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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Word" & "Number" Squares in Jewish Magic - Part 4

Since the "Magic Square" of the seventh order, the so-called "Venus" square, is fairly extensively addressed in primary Jewish Magical literature, there are again a number of variants. The best known format is once more the one appearing in the writings of Cornelius Agrippa, as shown below:
In the case of this "Magic Square," each row adds to 175, and its total value is 1225. We might note that the same format of the sevenfold square features in "The Kabbala" by Erich Bischoff, as well as in "Hebraeische Amulette mit Magischen Zahlenquadraten" by W. Ahrens, and the mirror image of this square appears in the marginal notes of the previously mentioned 15th century Italian hebrew manuscript:
We should also note that this is not the most popular format of this "Magic Square" in Jewish Magic. That honour belongs to the following square of the seventh order which is extensively addressed in primary Jewish Magical texts, amongst others in "Toldot Adam" by Elijah Baal Shem Tov, "Niflaim Ma’asecha" by Avraham Chamaui, and also in a most interesting Moroccan Practical Kabbalah manuscript in the Jewish Moroccan Heritage Museum in Brussels:
Another interesting variant of this square is again addressed by W. Ahrens in his earlier mentioned book on "Magic Squares," as shown below:
As in the case of the earlier mentioned unusual "Magic Square" of the fifth order addressed in "Hebraeische Amulette mit Magischen Zahlenquadraten," W. Ahrens focussed attention on this variant of the current "Magic Square" for the very same reasons, i.e. the central nine numbers are arranged in the same format as those comprising the "Magic Square" of the third order, as shown below:
As far as the "Magic Squares" of the eighth and ninth order are concerned, I have to date not seen any variants of the "standard" versions. It would seem that beyond the cogitations of Cornelius Agrippa and the "Esh M'tzaref," the marginal notes in the previously referred to 5th Century Italian Hebrew manuscript, the brief references in "The Kabbala" by Erich Bischoff, and the discussion on these "Magic Squares" in "Hebraeische Amulette mit Magischen Zahlenquadraten" by W. Ahrens, there is not much to be found in Jewish Magic on the latter two items.
(More to follow)

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Word" & "Number" Squares in Jewish Magic - Part 3

Having perused the various formats of the "Magic Squares" of the third and fourth order, I thought we might as well take a look at the remaining "planetary" squares and their variants.
Now, the "Magic Square" of the fifth order, commonly called the "Mars square," is depicted in Agrippa's "Occult Philosophy" in the following manner:
In this instance each row of the "Magic Square" adds 65, and its total value is 325. Whilst most enthusiasts of "Magic Squares" would consider Agrippa's version of the square in question to be the most authentic, there are again some variants, as shown below:
The upper square was published in the "Esh M’tzaref," and is also addressed by W. Ahrens in "Hebraeische Amulette mit Magischen Zahlenquadraten." The lower square appeared in the marginal notes of a 15th Century Italian Hebrew manuscript. Be that as it may, in every instance the numerical values of the respective rows, as well as that of the square as a whole, remains exactly the same as the one published by Agrippa.
In addressing "Magic Squares" appearing on a variety of Hebrew amulets held in various German and Austrian libraries and other collections, W. Ahrens highlighted the following very interesting fivefold square:
The values of this square are equal to the other listed "Magic Squares" of the fifth order, but what makes this square particularly interesting are the central nine squares, i.e. the ones numbered from 9 to 17. Tracing those numbers in exact order on the square in question, affords the exact pattern of the "Magic Square" of the third order, as shown below:
Be that as it may, we now come to the "Magic Square" of the sixth order, which is attributed to the "Sun." Cornelius Agrippa as well as W. Ahrens in his "Hebraeische Amulette mit Magischen Zahlenquadraten" agree on its format, which is as follows:
Since the sixfold "Magic Square" is not extensively employed in Practical Kabbalah, I have encountered only one variant which appeared in the marginal notes of the earlier mentioned 15th century Italian Hebrew manuscript, which is as follows:
In both instances, the numerical value of each row is 111, and the total value of the square is the ever so "ominous" 666 of "Apocalypse" infamy!
