Monday, January 01, 2007

The Sefirot

"Tree of Life" from the Latin translation of Joseph Gikatilla's Gates of Light (1516)

The Sefirot

The Tree of Life

(1) The Ten Spheres

"And the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:'
Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the East of the garden of Eden cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
- Genesis 3:23-25

Tree of Life "The Tree of Life was a Babylonian concept, and as represented in carvings it does not look particularly like a tree at all. It was shown as a series of leafy rosettes, arranged and construction in a strange [lattice] pattern...To the Babylonians, it was a tree with magical fruit, which could only be picked by the gods. Dire consequences befell any mortal who dared to pluck form its. The tree found its way into the Hebrew legend of Adam and Eve...which is heavily loaded with allusions of the Ancient of Days. Recent works on the Kabbalah make extensive use of this tree. Ten parts or attributes of the Ancient of Days are identified with ten of the rosettes..."
- George Sassoon and Rodney Dale, The Manna Machine

"An important early text used in that study was the Sefer Yetsirah (Book of Creation), which appeared sometime between the third and sixth centuries AD. In its pages, initiates discovered an expanded theory of the creation of the universe."
- Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects

"According to the Sefer Yezira, the spiritual world consisted of ten spheres, the Sefirot is a term related to the Hebrew word Sappir, loosely translated as 'sapphire' and interpreted as the radiance of God.) Each of the sefirot represented a different force or aspect of God, such as love, power, or understanding. These aspects were said to have emanated, or unfolded from God, and as the sefirot embodied all aspects of creation, generation, and decay, they represented the universe itself unfolding."
- Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects

"The ten circles are known as sephiroth, the plural of sephira, meaning a number. They are interconnected in various ways....Each connection is identified with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and with one of the twenty-two trumps major of the Tarot, the pack of cards used by some fortune tellers. It is believed that the sephiroth exercise a mystical influence on one another via these connections.
- George Sassoon and Rodney Dale, The Manna Machine

The ten spheres are: "the spirit, air, water, fire, the four cardinal points of the compass, height and depth. These ten are all emanations from God: the crown, the wisdom, the intelligence, the love, the power, the compassion, the steadfastness, the majesty, the foundation and the kingdom. They are linked together as a vital organism, like a tree whose root is the Infinite, with the kingdom as the trunk, the foundation as the point from which the branches begin to spread, the compassion (or beauty) at the center and the crown at the top. They are the names which God gave to Himself and which make up the one great Name."
- John Ferguson, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Mysticism and the Mystery Religions


The Sefirot

"The ten sephirot were arranged in a rigid hierarchy, and each lower sephirah grew out of the one immediately above; that is, the second ranking sephirah grew out of the first, the third out of the second, etc. Thus the first sephirah had all the powers of the sephirot under him; the second had its own power plus all the powers of the succeeding eight, and so on. They were:
1. Kether (Crown), also called the Simple Point, because this initial and paramount sephirah was unknown and all-embracing. Kether was known familiar as the Old One, the Ancient of Days (from Daniel 7:9), the White head, or the Long Face.
2. Hochmah (Wisdom) was also known as Aba (Father) and was the masculine outgrowth of the Ancient One.
3. Binah (Understanding or Intelligence), the highest feminine emanation in the order of sephirot, also known as Ima (Mother).
4. Hesed (Kindness) is also called Gedulah (Greatness) and is masculine.
5. Geburah (Power) is also called Din (Justice) and is feminine.
6. Tipheret (Glory or Beauty) [also called Rahamin] is both masculine and feminine because it is a combination of Hesed and Geburah.
7. Netzah (Firmness, Might, Victory) is masculine.
8. Hod (Splendor) is feminine.
9. Yesod (Foundation) combines Netzah and Hod.
10. Malkut (Kingdom) has no special attributes but is a kind of funnel through which the qualities of the upper nine sephirot are transmitted to the physical world. It is therefore also called Shechinah, the Spirit of God."

