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THE BOOK OF LILITH
By Barbara Black Koltuv
NICOLAS-HAYS, INC.Copyright © 1986 Barbara Black Koltuv
All rights reserved.
Lilith's origins are shrouded in the time before time. She arose from the chaos. Although there are many myths of her beginnings, all make clear that she is a counter force, a balancing factor, an opposite but equal weight to God's goodness and maleness.
IN THE BEGINNING
According to the Zohar, the book of splendor:
God made two great lights. The two lights ascended together with the same dignity. The moon, however, was not at ease with the sun, and in fact each felt mortified by the other. The moon said: 'Where dost thou pasture?' (Song of Song 1:7). The sun said
'Where dost thou make thy flock to rest at noon?' S. S. 1:7. 'How can a little candle shine at midday?' God thereupon said to her, 'Go and diminish thyself.' She felt humiliated and said 'Why should I be as one that veileth herself?' (S. S. 1:7) God then said 'Go thy way forth in the footsteps of the flock.' Thereupon she diminished herself so as to be head of the lower ranks. From that time she has had no light of her own, but derives her light from the sun. At first they were on an equality, but afterwards she diminished herself among all those grades of hers, although she is still head of them. When the moon was in connection with the sun, she was luminous, but as soon as she separated from the sun and was assigned the charge of her own hosts, she reduced her status and her light, and shells upon shells reduced her status and her light, and shells upon shells were created for covering the brain, and all for the benefit of the brain (Zohar I 20a).
After the primordial light was withdrawn there was created a 'membrane for the marrow,' a k'lifah husk or shell, and this k'lifah expanded and produced another, who was Lilith (Zohar I 19b).
So we see that in the beginning the Sun and the Moon were equal in dignity. (See figure 1 on page 3.) The Zohar explains how the origins of the Moon cause her to seek to merge with the Sun:
He summoned to issue from the side of Darkness a kind of female moon which rules the night and is called night, and is associated with Adonaithe Lord of all the Earth (Zohar I 16b) ... the Left, the side of Darkness, flamed forth with its full power, producing at all points a kind of reflection, and from this fiery flame came forth the female moonlike essence.... Just as it is the desire of Darkness to merge itself in Light, so it is the desire of night to merge itself in day (Zohar I 17a-b). All this is brought out in the Book of Adam. It says there that when Darkness asserted itself, it did so with fury, (S. S. 1:7) But as soon as the wrath and the fury abated there arose a quarrel of another kind, to wit, a quarrel of love ... (Zohar I 16b-17b).
God, to settle the discord between Moon and Sun, caused a separation. He caused the Moon to diminish herself and go forth in the footsteps of the flock, at the head of the lower ranks:
It is fit and proper that the two lights should rule, the greater light by day and the lesser light by night.... Thus the dominion of the day belongs to the male and the dominion of the night to the female. There are two kinds of luminaries. Those which ascend above are called 'luminaries of light' and those which descend below are called 'luminaries of fire' (Zohar I 20b).
Although both luminaries continue to rule, the Moon clearly feels herself to be diminished. God's intervention in her lover's quarrel robs her of her freedom of choice. As a result of the Moon's diminishment, the k'lifah (or husk of evil) that is Lilith was bom. It is said that Lilith has the body of a beautiful woman from the head to the navel, but from the navel down she is flaming fire. From these Zoharic myths we see that Lilith's energy is derived from the resentment and diminishment of the Moon. It is dark, and fiery, and of the night.
The Zohar offers detailed instructions for deepening consciousness and individuation through knowing Lilith and her nature. In the following passage, the analogy is drawn between Lilith and the husks of evil, or the dark feminine side of the Self that appears to men and women at night in their dreams. The passage explains how successive encounters with the transpersonal shadow in its dark feminine form are necessary for "the permanence of the world." This is similar to Jung's view that "God wants to be born in the flame of man's consciousness, leaping ever higher. And what if this has no roots in the earth? If it is not a house of stone where the fire of God can dwell, but a wretched straw hut...." Knowledge of this Lilith shadow is necessary for strengthening man's ego, and creating a balance for the ego-self axis, Le., building a house of stone for man's consciousness.
King Solomon, when he penetrated into the depths of the nut garden (S. S. 6:11), took a nut-shell, a k'lifah and drew an analogy from its layers to these spirits [Lilith] which inspire sensual desires in human beings ... and the pleasures in which men indulge in the time of sleep. . . . The Holy One, blessed be He, found it necessary to create all these things in the world to ensure its permanence, so that there should be, as it were, a brain with many membranes encircling it. The whole world is constructed on this principle, upper and lower, from the first mystic point up to the furthest removed of all the stages. They are all (20a) coverings one to another, brain within brain and spirit within spirit, so that one is a shell to another.