(More to follow)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Word" & "Number" Squares in Jewish Magic - Part 2

As mentioned in the previous part, there are an inordinate amount of "word" and "number" squares in Jewish Magic. Yet, when one considers the seven standard "Magic Squares," e.g. those traditionally associated with the seven planets, it would seem that despite the hype of Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim and others inspired by his work on this topic, very few of these specific "Magic Squares" are actually extensively employed for magical purposes in Practical Kabbalah. As can be expected, all the mentioned squares do appear in Kabbalistic writings, but, as the late Aryeh Kaplan pointed out, these were mainly employed for meditative purposes.
Regarding the seven so-called "traditional" magic squares, it is widely understood that they follow a definite format, and are always arranged in the same order, however, closer inspection of these items in primary literature reveals many variants. Even as far as the very basic square of the third order is concerned, we notice that whilst the format never alters, the presentation varies in several instances, sometimes even in the same source, as shown below:
As can be imagined, this matter gets a lot more complex with the larger squares, and what the general readership of western magical literature might consider to be "standard" formulas, could turn out to be quite different. As a case in point, consider for example the square of the fourth order, which is presented in Cornelius Agrippa's very popular "Three Books Of Occult Philosophy" in the following manner:
The author of the alchemical "Esh M’tzaref," the "Toldot Adam" by Elijah Baal Shem Tov, and many amulets of both the paper and metal varieties, such as those presented in "Hebraeische Amulette mit Magischen Zahlenquadraten" by W. Ahrens; etc., are in total agreement with this presentation. However, there are variants like the following example from "Mazalot v'Goralot" (Jerusalem - The National Library of Israel Ms. Heb. 28̊3987). The same format also appears in the earlier mentioned "Hebraeische Amulette mit Magischen Zahlenquadraten."
As expected, and as generally conceded, numbers are employed in "magic squares" in exact numerical order, hence in the case of the fourfold square, which is comprised of the first 16 numbers, each row adds to 34, and the total value of the square is 136. Even in this regard, so-called "standards" are not maintained throughout, and there are alternative "Magic Squares" of the fourfold variety in which only certain numbers are employed. This would naturally result in differing values, which are in accordance with the mindset, i.e. the "magical intentions" of the one employing these magical items. As a case in point, consider the following example:
In this instance the numbers 17 to 19 have been added and 9 to 11 excluded, hence each row would now add to 40, and the total numerical value of the square is 160. This "Magic Square" appears in Chaim Vital's "Shaar Ruach ha-Kodesh." It also features in other Jewish magical texts, i.e. "Refuah v’Chayim b’Yerushalayim", etc., and again in a variety of Hebrew Amulets.
Again you might consider such variant squares to be quite rare, but they are employed fairly extensively. The following is another interesting alternative of the fourfold "Magic Square" which is aligned with the Tetragrammaton:
In this "Magic Square," which is addressed, amongst others, in "Shorshei ha-Shemot" by Moses Zacutto, and which also appears in Hebrew amulets, only numbers 1 to 12 are employed. To complete the fourfold square, numbers 5 to 8 are repeated, hence, in this instance, the total of the square is 104, and each row adds to 26. The total numerical value of the repeated numbers is likewise 26, hence this "Magic Square" aligns with the Ineffable Name (), the numerical value of its letters being also 26.
In the case of this alternative "Magic Square," there are further variants as shown below:
The first variant is discussed in "Shorshei ha-Shemot," and the second was addressed in the earlier mentioned "Mazalot v'Goralot" (Jerusalem - The National Library of Israel Ms. Heb. 28̊3987).
(More to follow)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Word" & "Number" Squares in Jewish Magic - Part 1

There are literally hundreds of "Word" and "Number Squares" to be found in Jewish Magic and Practical Kabbalah. Whilst a very large number of these peculiar items are addressed in primary literature, e.g. Shoshei ha-Shemot by Moses Zacutto, etc., many "Magic Squares" unlisted in these documents, were written or engraved on Hebrew amulets. I have already addressed a few of these in an earlier essay titled "The Image on the Cover: 'Universal Shiviti Amulet' - Part 3" [Wednesday, July 20, 2011], and I have also dealt with this to some extent in "The Book of Sacred Names." However, since I am considering this topic in much greater detail in my forthcoming "Book of Hebrew Amulets," I thought I would share some thoughts on these interesting items. As it is, "Magic Squares" are fairly known, and the saga of their origins and development have been traced from the ancient Far East to Near Eastern magical literature, to their employment in the astrological and alchemical literature of Mediaeval Europe, and numerous examples abound in these locales.
