The third Sacred Idea of Type One is Sacred Repair. This is the active process of raising all of the worldly sparks of Sacred Goodness and Sacred Perfection up to the Divine Presence, thus reconstituting the Primal Whole. Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) is especially skilled at realizing that this awareness of union with the infinity of God is necessary to help repair the world. Without this awareness, One energy can become self-righteous, judgmental and shrill.
Energy in the form of light is trapped in gross matter. Sparks of holiness are imprisoned in the stuff of creation. They yearn to be set free, reunited with their Source through human action. When we . . . use something in a sacred way or for a holy purpose, . . . the captive sparks are released and the cosmos is healed. This liberation of light is called the Repair of Creation . . . And every human action therefore plays a role in the final restitution. Whatever we do is related to this ultimate task: To return all things to their original place in God. Everything a person does affects the process.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
Hasidism contains the awareness that all things are God’s good creation. God has, so to speak, put something of the divine goodness in everything. There are holy sparks in all created beings. The human task is to see these things and to liberate the divine sparks in creation by praise, love, and joy. In this view, all creation is waiting for us to come along and liberate the divine element in it, so that everything becomes one great blaze of glory to God. There’s nothing better for monks and contemplatives than this approach; this is how we need to look at creation.
Early Hasidism developed a doctrine called “strange thoughts,” or “lascivious thoughts during prayer.” According to this teaching, one sure sign that we have attained a high level of prayer is that invariably we will be assailed by embarrassingly wicked thoughts. Our first inclination is to reject them at once, but, as everyone knows, this only gives them even greater power over our prayers. We must, counsels the Baal Shem, realize that such thoughts are in reality only rejected parts of ourselves that sense this time of great closeness to God and come out of our unconscious yearning for redemption. As Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, a student of the Baal Shem Tov, used to teach his students:
One must believe that the whole world is filled with [God’s]
presence, and that there is no place empty of God. All human
thoughts have within them the reality of God . . . When a strange
or evil thought arises in a person’s mind while he is engaged
in prayer, it is coming to that person to be repaired and elevated.
Hannah Rachel of Ludomir . . . carefully explained . . . that [one] must learn how, as the Hasidim say it, to “find the root of love in evil so as to sweeten evil and turn it into love”
. . .
We go down into ourselves with a flashlight, looking for the evil we have intended or done – not to excise it as some alien growth, but rather to discover the holy spark within it. We begin not by rejecting the evil but by acknowledging it as something we meant to do. This is the only way we can truly raise and redeem it.
We lose our temper because we want things to be better right away . . . We hoard material possessions because we imagine they will help us live more fully. We turn a deaf ear, for we fear the pain of listening would kill us. We waste time, because we are not sure how to enter a living relationship. We even tolerate a society that murders, because we are convinced it is the best way to save more life. At the bottom of such behavior is something that was once holy. And during times of holiness, communion, and light our personal and collective perversions creep out of the cellar, begging to be healed, freed, and redeemed.
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye taught: “The essence of the finest teshuva [the returning to one’s Source in Heaven] is that ‘deliberate sins are transformed into merits,’ for one turns evil into good . . .”
The conclusion of true teshuva, returning to our Source in Heaven, is not self-rejection or remorse, but the healing that comes from telling ourselves the truth about our real intentions and, finally, self-acceptance. This does not mean that we are now proud of who we were or what we did, but it does mean that we have taken what we did back into ourselves, acknowledged it as part of ourselves. We have found its original motive, realized how it became disfigured, perhaps beyond recognition, made real apologies, done our best to repair the injury, but we no longer try to reject who we have been and therefore who we are, for even that is an expression of the Holy One of Being.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
Jewish mystics realize that the Repair of Creation is possible only when we view ourselves as partners of God. More accurately, we fulfill this role from within God. That is, we are the hands of God.
In one of the final scenes in the film Manhattan, Ike, the Woody Allen character, challenges his friend Yale to be more self-critical about the ethics of his personal life.
Yale resists the challenge.
“You are so self-righteous!” Yale screams. “We’re just people. We’re just human beings. You think you’re God!”
Ike shrugs his shoulders and says, “I gotta model myself after someone.”
