Thursday, 1 December 2011

“Ibbur: Soul Impregnation” Mini-Series 2

This post on the subject of Ibbur is based on Prof. Gershom Scholem's “On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah”.

Note: If you're looking for a quick answer to the question: what is the difference between a gilgul and an ibbur – the answer is that a gilgul is a reincarnated soul that enters the body at conception and an ibbur is a soul (of a righteous person) that enters after birth and may not stay until death.

Chapter 5 entitled: “Gilgul: The Transmigration of Souls” traces the history of the ideas surrounding reincarnation in esoteric Jewish thought. The chapter begins with the following excerpt:
“The Kabbalists believed in the doctrine of transmigration of souls through various bodies and forms of existence. Was this teaching developed independently, by means of spiritual experiences and states similar to those that produced it in other religions? Or should we assume that the initial impulse toward this teaching originated in an older tradition amongst other groups – although, of course, subsequently developed by Kabbalists in its own way?...”
Scholem then starts by outlining how reincarnation first is hinted at in Sefer Ha-Bahir in south France around 1180. A book called Razza Rabbah (The Great Mystery) has the original text that is later included in the Bahir but it does not refer to transmigration. Nachmanides wrote a commentary on the Book of Job that is entirely based on the idea of transmigration of souls eve though it does not name or explain in detail how it works.

So all in all it remains a mystery to me where the idea first originated. As well as covering such topics as how many new souls are born in each generation, the metaphor of the soul having to be reborn if it was in 'soiled garments' and the idea of chains of incarnations; Scholem then confronts the question about what the difference is between a gilgul and an ibbur:

“...In the original usage of the early Kabbalists, the terms gilgul and ibbur overlapped; diverse explanations were offered as to why the doctrine of transmigration was attached to the concept of “pregnancy” or “impregnation”. Toward the end of the thirteenth century the two terms began to be differentiated, with a special meaning given to the concept of ibbur. Not all migrating souls enter the body at the moment of conception or of birth; sometimes, at special moments during the course of his life, a person receives a second soul that is, so to speak, impregnated within his own soul. This additional soul is not linked to his psychophysical organism from birth nor does it partake in its development, but it can accompany him until his death or may leave him earlier...”
“Only later did they speak of a “bad ibbur” as well, in which the soul of a wicked person entered a living person, who had allowed I to enter by committing some serious transgression...”
“The Kabbalists explained the phenomenon of possession in this way: a wondering soul that has not yet found a body takes control of a person and disrupts or even shatters him. This phenomenon was known thereafter as a dibbuk – a term, incidentally, that never occurs in Kabbalistic literature, but owes its existence to Yiddish fol usage from seventeenth century on, where is appears as a contraction for “an attachment (dibbuk) from the outside forces,” i.e., the evil spirits...”

“...Rabbi David ibn Abi Zimra explains:
I asked on of the sages of the Kabbalah what the difference was between gilgul and ibbur. He replied that the term ibbur (“impregnation”) implies a mystery: just as a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth without lacking anything [of her own being], so too the souls of the righteous and the pious become pregnant and give birth and emanate sparks into this world, to protect the generation or for some other reasons, like one who lights one candle from another, where the first candle is not diminished....”
It's worth reading the whole essay by Scholem if you want to find out more. In particular which parts of the soul (nefesh, ruach, neshama) reincarnate and how the interplay of a person's energy field or supernal aura of soul parts both inside and hovering over the body can attract certain souls that are part of its 'soul family tree'.

Actress Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer") will join Jeffrey Dean Morgan ("Watchmen") in director Ole Bornedal's Ghost House Pictures feature "Dibbuk Box", set to start in Vancouver, January 31, shooting until March 20.