Yakov Leib HaKohain

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Yakov Leib HaKohain (born Lawrence G. Corey, November 13, 1934) is a kabbalist, religious philosopher, poet and founder of Donmeh West, a "Virtual Community for the Study and Practice of Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah".[1]

Early life and studies in Jungian psychology, philosophy, Vedanta and Kabbalah[edit]

Yakov Leib HaKohain ("YaLHaK") was born in 1934 into a Chicago family of Turkish Sephardi descent on his mother’s side and Romanian Kohanim descent on his father's. He studied Jungian Thought and Comparative Religion for six years (1980–1986) under his mentor, the late James Kirsch, a Jewish member of Jung's original inner circle and co-founder of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles,[2] where HaKohain also did three years of advanced, post-doctoral work under Kirsch's sponsorship from 1980 to 1983.[3]

At much the same time, HaKohain studied and was initiated into Vedanta in 1976 by another mentor figure, Swami Swahananda, head of the Ramakrishna Order of India in Southern California (where he has since then been a frequent guest speaker on the relations between Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah and Hinduism).[4]

As part of the syncretic nature of the Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah he developed and espouses, HaKohain also teaches on the relationships between his own spiritual system and other older spiritual systems such as Hinduism,[5] Gnosticism,[6] the Qur'an,[7] and New Testament Christianity.[8]

Founding of Donmeh West and Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah[edit]

Sabbatai Zevi in 1665

Yakov Leib HaKohain is probably best known as the founder and spiritual head of Donmeh West (its founding is even included by the Christian Millenarian website Thomas Pages, an exhaustive timeline of historical events leading to the anticipated Second Coming of Christ.[9] In his book The Sabbatean Prophets, Prof. Matt Goldish discusses Donmeh West as a rightful successor to the line of kabbalah descending directly from Sabbatai Zevi himself.[10] As founder of Donmeh West, Yakov Leib HaKohain is considered by media like the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv as the leader of the modern Neo-Sabbatian revival.[11] Prof. Wendelin von Winckelstein's Die Odyssee des Aristoteles states "Eine nachfolgeorganisation existiert heute noch unter dem namen Donmeh West” (“Today a successor organization [to Sabbatai Zevi's Donmeh] still exists under the name of Donmeh West.")[12]

His "multiple conversions" and raising up the Holy Sparks[edit]

Following in the footsteps of Sabbatai Zevi (who converted from Judaism to Islam) and Jacob Frank (who converted from Judaism to Islam and Sabbateanism and then to Catholicism), as well as Sri Ramakrishna (who besides his Hindu roots had several approachments towards Islam and Christianity), and for the same reasons as they, HaKohain formally converted to Islam, Roman Catholicism and Hinduism. He did that in his own words not to become a practicing member of any of them, but to metaphorically "gather together" the "Holy Sparks" contained inside each of these religions into a single "Divine Flame" within his own person, for the purpose of contributing to the inner Kabbalistic reunification of God.[13]

Writings and publications[edit]

HaKohain's kabbalistic essays and poetry[14] have been published in literary magazines and scholarly journals such as Evergreen Review;[15] The Beloit Poetry Journal;[16][17][18] Zeek: A Journal of Jewish Thought & Culture;[19] Midstream: A Quarterly Jewish Review;[20] The Critic: A Journal of Contemporary Catholic Thought; Dor L'Dor: Journal of the World Jewish Bible Society of Jerusalem; The Priest: A Journal of Roman Catholic Theology; Newsletter of the Orthdox Jewish Teacher's Association of New York; and The Library Journal of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.[21][22]

He has been interviewed concerning his work in Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah by the Israeli newspaper, Ma'ariv[23][24] and on the Gnostic radio program, Aeon Byte.[25] Ma'ariv also has translated his essay, "Professions of A Holy Sinner"[26] into Hebrew and published it as a feature article in their "Culture and Spirituality" section.[27] (For a summary of the highlights of Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain's main teachings, see Section 6 of this article, Collected Neo-Sabbatian Teachings.)

