ACCORDING to the Qabalah, Death is but the passage from one form of
existence to another. Man is destined eventually to be reunited with God, but this union is impossible for
him in his present condition, because of the coarse materiality of his body; this, together with all that is
spiritual in him, must undergo a certain amount of purification in order to reach to that degree of spirituality
necessary to this new life.
The Qabalah distinguishes between two causes of death. The first consists [Page 9-10-11] in this:
that the Divinity either gradually diminishes or suddenly stops the continual radiation of its influence on Neschamah and on Ruach, so that Nephesch loses that subtle power with which it animates the material body, Death being the result. In the words of the Sohar, the first kind of death may be called “Death from above or from within, without". Thus, the body, an inferior and exterior mode of existence, becoming disorganized through the influence of trouble or the effect of some wound, loses the double power of receiving the necessary influx of spirituality from above, and of rousing into activity Nephesch, Ruach, and Neschamah, so as to make them descend into it. Besides, since each of the three degrees of being in Man bears a different relation to the human body, and is active in a sphere which corresponds to its spirituality, and moreover, since each one becomes united to the body at different periods of its life, it follows that they leave the corpse separately, at different intervals of time, and in an inverse order. Thus the action of dying lasts for a much longer period than is generally supposed.
Neschamah, which is located in the brain, and is, because it represents the highest spiritual life, the last to join the material body, which it does about the age of puberty, is also the first to quit it; indeed, this generally happens before Death actually sets in. She leaves behind her in her Merkabah (chariot or organ) only the after-glow of her presence; for, as said in Esarah Maimoroth, man's personality can exist without the actual presence of Neschamah. Just before Death takes actual possession of the Man, he is invigorated by a higher power of Ruach, which enables him to see things which are hidden from him during life; often his sight pierces Space, and he is able to see his friends and relations who have already passed away through the portals of death.
At the critical moment Ruach spreads through the limbs of the body and takes its leave of them; this produces a shock to the system which we know as the last agony — often a long and painful one. Then all the spiritual essences of the Man withdraw into his heart, and there, like a dove seeking the shelter of its nest, are safe from the Masikim (or bad spirits) which throw themselves upon the corpse.
The separation of Ruach from the body is most difficult, for Ruach, or the living soul, floats, according to Ez-ha-Chaim, between the upper spiritual regions (Neschamah) and the lower bodily or concrete plane (Nephesch); as representing the organ of the will, it constitutes the human personality, oscillating as it does between the two planes. Its home is in the heart; it is, therefore, the root of life (Melekh Ring), the central point and the connecting link between the brain and the liver; and as this is the organ where vital activity first manifests itself, it is here, also, where it first dies. Thus at the moment of death Ruach escapes, and, according to the teaching of the Talmud, leaves the heart by way of the mouth in the last breath.
The Talmud enumerates 900 different kinds of death, each more or less [Page 12] painful. The sweetest of all is called the “Kiss"; the most agonizing is that where the dying one feels as if a thick chord of hair were being torn from his throat.
When Ruach is once separated the man seems dead; nevertheless, Nephesch is still alive within him. Being the physical life of the concrete, it constitutes the soul of man's elementary existence, and is situated in the liver. Nephesch, which is the lower spiritual power, still possesses a strong affinity for the body, and therefore is attracted by it. It is the last principle to leave, as it is also the first to become united to, the flesh. Nevertheless, as soon as Ruach goes, the Masikim take possession of the body (according to Loriah they are heaped up to a height of fifteen cells above it). This invasion, together with the decomposition of the corpse, soon forces Nephesch to leave it; nevertheless, it stays for a long time near its former home to sorrow over its loss. As a rule, it is only when complete putrefaction has set in that it lifts itself above the terrestrial plane.
