Saturday, March 31, 2012

The "Name of Seventy-two Names": A Biblical Spin-off - Part 7

Regarding the four expansions of the Ineffable Name, it would naturally be very useful to investigate all associations and related meanings, but space here would not afford such an intense investigation. This means we have to settle for the essential number 72 addressed in this chapter of "The Book of Sacred Names," and thus limit ourselves to AV , the “Expanded Name of 72,” as well as to the related concept of the “cantillation notes” (Te’amim). As noted, this refers to the highest “World,” Atzilut, and, as it pertains to the actual chanting of the words and Names formed from the Otiot, it represents the elevation and exaltation of all existence through the medium of music and song.
I have had the good fortune of listening to music in a vastly expanded state of consciousness, and I have yet to encounter another medium more capable of raising ones spirit to such heights of Divine realisation. It is thus no wonder that music and song is the expression of AV, the highest expansion of the Ineffable Name in the highest “World.” In this regard, we have the benefit not only of aligning ourselves through the medium of song with the highest “Realms of Being,” the “World” of the “Expanded Name of 72,” but we can achieve this by chanting the “Name of Seventy-two Names.”
Now, the number 72 is related to the Tetragrammaton in yet another manner. The Ineffable Name is often presented in the form of a triangle comprising ten letters. It usually starts with the letter Yod at the apex, followed by Yod-Heh, then by Yod-Heh-Vav, and finally completed with the entire Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh construct, as shown below:
This image was often engraved on silver triangles and worn on the body as protective amulets. It is claimed that the four layers of Hebrew glyphs represent the “Four Worlds,” four principles of manifestation, and four aspects of ones being, i.e. Tzelem or Guf, Nefesh, Ru’ach and Neshamah. The ten letters comprising the triangle are also said to correspond to the ten Sefirot on the kabbalistic Tree of Life, and, as indicated in the following table, the combined numerical value of the letters comprising the construct is again 72:
Of course, one might speculate that the four layers of this “Tetragrammaton Tetractys,” so to speak, would align with the earlier addressed division of the “Name of Seventy-two Names” into four sectors associated with the four glyphs and twelve permutations of the Ineffable Name.
Be that as it may, as can be expected the seventy-two triplets of the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” have been divided into an assortment of segments for a variety of purposes. For example, in some arrangements the Name is divided into nine rows, each comprising eight segments. This specific division is understood to relate to what is termed the nine “rectifications” (Tikunim) originating in Chochmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding).
I certainly do not want to overburden readers with elucidations of complex Kabbalistic doctrines, however we might briefly note that these nine so-called “rectifications” are based on the concept of the “beard” (Digna) of the Blessed One which, we are told, is focussed in Binah, the Sefirah of Understanding on the Sefirotic Tree.
To understand the meaning of this, we need to look at the process of “Divine Emanation” as expounded in Kabbalah. The “Creative Force” commences in Keter (Crown), and thence pours into manifestation via Chochmah (Wisdom), the “masculine” principle comprising pure, undifferentiated “creative force,” and Binah (Understanding), the “feminine” principle in which the “creative force” becomes differentiated, or “channelled” into forms or patterns.
You will notice that the entire process is a union, as it were a “play” between “force” and “form.” In this regard, we are told that the “beard” of the Holy One, is drawn downwards because of the sacred union of Chochmah and Binah. This is said to be the hidden meaning of Psalm 118:5 reading:
Min ha-metzar karati Yah anani va-merchav Yah
Out of my straits I called upon the Lord; He answered me with great enlargement.
In this instance the hidden key is said to be . Two principles are basically being addressed here, i.e. (Yod—Abba [“Father”]) and (Heh—Imma [“Mother”]), respectively associated with Chochmah and Binah, as well as their sacred union from which proceed nine “restorations” (Tikunim) of the “divine channels” through which Shefa, the “Divine Abundance”is drawn into our domain of existence. In Kabbalistic literature these “divine channels” are symbolically termed the “beard” of the Eternal One.
Curiously enough, the “Name of Seventy-two Names” was also divided into two equal parts, each comprising thirty-six of the seventy-two Names. The first grouping commences with
, the first three-letter segment of the “Shem Vayisa Vayet,” and the second grouping with , the thirty-seventh portion of the Name. These two groups are also respectively aligned with Chochmah and Binah, or with the “masculine” and “feminine” principles within Divinity. Again these two groups are often respectively arranged into six rows, comprising six Names each. These are called its “sides” or “edges,” six to the male portion and six to the female.
We might note that the combination (Ani Vaho) is part of a phrase employed as a Segulah, the latter referring to a unique action or an object, often comprised of Divine Names, special signs, words or phrases, which is considered to be a most precious “spiritual treasure” to be employed in a unique manner, in order to affect a physical outcome in harmony with the intention of the one who employs the Segulah. Regarding the Ani Vaho expression, the particular phrase utilised as a Segulah in times of great trouble, distress and oppression, reads:
Ani Vaho Hoshi’ah Na
This exclamation could be translated literally and succinctly to read “I and He save now!” Some readers may recall this phrase to be part of a Hakafah, a special circumambulating practice, which I addressed in the first volume of this series [The Book of Self Creation]. In fact, the very same phrase is traditionally employed in exactly this manner during the Hoshanot processions of Sukkot (Festival of Booths). These procedures are expounded in Sukkah 4:5 of the Mishnah.