Contributions to Kabbalah and the interpretation of dreams[edit]

Some of HaKohain's writings on kabbalah and the interpretation of dreams have been anthologized in Modern Jew In Search of A Soul: A Jungian Collection,[28] as well as in Dreamwork: Around the World and Across Time along with other contributors such as the Dalai Lama, Joseph Campbell, Freud and Jung.[29] In Modern Jew, Spiegelman (a Zurich-Certified Jungian Analyst and past president of the C. G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles) says of him:

"[Yakov Leib HaKohain] has made an unusual attempt at combining aspects of Jungian Psychology and the Kabbalah, significantly more than has been assayed heretofore. There have been accounts of the impact of Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah on psychology -- e.g., Freud and Jung -- but [HaKohain] is the first to our knowledge who explicitly combines archetypal information and Jungian concepts in a back-and-forth relation between dreams, personal history, and Kabbalistic imagery."[30]

Quotes from his teachings[edit]

  • "My simple-minded intention is to help others know and be known by God in the same simple-minded way Sabbatai Zevi, Jesus Christ, Sri Ramakrisna, C.G. Jung and others Knew and were Known by It -- not to dazzle anyone with the brilliance of my intellect or the complexity of my 'Grand Design.' In fact, like my predecessor, Jacob Frank, I'm illiterate in Hebrew, know nothing of 'Torah Law and Ordinance,' and am counted as a fool by many.[31] But, to quote Jung, 'God ... [still] wants to become man, and for that purpose he has chosen, through the Holy Ghost, the creaturely man filled with darkness -- the natural man who is tainted with original sin ... The guilty man is eminently suitable and is therefore chosen to become the vessel for the continuing incarnation, not the guiltless one who holds aloof from the world and refuses to pay his debt to life, for in him the dark God would find no room.' (Italics mine.)"[32]
  • “Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah has virtually nothing to do with the Jewish religion, or any other religion for that matter. In fact, we seek to destroy religion, not follow it. Religions -- all religions (and most especially the so-called ‘Abrahamic’ religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) -- are the Kellipot (shells) surrounding and entrapping the Glory of God. Jews worship Judaism; Christians worship Christianity; Muslims worship Islam—we Neo-Sabbatians worship God, not as a supernatural being but as an infinite, boundless, undefinable Mind possessing no corporeality or substance, yet having self-awareness, intelligence, emotion, will, and intention. All things that ever were, are and will be are in this ‘God,’ but in potential rather than physical form. This ‘God’ is energy, not entity—at first, before creation, Energy in its potential state but, during and after creation, energy in its kinetic state as well. Like energy, and because it is energy, this ‘God’ can neither be created nor destroyed. It corresponds more to the Ayn Sof of Kabbalah than to the Yahweh of Judaism. Strictly speaking, we Neo-Sabbatians don't ‘worship’ or pray to this ‘God’ but seek to know It, communicate with It and assist It in its return to the wholeness from which It has fallen by the act of creation. We do this not ‘out there’ as religions do, but ‘in here’ as the so-called mystic does. We do this not through religious creed and ritual—which we consider deterrents rather than aids to knowing and reunifying ‘God’—but by the direct inner experience of It through the power of Ze'ir Anpin, or what C. G. Jung calls ‘the One who dwells within [us], whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses [us] on all sides, fathomless as the abysms of the earth and vast as the sky’.”[33]
  • “In the Neo-Sabbatian idea of redemption through sin,we're not concerned with the literal practice of sin, but with the transformation of unholiness into holiness -- not ‘out there’ somewhere but ‘in here’ where it exists without our needing to ‘choose’ it. Furthermore it is on the level of thought not deed that this transformation of the unholy into the holy—this "redemption through sin"—takes place for us. As the Ba'al Shem Tov said, "The Evil Thoughts come to man even in the midst of prayer. And they come to him as to their redemption. When an evil or alien thought arises in a man, it comes to him in order that he may redeem it, and let it ascend."[34] In other words, for us ‘sin’ is not an outer ritual to be acted out through the body, but an inner encounter with evil in what the Zohar calls the ‘heart-mind’[35] for the purposes not of enjoying the evil, but of transforming it."