"The first nine sephirot were grouped in threes, each triad including a masculine element, a feminine element, and a combining element. The first three sephirot represented the world of thought; the second, the world of emotions and morals; the third, the world of nature. The tenth sephirah, Malkut, existed alone as the harmony of the other nine.
"This triune was paralleled by the Kaballists' version of the three-part soul - an idea expressed earlier by Plato, Aristotle, the Bible, and the Talmud. The soul called Neshamah represented the intellect and corresponded to the first three sephirot. The soul called Ruah represented the emotion and corresponded to the Hesed-Geburah-Tipheret triad. The soul called Nefesh represented man's animal nature and corresponded to the lowest triad of sephirot."
- Harry Gersh, The Sacred Books of the Jews

"...The 'true' universe consists of the En Sof (literally the infinite or the incomprehensible), which is the spiritual universe. The spiritual universe is inseparable from God, and has no beginning and no end (unlike the physical universe). God has many characteristics, but they can be logically separated into ten groupings. When these characteristics are all present in a particular 'region,' that region is perfect. However, God has several times removed certain characteristics from a point in the En Sof (the act is called tzimtzum , contraction) thus creating a point of imperfection wherein a physical universe can exist.
Our current universe is not believed to be the first, but it may be the longest-lived. It was created by removing Law from a point and filling the 'vacuum' with Kindness. This was necessary for it was God's desire to give Man free will or the power to decide good or evil, and this would not be possible if Divine Law permeated the universe. The act of creation itself was accomplished through ten emanations (esher sephirot in Hebrew ) .... First, Keter (Crown) was emanated as a projection of En Sof into the physical universe. From this sphere of emanation came Khokhmah (Intelligence), called the father."
- Simcha Kuritzky, "Kabbalistic Magic" Part I

(2) Da'ath

Da'ath is "the secret sphere of Knowledge on the cosmic tree."
- Perle Epstein, Kabbalah - The Way of the Jewish Mystic

"...The essential and incorruptible unity of the Sefiroth is revealed not only by their reciprocal 'relationships', which are concentrated in the 'middle pillar' [of the Tree], but also by their common light which 'circulated' in the 'channels' of these relationships and is called da'ath, 'knowledge'. This refers to the omniscience or universal consciousness of God which, properly speaking, is not a Sefirah, but the cognitive presence of the One in each of them."
- Leo Schaya, The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah

"And by da'ath the rooms [or spiritual 'receptivities'] are filled with all precious and pleasant [Sephirothic] riches."
- Proverbs 24:5

Da'ath: the mysterious knowledge, the great abyss

"Unlike the sephirah which represent states of mind rather than static placements, and the paths of lessons learned to move from one sephirah or concept to another, Da'ath is not represented upon the Qabalah tree. It is placed below the three supernal sephirah - Kether (the crown), Binah (+) and Chokmah (-). The polarities of positive and negative alternate up and down the tree and cause the energies to circulate as the universal input is pulled downward through the tree supernal sephirah to Da'ath. In this void between the higher and the lower the hither to formless energy of the universe takes on material shape by crystallization. Here is the highest point of the human mind: the home of the brainstorm or creative energy that is brought into manifestation on the earthly plain. As the sand passes through the narrow center of the hour glass, so does knowledge incoming from the universe pass into our consciousness in the machinery of Da'ath. Here is the ultimate home of intuitive knowledge from which all concepts stem.

"When working with the tree either to call down the greater knowledge of the superhuman universe and its infinite organization, or to bring our self up the tree from the lower sephirah for spiritual upliftment and higher perspective, all energy must pass through Da'ath on its way into matter or disintegration into the hypertext of the universe. Thus the term mysterious knowledge is given to Da'ath where wisdom (Chokmah) is combined with understanding (Binah) and melded to the material level through the influence of Tiphareth (sixth sephirah: balanced harmony), which pervades one's soul with the concealed light of illumination of consciousness."