Probably the most well known magical "Word Squares" are those appearing in "The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage" translated from a French manuscript by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn fame. In recent years we have seen a new version of this text titled simply "The Book of Abramelin," which was translated from German manuscripts by Georg Dehm. The original title of the German manuscript reads "The Mystical Kabbalah of the Egyptians and the Patriarchs, which is the Book of the True Old Divine Magic," which we are informed was written by "Abraham Son of Simeon for His younger Son Lamech." We are also told that the author grew up in the house of his father in Worms, and hence the translator/editor of the recent version of this text lists the author as "Abraham of Worms," whom he, after some wading through some uncertain documentation, and a lot of careless and forced cerebral conjecture, ascertained with the most "uncertain certainty" to have been the "Maharil," i.e. Rabbi Yaakov ben Moshe Levi Moelin, the 14/15th century Talmudist who was Rabbi of Mainz.
Besides the many glaring differences which can be found between the author of the work in question and the "Maharil," there appears to be one which the late Raphael Patai recognised in "The Jewish Alchemists," and which all and sundry appear to have missed. The style of the "word squares" would seem to indicate the text was not written by an Ashkenazi (German) hand. In this regard Raphael Patai wrote
".....a scrutiny of the magic squares that form the concluding part of the manuscript in both the German and French versions reveals, I believe, important information concerning the original language of the book. In general, Hebrew magical texts abound in non-Hebrew magical names and words used in conjurations..... In Abraham's book, too, there are many non-Hebrew magical words inscribed in the squares, but by far the largest number of such words is in Hebrew, transliterated in Latin capital letters.
These magic squares usually consist of a basic word appearing in the first horizontal line of the square, then the same word written on the left side perpendicularly from the first letter; at the bottom of the square the same appears written backward, and on the right side the same word is written from the bottom up. Finally, the spaces left inside these four words are filled in with words also written back and forth and down and up. The significant feature for our consideration is that the basic words in the great majority of the squares (there are several hundreds in the book) are, in both the German and French versions, Hebrew words transliterated in Latin capital letters, mostly correctly. These Hebrew words have in every case a direct relationship to the purpose subserved by the magic square as stated in the manuscript. Here are a few examples of the basic words, given precisely as they appear in the German manuscript (in the French they are in most cases identical), followed in parentheses by the correct transliteration and the translation, and by the purpose of the magic square as stated in the manuscript.....
The sum total of the rich Hebrew vocabulary appearing in the magic squares attests not merely to a thorough knowledge of both biblical and post-biblical Hebrew, but also to a familiarity with the nuances of living Hebrew as used by the learned elements in the Jewish communities in books, treatises, letters, and other forms of written expression.
An additional important point emerges from a consideration of these transliterated Hebrew words: in both the German and French manuscripts the words are transliterated in accordance with the Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew. Had the author written in German, he would have transliterated the Hebrew words following the Ashkenazic pronunciation that had become prevalent in Central and Eastern Europe from the thirteenth century on.....
The occasional addition of the Spanish plural s allows us to conclude that the person who translated the book from the Hebrew manuscript into German was a Sephardi Jew who transliterated the Hebrew words as he pronounced them, and where he felt that the plural was more appropriate than the singular added the spanish plural ending. After the Spanish expulsion the presence of Sephardi Jews in German lands was not unusual."
I would recommend everyone interested in this topic to carefully peruse Patai's chapter on Abraham ben Simeon in "The Jewish Alchemists." Be that as it may, in the next part we will take a closer look at the use of "Word" and "Number Squares" in Practical Kabbalah.
(More to follow)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Christian/Hermetic Kabbalah, the Christian Saviour and Truth

A couple of days ago, for the umpteenth time, a very "intense" interaction ensued between myself and an individual who, with the fiery zeal of evangelical missionaries, attempted to convince me that the "outmoded deity of the Jews," identified by the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (), was "superseded by Jesus" as expressed in the Hebrew name of the Christian saviour, i.e. the so called "Pentagrammaton" (). I certainly will not burden you with the full details of the altercation, but I thought that since this absurd notion is fairly widespread, I would add my voice to the many who have over the years attempted to set the record straight. The reason is that the mentioned Christian construct is not a Hebrew name, but a Renaissance invention.