As lofty, impossible and arrogant as it may sound, that is the beginning of the Jew’s spiritual mission: Imitating God . . . Being like God is the twin of the notion that we are made in God’s image. God is holy. “You shall be holy, for I the Eternal am holy” (Lev. 19:1) . . .
Jews imitate God . . . More than we realize, God’s actions inspire Jewish faith and life. A good example of this is in the realm of ritual. When Jews light Shabbat candles at sundown on Friday, for instance, they become domeh la’Kadosh Baruch Hu, “akin to the Holy One,” Who, during Creation, made the sun and the moon, which the two candles represent . . .
Let me introduce you to a theological first cousin of [the practice of] imitating God: Being God’s partner. Whereas imitating God means “doing what God does,” being God’s partner means picking up where God left off. On the seventh day, God rested and said, “It [creation] is very good.”
Good, but not perfect. This very powerful God needs us to be a partner in the unfolding, incomplete pieces of creation. We are not, therefore, insignificant specks in the cosmos. We are nobility . . .
God-partnership is one of the great hidden themes of Jewish literature, life and lore . . . This helps us remember that our hands can be the hands of God in this world.
According to the kabbalist Isaac Luria, when God contracted to make room for the creation of the world, divine light flowed into cosmic vessels. But, in a great cosmic catastrophe, the vessels shattered and divine sparks dispersed throughout all existence.
Yet, the sparks were not irretrievably lost. We can find them: Through prayer and religious study, through each deed of kindness and justice that we perform. This is called tikkun olam, repairing the world. Potentially, every holy act we do can repair the world. When the world is sufficiently repaired, it will be ready for the Messianic Age. In the world of Aleinu, the great liturgical summation of Jewish striving and purpose, L’taken olam b’malchut shaddai, “We must perfect the world under the reign of the Almighty.”
The Jews of 16th century Safed in Israel were exiles from their beloved Spain, which had expelled them in 1492. They constructed a theology that spoke to the reality of their exile. As Isaac Luria said, “We are in exile. Our exile is part of the broken nature of existence itself. Even God is in exile from the world.”
“But we are not powerless,” he said. “We have nobility. We can find the sparks of the holy that are in the world. We can lift up the sparks. It is like stirring up the ashes in a fireplace. You poke the ashes, and the sparks that are hidden there fly upwards. What we do in our lives is crucial for the welfare of the cosmos. We can repair the world. And we can even repair the rift that exists between God and the world.”
Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin
Interestingly, some mystical Jews view the part of God that is hidden in the world’s scattered sparks as “Shekinah,” the feminine aspect of God. When we practice raising the sparks of divinity hidden within all things, we reunite the immanent feminine part of God with the transcendent masculine part, thus performing a sacred Marriage.
Rabbi Kushner emphasizes the fact that our repair of the world happens from within our mystical union with God. All other action is inadequate.
[One] mode of devekut [clinging to God] is the devekut of behavior. In this experience, one seeks to literally affect and, as it were, to help God through specific actions . . . In this mode of devekut, one’s will and actions become God’s. If one becomes a servant of God, then his or her deed is also God’s action. By repairing things here, we repair them above. A personality drawn to such cleaving to God is action-oriented, a doer, an achiever, a fixer, someone who wants to repair the world.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
Sacred Repair may be viewed not just in terms of raising the divinity of all things up to God, but of returning them to the Sacred Feminine – to the Goddess. One way of doing this is to take our seeming flaws and to realize that they are the presence of Another – the Goddess – trying to get our attention and to compel us to uncover her sacredness. In the following passage, taken from an article entitled “Pink Madness: Why Does Aphrodite Drive Men Crazy with Pornography,” archetypal psychologist James Hillman relates this idea to the modern male’s preoccupation with pornography. He imagines what Aphrodite, the goddess of desire and beauty, is saying to us, especially since our culture has refused to believe in her.
Aphrodite’s Complaint: If you had been put in a closet for hundreds of years by priests, philosophers and prudish women who loved their religions more than their bodies, what would you do to let mortals know that you are still vibrantly alive and well? And . . . if there was no dignified place for you in the big literal world, what avenue would be left except fantasy?