The primal point is the innermost light of a translucency, tenuity, and purity passing comprehension. The extension of that point becomes a 'palace' (Hekal), which forms a vestment for that point with a radiance which is still unknowable on account of its translucency. The 'palace' which is the vestment for that unknowable point is also a radiance which cannot be comprehended, yet withal less subtle and translucent than the primal mystic point. This 'palace' extends into the primal Light, which is a vestment for it. From this point there is extension after extension, each one forming a vestment to the other, being in the relation of membrane and brain to one another. Although at first a vestment, each stage becomes a brain to the next stage. The same process takes place below, so that on this model man in this world combines brain and shell, spirit and body, all for the better ordering of the world. When the moon was in connection with the sun, she was luminous, but as soon as she separated from the sun and was assigned the charge of her own hosts, she reduced her status and her light, and shells upon shells were created for covering the brain, and all for the benefit of the brain (Zohar I 19b-20a).
The familiar marriage quatemio diagram underlies several of the Kabbalistic myths of Lilith's origins. Lilith is said to arise from the power aspect of God, from the side of stern judgement and punishment, the Gevurah or Din. This stem, punitive aspect of God has at its lowest manifestation some affinity with the realm of evil called "the dregs of the wine" from which Lilith emerged together with Samael, the Devil:
A mystery of mysteries: Out of the power glow of Isaac's noon [i.e. the Gevurah], out of the dregs of the wine, there emerged an intertwined shoot which comprises both the male and female. They are red like the rose, and they spread out into several sides and paths. The male is called Samael, and his female Lilith is always contained in him. Just as in the side of Holiness, so in the Other (Evil) Side as well, male and female are contained in one another. The female of Samael is called Serpent, Woman of Harlotry, end of All Flesh, End of Day (Zohar I 148a, Sitre Torah).
The pairs are God and his indwelling feminine aspect the Shekhina, above, and Samael the Devil, containing Lilith within him, below. Thus, Lilith, arising from the diminution of the Moon, cast out of heaven, the neglected, rejected feminine quality, becomes the Bride of the Devil, the feminine transpersonal shadow. Lilith is something of a renegade instinct sent by God, to exist in the lower regions, Le., in relation to humankind. Men experience her as the seductive witch, the death dealing succubus, and the strangling mother. For women she is the dark shadow of the Self that is married to the devil. It is through knowing Lilith and her consort that one becomes conscious of one's Self.
In an earlier work, which antedates the Zohar by a few decades,
Lilith and Samael are said to have been bom by an emanation from beneath the Throne of Glory in the shape of an androgynous, double-faced being, corresponding in the spiritual realm to the birth of Adam and Eve who too were bom as a herm-aphrodite. The two androgynous twin-couples not only resembled each other, but both 'were like the image of what is Above' that is reproduced, in a visible form, the image of the androgynous deity.
Similarly, there are the pairs God and Shekhina above, and Samael and Lilith below. After the destruction of the temple it is said that the Shekhina descended to follow in the footsteps of her flock, and Lilith, her handmaiden, ascended to become God's consort. In these images of the marriage quaternio, one can see the vitality of Lilith in the individuation process.
THE SOUL OF EVERY LIVING CREATURE
The Zohar offers yet another myth of Lilith's primordial beginnings wherein the divine quality of nature and instinctuality previously attributed to the Goddess was embodied in God's creation of the great sea monsters: These are the Leviathan and its female. And every living creature that creepeth. This is the soul of the creature which creeps to the four quarters of the globe, to wit, Lilith (Zohar I 34a).
The Zohar continues, explaining that it is the waters which nourish Lilith and the South wind which spreads her influence, giving Lilith sway over all the beasts of the field. One can hear them chanting to her at each of the three watches of the night (Zohar I 34a).
Lilith, the soul of all the beasts of the field, and "every living creature that creepeth," is the animating, instinctual, natural level of being. From this sense of her comes the myth that after Adam named all the animals, there arose in him a lustful longing for a mate of his own. At first Adam was one, both male and female, but his experience of the animals' instinctuality embodied by each having another with whom to mate, made him aware of his aloneness. The Zohar (I 34b)says that when the letters of Adam's name—aleph, daleth, and mim—descended below, the name Adam actually comprised both male and female. The female was attached to the side of the male until after Adam named all the animals. Then God cast Adam into a deep slumber, and severed the female from Adam's side. God adorned here like a bride, and then brought the woman to Adam.