  • ”Our understanding of antinomianism, like that of Sabbatai Zevi[36] and Jacob Frank after him[37] is that a deed itself is holy, but where we part company with them and with conventional Jewish wisdom, is in our further understanding that there is more than one level on which a deed itself can be performed. What we know now that they did not know then is that a deed can be accomplished just as effectively (and perhaps even more so) on the virtual level of spirit (that is to say, in the mind) as it can be on the literal level of action (that is to say, in the body). For example, quantum-mechanics physics proposes that anything one can imagine in his mind either already exists or literally comes into existence in some parallel universe as a result of his having imagined it.[38] In this regard, the Zohar says, "God is unknowable. No one has ever been able to identify Him. How, then, can you say: 'Her husband is known in the Gates?' (Prov. 31:23) when 'her husband' is the Blessed Holy One. But, indeed, God is known in the Gates. He is known and grasped to the degree that one opens the Gates of Imagination! The capacity to connect to the Spirit of Wisdom, to imagine in one's heart-mind, that is how God becomes known'."[39]
  • "The purpose of intentionally committing a sin in the ‘Heart-Mind’ isn't actually to ‘commit’ it, but to transform it, thereby releasing Holiness from the Klippah of Unholiness that imprisons it. In other words, one enters into the sin – when the impulse to the sin arises—not to commit it for one's own personal gratification, but to transform it. For example if an "alien thought", as the Ba'al Shem Tov calls it, comes to one during prayer—say, having hot sweaty sex with the young babe davening on the other side of the mechitzah—the praying man should not do everything he can to put that thought out of his mind, but he should instead "embrace" it, allow himself to engage in it, through what the Zohar calls the ‘Gate of Imagination,’—and this, not for his own sexual satisfaction, but to release the nitzot ("spark") of holiness from its klippah ("shell")of sexual desire. In other words, it is the kavannah ("intention") behind the imagining that makes it either a holy tikkun ("spiritual repair") or an issur ("forbidden") sexual fantasy.”
  • “I don't mean to suggest that the only way to redeem evil is by thought; I'm only suggesting that there is another way of acting out the Talmudic dictum of mitzvah haba b'averah (“fulfilling a Torah Commandment by violating it”) besides through the body.[40] This is where the ‘neo’ of Neo-Sabbatianism comes in. Let me elaborate on that with a quotation from the Zohar: "For nothing is revealed while the person is still under the spell of the body"[41]—thus suggesting that a deed performed physically through the body is somehow less holy than the same deed performed spiritually through theurgic imagination.”
  • "Given what I've said elsewhere about a deed having the same or even higher consequences when acted out on the virtual as opposed to literal level, let me answer the question of how we Neo-Sabbatians practice this antinomianism by saying that everything Sabbatai and Frank taught and practiced, we teach and practice also -- but, unlike them, we teach and practice it through the Gates of Imagination rather than the gates of the body. Again, this is one of the principles that puts the "neo" into Neo-Sabbatian.
Let me give you an example. According to Nanthan of Gaza, "the messiah's soul is engulfed by the qelippah ... [and just] as the shell appears before the core of the fruit, even so the messianic qellipah (that is, Jesus) appeared first in this world ... [Therefore] he that is the messiah will restore to holiness his qelippah which is Jesus Christ."[42]
In other words, just as Sabbatai Zevi entered into the "Maw of Satan" by converting to Islam in order to retrieve the Holy Sparks held prisoners there, so Jesus had entered into the realm of the Sitrah Achra to do the same.[43] But since, at least according to R. Nathan of Gaza, the soul of Jesus remains trapped in the Side of Darkness, the Yechidah Mashiach ("Soul of the Messiah"), of which Jesus is the qellipah, is also trapped there with him.[44]
Now with those Sabbatian teachings in mind, our Neo-Sabbatian practice for restoring the soul of Jesus to holiness.-- not to reinstate him as the messiah or as a god-man, but only to release the yechidah mashiach of which he is the qelippah -- is to fling open the Gates of Imagination and call to him by reciting the words of the Kaddish. That is, we recite the Kaddish to him, not for him."
  • Over the course of my Neo-Sabbatianism, I have done nothing that Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank did not or would not have done, sexually as well as otherwise. Like them, although these strange actions of mine certainly may have been what others would consider immoral and sacrilegious, they were never illegal, and I neither regret nor am ashamed of them. However, I will say this: it was largely out of those early antinomian experiences that I realized that whatever is done through the body leads to corruption, while whatever is done through the soul—that is, through the Gates of Imagination—leads to union with God. It was out of those literal experiences that I realized the power of the virtual experience in all areas of the transformation of God.