Since this elucidation of necessity relates to fundamental doctrines of Christian/Hermetic Kabbalah, I wish to make it absolutely clear that it is not my intention to launch an offensive against the teachings of these traditions. That being said, it should be noted that the "Pentagrammaton" is an invention of the Christian Kabbalah during the Italian Renaissance. The Christian Kabbalists had a great admiration for the concept of the “Divine Name.” In this regard we might consider the teachings of Johannes Reuchlin, who was in fact personally responsible for reformulating the Ineffable Name, YHVH, “christianising” it YHShVH which is often pronounced Yehoshuah or Yeheshuah. It should be noted that there is really no name, divine or otherwise, comprising that spelling in Hebrew, hence it is curious how commonplace it is nowadays amongst Christians of the more fundamentalist mind set, to use this name so glibly and casually as a “genuine” reference to the Christian saviour.
It is certainly clear that over the past two thousand years, the whole of human civilisation has been impacted, sometimes for good and many times for ill, by the overemphasis on the figure of Jesus as “god incarnate,” as well as by the constant drive to “christianize” everything. Whatever Kabbalah may mean to you, I have not seen anywhere in primary Kabbalistic teachings any reference to the exclusiveness of Jesus as a global avatar figure, or to him having had any Kabbalistic mission. I have personally no problem with what people think of Jesus as a “Messianic figure,” since all so-called “believers” are perfectly entitled to their viewpoints applicable to themselves only, in exactly the same manner as those who do not subscribe to the “divinity,” or even the “messiahship” of the Christian saviour.
Johannes Reuchlin invented the YHShVH construct in an attempt to show the importance and divinity of Jesus in kabbalistic thinking. He maintained that human history is divided into three ages. Deriving his ideas about these ages from the Jewish concept of three world ages, these being the “ages” of “Chaos,” the “Torah” and the “Messiah,” and combining these with the teachings of the millennianist Joachim de Fiore, who also spoke of three “Ages” on earth, the first under the rule of the “Father,” the second under the rule of the “Son,” and the third under the “Holy Spirit,” Reuchlin linked his concept of “world ages” to “JHS,” a common abbreviation used in medieval Christian manuscripts in reference to the Christian saviour. To understand his fabrication of the name YHShVH, you need to know what the three “Ages” meant to Reuchlin. He claimed that in the first age, which is that of the Hebrew patriarchs, God revealed himself through the name Shadai; in the second age, considered the Mosaic period, God made Himself known through the Ineffable Name, YHVH; and in the third age, the Christian period which Reuchlin maintained to be the one of “redemption” and “grace,” God is revealing Himself through a five letter name, which is the name YHVH with the interpolated letter, Shin [], thus Yehoshuah which he claimed is the true name of Jesus. In fact, the letter Shin, according to Reuchlin, represents the Logos, the “Word” which became “Flesh” in the person of Jesus as God incarnate.
Due to these and other very fanciful notions regarding the letter Shin by Christian and Hermetic Kabbalists, this glyph has become rather controversial, especially as this letter was allotted a unique status of holiness, when Christian Kabbalists incorporated it into the Ineffable Name to create the Yehoshuah construct. One wonders if there was initially any other reason for the choice of this letter, beyond the fact that this glyph is “three-pronged” in shape (), which gave them lots of ideas about the “trinity”; that it represents “Fire;” and that, interpolated in the Tetragrammaton, it can be pronounced “Yehoshuah.” We are told the latter “is the esoteric name of the Messiah of the Jews and the Christ of the Christians,” the meaning of which is said to be “Jah liberates.” As it is, this construct does not have this purported meaning, and since it does not exist in Hebrew, it does not mean anything at all. The correct spelling of a personal name known to have the mentioned meaning is , which is correctly pronounced Yehoshuah, a fairly common Jewish Name. A “five-letter-name” it is, but not comprising the letters claimed by messers Reuchlin and company.
Now, regarding the special holiness assigned to the letter Shin, it should be noted that in Kabbalah all the Hebrew glyphs are “Holy.” The letter Shin is no more holy than any other Hebrew glyph. In fact, it is worth considering that the Hebrew letters comprise both “positive” and “negative” qualities, and this should be kept in mind when studying each letter-sign. In this regard, the letter Shin is termed “the symbol of Divine Power” as well as of “Corruption.” True, it is the initial of two very important Divine Names, i.e. Shadai (“All-sufficient Unlimited One”) and Shalom (“Peace”). To these we might add other significant concepts like Shechinah, Shabbat, etc., and we might also consider that the letter Shin, in representing Shadai, is the single letter shown on every Mezuzah placed on the doors of Jewish homes.