Be that as it may, in uttering the words “Ani Vaho” we are expressing the division of the “Name of Seventy-two Names” into the two groups comprising, as said, thirty-six Names each. This is believed to pertain to the “saving from the sea,” the latter being a reference to the Israelites being saved from the Egyptian onslaught when Moses split the waters, and the Israelites passed their way in peace on dry ground, so to speak (Exodus 14). Of course, this aligns directly with the plain meaning of the three verses from which the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” was derived.
(More to follow)

Friday, March 30, 2012

The "Name of Seventy-two Names": A Biblical Spin-off - Part 6

To fully comprehend the intimate relationship between the Tetragrammaton and the “Shem Vayisa Vayet,” we have to consider the kabbalistic “Four Worlds” concept, each “World” being, as it were, a single letter of the Ultimate Word represented by the four letters of the Ineffable Name. In this regard, it is worth noting again the four expanded versions, i.e. full spellings of the individual letters, of the Tetragrammaton [addressed in chapter 1 of "The Book of Sacred Names"]. These four expansions are said to pertain to the “Four Worlds” in the following manner:
Kabbalists use the acrostic ASMaB in reference to these four expansions, and it is understood that the “Four Worlds” came into being as expressions of these expansions of the Tetragrammaton. However, it should be kept in mind that the extended Name termed (AV) does not only correspond to Olam ha-Atzilut, but it is understood the “World of Emanation” actually emanated out of this Name. The same applies to the other three expansions of the Ineffable Name.
However, there are further aspects regarding the “Four Worlds” which need to be considered. We are taught that from the powerful rays of light streaming from the forehead of Adam Kadmon, the primordial human prototype, marvelous forms were emanated into manifestation. These are said to comprise Te’amim (cantillation notes), Nekudot (vowel points), Tagim (crowns), and the Otiot (Hebrew glyphs). Regarding this Gershom Scholem wrote “Thus, two essentially different symbolisms—that of light, and that of language and writing—are here joined. Every constellation of light has its particular linguistic expression, though the latter is not directed toward the lower worlds but rather inward toward its own hidden being. These lights combine to form ‘names’ whose concealed potencies become active and are made manifest through concealed ‘configurations’ (millu’im) where each letter is fully written out by its name in the alphabet. This primordial world described by linguistic symbols was precipitated from the lights of Adam Kadmon’s forehead.....”
Again it should be noted that the listed forms, collectively known by the acrostic TaNTA (Te’amim, Nekudot, Tagim, Otiot), are understood to pre-exist within the inner being of primordial man prior to their radiation into manifestation. Furthermore, they are considered to correlate exactly with the ASMaB, the four expansions of the Ineffable Name, as indicated in the following table:
Both the ASMaB and the TaNTA refer to the manner in which the light of Ayn Sof became inhibited and focussed into forms. However this process is further facilitated in a most meaningful way, because each aspect of the ASMaB and the TaNTA are conjoined with a single letter of the Ineffable Name, as well as with the Sefirot, and finally with a Partzuf (an archetypal image). Thus we have:
Briefly the “cantillation” refers to a style of liturgical chanting indicated by the small chanting pointers in Hebrew scripture. The “vowel points” refer to ten types of markings placed underneath, inside, or on top of the Hebrew letters, in order to indicate which vowels are to be used in the pronunciation of a Hebrew word. The “crowns” refer to the little decorative lines which are placed on top of certain letters in some Hebrew sacred writings:
In this regard, there are also illustrations of the Ineffable Name adorned with twenty-four “crowns,” each of which comprises three apexes or “rays” resulting again in the combination 24 x 3 = 72, as indicated in the following highly decorative illustration:
These “triple-rayed crowns” are understood to align with the “Name of Seventy-Two” Names. Simpler versions of the same image can be found in primary Kabbalistic writings:
In the latter instance the author ensured the four letters comprising the Ineffable Name are clearly distinguishable, in contrast to the more elaborate version in which the letter Heh is represented as a Chet . Be that as it may, such illustrations are particularly popular amongst Hermetic Kabbalists, especially with those who marvel at the “mysteries” of the “Shemhamforash” referred to in works like the “The Key of Solomon” in which the author, purportedly King Solomon, tells us that he had “done great things by the virtue of the Schema Hamphorasch, and by the Thirty-two Paths of Yetzirah. Number, weight, and measure determine the form of things; the substance is one, and God createth it eternally.
Happy is he who comprehendeth the Letters and the Numbers. The Letters are from the Numbers, and the Numbers from the Ideas, and the Ideas from the Forces, and the Forces from the Elohim. The Synthesis of the Elohim is the Schema. The Schema is one, its columns are two, its power is three, its form is four, its reflection giveth eight, which multiplied by three giveth unto thee the twenty-four Thrones of Wisdom.