The disintegration of the inner man which follows on death is not complete, for, having once been united as one, the parts cannot absolutely separate; there is always a certain relation existing between them. Thus we find a connection between Nephesch and the body even after decomposition has set in. When this material recipient has disappeared, together with its physical vitality, there still remains some of the spiritual essence of Nephesch, which, imperishable, descends into the tomb entangled in the bones; so says the Sohar, and this is what the Qabalah calls "the breath of the bones", or “the spirit of the bones". This undying principle of the material body, which holds in itself the complete form and its characteristics, constitutes the Habal de Garmin, which may be translated as the body of the resurrection (the luminous astral body).
After death has separated the different constituent parts of man, each mounts to that plane to which it is drawn by its nature and constitution, and each is accompanied by beings similar to itself, which surround the bed of the dying, waiting their departure. Since we find throughout the Universe all is in all, and that birth, life, and death take place under the guidance of one basic law; since the smallest element is the reproduction of the greatest, and that the same principle animates those beings which are most brutal and those which are the most spiritual in the higher regions, the whole Universe, which the Qabalah calls Aziluth, and which comprises all degrees, from gross matter to Spirit, from one to the Universal, is divided into three worlds — Assiah, Jezirah, and Briah, which correspond to the fundamental divisions in man: Nephesch, Ruach, and Neschamah. Asiah is the world in which we live; nevertheless, we call only perceive with our bodily eyes its lowest sphere, the physical plane, just as we cognize through our senses the lowest and most material part of man — the body. So that the diagram in Part I. is not only a [Page 13] scheme for man, but also for the Universe, for, according to the teaching of the Qabalah, the Microcosm exactly reproduces the Macrocosm; man is the image of God, who manifests in the Universe. Thus, the circle a a a represents Asiah, and 1 2 3 are its spheres corresponding to those of Nephesch.
Jezirah is represented by b b b, and is analogous to Ruach, and 4 5 6 are its powers.
Briah is represented by c c c. Its spheres of action, 7 8 9, reach to the highest grades of spirituality exhibited by Neschamah. The enclosing circle, 10, is the image of the All, or Aziluth, in the same way that it represents the unity of human nature. The three worlds, corresponding in position and degree of spirituality to the three divisions of man, represent the planes where each of these three have their being.
The body, the most material form of life for man, lives in the lower spheres of Asiah; in the tomb, only the spirit of the bones lies buried with it, constituting, as we have said, the Habal of Garmin. Here it lies in a deep lethargy, which, for the just, is a sweet sleep. Several passages in Daniel, the Psalms, and in Isaiah, allude to it. And, as the Habal of Garmin preserves a semi-vital sensitiveness, the rest of those lying in this, their last sleep, may be disturbed in many ways. For this reason the Jews ordered that those who had been enemies in life should not be interred side by side; nor should a good man lie next a criminal. On the other hand, care was taken to place together those who had loved, because in death their attachment still continued. The most to be dreaded by those who are buried is invocation; for then, even if Nephesch has left the sepulchre, the spirit of the bones is still joined to the dead body, and may be invoked; but in doing so, Nephesch, Ruach, and Neschamah are also reached, For, although they have each attained to their own proper sphere, yet there is still connection between them which, under certain conditions, can be reanimated; so that what one feels all may feel. This is why the Scriptures (5 Moses xviii., 11) forbid the invocation of the dead.
Since our material senses can only perceive the lowest sphere of the world of Asiah, our eyes can only see the body of man, which even after death remains in the domain of the physical world. The higher spheres of Asiah are invisible, and therefore the Habal of Garmin is also imperceivable; thus the Sohar says: “If our eyes were permitted to see, we should behold at night when the Sabbath is come, or the new moon, or the fêtes days, the Diuknim (spectres) arise from the tomb to praise and glorify their Lord". The higher spheres of the world Asiah serve as the home of Nephesch, Ez-ha-Chaüm describes this place as the lower Gan-Eden, “which, in the world of Asiah, extends to the south of the sacred land above the Equator".
The second principle in man, Ruach, finds its proper home in the world of Jezirah, which corresponds to it in spirituality. And, as Ruach is the real personality of man, and the source and fountain of the Will, it is here that [Page 14] resides his creative and reproductive power; so the world Jezirah, as its name indicates, is the mundus formationis, the formative world.
