The Golem

Back to Alchemy Forum page.

From: Jeffrey Smith

About the Golem:

There is nothing directly alchemical about the Golem. The "Maharal", Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, was a notable rabbi and Kabbalist whom legend credited with creation of a Golem for the sake of defending the Jews of Prague against a blood libel and pogrom. I forget the dates; it may have been during the time of Rudolf, but I am not sure. One version of the legend states that the Golem, once deactivated, was placed in the attic of the "Altneuschul", the principal synagogue of Prague. This, to the best of my memory (which is not working too well this morning), survived the Nazis, and can be visited today.
The means of creating a Golem come out of the Sefer Yetzirah school, and traditions about them reach back to Talmudic times and possibly earlier.
The principal methods involve combinational meditation of the Hebrew alphabet and magical use of the Name of God. The Golem of Prague is merely the most recent, and famous because it attracted the attention of several writers and film makers in the early part of this century.

Tachat haRachamim.
Jeffrey Smith

From: rec@rca.ac.uk (Robin E. Cousins)

On 19.7.95 Jeffrey Smith wrote:
'There is nothing directly alchemical about the Golem'

The creation of a Golem is a process comparable to alchemy. It is likewise a spiritual quest. The creation of the Golem was (is) a mystical experience, a ritual representing the creation of Adam Kadmon, the principal man.

The instructions (the most precise were by Eleazar of Worms (1160-1230)) leave no space for the Golem to exist in the physical world, but using the alphabetic combinations with the IHVH (231 permutations, but 462 in all to create from and return to dust) would no doubt induce a change of consciousness. There is a strict order, which would result in a very formal recitation, both magical and meditative.

It is possible that the mystical experience could be a vision of the Golem in the form of the operator's doppelgänger - a reflection and hence a lower form of him/herself. The double would allow the magician to perceive and so discover the evil forces within himself; exorcise them; and evolve further along the road to redemption. It is a kind of self-purification process. The magician, as the creator, is in the superior position - the doppelgänger is now the Lower Self, which can be redeemed by accepting faults, absorbing them, and correcting the imbalance. With self-examination it could be said that one's own Golem is created and confronted.

The spiritual path towards the higher initiation of the Soul will take the seeker through various initiations, resulting in the purification of the self and knowledge of the True Self or Holy Guardian Angel - and from there to the Higher Planes. Each stage will have its Golem. Even with elementary rituals, such as a Middle Pillar exercise, or say a sephirothic meditation, a Golem is created and redeemed. The purification process has commenced and a step taken, however small, towards the union with the spirit, where the Golem is no more.

No wonder more than one lifetime is necessary!

On a wider scale the Golem is said to be the symbol of the collective soul of the Jewish people, whose progress supposedly reflects the state of humanity. In this respect the Golem can be seen as a reflection of the whole of humanity. It becomes the embodiment of the current condition of the world. It embraces the individual, communities, nations, nature, and the whole ecology of the planet. The Golem stands before humanity, its creator, asking for redemption. This vision of the world should present to mankind the good, the evil, and the means by which the world can be improved or released from its present state.

If only.

Incidentally, if one wants to believe in Rabbi Loew's Golem, the fact that somebody crawled into the attic of the Staronová Skola and saw nothing (according to one guidebook) should not be a disappointment. There was an exhibition organised by the Goethe Institute the other year devoted to old manuscripts and prayer books culled from the lofts of synagogues in Germany and legend says that the Golem was hidden under such a heap. Judging from the photos, most of the mss had rotted over the centuries to dust and debris often knee-deep, so the Golem would just become indistinguishable from the muck, which was probably swept away during some officious bout of spring-cleaning. Rabbi Loew died in 1609, so he was concurrent with Rudolf and Dee.

Robin C.

From: Jeffrey Smith

Robin has spoken some good thoughts about the concept of the Golem. One of the motifs that has not been touched on in this thread, which is of some importance in the tradition, is the Golem's inability to speak.
The faculty of speech (and by extension, reason, free will, and consciousness) is the gift of God to humanity. Says Scripture: "Your eyes saw my unshaped flesh" (Tehillim 139), in which the last phrase translates the Hebrew word GoLeMI, to describe the process of God creating man (whether the text is applicable to every individual, or, as per the traditional view, quotes the words of Adam to God.) We ourselves are golemim and golemahot until God comes along and makes us fully human, making us living souls by breathing in the "breath of life."

For those really interested in the matter, Moshe Idel wrote a book covering the entire tradition, entitled quite reasonably "Golem". I have yet to read it, but he is a reliable and perceptive writer who is not always in tune with the standard academic party line.

Tachat haRachamim.
Jeffrey Smith