Remember, this lady’s terrain is the evocation of desire, the provocation of attraction, the invocation of pleasure. But long hair is not allowed on the production line. Gets caught in the cogs. Botticelli’s lovely lady would have to wear a white hygienic cap. Managerial women cover the pulses of throat with high collars, like clergy. Skin shall be covered to protect from cancer . . .
So I, ruler of beauty and desire, how do I bring my cosmos into the actual world where the gestures I provoke are called sexual harassment, the lust I instigate called date rape, the body I make concupiscible called a mere sex-object, and the images that pullulate from my teeming greenhouse of erotic imagination called pornography? What shall I do? Well, she said, I have my method: I shall make men crazy; I shall afflict them with pink madness . . . And by pink madness I mean putting on rose-tinted glasses to see allure in the flesh, the aurora in the vulva, . . . rosa mystica. Pornography shall be my path – the path of libidinal forbidden fantasy.
I shall invade every nook of the contemporary world that has so refused me for so long with a pink madness. I shall pornographize your cars and food, your ads and vacations, your books and films, your schools and your families. I shall be unstoppable . . .[T]he civilization will be crazed to get into my preserve, my secret garden . . .
Oh, it wasn’t always this way. I wasn’t always excluded . . . But now that I am driven from the public realm, I shall rule what has been left to me, the private, the privy secrets, the privates . . .
James Hillman: I am recounting what she – I hope it was she, Aphrodite – indicated to me, a retired psychoanalytic man who saw hundreds and hundreds of dreams and fantasies and obsessional thoughts that we call pornographic in the psyches of what are called “patients,” i.e., those humans so often suffering from the absence of Aphrodite in their actual lives and therefore victims to her incursions and her revenges.
To go on with her appeal. I am not happy, she said, and it is my nature to be happy. No, I am not happy allowed only this one access of fantasy, so I am a bit spiteful, revengeful
. . . So, pink madness is my retribution, [m]y avenue of return . . .
Sex education, sex talk shows, sex help books, sex therapy, sex workshops – Aphrodite’s pink ribbons wrap our culture round. The billion-dollar porn industry is minor league compared with the haunting sexual obsessions endemic in the culture at large . . .
[W]ho buys porn? Where’s the money coming from? “Not me,” says the average reasonable standard community person. It must come then from the non-reasonable (irrational, demented?), not average (fringe?) persons. There must be an awful lot of them with fat wallets to maintain the ever-expanding multi-billion dollar industry . . .
Men ogle and leer and spend not mainly because of patriarchal depravity and abusive power so rampant in our society. No, it is because men are entranced by the mystery revealed in porn, the naked Other revealed. They are, as Camille Paglia says, in awe and under dominion of the feminine Goddess. Porn reveals Her power . . . Indeed, Susan Griffin [ a feminist author, writes:], “the pornographic mind is the mind of the culture” – tho’ not as you argue because of men’s inflammations but because of Her infiltration . . .
[T]he unceasing generation of pornographic images cannot be a male province or even a male perversion. As natural, they must be the gift of the [W]oman who is nature, the gift of the Goddess, . . . in the shape of Aphrodite porneia . . .
[T]here is a God in the disease, as [Carl] Jung says, . . . and is it not wiser to pay obeisance to the God [or Goddess] than be obsessed by the disease? . . .
I want to defend . . . soft sex selling against the proponents of hardcore. They want crotch shots and organ grinding. No wrappings and trappings, no romance, no chiaroscuro, no fuzzy fadeouts. The crucial criterion of hardcore content is direct concrete presence; nothing hidden, nothing absent. The reverse of this utter one-sided sexual literalism are the prudish censoring cover-ups, i.e., utter one-sided moral literalism . . . [where having sexual thoughts toward someone is the same thing as actually having sex with them, as in Matthew 5:28) . . .
The importance of covering for the lustful imagination of uncovering suggests that Mapplethorpe’s nude images are less pornic than the Apollo Belvedere who invites prurient peeking. Even Aphrodite stands at her bath, partly turned away, partly covered, yet nude and bare. Presence and absence both, for absence makes the heart grow fonder. Nonetheless, as I said, advocates of hardcore want full exposure . . . [But] coverup is essential to . . . arousal. Soft core, because it invites fantasy beyond what is presented, fetishizes even more strongly an arousing image . . . For the soft brings in Eros, as Plato says. So I, Aphrodite, favor soft core . . . or yearning, a longing for what is not here, hard, now, sure, known and red, but away, diffuse, rosy. Soft porn yearns toward the unattainable . . . Soft porn offers sex transfigured to mystery, the sacralization of sex redeemed from secular conformity by Aphrodite charis, the grace and charm of the unknown as the new . . .
