A reader asked me about a post that mentioned that Avtalyon was a gilgul of Aristotle. This statement is, on the face of it, a striking one, for no less a reason that it presupposes that non-Jews undergo a process of gilgul, which is contrary to the teaching of the Ari as presented in Sefer Hagilgulim.
He then shared with me the following source from the recently translated work of R. Azariah DePano (Reincarnation of Souls, p.38), that says that he was gilgul not of Aristotle but of Aristobolus: "Aristobolous was a spark of Avtalyon" (must be understood in reverse because Avatolyon lived afer Aristobolus), who taught unworthy students, who became Saducees. Aristobolous was related to their aspect, which is why he ultimately repented. He was reincarnated in Antoninus, who studied under Rabbeinu Hakadosh."
Now, one first thinks that this Aristobolus is the first Hasmonean king and this is who we are talking about. However, turns out that there were several other Aristiboluses:
- Aristobulus I (died 103 BC), king of the Hebrew Hasmonean Dynasty, 104–103 BC
- Aristobulus II (died 49 BC), king of Judea from the Hasmonean Dynasty, 67–63 BC
- Aristobulus III of Judea (53 BC–36 BC), last scion of the Hasmonean royal house
- Aristobulus IV (31 BC–7 BC), Prince of Judea, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, married Berenice, father of Agrippa I
- Aristobulus Minor, son of the above, brother of Agrippa I
- Aristobulus of Chalcis
- Aristobulus of Alexandria (c. 160 BC), Hellenistic Jewish philosopher
- Aristobulus of Cassandreia (375 BC–301 BC), Greek historian and engineer, accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaigns
- Aristobulus of Britannia, one of the Seventy Disciples, brother of Barnabas
- Aristobulus of Paneas, one of 72 priests who translated the Torah into the Greek
Airstoboluso l Aexandria and Aristobolus of Paneas are interesting candidates in light of what we will speak about shortly. If we assume Asitobolus III, IV or Minor, the literal reading that "Aristibolos was a spark of Avtalyon" (presupposing that Aristobolus lived after Avtalyon) can be mantained.
By the way, this name comes from the Greek name Αριστοτελης (Aristoteles) which meant "the best purpose", derived from αριστος (aristos) "best" and τελος (telos)"purpose, aim". There is something of the concept of gilgul in this name itself.
Going back to the Avtalyon being a gilgul of Aristotle, the source is from Seder Hadoros, Avtulmus in the name in Gilgulei Haneshomos, the very same sefer of which we just read an excerpt in English above. However, here it says something different.
Here is says that Avtalyon was a gilgul of Aristotolus. You note right away that this name, Aristotolos is not the name by which Aristotle is usually known in Jewish sources, A more common name is Aristo. That makes one wonder whether a transposition of a letter somewhere along the line of transmission made Aristobolus into Aristotolos.
To come back, how does one reconcile the reading of Sefer Hadoros with the view of the Ari that Gentiles do not undergo gilgul?
I offer two possible answers.
One is that there were early Kabbalists who disagreed with the view that Gentiles do not reincarnate. This question is discussed in Minchas Yehuda by R. Yehuda Hachayat, who quotes a view the gilgul also takes place with Gentiles and argues against it. There is a fascinating discussion about it in Brian Ogren, Renaissance and rebirth: Reincarnation in early modern Italian kabbalah, p. 159 ( his book is available in Google Books).
One can make a distinction between reincarnating into a Gentile or a Gentile soul reincarnating into a Jew. The former is much more understadable, since Lurianic gilgul can take place even into stones, so why not Gentiles. A more difficult problem presented by the above passage is reincarnation from Gentiles into Jews.Turns out, there is source also for that.
"Abraham and Sarah, the first Jewish couple, were married for many years before they were blessed with a child, but their union generated many spiritual children. Kabbalah explains that the souls created by Abraham and Sarah—and the souls created from the unions of other righteous couples—have been distributed among the nations of the world, and it is these souls who become converts to Judaism", from Shelah Ha-Kadosh, Sha’ar Ha-Osios, “Kedushas Hazivug,” 402.
"This is why a convert is called the son or daughter of Abraham and Sarah. In a sense, his or her soul stems directly from our first patriarch and matriarch." A similar concept is quoted in the name of Sefer Hapliyah - that the souls of the converts were Jewish to begin with. This is why the expression is, " Convert who converted (ger shenisgayer)", instead of the" Gentile who converted".