Upon each Throne reposeth a Crown with three Rays, each Ray beareth a Name, each Name is an Absolute Idea. There are Seventy-two Names upon the Twenty-four Crowns of the Schema. Thou shalt write these Names upon Thirty-six Talismans, two upon each Talisman, one on each side. Thou shalt divide these Talismans into four series of nine each, according to the number of the Letters of the Schema.
Upon the first Series thou shalt engrave the Letter Yod, symbolised by the Flowering Rod of Aaron. Upon the second the Letter HE, symbolised by the Cup of Joseph. Upon the third the Letter Vau, symbolised by the Sword of David my father. And upon the fourth the HE final, symbolised by the Shekel of Gold. These thirty-six Talismans will be a Book which will contain all the Secrets of Nature. And by their diverse combinations thou shalt make the Genii and Angels speak.” These and similar notions found in other writings, have been expanded upon by “adepts” of “Hermetic Magical Orders.”
(More to follow)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The "Name of Seventy-two Names": A Biblical Spin-off - Part 5

It should be noted that, besides the case of the technique delineated in the previous part, a close affiliation is recognised between the “Name of Seventy-two Names” and the “Ineffable Name.” In fact, Kabbalistic doctrine informs us the seventy-two Names can be divided into four groups, pertaining respectively to the four letters of the “Ineffable Name.” In turn, as Moses Cordovero indicated, each of these four groups can be divided into three sub-sections comprising six Names each. These twelve sub-sections are said to relate in turn to the twelve permutations of YHVH as indicated below:
Though related in principle, the Sefer ha-Bahir offers a somewhat different delineation regarding the alignment of the Ineffable Name with the “Shem Vayisa Vayet.” In this text it is maintained that the seventy-two portions of the Name should be divided into three groups, each comprising twenty-four three-letter portions. The appropriate verse in the Bahir reads “These are the 72. They emanate and divide themselves into three sections, 24 to each section. Over each of these sections is a higher Officer. Each section has four directions to watch, east, west, north and south. They are therefore distributed, six to each direction. The four directions then have a total of 24 forms. [This is true of the first section] as well as the second and the third. All of them are sealed with YHVH, God of Israel, the living God, Shadai, high and exalted, who dwells in eternity on high, whose name is holy, YHVH. Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.”
In this instance the three sections of the “Name of Seventy-two Names” are respectively aligned:
A. with the original three verses from which the seventy-two Names were derived (Exodus 14:19–21);
B. with three “Officers,” these being the archangels Gavri’el, Micha’el and Ori’el;
C. with three concepts, termed “princes,” these being the “Axis, Sphere and Heart,” which my late mentor, William G. Gray, referred to as “Space, Time and Events”;
D. with the three appearances of the Ineffable Name in the priestly blessing which reads “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.” (Numbers 6:24–26);
E. with the triple declaration “YHVH is King, YHVH was King, YHVH will be King,” which is part of an acrostic poem recited on the first day of “Rosh Hashanah” (the Jewish New Year); and lastly
F. with the three “Holies” of the famous Kedushah which reads “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
In the earlier listed quote from the “Bahir” we are informed that each of the three sections of the seventy-two Names “has four directions to watch, east, west, north and south. They are therefore distributed, six to each direction.” In this instance the actual arrangement is quite straightforward, as shown in the following table:
(More to follow)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The "Name of Seventy-two Names": A Biblical Spin-off - Part 4

Another, perhaps not so well-known, meditational usage of the “Name of Seventy-Two Names,” one which I have personally found particularly useful, is based on the teaching that the visualisation of the letters of a Hebrew Divine Name activates the Spirit Forces embodied in the letters. This practice incorporates the same procedure of intertwining Divine Names addressed earlier in "The Book of Sacred Names" in terms of the Tetragrammaton, Adonai and the “Forty-two Letter Name.” In the current instance the procedure is worked in the following manner:
The application requires one to picture the four letters of the Ineffable Name in ones mind, visualising them slightly separated, and then to fit the three letters comprising each of the seventy-two combinations comprising the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” respectively into the three spaces between the letters.
However, I was taught that before one could commence this meditation, one should recite Exodus 15:1 three times in Hebrew. It reads:
Az yashir mosheh uvnei yisra’el et ha-shirah ha-zot la-YHVH va-yomroo leimor ashirah la-YHVH ki ga-oh ga-ah sus v’roch’vo ramah bayam.
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto YHVH, and spoke, saying: I will sing unto YHVH, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.
The utterance of this verse is then followed by the recitation of the entire “Name of Seventy-two Names” prior to working any of the visualised unifications of each three-letter portion of the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” with the Ineffable Name, as depicted above.