So I, Aphrodite, and my boys, banned from secular civilization, return into its heart core through the allure of consumerism that makes us want, desire, reach out . . . If truth be told, I, Aphrodite, invented soft core. It is how I catch a culture with a pink hope, a desire for wings. And it is far more effective than hardcore because it has the power of a symptom: it both denies and offers what the psyche wants. Soft porn is a compromise . . . It invites the soul’s yearning for the beauty and magic of Eros, but only tantalizes with fantasies of a ghostly lover unknown, unseen . . .
As I see things, soft porn is not an idealization of sex, as the Freudian grey-beards might say, and therefore a defense against hard reality. Rather it is the heavenly aspect given by me, this Goddess, . . . reminding the soul that is must always serve in my temple, where it will always be susceptible to a wondrous lifting up from this world and reminiscent of another, platonic, romantic and rosy-fingered, filling this consumer world with the golden glow of Aphrodite Urania, that otherworldly radiance which was always the main purpose of my being and the main significance of my smile.
James Hillman, archetypal psychologist
Part of the mystery of Aphrodite, for a man, is the ironic truth that his sexual fantasy, drive, and emotion are feminine.
Ultimately, of course, the Goddess wants to lead us to the whole Earth as her temple. Sexual desire is meant to spread from desirable persons to the “Other” as she appears in her multitude of forms: in other cultures, in new ideas, and – especially – in landscapes. As Terry Tempest Williams says, what we really need is an “erotics of place.” Only when we feel turned-on to the beauty of landscapes will we want to preserve them.
Jungian psychologist Marion Woodman points out that our culture’s eating disorders are in reality a message from the Goddess who is upset that we have not recognized the realm of matter – her domain – as sacred.
All matter is feminine. On this level, men’s bodies are embodiments of the feminine just as much as women’s. The extraordinary thing is that matter is becoming conscious. For women, there is an anguished realization: “I hate this body!” For men, it comes out in the cry, “It hurts!” Matter is forcing many people to become aware of its sacredness. So we have these scourges of illness like messages from the gods . . .
Actually that is what is happening in an addictive state – you become possessed . . . I have enough faith to believe that the feminine is forcing her way into consciousness by means of these addictions . . .
I think ordinary human beings are now waking up to see what is in their own matter, their own bodies, in terms of the larger consciousness in all matter . . . I call it the feminine side of God – God in matter. Matter as a metaphor of the Goddess . . . I would say the goddess energy is trying to save us. If we go on with our power tactics, we’re going to destroy the earth. That’s why we haven’t got a long time to evolve. We’re either going to make a leap in consciousness or we aren’t going to be here. Sophia, Shakti, by whatever name we call her, is that wisdom deep down in all matter, pushing her way into consciousness, one way or another.
Marion Woodman, Jungian psychologist
A similar divine principle is present in addiction to alcohol.
There’s a wisdom in the addiction if the person takes the time to find it. I really like working with addicts because they’re desperate, and they have fierce energy. Their dreams are full of wolves, and mythologically the wolf is the animal of Apollo, the sun god and also the god of creativity. These wolves represent a ferocious hunger for something; the addict doesn’t know what it is. From a Jungian perspective, the psyche naturally moves toward wholeness. If we become stuck in a way of life that is not right for us, or a psychological attitude that we’ve outgrown, then symptoms appear that force us out of our nest, if we’re willing to deal with them. If we choose not to, then we become obsessed with something that concretizes a genuine spiritual need.
Jung, for example, worked with one of the founders of AA. “The craving for alcohol,” he wrote, “is the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness; expressed in medieval language: the union with God.” Alcohol, he pointed out, is spiritus in Latin. If that wolf energy can be lovingly disciplined and turned in the right direction, it can be powerfully healing and creative. That’s what the addict’s journey is all about – it’s a spiritual search that’s become perverted. You see it in the rituals that addicts engage in. If you work with these rituals creatively, you will often find profound religious activity going on there.