Let me elaborate. The first five of the ten commandments are "religious" while the second five are "civil." That is, the first five deal with one's relationships to God while the second five deal with one's relationships to others. Given our Neo-Sabbatian view of virtual rather than literal antinomianism, we outwardly violate the religious commandments while inwardly observing them; and we outwardly observe the civil commandments while inwardly violating them. Furthermore, this violation of the civil commandants isn't a ritual in which we go looking for sins to redeem; rather, it is only when the alien thought, as the Ba'al Shem Tov has called it, comes to us of its own accord that we embrace it in order to transform it—and then, only through the Gate of Imagination.
  • “We do not view Sabbatai Zevi as a ‘savior, or even necessarily as the ‘messiah, in the commonly understood sense of the word. And we certainly do not view him as a God-man in the way Christians view Jesus. (Remember, this is NEO-Sabbatian Kabbalah we're talking about.) Rather, we view Jesus and Sabbatai, along with the avatars of other spiritual traditions, as stages in an ongoing process extending from Jesus to the present moment -- a process in which all of us, whether we know it or not, are participating; a process called, ‘the continuing incarnation of God’ about which C. G. Jung wrote, ‘The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the third divine person, in man, brings about a Christification of many.’ In other words, Sabbatai Zevi wasn't and isn't God, but a godly man through whom God chose to speak and act. So it's not Sabbatai the man, but that which God revealed of Itself through that man which has any importance for us. It's like the Shofar. The Talmud tells us that it's the sound issuing from the shofar, and not the shofar itself, that's holy—and, in fact, that the shofar itself is so profane that it can be used as a funnel to feed milk to a nursing infant.[45] In that sense, Sabbatai Zevi was only the shofar; but what issued from him was the Sound. We follow the Sound, not the horn of a dead creature that makes it.”
  • "Sabbatai Zevi was the first to 'descend' into the Realm of Ishmael (i.e. convert to Islam) in order to retrieve from it the Holy Seed (or, to use another metaphor, the 'Holy Sparks') contained therein and return them to their Source, which is God -- thus, participating in, and adding to, the repair of His 'Face' or state of premundane unity.[46] Jacob Frank, Sabbatai's 18th century heir, totally redefined and reinterpreted Sabbatianism to suit his own personality, time and place, thereby descending into the Realm of Esau by converting himself and his thousands of followers to Roman Catholic Christianity.[47] Both of these Avatars attempted to retrieve the Holy Sparks from 'inside, out' in order to Repair the Face of God. In our own time and place, Donmeh West scruples to accomplish the same goal of divine retrieval and repair, but from 'outside, in.' The methods and context may appear to be different than those of Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank -- because we exist in a different time and place with different spiritual technologies at our disposal -- but the goal and its paradigm are exactly the same: the redemption of the universe by Repairing the Face of God."[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Donmeh West official website
  2. ^ See About the Institute - It All Began in the Forties, Gilda Frantz, C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles
  3. ^ Lawrence G. Corey (a.k.a., Yakov Leib HaKohain), was admitted into the post-doctoral Analyst-In-Training Program of the C.G. Institute of Los Angeles in 1980, based on the recommendation and sponsorship of Kirsch (who remained Corey/HaKohain's personal training analyst). For the student records confirming his six years of personal analytical work with Kirsch, and his three years of post-doctoral studies at the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles
  4. ^ The last program HaKohain/Corey gave for the Vedanta Society of Southern California was a weekend retreat on "Vedanta & the Continuing Incarnation of God" (November 2005), having been before that several times invited by Swami Swahananda to speak on topics like "C.G. Jung & Vedanta", "Vedanta & Jewish Mysticism" and "In Honor of Swahananda on His 25th Anniversary as Head of the Vedanta Society of Southern California." (Confirmed through the Swami Atmavidyananda, Office Manager of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, 1946 Vedanta Place, Hollywood, CA 90068)
  5. ^ The Online Lectures of Rebbe Yakov Leib HaKohain on Vedanta and Kabbalah, Donmeh West
  6. ^ The Online Lectures of Rebbe Yakov Leib HaKohain on the Gnostic Gospels, Donmeh West
  7. ^ The Online Lectures of Rebbe Yakov Leib HaKohain on the Holy Quran, Donmeh West
  8. ^ The Jesus Lectures, Donmeh West
  9. ^ See 1971 to 1984, The Thomas Pages
  10. ^ Goldish, Matt. The Sabbatean Prophets. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-674-01291-2