(More to follow)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The "Name of Seventy-two Names": A Biblical Spin-off - Part 3

As can be expected, besides the many vocalisations of the “Name of Seventy-Two Names,” there are equally many variant uses of these “Names.” In this regard, let us commence by looking at the earlier mentioned use of the Shem Vayisa Vayet as a meditation device. As indicated, Abraham Abulafia, the “father” of Ecstatic Kabbalah, vocalised the individual letters with the standard vowels associated with their respective appellatives, as shown below:
The fundamental intention behind this meditation is to cause an influx of Shefa, Divine Power, into your own being. To accomplish this you are instructed to prepare yourself most carefully prior to working this meditation. In this regard Abulafia wrote: “Prepare yourself, unify your heart, and purify your body. Choose a special place for yourself, where your voice will not be heard by anyone else. Meditate alone, with no one else present. Sit in one place in a room or attic. Do not reveal your secret to anyone.” As in the case of formal worship, you are to sit facing towards the East during this meditation.
Abulafia further advised that you should wear clean clothing, preferably white. He also mentioned that this meditation should be practiced preferably at night, when many candles should be lit “so that your eyes are well illuminated.” However, he also maintained that this meditation could be worked during the day, but that you should then meditate in a darkened room. You are also instructed, “when you prepare yourself to speak to your Creator and you desire to witness His might,” that you should be careful to clear your mind of all extraneous thoughts, and then to “wrap yourself in your Talit (prayer-shawl)” so as to “increase your awe and trembling before the Divine Presence which will visit you at this time.”
In the current instance the meditation incorporates the visualisation of each triplet of the “Name of Seventy-two Names,” the component letters of which are carefully mentally engraved, as it were, whilst each letter is slowly vocalised “with complete concentration and with a proper, pleasant, sweet melody.” As is the case with Abulafian meditations, there are “heart” and “head” movements, as well as a number of breaths accompanying the utterance of the letters of each triplet. Abulafia instructs that “since your heart is internal, move it mentally. But your head is external, and therefore, you must move it physically. Move your head following the actual form of the vowel point associated with the letter that you are pronouncing.” These special movements are indicated by five nikudot, Hebrew vowel points, these being:
Abulafia offers the following detailed instructions on the head motions:
“The vowel point written above the letter is called Cholem (o [oh]). This is the only vowel point above the letter, since all the others are written beneath the letter. When you pronounce [the Cholem] together with the letters Yod and Kof, begin facing directly straight ahead. Do not incline your head to the right or left, upward or downward. Keep your head straight and even, like the balance of a scale, just as it would be if you were speaking face to face to a person of the same height as yourself.
Then, as you draw out the sound of the letter while you pronounce it, begin to move your head so as to face upward, toward the sky. Close your eyes, open your mouth, and let the words shine. Clear your throat of all phlegm, so that it should not disturb your pronunciation. As you exhale, continue to raise your head motion simultaneously. If you complete the head motion before the exhalation, do not lower your head until you have exhaled completely. Between each letter, you may rest and prepare yourself. At this time, you can take as many as three breaths, like those associated with the pronunciation. [One breath for each of the three letters, three breaths = twelve breaths].....
The vowel point which is called Kametz (a [ah]), looks like a line with a dot below it. When you pronounce it with one of the ten associated letters, chant the letter, and move your head from left to right in a straight line, as if to trace the top of this vowel point. Then bring your head back so that you are facing directly forward toward the east..... Conclude by bowing down slightly [so as to parallel the dot beneath the line of the Kametz]. Complete [the exhalation and head movement] simultaneously, as I instructed you by the first vowel.
The next vowel is the Tzeire (eh [ei]), which looks like two dots next to each other, one to the right, and one to the left. As you pronounce it with one of its seven associated letters, begin the pronunciation and the motion simultaneously. Move your head from right to left, the reverse of what you did with the Kametz.....
When you pronounce the Shin, you will make use of the Chirek (i [ee]), which has the form of a single dot below the letter. As you pronounce it, move your head downward, as if you were bowing down to God, who is standing before you, and to whom you are speaking. This is the precise opposite of the head motion associated with the Cholem.
With these four vowels, you have crowned God as King [over the four directions]. When you pronounce a Nun, also make Him King. Begin by looking straight ahead, stretching your neck forward as much as you can. Do not raise or lower your head, but keep it facing straight forward. This is the form of the Shurek (u [oo]). It consists of three dots, one under the other.....It can also be a single dot in the centre of a Vav.....Both cases imply the same thing.
Through these five vowels, you have crowned God as King in all six directions of the universe. These are up and down with o and i, right and left with a and e, and backward and forward with u.”
Chaim Vital, who maintained this meditational procedure could be used to achieve “Ru’ach ha-Kodesh,” i.e. enlightenment, states that implementing this technique does not only require you to work in a room set aside especially for the purpose in question, but that, prior to implementing the meditation in question, you should separate yourself from all worldly care and avoid every possible contact with living creatures. It would seem the technique is worked whilst in a standing position, and you are required to interact with an imaginary human standing in front of you.
When ready to commence the actual meditation, you have to raise your hands, shaping the fingers into the format originally used by the “High Priest” when bestowing blessings, as indicated in the following image:
Then you address the imaginary being in front of you, saying slowly and softly: (rosh ha-rosh—“beginning of the beginning”). Using a different tone of voice, reply with the first letter of the “Shem Vayisa Vayet,” saying “Va whilst imagining the being to be the one who is responding. Repeat the procedure saying (sof ha-toch—“end of the middle”), and in turn respond with the second letter of the “Name of Seventy-two Names,” saying “Ha. Then conclude by saying (rosh ha-sof—“beginning of the end”), and respond with the third letter of the “Shem Vayisa Vayet,” saying “Va.
