– Wikipedia, “Golem”
Those who know me well know that I am fascinated by esoterica, the strange bits and pieces of knowledge that lurk along the edges of respectable history and accepted convention.
Certainly there is an aesthetic appeal, but even more intriguing is the intellectual exercise that accompanies the search. There is, for me, the same exact thrill at discovering a particularly fascinating passage in an obscure text as I get when I eclipse a hill and come upon an abandoned ruin buried deep in the woods where only a tiny fraction of people even know it exists.
In popular understanding a golem is a creature of clay or other materials of earth, a silent automaton, animated by the Name of God via Kabbalistic techniques.
The words above are technically true, but the popular mental translation is really not.
The Kabbalah is the central Hebrew tradition of mysticism; most religions have this in various places, Gnostic Christianity, the Sufi of Islam, Zen Buddhism, Mesoamerican Nahualli, Hindu Yoga, Hellenistic Mysteries and innumerable others found in every corner of the globe and throughout every part of history.
Central to the practice of Kabbalistic techniques is the use of linguistics. In Kabbalistic tradition, the locus of power lies in the Word, specifically, the Word of God. As God speaks, so it is thought, angels are literally born in an outflowing of divine expression. Like the Navajos or the Nahualli, to the devotees of Kabbalism, words have power, names have power.
Meditation is focused upon the mastery of phonemes and syllables, the human voice rendering a mathematical exploration of every possible combination. A golem is animated by the Name of God placed upon its brow.
That term – animation – is also misunderstood. Yes, a golem is physically constructed out of clay, but the result is flesh and bone. There are stories of animal golems brought into creation, butchered and feasted upon in sacred communion. As humankind was born of dust in the Hebrew tradition but that dust was made flesh, so too is the making of a golem begun with clay but that clay is then made flesh.
In the Kabbalistic tradition, a golem cannot speak, because speaking is the central essence of divinity and the one bridge human-created animus cannot cross.
Here’s where it gets really interesting, though: Making a golem is a primarily mental, not physical exercise.
Certainly, there is considerable effort involved in the construction of a physical golem by Kabbalistic methods; it is, moreover, an exercise that should only be pursued with the full benediction of the divine. More important by far than the physical construction, however, is the mental construction.
Think of it this way; the physical body of a golem is the hardware of a computer, the Name of God on its brow is the electrical current. The mental body of a golem is the software of a computer. The most harrowing part of the process is the construction of this mental body – this software.
How is this done?
The Kabbalistic tradition of meditative linguistics is no accident. The construction of a golem is considered the most advanced technique of the tradition, and requires massive discipline and training. Put in more mechanistic terms, the appropriate letter arrays must be chanted together with the letters of the Tetragrammaton, creating the mental framework of a living creature, piece by piece, limb by limb. No interruption was permissible; no mistake could be tolerated. Pronunciation must be precise.
Mathematically, used in an array of 221 letter pairs completing the entire sequence would take at least 35 hours to complete. 35 hours, note, of unbroken concentration and without a single error. Once the mental body was generated as the astral component of the animus, it could then be placed within a physical boundary, specifically a physical golem.
Making a golem was the most advanced technique of the system, but there were many other signposts along the path to that ultimatality. Mediation using this method was (is) believed to allow one to strengthen or cure specific portions of a physical body, and to possess other more subtle uses as well.