Neschamah corresponds to the world Briah, which the Sohar calls “the world of the divine throne", and which holds in it the highest degree of spirituality. Like Nephesch, Ruach and Neschamah are not completely distinct forms of existence, but they proceed one from the other by progressive gradations of spiritual power, and, in a similar way, the spheres of the different worlds are linked together. Starting from the lowest and most material sphere of the world of Asiah, and which is our visible world, they rise in spiritual tenuity up to the highest and most immaterial spheres of Briah. Thus we see that, like Nephesch, both Ruach and Neschamah find each a home in a corresponding spiritual atmosphere, while remaining in every respect united. The “Zelem" are especially entrusted with the maintenance of the connection between different realms and their powers.
“Zelem" is the name which the Qabalah gives to that shape or aerial form in which the different principles of man exist, and through which they operate. Nephesch, Ruach, and Neschamah, even after death has destroyed their material and exterior envelope, still preserve a certain shape, which corresponds to that of the original man. This form, by means of which each part continues to exist and maintain its vitality in its own particular sphere, is only possible as that of the Zelem; thus it is said in the Psalms (xxxix., 7) they are, therefore, as (phantoms) Zelem.
According to Loriah, Zelem, because of its analogy with the nature of man, is divided into three parts, one an interior and spiritual light, and two Masikim, or enveloping lights.
Each Zelem and its Masikim are in accordance, as to their nature, with the degree of spirituality belonging to that principle to which they are related. Nephesch, Ruach, and Neschamah can only manifest outwardly through their respective Zelem. It is on these that the whole bodily existence of man on earth depends; for every influx from above into the sentiments and the interior senses is transmitted by these Zelem, being, as they are, sensitive to every change of activity. The process of Death is produced entirely in the different Zelem; for Nephesch, Ruach, and Neschamah are not modified; and the Qabalah says that thirty days before a man dies the Masikim withdraw first into Neschamah, afterwards disappearing successively from Ruach and from Nephesch; this we must understand as meaning that they then cease to act in their entire strength; nevertheless, Mischnath Chasidim says that at the moment when Ruach takes its flight they seize with renewed vigour on the processes of life “in order to taste the quality of death". Nevertheless, these beings must always be looked on as purely magical; this is why even the Zelem of Nephesch may not act directly on the world of our exterior perceptions.
That which we see in the apparitions of dead people is either their Habal [Page 15] de Garmin or the subtle aerial or ethereal matter of the world of Assiah, in which the Zelem of Nephesch dresses itself in order to make itself perceptible to our bodily senses. This applies to every sort of apparition, whether of angels, the souls of the dead, or of an inferior spirit.
Therefore, it is not the Zelem itself which we see with our eyes, but its image, made of the subtle “vapour" of our exterior world, and which, therefore, is a form capable of distant dissipation. The other worlds offer as many conditions of existence to the departed Soul as there are varieties of material life on earth; for the more we infringe the ordinances of divine laws in our earthly career, so much the greater will be the necessity for punishments and purification.
The Sohar says on this subject: “The beauty of the Zelem of a man depends on the good works which he has accomplished here below"; and, further on, we find, ”evil-doing soils the Zelem of Nephesch".
Loriah also says, "The Zelem of the good and holy are pure and clear; those of the wicked are dark and troubled".
This is why each world has for each one of the principles in man its Gan-Eden, or paradise, its Nahar Dinur (river of fire for purification) and its Gei-Hinam, or place of torture, for the erring ones. The Christian creed has derived its heaven, purgatory, and hell from these three.
We do not intend to enter into the question of the condition of the Soul after death as shown in the Qabalah, and more especially where it refers to its punishments. A clear exposé of what it says on this subject will be found in that celebrated work of Dante, “La Divina Comedia".
From the Sphynx. Thos. Williams (translator).
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