Afterwards, the hands are lowered and fingers returned to normal. Focussing on your lowered hands, consider your fingers to be representing the ten sefirot, five opposite five—the ones of lovingkindness to the right and those of justice to the left. Then raise your left hand and place it over your heart, afterwards raising your right hand and placing it over the left hand, thus indicating “mercy over might.” The entire procedure is repeated with all the tri-letter portions of the “Name of Seventy-two Names.”
(More to follow)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The "Name of Seventy-two Names": A Biblical Spin-off - Part 2

Having established the seventy-two segments of the “Shem Vayisa Vayet,” we are now faced with the issue of their actual verbal expression, of which there are a number of different ways in existence. Moses Zacutto addressed some of these in his “Shorshei ha-Shemot,” and offered the following vocalisations of the “Name of Seventy-two Names”:
Excepting the following variances: (14) Mavah, (20) Fehil, (21) Nalecha, (22) Y’yay’, (24) Chahu, (26) Ha’i’a, (36) M’nad, (37) An’, (38) Ch’am, (42) Miyach, (43) V’val, (47) ’shal, (51) Hachash, (53) Nina, (54) Niyat, (56) P’vi, (57) N’mam, (58) Yiyal, (61) Vamav, (63) Anu, and (69) R’ei, the vocalisations Zacutto listed in his “Shorshei ha-Shemot” match those presented by Moses Cordovero in “Pardes Rimmonim.”
A variety of ways have been suggested as far as the vocalisation of this remarkable Divine Name is concerned. It has been proposed that each portion of the “Name of Seventy-two Names” should be vocalised with the vowels segol–sh’va–segol. Accordingly the intonation of the seventy-two Names would be VeH’Ve, YeL’Ye, SeY’Te, EL’Me, etc. In this instance the vocalisation of the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” is aligned with the vowels of (Eh’yeh), which is said to greatly increase its power.
In another instance, employing this Name as a meditation device, Abraham Abulafia, asserted each letter comprising the “Name of Seventy-two Names” should be vocalised with the vowel directly associated with the name of each letter, e.g. (Alef) is uttered “ah”; (Bet) is pronounced “Beh”; (Gimel) is voiced “Gih”; etc. Other variances remain in a number of manuscripts and publications dealing with the “Name of Seventy-Two Names,” however, some forty years ago I was taught to enunciate the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” in the following manner, which is effective, powerful and easily memorised:
(More to follow)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The "Name of Seventy-two Names": A Biblical Spin-off - Part 1

A friend and fellow Sangreal Companion asked me if I would consider sharing on this blog a complete section of "The Book of Sacred Names," i.e. the section titled "A Biblical Spin-off" from the chapter dealing with "The Name of Seventy-two Names." According to my dear "Brother in Light" in this specific portion of the book, the mentioned Divine Name is explicated in a most coherent manner which would benefit all seeking a deeper insight into this most enigmatic Divine Name. So in honouring the most sincere request of a close friend, and in memory of one who passed away yesterday to continue his journey in higher realms of existence, I am now sharing the mentioned reflections on "The Name of Seventy-two Names."
It should be noted, a major portion of what is termed “Practical Kabbalah” revolves around special meditational and ritual practices employed to open the heart and mind of the practitioner, this being understood to be a necessary prerequisite for anyone wanting to align with those special Spirit Intelligences from whom higher wisdom might be gained. In this regard, as I am sure you can imagine, there are numerous adjurations, incantations, and other ritual techniques which have been passed down the ages and preserved by serious practitioners, i.e. the Sar ha-Torah and Sar ha-Panim narratives in the Hechalotic texts of Ma’aseh Merkavah; the remarkable meditations of Eleazer of Worms, Abraham Abulafia, Yehudah Albotini; the Yichudim and Kavvanot of Lurianic Kabbalah; etc.
A remarkable feature of this great literature, is the use of Divine Names to facilitate a direct communication with a Maggid (Spirit Messenger), or even with a Bat Kol (a Divine Voice [Daughter Voice]). Linked here is a subject of very special interest, i.e. the Shem Vayisa Vayet known as “Name of Seventy-Two Names,” “Seventy-two Letter Name of God” and even as the “Shemhamforash.” The latter is actually a misnomer as the term “Ineffable Name” really refers to the Tetragrammaton (YHVH), the Divine Name incorporating the past, present and the future, and which we noted earlier is considered to be the most sacred of all Hebrew Divine Names.
Over a period of around thirty years I have collected a rather hefty and constantly expanding file comprising documents pertaining to this specific topic, some passed on to me in person by other investigators and practitioners, whilst the majority of which were drawn from the growing list of primary sources which have become available to the general public since the 1980's. What follows next is the final product of my very careful research into the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” termed the “The Name of Seventy-Two Names.”
