Time for Annoying Esoteric Stuff Again

The new annoying thing is “Esoteric Judaism teaches reincarnation.”

Allegedly this is a medieval Kabbalistic teaching. Obviously I don’t do medieval Hebrew or Jewish esoteric theology, so I can’t go look up the primary sources. Either this statement is true or not. And either it’s teaching what they say it’s teaching, or people have misinterpreted some kind of poetic imagery.

Anyway, the alleged keyword is “gilgul,” and the important book is called Sha’ar ha Gilgulim. It’s a book by an alleged student of Rabbi Luria, allegedly presenting what he taught in the 1500’s. But if it didn’t come out until after Luria’s death in 1572, we’re talking an Early Modern book, not a medieval book. And honestly, that’s pretty late in Judaism… just saying.

I gather it does quote from the Zohar and from Scripture, but… yeah, so do a a lot of esoteric/occult Christian books from the Early Modern period quote Scripture. Stupidly.

Anyway, “gilgul” literally means wheel, and “gilgul neshamot” means “wheel of souls.” So it’s basically a transliteration of very standard Western occult ideas, which ultimately come from Hinduism (with some help from the Greeks). There’s a reclassification of different fates for souls: getting stuck as an inanimate or non-human being under one of the four Greek elements; getting immediately reincarnated as a human; getting sent to between-innings Gehenna as a purgatorial thing; and getting sent to between-innings Eden. Everybody keeps getting reincarnated. The fewer times you have to reincarnate, the more you win.

Sure, there were probably some equally occult/esoteric ideas floating around in the Second Temple period, given all the warnings about things like worshipping angels and “a man dies once and then the Judgment.” But this is pretty weird stuff. “Scripture doesn’t mean what it says” stuff.

The weirdest bit is that apparently this is an attempt to escape the entire concept of a Messiah, at least in this part of contemporary esoteric Judaism. Everybody is just going to spiritually advance through reincarnation until they all become Messiah-level or God-level beings; and there’s never any Day of the Lord or permanent Gehenna. (This also strikes me as some kind of American LDS-envy.)

And magically you can be Jewish and not have to disagree with your Buddhist-wannabe friends who are spiritual and not religious. And yet you can also pay money to get past life regression by some scammer who messes with your head, because it’s all safely Jewish and he’s allegedly a rabbi.

Well, isn’t that convenient.

I’m pretty sure that it’s cheaper and easier to just live a life of virtue and serve God.

Or, you know, find Jesus. That’s also a solution to the Messiah problem.


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6 responses to “Time for Annoying Esoteric Stuff Again

  1. This is why reincarnation gives me headaches – “between innings Eden or between innings Gehenna.” *OW.* That makes no logical or reasonable sense whatsoever; every time I try to think of how it could work *for fiction*, it makes my brain rebel because (a) who wants to have that kind of an afterlife with no peace or end, and (b) the person’s identity is basically the same, but amnesia sets in every time he or she is reborn. That is a recipe for insanity if the person ever remembers his or her “past lives” as it means that no matter the individual lives’ experiences or family members, everything but the core tenets of his personality remain the same.

    There is no room for growth or improvement or increasing strength in a world with reincarnation. It is just a constant cycle of birth-life-death, rinse and repeat. That is not how the world works, and it *certainly* isn’t how *people* work. :rubs at headache: I have never understood the appeal of reincarnation – not even in a video game world or video game-type isekai. From what I can see, it does nothing but induce insanity in those who take it seriously, and who *wants* to be insane?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      From what I remember, the Hindu version of reincarnation has an element of “your status in this life is a reward or punishment for your actions in a past life”.

      Thus, if you’re in a Lower Caste, then you deserve to be in a Lower Caste.

      Plus (more implied), if you’re well off, you shouldn’t help others who aren’t well off as they deserve to be not well off. 😦

    • I can see it KIND OF working as a sort of…installment plan version of improving yourself enough to get to heaven, since when you’re perfected you won’t get any worse…but that’s mostly an emotional logic, “do over until you get it right.”

    • Mary

      The Druse theory is that everyone will go through every situation in life, and be judged on the average on Judgment Day. No one will be able to plead that “it was being poor/spoiled royalty/living in a war zone!” because everyone was poor/spoiled royalty/living in a war zone in some lives.

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