Upper and Lower Waters: A new appraisal of sexual fluids and conceptions in the Zohar in light of Medieval medical texts

Merav Carmeli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In the Zohar, we frequently encounter the terms "lower waters" and "upper waters." These terms designate the sexual fluids of the divine female and divine male respectively. This article explores the in.Buencc of ancient texts that made their way to medieval Europe on the Zohar's conception of these fluids, and in particular on the nature of the fluids of the female. The sexual pleasure of the Shekhinah (and the earthly woman) is presented in the Zohar a the key to
personal and cosmic redemption, and the roots of this i.dea can be better understood by uncovering it· sources. Although some scholars have noted the influence of these texts from antiquity on the Zohar's understanding of sexual fluids, this study deepens their brief observations revealing aspects previously unnoticed.
An understanding of the significance of female waters is important not only for the Zohar (the focus of this study), but also for a correct understanding of many other later kabbalistic texts, for example, the Tiqqunim of the Zohar, various writings by Moses Cordovero, and the teachings of Isaac Luria. The source of the two main models analyzed here lies in the writings of Aristotle, on the one hand, and in the corpus of medical writings attributed to Hippocrates, on the other. Among the figures mentioned in this study, each of whom extended these models, are Galen, lbn Sina, lbn Rushd, Constantine the African, and Gilbert of England.
Original languageHebrew (modern)
Pages (from-to)83-138
Number of pages56
JournalDAAT A Journal of Jewish Philosophy & Kabbalah
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Cite this