Now, this Divine Name was derived from three verses commencing with the words Vayisa Vayavo Vayet (Exodus 14:19–21). These verses read:
(Verse 19) vayisa malach ha-elohim ha-holech lifnei machaneh yisra’el vayelech mei’achareihem vayisa amud he-anan mip’neihem vaya’amod mei’achareihem
(Verse 20) vayavo bein machaneh mitz’rayim uvein machaneh yisra’el vay’hi he’anan v’hachoshech vaya’er et ha-lailah v’lo karav ze el ze kol ha-lailah
(Verse 21) vayet mosheh et yado al ha-yam vayolech YHVH et ha-yam b’Ru’ach kadim azah kol ha-lailah vayasem et ha-yam lecharavah vayibak’u ha-mayim
(Verse 19) And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them: and the pillar of cloud removed from before them, and stood behind them;
(Verse 20) And it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud and the darkness here, yet gave it light by night there; and the one came not near the other all the night.
(Verse 21) And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
Each of these three Hebrew verses comprises exactly seventy-two letters, and from these were formed the “Name of Seventy-two Names.” The Zohar informs us that these three verses respectively correspond to three Sefirot, i.e. the first verse to Chesed (Mercy), the second to Gevurah (Strength or Severity), and the third to Tiferet (Beauty or Balance).
As it is, the letters comprising the three verses were combined in a unique manner to construct the “Name of Seventy-Two Names.” Whilst the letters of the first verse were written in the normal Hebrew manner from right to left, those of the second verse were written in reverse order, i.e. from left to right, directly underneath the first line. Lastly the letters of the third verse were again written in the normal Hebrew manner from right to left, again directly underneath the second line. Afterwards the lines of letters were read in columns of three letters each, and so the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” or “Name of Seventy-Two Names” was discovered, each of its seventy-two Names comprising three letters as shown in the following chart:
It is interesting that all the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, except the letter (Gimel), appear in the “Shem Vayisa Vayet.” It has been said this letter, the value of which is 3, is the “key” to this Name, since the seventy-two associated name-portions comprise three letters each. One could say that represents the user of the “Name of Seventy-Two Names.” Thus all the letters are employed when the Name is spoken: twenty-one letters to be uttered, and one for the one pronouncing the “Shem Vayisa Vayet.”
As noted, the verses from which the “Name of Seventy-two Names” is derived, pertain to the biblical saga of Moses stretching forth his hand to part the waters of the sea, whilst a “pillar of cloud” and “the angel of God” separate the Israelites from the Egyptians, their erstwhile oppressors. In fact, tradition would have it that Moses not only learned the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” at the “burning bush,” but there are actually statements to the effect that Moses used the “Name of Seventy-Two Names” to part the waters of the sea, which allowed the Israelites safe passage. There were also claims that the Eternal One had in person edged this remarkable Name onto Moses’ staff.
Another notion, popularly promulgated in Christian and Hermetic Kabbalah as well as in Masonic literature, is that Jacob the Patriarch encountered these seventy-two three-letter names in the rungs of the ladder which he dreamed about, and which was “set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12). Some suggested that the very angels who were ascending and descending “Jacob’s Ladder” were equally numbered exactly seventy-two.
(More to follow)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Kabbalah," "Cabala" or "Qabalah".....?

As said in "The Book of Self Creation," it is clear that while one may understand and accept that much diversification has been going on regarding this Tradition, especially over the last century, and having closely investigated such “variances,” we equally recognise that Kabbalah would become meaningless if its fundamental principles were compromised. In other words, principle Kabbalistic teachings and rudimentary reasoning cannot simply be altered in accordance with personal whims. Hence it is necessary to first understand the central, vital core teachings behind this Tradition, before adjusting parameters in alignment with personal perceptions. One simply can no longer speak of Kabbalah when the supposed stable primary doctrines of this tradition have been sacrificed in the fray. Sadly, such has been the case in a lot of works written in the name of Kabbalah, while they bear little or no relation to the Tradition. Often basic teachings of this tradition are sidelined and even dismissed out of hand.
When you come to think of it, Kabbalah is much more than the current assumption that the doctrine of the “Tree of Life” and the ten Sefirot comprise the entire teaching of Kabbalah. In fact, the “Tree-Concept” was originally only a small part of Kabbalah, and a relatively unimportant one at that. It is mainly Gentiles who expounded and increased it to its current central place in our system. It is certainly a lot clearer, more direct, and much easier to understand than the “letter-number” permutations of early Kabbalah. Yet, if the principles of “Letter-Number Kabbalah” are understood, some remarkable practices, meditations and “inner communications” can be found in this form of mysticism, which can produce some really far-reaching results for the individual who knows the system.
The entire arena of “Ecstatic Kabbalah” is based on this system. Few of these practices were, and still are, available to the modern public. A major part of the system often amounted to no more than mental exercises which enabled the brain to cope with the obscure problems of existence. To some extent it could then be likened to a cryptic crossword, in which the satisfaction came in the exercise of ones mental faculties. This was however never the only value of the “Letter-Number Kabbalah.” There was certainly a lot more to it as the practices of Shemot (Divine Names), Yichudim (unification exercises) and Tzerufim (permutation practices) show quite clearly.
