In this three-part essay, excerpted from the long version of Soul Prints, Dr. Marc Gafni writes that we can transform and raise our passion and artistic creativity into a powerful drive for the sensual and the holy, realizing that, in a redeemed world, they are one and the same. As long as our spirituality remains vapid and empty, we indeed need to repress the more primal, creative passion, lest it overwhelm us. Primal passion unrealized is soul print destiny unrealized.
From Part I: “Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo created. And yet, creativity is still viewed as suspect by much of the religious community. Art per se and artists to be sure are suspected of being amoral at best and, more probably, immoral. Acting, painting, sculpture, song are held in both high esteem and moral disdain. Why? The answer, which we have already introduced in our earlier discussion, emerges from an understanding of the deep linguistic and conceptual relationship between the biblical myth terms Yetzer and Yetzirah. Yetzirah means creativity; Yetzer is best translated as primal instincts, including but not limited to libido (Freud), the drive for power (Adler, Nietzsche), and the need for meaning (Frankel). In the Hebrew language, which is the ultimate source of all biblical myth thought, Yetzer and Yetzirah are the same word, linked etymologically and conceptually. The point: I cannot create without connecting deeply to my most primal instincts.”
Yetzer and Yetzirah: Raising the Primal Sparks of Creativity and Passion
by Dr. Marc Gafni
from “The Way of the Dragon“ in the long Soul Prints.
Is there another model which allows for the full depth of Yetzirah with all of the Yetzer it requires, but which does not teeter on the brink of depravity? Is there a way to unleash Yetzer without it consuming us?
The answer is yes and is of absolutely critical importance in our attempt to develop a new world spirituality.
The model is Mikdash – the temple in Jerusalem. All through this chapter, we have been flirting with temple energy. The temple was a place of pristine aesthetic beauty – sculpture, music, painting, and almost every other form of human creativity came together to build God’s house. Indeed, a careful reading of the biblical myth text sees Bezalel, the architect/artist of the Mikdash, as parallel to God, the architect/artist of the world.
Why is creativity so central to the Mikdash period and so feared in later religion and thought?
Why were the spiritual masters at the time of Mikdash not afraid of being overwhelmed by Yetzer? In the answer to this question lies what the Kabbalists called the Secret of the Temple – and the deep understanding of holy creativity.
The Mikdash, far from its popular image as a huge slaughterhouse of animal sacrifice, is understood by the Zohar as being the seat of passion, creativity, and eros. The wisdom masters teach that the innermost sanctum of the Temple, called the Holy of Holies, was the seat of two primary Yetzarim or passions. The first was the Yetzer for idolatry and prophecy, the second the drive for eros. The secret of the temple was that idolatry, eros, and prophecy are at their core all the same!
They are all different expressions of the primary human drive to uncover the spiritual essence in every dimension of reality. They are, in the words of the Kabbalists, all drives to love. To love is to perceive the soul print in every person and ultimately in all of reality. Here we add a new and critical component to the understanding of love. Love is not only the perception of essence, of soul print. Love is also the erotic desire for that perception. Every tree, every wave of the ocean, every person, and every experience is uniquely divine. Both the idolater and the prophet are, in the teaching of Tzadok the priest, erotically driven to the spirit. They are unwilling to compromise and to live life on the outside. They are unwilling to leave huge arenas of their inner person unlived.
The idolater, however, is a more of a Jim Morrison kind of figure whose erotic drive for the holy tragically overpowered his sense of boundaries and ethics, tragically destroying him and many around him. The prophet, on the other hand, was someone who was able to harness the infinite beauty of his direct connection to the divine and use it to grow, to see deeply, and for the privileged few among the prophets, to teach the generation. To continue the music metaphor, the prophet is something like Stevie Wonder, a “prophet” of our generation.