Suggested reading: The Mystical Qabalah, by Dion Fortune: Aquarian Thorsons: imprint Harper Collins
- Special commentary by Rebecca Salem

In the 17th century, Nathan of Gaza, "circulated a curious document, the Sepher ha-Sha'are ha-Daath. He described this as a commentary on two chapters of the Book of the Alhazred, an ancient history of the world. The title means the "Book of the Gates of Knowledge". The word for knowledge, da'ath, has a technical meaning. When the Bible was translated into Greek, the word da'ath was translated as gnosis. Da'ath has a very peculiar status in Kabbalah, being a kind of non-existent, a nothingness. In modern Hermetic Kabbalah it is sometimes represented a hole or gate into an abyss of consciousness. Crowley's experiments with the Call of the Thirty Aethyrs led him into this abyss."
- Colin Low, Necronomicon FAQ
(Compiled from The Book of the Arab, by Justin Geoffry, Starry Wisdom Press, 1979)

"When Malkuth ['Kingdom'] 'fell' out of the Garden of Eden it left behind a 'hole' in the fabric of the Tree, and this 'hole', located in the centre of the Abyss, is called Da'ath, or Knowledge. Da'ath is not a sephira; it is a hole."
- Colin Low, "Notes on the Kabbalah"

"DA'ATH - Knowledge - is not a Sephira. It is not on the Tree of Life: that is, there is in reality no such thing....Da'ath is the crown of the Ruach, the Intellect; and its place is in the Abyss. That is it breaks into pieces immediately it is examined."
- Aleister Crowley, Little Essays Toward Truth

"Where the word [;Da'ath] appears in Genesis it is translated into Greek as 'gnosis'. When Adam knew Eve, the word used was based on the same verb root as the word Da'ath. In traditional Kabbalah Da'ath never made it as a proper sephiroth (as Sepher Yetzirah puts it, there could only be "ten and not nine; ten and not eleven", and so the eleventh quality on the kabbalistic Tree of Life has developed a mystique that comes from being unlike the others. As the sephiroth represent emantations of the divine in creation, Da'ath has progressively taken on the quality of an anti-emanation. It is difficult to place exactly in time the point at which this attribution began to find real coherence. In a book on Kabbalah published in 1965 the author Gareth Knight attributes to Da'ath the Roman god Janus, the two-faced god of portals who is forever looking two ways. However, some of the most vivid depictions of Da'ath as gateway were introduced in the mid 1970s in the writings of the British magician (and joint biographer of Crowley) Kenneth Grant."
- Colin Low, "Dr. John Dee, the Necronomicon & the Cleansing of the World - A Gnostic Trail"

"Da'ath has a dual aspect; on one hand it is our knowledge of the world of appearance, the body of facts which constitute our beliefs and prop up the illusion of identity and ego and separateness. On the other hand it is revelation, objective knowledge, what is often referred to as gnosis. The transition between the knowledge of the world of appearance and revelation entails the experience of the abyss, the abolition of the sense of ego, the negation of identity. From within the abyss any identity is possible. It is chaos, unformed. It contains, as it were, the seeds of identity. It is from this point that an infinity of gates open, each one a gateway to a mode of being. These are what Nathan is referring to as the "Gates of Knowledge."
- Colin Low, Necronomicon FAQ
(Compiled from The Book of the Arab, by Justin Geoffry, Starry Wisdom Press, 1979)


The Ancient of Days (detail)
William Blake, 1794

The Ancient of Days

"According to Genesis 1:27, the human being is created in the image of God. The sefirot are the divine original of that image. As Primordial Adam, they are the mythical paragon of the human being, our archetypal nature. The human race has lost this nature, but if one were to purify himself, he would reconnect with the sefirotand become a vessel for them. This is what the Patriarchs attained and, to a greater degree, Moses."
- Arthur Green in the Preface to the Zohar (Daniel Chana Matt Editor)

