The Arty Semite

'The Imagination Is the Body of God'

By Eve Grubin

  • Print
  • Share Share

This piece is crossposted from The Best American Poetry, where poet Eve Grubin is guest blogging this week. Read Grubin’s previous post here and her poetry on The Arty Semite here.

Yesterday I wrote that the biblical Eve lived in, as Goethe called it, “the poet’s trance.” But then the snake seduced her out of that place of passionate clarity.

‘Eve Tempted by the Serpent’ by William Blake.

Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman, otherwise known as the Ramban or Nachmanides, the leading Medieval Spanish scholar who later settled in Israel, commented on the following language from the text: “Let us make humans in Our image and in Our likeness” (1:26). He wrote that the word which means “Our likeness” in Hebrew, “kidmutanu,” finds its root in the word “dimyon,” which means “imagination.” Ramban suggests that human beings are defined by the power of broad imagination — God’s imagination was transferred to humanity, and Eve’s “poet’s trance” included what Keats called “the truth of the imagination.” Blake intuited Ramban’s insight when he wrote that “the imagination is the body of God” and “Imagination is evidence of the Divine.”

When Eve listened to the snake, she limited herself — she moved from continually experiencing the truth of the imagination to a restricted space where the connection between imagination and truth was obscured. Ironically, when she ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil she narrowed her knowledge. The Kabbalah calls the tree, “the Tree of Doubt” — her eating from it brought uncertainty, hesitation, and scepticism into the world. And ultimately, shame.

I have been asking myself the question: How did the snake seduce Eve into narrow doubt and bewilderment? If Eve was so lucid, how did the snake manage to confound her? If her sensitivity to truths reverberated through her, and she felt the web of creation shudder every time she touched it, how could he obfuscate her perspicacious vision? If she gazed through a transparent film and witnessed the connections between the divine and the material, couldn’t she see through the snake? Tomorrow, I will look at the text, some commentaries, and a Robert Creeley poem to better understand how this happened.

I’ll end now with lines from Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” which embody the issues I will address in tomorrow’s post:

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Best American Poetry, Poetry, Nachmanides, Eve Grubin

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.