Rabbi Simeon continues in the Zohar, "I have found it stated in an old book that this female was none other than the original Lilith who was with him and conceived from him" (Zohar I 34b).
Lilith is an instinctual, earthy aspect of the feminine, and the animating embodiment of Adam's sexual longings. Women, too, experience their Lilith sexuality as animating, hungry, and natural. It is the kind of sexuality that they know a few days before menstruation when the female hormones have stopped flowing, and the male hormones are at their raging peak. It is a pulsating, throbbing, primal, wordless state of being.
In these creation myths Lilith emerges as an instinctual quality of the feminine emanating from God and the Devil, and connected in a most elemental way with humankind.
THE CREATION OF WOMAN
The Zohar speaks of Lilith as the original female energy that becomes separated from both Adam and Eve:
Now in the depth of the great abyss there is a certain hot fiery female spirit named Lilith, who at first cohabitated with man. For when man was created and his body completed, a thousand spirits from the left side (the side of Evil) assembled around that body, each endeavouring to enter, until at last a cloud descended and drove them away and God said, 'Let the earth bring forth a living soul'
(Gen. 1:24), and it then brought forth a spirit to breathe into man, who thus became complete with two sides, as it says, 'And he breathed in his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul'
(Gen. 2:7). When man arose, his female was affixed to his side, and the holy spirit in him spread to each side, thus perfecting itself. Afterwards God sawed the man in two and fashioned his female and brought her to him like a bride to the canopy. When Lilith saw this she fled, and she is still in the cities of the sea coast trying to snare mankind. And when the Almighty will destroy the wicked Rome, He will settle Lilith among the ruins, since she is the ruin of the world, as it is written: 'For there Lilith shall settle and find her a place of rest' (Isa. 34:14). In ancient books it says that she fled from man before this, but we have learnt differently, that she associated with man until this soul (neshamah) was placed in him, and then she fled to the seaside, where she tried to harmmankind. (Zohar III 19a)
Originally, the Goddess ruled the magical life cycle forces of sexuality, birth, life and death. With the coming of the patriarchy, the power of life and death became the prerogatives of the male God, while sexuality and magic were split off from procreation and motherhood. In this sense, God is one, but the Goddess became two.
The Old Testament offers two accounts of the creation of woman. Lilith was bom in the discrepancy between these two myths. Historically, the discrepancy arises from the Yahwist's attempts to diminish and suppress the power of the Goddess worshipping religions still prevalent in Biblical times. As in the myth of the diminishment of the Moon, Lilith derives her energetic force from opposition and suppression.
In the first account of the creation of woman in the Old Testament:
God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them (Gen.1:27).
Yahweh God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being. (Gen. 2:7).
Here, both Adam or man, and God are androgynous. The Kabbalists say that in the hour in which the Holy One created Adam, the first man, He created him as an androgyne with two faces, one facing in each direction. Later the Holy One sawed Adam into two and made him two backs, one for each of the faces.
Lilith is the female of Adam, or Adamah, the Hebrew feminine word for earth or soil. Both man and woman originate from mother earth, given form by God.
The discrepant second account of the creation of woman in the Old Testament begins with Adam being alone. Adam's oneness is an affront to God, presumably because God alone is to be One:
Yahweh God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.' So from the soil Yahweh God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him. So Yahweh God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. Yahweh God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and bought her to the man. The man exclaimed:
'This at last is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh! This is to be called woman, for this was taken from man.'
After the Fall: "The man named his wife 'Eve' because she was the mother of all those who live" (Gen.3:20).
Although Lilith is referred to obliquely as a "screech owl" and a "night demon" in the Old Testament, there is no further explicit mention of her by name save a fleeting one in Isaiah 34:14. Yet these images exist in the modern psyche. Readers might want to explore the Fruit of Knowledge, or consider the following poem as an expression of the entangled origins of Lilith. In the poem that follows, you will see the split in the feminine between Lilith as the primeval instinctual free spirit of woman, "male and female he created them, in his own image he created them," and Eve as the newly created "mother of all those who live." And then there is Adam as man, now conscious of his instinctuality, and his need to use it in the service of the Self.
Excerpted from THE BOOK OF LILITH by Barbara Black Koltuv. Copyright © 1986 Barbara Black Koltuv. Excerpted by permission of NICOLAS-HAYS, INC..
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