Today the tendency is to think that there is really more than one Kabbalah so to speak, with three categories specifically identified: 1. Traditional Kabbalah—the one as understood to apply to Israel alone; 2. Christian Kabbalah; and 3. Hermetic Kabbalah. The latter two refer to the tradition as interpreted and worked on by Gentile scholars for the Western Inner Tradition at large, and we understand that though the basic formulae are the same, the application and exegesis are very different. End of story? Definitely not. This is a very simplistic and narrow viewpoint, in which the strictly Jewish origins of the Kabbalah are often ignored, not to mention that even in Traditional Kabbalah there are many divergent voices regarding practically every topic within that sector, that one would have to divide what is viewed collectively as “traditional” into many subcategories.
However, most modern researchers are still inclined to speak of “pre-Lurianic” and “Lurianic Kabbalah” in reference to the earlier mentioned two distinct periods in the development of Kabbalah. The first which could be termed “Zoharic,” not entirely correctly as an early Kabbalist like Abraham Abulafia did not belong in this category, culminated in the writings of Moses Cordovero, while his pupil Isaac Luria started a new trend which is now called “Lurianic Kabbalah.”
There are many who, in trying to indicate the distinction between Traditional Kabbalah and the one as applied in the Western Inner Tradition, use the spelling “Qabalah.” It has been suggested by several authors, specifically from the “Hermetic Schools,” that the spelling of the term “Kabbalah” should be varied in order to indicate variant applications, i.e. “Kabbalah” in reference to “Traditional Kabbalah”; “Cabala” to indicate the Christian variety, and “Qabalah” for the “Hermetic Kabbalah.” I have found no use for this kind of variant spelling for a variety of reasons, amongst others:
1. The common use of the “K” spelling is a fairly recent one, apparently introduced to create a consensus. However, it should be noted that many Rabbis, historians and other scholars have been using the “C” spelling when discussing what we might loosely term “Traditional Kabbalah.” In fact, to date there are still French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Swiss authors, amongst others, who are still using that spelling in their studies of mainstream “Kabbalah.” The suggestion that the “C” spelling be used exclusively to designate a Christian variant of Kabbalistic thinking, would create confusion as far as a veritable host of works are concerned, which were written over a period of more than a hundred years. Likewise the “K” spelling was and still is being used by scholars around the globe in their discussions of “Christian Kabbalah.”
2. The division of the Kabbalistic Tradition in this manner into the mentioned three categories is seriously problematic. It suggests a uniform pattern of thought to be prevailing within the “Jewish Mystical Tradition,” which is patently an inaccurate portrayal of the tradition over the thousand and more years of its existence.
Besides the obvious differences between, for example, the teachings of Isaac Luria and that of the author of the Zohar, marking distinct periods in the development of the Tradition, there are enormous differences and major disagreements between Kabbalists living in the same era, with regard to even the most basic tenets of Kabbalah, e.g. the ten Sefirot, etc. Pertaining to this specific concept, there were Kabbalists who did not like the sefirotic system at all, and rarely made use of it. Moreover, there were thinkers within this tradition who did not agree with Talmudic studies, yet these very individuals are considered part of that tradition. In fact, there are several absolutely distinct “Kabbalistic traditions” and diverse schools of thought which developed over the centuries, some of them considered to be heretical, yet many of the latter kind are now generically accepted as part of what mainstream religionists term “Kosher Kabbalah.”
3. As far as I am concerned the word “Kabbalah” is a Hebrew term with only one spelling. The transliteration of this word has been somewhat problematic due to the fact that the sound of its initial letter is represented by two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, i.e. Kaf and Kof. The latter letter is the one used in the word itself, and has been designated “C,” “K,” or “Q” by different authors, thus the variants in the spelling of the word in languages using the Latin alphabet. Trying to use those variants to denote three different approaches within the Tradition does not work for anybody using the Hebrew, Greek or Cyrillic alphabet. Thus such usage cannot be universal.
Settling for one common spelling, i.e. “Kabbalah,” and then clearly indicating a specific subsidiary of this tradition under discussion—Ecstatic Kabbalah, Theurgic Kabbalah, Prophetic Kabbalah, Lurianic Kabbalah, Christian Kabbalah, Hermetic Kabbalah, etc., is far more useful and accurate. Besides, there is in truth only one “Kabbalah,” the teachings of which are wielded in as many ways as there are people to invent them from their personal perspectives. Provided the core principles and doctrines of the tradition are understood and upheld intact, there can be an infinite number of variant interpretations.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Metatron, Divine Names & Mezuzot

A while back we discussed an item termed the “Universal Shiviti Amulet,” a poster size talismanic construct comprised of verses from the biblical "Book of Psalms," sets of Divine as well as Angelic Names, and Chotamot (Magical Seals). In expounding its pattern and contents in "The Book of Sacred Names," I addressed in great detail the set of magical and meditational practices associated with it. As indicated previously, amongst the many details comprising this "Shiviti Kame'a" is the following striking image in its very centre:
In an earlier essay we noted that it is comprised of the six letters of the Name Taftafyah positioned in the corner triangles of the hexagram. As mentioned in a previous essay on this blog, Taftafyah is considered amongst the most potent Sacred Names, certainly one which, in combination with the “Shield of David” (hexagram), was amongst the most popular protective magical charms of the mediaeval world. In fact, the two interlaced triangles of the hexagram comprise the symbol of Metatron, the holy intermediary between heaven and earth, and the Name Taftafyah is traditionally associated with the biblical King David, who is said to have had this Divine Name engraved on his golden shield, hence one of the uses of the “Universal Shiviti Amulet” pertains to being saved from belligerent people and circumstances by invoking the “Minister of Protection,” Taftafyah, whilst visualising the “Shield of David” (Hexagram) with the six letters of the Divine Name displayed on it. Similarly, Moses Zacutto informs us in his "Shorshei ha-Shemot" that one can dispel anxiety and fear by tracing the Name on the central “Shield of David” (Hexagram) of the “Universal Shiviti Amulet” with the six letters of the Divine Name displayed on it, whilst simultaneously intoning “Taftafyah.”
