De Leon's Palimpset
This beautiful musical and spoken word piece by composer, musician, poet, artist and scholar Daniel Gouly examines questions of authorship and pseudepigraphy, centred around the influential Kabbalistic precursor to the Book of Wonder, the Zohar, and whether its creator was the 13th century figure Moses de Leon or Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) a sage from the second century. Combining atmospheric synth lines and poetry (which I’ve included below), this composition explores whether the Zohar and other Kabbalistic texts are works of inspired human creation or miraculous divine intervention.
When he returned to the book that night the words were gone a faint sound upon the air not of music, or speech, but perhaps just an intake of breath drawing them inwards and out from the page and into the world nothing remained of what he had written perhaps his wisdom did not sink its roots as deeply into Leon’s soil as he had imagined for this had been intended to be a great work, one to be poured over for many years, fragments of Rashbi flowering into new branches of gnosis consonants forming a flowing exegesis commanding the reader’s attention like hypnosis but now who will know this, only scratches on the page sit where once ink had quickened the senses. He dropped his head into his hands, for naught, perhaps not even prayer could mend this, all those moments of creation blotted out in an instant. Then, a sound, initially almost beyond the edge of perception like the last rays of the sun on the lip of the world, unfurling, peeling back layers of tone, a chime in the darkness not heard but felt in his bones. Shimmering like a bell as it passed through him as a shiver, dragging his eyes once again to the page, and there, where letters had marched together lockstep, an inky channel growing from the spine now flamed, a torrent, mixed with his tears spreading liquid wings across pages once tamed wild but for an instant and then slowing, now seeping in rivulets, glistening softly like oil on water becalmed. And as Moses watched, tributaries formed, delicately meandering across the page deltas and floodplains narrowing to form slender letters, at first a crawl but now speeding across the paper like an arrow. Lifting the pages he sees black veins and capillaries sinking into every one, even those whose shores he had been yet to cast upon. Words, phrases, sentences, whole ideas forming, thoughts he’d once tried to grasp in the moment between inspiration and writing, or sleep and waking, these now stride across the leaves like Nephilim, whole sheaves alive with marks, symbols, and devices, already drying in the heat of the sun. Suddenly, it is done, and in his hands sits the infant, no twin of his first writing, but a thing new in the world Who is he, author? redacter? vessel? These questions twist and fray before collapsing into nothingness What remains is the book, once his, but now only briefly in his safekeeping, to be passed hand to hand with the rustle of its leaves in the wind. This will be fruit of new knowledge, an orchard for those sages that sit with it, long after the soil in the garden closes over him. Closing it he sees a new title emblazoned, radiant like a flash of lighting, brightening his eyes as the sun, dawning, rises in the heavens.