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to convince me that the "outmoded deity of the Jews," identified by the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (), was "superseded by Jesus" as expressed in the Hebrew name of the Christian saviour, i.e. the so called "Pentagrammaton" ().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.”

The Name Elohim in Practical Kabbalah - Part 3

The tradition of representing the Tetragrammaton with , often includes a semi-circle drawn around the three glyphs to indicate the letter Bet as a “crown.” The gematria of the three Yods is 30. Add to this the value of the Bet-Crown [2], and we arrive again at a total of 32. The construct of three Yods and Bet-Crown are understood to refer to:
1. the Divine Glory (Kavod) which is the Torah. In many primary texts we are informed that the concepts of Lev (Heart) and Kavod (Glory) refer to the Torah, because the numerical values of the terms in question add up to thirty-two which pertains to the first and last letters of the Torah. These two letters also jointly form the very concept (heart) which expresses the “Glory of God” in this world. Otherwise it is indicated that the term Kavod appears five times in Psalm 24, which is a reference to the five books comprising the Torah. Thus “there is no glory but the Torah (’ein kavod ’ela torah)”;
2. the “Name of Redemption,” which according to an anonymous 13th century “Commentary on Psalms,” was painted by the ancient Israelites with blood on the doorposts and lintel of their homes on the eve of the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:7), in order to avert the attention of the avenging “Angel of Death.” Each of the three drops of blood is said to have been in the shape of a Yod. Likewise, Simeon bar Samuel writes in Adam Sichli: “The Holy One, blessed be He, transmitted this name of the three yods to Moses our master, peace be upon him, in Egypt when He told him to place a drop of blood on the two doorposts and the lintel. The pious one, may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing, said that the three yods should be written one next to the other.”
Here we see a practical application of the “Thirty-two” — three Yods (drops of blood) = 30 + Bet-House (door posts and lintel) = 2 totalling 32;
3. the three Yods respectively found in the first words of the three verses of Exodus 14:19-21va-Yisa, va-Yavo and va-Yet . These three verses tell of “pillars of cloud and fire” which protected and guided the Israelites. As each of these verses comprises exactly seventy-two letters, these were the ones from which the “Name of Seventy-two Names” is derived. Here we see connections made between this Divine Name, the tradition of the “three Yods,” Kavod, Torah, and divine guidance. In fact, one of the “Names” (number 22) within the “Name of Seventy-two Names” is written YYY (), which is the very one we have been considering here. That is why it is understood that the “three Yods and the crown like a bet” represents both the Ineffable Name and the “Name of Seventy-two Names”;
4. the first words of the three verses comprising the “Priestly Blessing” in Numbers 6:24-28, reading Yevarech’cha, Ya’er, and Yisa .
The “blessing” itself is absolutely magnificent:
Y’varech’cha YHVH v’yishm’recha
Ya’eir YHVH panav eilecha vichuneka
Yisa YHVH panav eilecha v’yasem l’cha shalom
YHVH bless thee, and keep thee,
YHVH make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee,
YHVH lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace;
5. the prayer ha-yom harat olam ha-yom ya’amid mishpat which follows each blast of the shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh ha-Shanah. This prayer comprises exactly thirty-two words, which Eleazar of Worms informed us correspond “to the thirty-two paths by means of which the world was created.....”; and
6. the ten Sefirot, ten Ma’amarot (creative words) and the ten Dibberot (commandments). Each of these groupings represent one Yod whose numerical value is ten, and all of which is encompassed by the “Kingdom of God” (“House of the Lord”). Sefirot/Ma’amarot/Dibberot = 30 + Bet (house) = 2 and the total is again 32.
(more to follow)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Name Elohim in Practical Kabbalah - Part 2

Regarding its usage in “Practical Kabbalah,” Elohim is not extensively employed as a Divine Name on its own in Jewish Magical incantations. I surmise this absence to be due to the fact that this specific Name is traditionally associated in Jewish esotericism with the qualities of “severity,” “judgment,” and “fear.” Clarifying this in terms of Gevurah, the fifth sphere on the sefirotic Tree, Joseph Gikatilla wrote “Behold, the Name that is known as Elohim is the Name that has been appointed for judgment. This appellation is encoded in the verse ‘Judgment is for Elohim’” (Deuteronomy 1:17). He continued “When He, may He be Blessed, performs an activity from the realm of judgment, He is called Elohim. Now, know and see that this realm is called the left side, and this side’s cognomen in the Torah is Elohim, for that side is the side of judgment. This Name judges all who traverse the world with the appropriate judgments, whether they be positive or adverse, for life or for death.”
As it is, the Name Elohim features particularly prominently in the “Creation” saga as recounted in the first chapter of Genesis. Again Gikatilla informed us that “the reason that the Name Elohim is employed throughout the Creation story,” is “to remind you that all creatures were created with the straight line of Din (Judgment), and forthrightness. There are no curves or deceptions.” The prominent position of Elohim in the “Work of Creation” is of particular importance to Kabbalists, since it is believed this pertains directly to the so-called thirty-two “Paths of Wisdom” referred to in the “Sefer Yetzirah”(The Book of Creation). These “Paths of Wisdom” are considered to be the “wondrous hidden ways” through which Elohim manifested the entirety of existence. Tradition tells us that the “Thirty-two Paths” are indicated in the thirty-two times the name Elohim occurs in the creation saga recounted in the first chapter of the biblical book of Genesis:
The great mystics of our tradition quickly noticed that there is, as it were, a “pattern” in this presentation of the “ways of Wisdom” expressing the will of Elohim in the original act of creation. The Sefer Yetzirah informs us that the “Thirty-two Paths” comprise the ten Sefirot and the twenty-two Otiot Yesod (“foundation signs” = letters of the Hebrew Alphabet), but there is really no further specific reference to these “Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom.” However, that single statement in the first verse of the “Book of Creation,” has engaged most intensely the mystical mindsets of Western Esotericists. I personally think one of the reasons for this is the number thirty-two itself, since this figure is associated with three important fundamental concepts of Kabbalah:
1. LeV ( [ (Lamed) 30 + (Bet) 2 = 32]) meaning “heart”;
2. KaVoD ( [ (Kaf) 20 + (Bet) 2 + (Vav) 6 + (Dalet) 4 = 32]) meaning “respect,” “honour,” “abundance,” “importance,” “riches,” “dignity,” “majesty” and “glory”; and
3. the triple Yod () which is used since ancient days by scribes as a substitute for the Ineffable Name.
(more to follow)