Adam (which means, in Hebrew: Mankind). Now this Adam was not male or female, but a holy mix of both. Adam had two faces, one on either side of the head – in fact, two of everything, one male, one female, on either side of the body (a beast with no back) – but inside, they were in the most intimate connection, and most of all: one soul. But then, God said, “It is not good that the Adam should be alone” (Lo’ tov heyot ha’adam l’vado – Genesis 2:18). So He brought to Adam every living creature, and though Adam named them, he couldn’t find his match. Finally, God caused Adam to fall asleep, and while he slept, God took one of his sides (sela`, which can also mean rib, but is universally understood in Jewish sources to mean side in this case – it could be that the meaning: rib, was a later development) and made Woman.

And this story has the following remarkable ending (Genesis 2:24): That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

We leave behind the scars of our past (formed primarily by our parents) and join our mate as one being – with each other, and with the world.

The purpose of a Jewish life – of life itself – is often described as: Tiqun `Olam – Fixing the Universe. Our spouse is the key to fixing our own private universe. We instinctively recognize this: “this time, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” – this one is me. Little do we suspect, that this is only the beginning. At some point, though, we realize the awful truth: our match is not perfect (in modern times, when engagements are long, and marriages easy, this is the point where they usually break up) – in fact, all our old problems are still there! In reality, it is we scarred souls who are not perfect, and by healing our relationship, we heal ourselves, and thus enter the Garden of Eden, become one with eternity.

Why, you may ask, is the path so long and hard? The answer is unknowable, but let me just say this: When we were born into the Garden of Eden, our unity was profound but unconscious; we were back-to-back with our selves. Now we can unite front-to-front.

UPDATE: Jinnderella reposts at Gene Expression.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at September 20, 2004 10:36 PM
Comments & Trackbacks

David, the perfect companion piece! Moving AND gorgeous.
Hmm...perhaps there is hope for me yet, and I won't have to end my days as an "arrogant being of smokeless flame", like Iblis. :-)

Posted by: jinnderella at September 21, 2004 02:53 AM Permalink

Thanks, jinnderella. For the rest of you: more about Iblis and the Jinn here.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 21, 2004 08:08 AM Permalink

Thank you for your beautiful post. However, have you considered the third portion of the soul, ruach, that portion which we share with God, and which returns to God when it has completed its duties here on Earth?

Posted by: arturo at September 21, 2004 06:05 PM Permalink

David, I think I am more of a pre-Islamic jinnilyyah-- from Sells-- "In pre-Islamic Arabia, the jinn were associated with love, madness, and poetic inspiration...The power of the jinn is immense, but they are neither pure light, like the angels, nor pure evil..." But your link was very interesting. I especially liked the story of Iblis and the wise man. :)

Posted by: jinnderella at September 23, 2004 04:47 AM Permalink

It occurs to me that Jinn looks like a cognate to the Hebrew root g-n-n, which means something like "condemnation".

But maybe it's a cognate to gan - garden.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 23, 2004 06:36 AM Permalink

I'm pretty sure it is g-n-n. :(

Posted by: jinnderella at September 26, 2004 04:36 AM Permalink

Sorry jinnderella, g-n-n means defense. Words that have this root include: magen (shield), hegen (defended), hagana (defense).

I was confusing it with the root, g-n-h, which does mean something like condemnation. Many of the forms of the two roots are similar.

Forgive me!

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at October 10, 2004 02:23 PM Permalink