  11. ^ Ma'ariv interview with HaKohain (in Hebrew). «MA'ARIV INTERVIEWER: How do people usually react when they hear about your revival of Sabbateanism? Is the old resentment towards Sevi still active?
    REB YAKOV LEIB HAKOHAIN: I've seen a dramatic rise in the number of Jews and non-Jews who are drawn to this spiritual revival. For example, [over 100 thousand] people from every corner of the world come to our website at www.donmeh-west.com to read and listen to our Neo-Sabbatian teachings.
  12. ^ Prof. Wendelin von Winckelstein, Die Odyssee des Aristoteles, Wendelin von Winckelstein, Google Books, p. 87
  13. ^ On the Holy Sparks and their Redemption by the Baal Shem Tov (Israel ben Eliezer) (With Interpretive Comments by Yakov Leib Hakohain), kheper.net
  14. ^ YaLHaK's Garden of Neo-Sabbatian Verse blog
  15. ^ The FictionMags Index - Stories, Listed by Author, Galactic Central
  16. ^ Beloit Poetry Journal website
  17. ^ Winter 1966-1967 Vol. 17 No. 2, Beloit Poetry Journal
  18. ^ Spring 1969 Vol. 19 No. 3, Beloit Poetry Journal
  19. ^ Arts & CulturePOEM: Secret Places of the Stairs, rchess, September 4, 2008
  20. ^ Midstream Magazine website
  21. ^ http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1525/jung.1.1990.9.1.27
  22. ^ Yakov Leib HaKohain profile, kheper.net
  23. ^ קבל חטא חטא, Ma'ariv
  25. ^ Interviews with Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain on Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio, Donmeh West
  26. ^ Reb Yakov Leib's Confession of a Holy Sinner, Donmeh West.com
  27. ^ יופיו של החטא, Ma'ariv
  28. ^ "Modern Jew In Search of A Soul," ed. by J. Marvin Spiegelman, Ph.D., Falcon Press, 1986, pp. 47-84
  29. ^ Dreamwork: Around the World and Across Time, ed. by Leland E. Shields, M.S., M.A., Blue Dolphin Books, 2008, pp. 209-210
  30. ^ "Modern Jew In Search of A Soul," ed. by J. Marvin Spiegelman, Ph.D., Falcon Press, 1986, p. 84
  31. ^ "Was I not a fool in your eyes, Torah-less and illiterate? You look upon me as a fool ... [because] I know nothing of Law and Ordinance to teach you." Jacob Frank, Sayings of Yakov Frank, trans. Harris Lenowitz, Tree Books, 1978, p.7)
  32. ^ C.G. Jung, Anwer to Job, Princeton University Press, 1958, par. 746
  33. ^ C.G. Jung, Answer to Job, Princeton University Press, 1973, par. 757
  34. ^ Ba'al Shem Tov, "Instructions In Intercourse with God," trans. by Martin Buber in Hasidism and Modern Man, Horizon Press, 1958, p. 204-205
  35. ^ Zohar Zohar 1:103a-b
  36. ^ Prof. Avraham Elqayam, The Mystery of Faith In the Writings of Nathan of Gaza, Hebrew University, December 1993
  37. ^ The Words of the Lord Jacob Frank, ed., trans. & annotated by Prof. Harris Lenowitz,University of Utah
  38. ^ Robert Toben, Space-Time and Beyond, Plume Books
  39. ^ Zohar 1:103a-b
  40. ^ For more on this Talmudic dictum of "fulfilling a Torah Commandment by violating it, see Gerschom Scholem, The Messianic Idea In Judaism, Schocken Books, 1971, p.99
  41. ^ Zohar 1:183a-b
  42. ^ Quoted in Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah,Princeton University Press, 1973, p. 285
  43. ^ "The new doctrine of the necessary apostasy of the Messiah [Sabbatai Zevi] was accepted by all the 'believers.' In fact, it proved to be symbolically richer than was first assumed." Gerschom Scholem, The Messianic Idea In Judaism, Schocken Books, 1971, p. 99
  44. ^ "The case of Jesus is of course the most complex and was undoubtedly the most dangerous for Nathan to attempt. Scholem gives a full account of the way Lurianic topoi were employed by Nathan in explaining how Jesus, whom the Talmud damned to eternal hell, could and would be redeemed through Shabbatai. A remarkable parallel to the Sabbateans’ bid for the redemption of Jesus occurred in the 18th century Hasidic movement. By that time, Shabbatai had joined Jesus in the ranks of the most evil and unsalvageable Jewish souls. In an early manuscript of the Shivhe ha-Besht, the hagiographical account of the life of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, a detail is recorded that was erased in the later published version. The Ba’al Shem Tov attempted to mystically 'repair' the soul of Shabbatai Zvi because Shabbatai 'had a spark of the messiah in him, but the Evil One ensnared him, mercy on us.' In this way the next charismatic leader in Judaism after Shabbatai attempted to do for Shabbatai what Shabbatai attempted to do for Jesus." ~ Prof. Matt Goldish, The Sabbatean Prophets, Harvard University Press, pp. 85 & 89
  45. ^ Talmud Tr. Shabbat
  46. ^ For more on this mystical explanation of Sabbatai's conversion to Islam, see Gerschom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah,Princeton University Press, 1973, pp. 679-686
  47. ^ Prof. Harris Lenowitz discusses Franks conversion to Roman Catholicism, and compares it to Sabbatai's conversion to Islam, in The Jewish Messiahs: From the Galilee To Crown Heights, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp, 167-198
  48. ^ These quotes are taken primarily from an interview with Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain by the Israeli newspaper, Ma'ariv, published in 2007

External links[edit]