It is true that is known to be the symbol of “Divine Power,” mastery and peace, but it is equally clear that this letter also denotes corruption and Sheker (falsehood), thus being the initial of the name “Shatan” (Satan). In other words, Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism in general, recognise a dual principle in this glyph. For greater comprehension of this fact, we might consider the saga of the Hebrew letters passing before the Holy One, Who finally chose to create the universe by means of the letter Bet. About the letter Shin the Divine One said “True, you stand for (Shadai), Almighty, Who is the essence of Perfection, but for man, Divinity is interspersed with evil and deception. Inevitably, your neighbour (Kof) and (Resh) will draw you into a (Kesher), an alliance with them to establish (Sheker—“falsehood”) on earth.”
We are told that the three letters comprising “falsehood” appear at the end of the Hebrew alphabet, so that they are far removed from the central axis of the array of glyphs, i.e. the letter Mem representing stability. Furthermore, none of the milui, the full spellings, of each of the other letters comprise any of these three letters. We are further informed that “to counteract the dangerous shin with its potential power to ruin mankind, the Alef-Beis ends with the letter tav, which alludes to Emet, Truth.” In this regard, we should note that (Alef) is the beginning, (Mem) the centre, and (Tav) the end of the Hebrew Alphabet, and that the combination of these letters in that exact order reads (Emet—“Truth”).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Name Elohim in Practical Kabbalah - Part 4

Whilst not really employed singularly on its own in “Practical Kabbalah,” it should be noted that the Name Elohim, has been used for magical purposes in conjunction with other Divine Names, such as the Tetragrammaton, Ehyeh, Adonai, etc., and Elohim as well as the singular El and Eloha, feature fairly prominently in a variety of Kame’ot (Hebrew Amulets). In this regard, one commentator offered us a “magic square” constructed entirely of the Divine Name in question, but he gave no indication as to what its purpose might be:
Now, the singular of the Name Elohim, i.e. Eloah (), as well as its “root” Name El (), are both related to Chesed (— “Kindness” or “Mercy”) on the kabbalistic Tree of Life. Since the Name Eloha is understood to act as a covering for the Neshamah, the Higher Self, it is called (gushpanka d’nishmata), i.e. “Seal of the Higher Soul,” as indicated in Job 3:23 which reads (va-yasech Eloha ba’ado— “and whom Eloha hath hedged in”).
Of course, conjunctions of Names like (El Chai), (El Shadai), etc. relate to different spheres on the sefirotic Tree. Both mentioned combinations pertain to Yesod (— “Foundation”). There are others still of the “El” Divine Name combinations, like (El Elyon) which relate to the sphere of Binah (Understanding) on the Kabbalistic Tree; the very lofty (El YHVH) termed (ha-me’ir ba’olam ha-yetzirah), the “Luminosity of the World of Formation”; (El Adonai) which applies to our physical realm of existence, and is called (ha-me’ir ba’olam ha-Asiyah), the “Luminosity of the World of Action.”
As it is, the Name El Chai is part of an interesting magical procedure involving the procurement of protection against all kinds of demons which beset an individual at night. However, I believe it is most important to consider exactly what such “Demons of the Night” are really all about. Whilst there might indeed be “infernal denizens” who will pester a defenseless individual during sleep, we need to also understand that many “night demons” are the personifications of personal fears.
All of us, at some time or another, have encountered foibles of such a distressing nature, that their impact has later resulted in what is known as “anxiety attacks.” In many instances we may no longer be able to recall the initial causes of such “panic attacks,” yet we might continue to suffer night after night from such self-created “demons.” Whilst many will resort to the most drastic medication to control body, mind and soul, others will use magical resources, like the following amulet, to control all “night demons.”
To construct the Kame’a (amulet), one has to write on a piece of parchment, or clean white paper, the combination ; then seven times the term (Chai—“life”); followed by the name of the angel Pani’el (), also seven times; and concluding with the combination (Ehyeh asher Ehyeh), as well as a set of magical “seals,” like this:
The entire construct is then worn around the neck of the individual who seeks protection against afflictions from “night demons.”