"The sefirot[emanation of God] below Keter [the top skull], from Hokhmah to Yesod, are referred to as the Impatient One (Ze'eir Appin; literally, 'short-face', but meaning 'short-tempered, impatient'; cf. Proverbs 14:17) . Keter, the White Head, the highest sefirah, is pure compassion and therefore described as Arikh Anpin, 'long-faced, long-suffering, slow to anger'; cf. Exodus 34:6. The lower sefirotare characterized by a tension between different aspects of the divine: right and left, love and rigor. Relative to Keter, they are impatient."
"Looking back to His source, the Impatient One is soothed and manifests the compassion overflowing from Keter."
- Notes on the Zohar (Daniel Chana Matt Editor)

"When the Blessed Holy One is aroused to delight Himself with the righteous, the Face of the Ancient of Days shines into the face of the Impatient One. Its Forehead is revealed and shines to this forehead. Then it is called 'a time of favor' (Psalms 69:14). Whenever Judgment looms and the forehead of the Impatient One is revealed, the Forehead of the Ancient of Ancients is revealed; Judgment subsides and is not executed."
- Idra Rabba, Zohar 3:136b

"When the desire arose in the the Will of the White Head to manifest Its Glory,
It arrayed, prepared, and generated from the Blinding Flash
one spark, radiating in 370 directions.
The spark stood still.
A pure aura emerged whirling and breathed upon the spark.
The spark congealed and one hard skull emerged, emanating to four sides.
Surrounded by this pure aura, the spark was contained and absorbed.
Completely absorbed, you think?
No, secreted within.
That is how this skull emanated to its sides.
This aura is the secret of secrets of the Ancient of Days.
Through the breath hidden in this skull fire emanated on one side, and air on the other, with the pure aura standing over this side and pure fire over the other.
What is a fire doing here?
It is not fire, but the spark surrounded by the pure aura illuminates 270 worlds,
and from its side, Judgment comes into being.
That is why this skull is called the Hard Skull."
- Zohar

the Will of the White Head
"The White Head is keter, who is pure love and compassion, untainted by judgment...Keter is often called Will."
"The hair on His head was like clean wool."
- Daniel 7:9

the blinding flash
"Aramaic, bozina de-quardinuta/. This is the Zohar's name for the first impulse of emanation proceeding for Ein Sof, the Infinite, through Keter
"The flash directs the entire process of emanation, providing its rhythm and measure. The goal of meditation is to attain this flash and participate in the flow of being."
one spark
"Aramaic, bad nizoza. This is the first point: Hokhmah, Wisdom."
one hard skull
"Binah ["Understanding"], who proceeds from the spark of Hokhmah."
four sides
"The four sides (north, south, east, and west) symbolize four sefirotthat emanate from Binah: Din [Power], Hesed [Love], Tif'eret [Beauty], and Shekbinah [Presence]."
Surrounded by this pure aura
"Hokhmah is absorbed by its source. It does not dissolve there but rather remains hidden and transmits the power of further emanation to Binah."
the breath
"breathed by the aura through the spark of Hokhmah into the skull of Binah."
"Din, (Gevurah), the sefirah of Judgment."
"Hesed, Love."
270 worlds Judgment
"Binah, the product of the spark of Hokhmah, is the compassionate Divine Mother. However, She includes within Herself the roots of Judgment and gives birth to Din, the sefirah of Judgment. 270 may be an allusion to ra, 'evil', which has the numerical equivalent of 270."
- Notes on the Zohar (Daniel Chana Matt Editor)

"Spiritual and psychological wholeness is achieved by meditating on the qualities of each sefirah, by imitating and integrating the attributes of God. The path is not easy. Divine will can be harsh: Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac in order to balance love with rigor. From the Other Side, demonic forces threaten and seduce."
"The ecstasy of sefirotic contemplation, however seems reserved mostly for souls who have departed this world or for the high-priest on the Day of Atonement. Souls of the living who succeed in prayer delight in palaces below Shekbinah/ [the opening to the Divine]. If especially devout, they may be raised to the level of Yesod or attain a sefirotic vision, but the highest sefirot are considered unapproachable. In fact the Zohar forbids contemplation of Binah and what lies beyond Her."
- Arthur Green in the Preface to the Zohar (Daniel Chana Matt Editor)


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