Be that as it may, it is the powerful Divine Name Shadai in its very centre which I wish to address here. As it is, this remarkable Divine Name is a most ancient Divine Name indeed. There has been a lot of debate and speculation as to what the word really signifies. It is generally accepted that it means “Almighty,” however some scholars conjectured that the Name was derived from Shadu, the ancient Akkadian word meaning “mountain.” Thus the “Almighty” would be seen to be strong, fortified, immutable, and it is quite true that many deities in ancient Mesopotamia were associated with mountain-tops, which is why the Sumerians constructed Ziggurats (Holy Mountains) as places of worship.
Others tried to prove that Shadai derives from the root “shadad” (meaning “to plunder” and “to devastate”) which would make Shadai a “destroyer” rather than a “protector.” This is a highly unlikely derivation, as the usual purpose for invoking this Name is always for protection, i.e. against demons and magic. The authors of the “Jewish Encyclopedia” thought that the Name could possibly have meant “‘overmastering’ or ‘overpowering strength,’ and that this meaning persists in the divine name.”
As said however, the “power of protection” came to be associated with this name, and many written Kame’ot, providing protection against demonic spirits, the “evil eye,” imprisonment, the sword, etc., often start with: “In the name of Shadai, who created heaven and earth.....” There were even hand positions developed in ancient times to reflect this name, e.g. the arrangement of the fingers in the shape used during priestly blessings as shown below:
The shape of each hand is meant to indicate the letter (Shin), the initial of the Name (Shadai), thus invoking the power and protection of the Almighty. Another of these hand shapes is the famous “Fig” sign of the clenched fist with the thumb inserted between the two forefingers, believed to drive away demons. The ordinary folk used to bend the hands and fingers of their deceased family and friends into this sign, which irked the Rabbis no end. These insisted that their flocks should abandon such heathen customs and straighten the hands of the departed prior to their burial. To the outraged horror of the clergy, the people went a step further and modified the “heathen practice” into shaping and bending the fingers so as to portray the name Shadai.
Of course, one cannot mention “Hebrew amulets” and the Name Shadai without reference to the famous Mezuzot (singular Mezuzah) affixed to the doors of Jewish homes, and which Joshua Trachtenberg maintains “retained its original significance as an amulet despite rabbinic efforts to make it an exclusively religious symbol.” He continued stating that in “the Middle Ages it is question whether its anti-demonic virtue did not far outweigh its religious value in the public mind.” He quotes Rabbi Meir of Regensburg’s remark that: “If Jews knew how serviceable the mezuzah is, they would not lightly disregard it. They may be assured that no demon can have power over a house upon which the mezuzah is properly affixed. In our house I believe we have close to twenty-four mezuzot.”
The potency of the Mezuzah was believed to extend beyond the protection against demons, as it was also guarding against untimely death. The Zohar splitting the name Mezuzah into zaz mavet (“death departs”) was understood to be a clear reference to the death defying power of Mezuzot. However, having these attached to your doors in ancient days, certainly did not protect you against the suspicions of gentile neighbours, as Trachtenberg reports: “According to Rashi, pagan rulers long ago suspected Jews of working magic against them when they affixed the little capsules to their doors.” But then he also says that “some Christian prelates in the Middle Ages were eager to place their castles, too, under the protection of the humble Mezuzah.”
There are very strict rules as to the material, time and place of manufacture of a Mezuzah, but I certainly do not intend to turn this commentary on the magical uses of sacred writ, into a discourse on how to construct Mezuzot. However, one of the striking features of these tiny objects is a little hole or a little window on the front of the container, through which one can observe the Divine Name Shadai or the Hebrew letter Shin (which represents the name). Thus, to this day the Divine Name invoking protection is placed on the doors of every Jewish home who takes the practice seriously, and the power of Shadai is being invoked every moment of the day somewhere in the world.....even as you are reading this.
However, from the Middle Ages onwards it appears that this Name was debased to rather lowly purposes, as were many other Divine Names. Folk obsessed with “buried treasure” and hunting everywhere for the hidden hoard, were using divining-rods in their search, and constructed various magical formulas in which the “spirit guardians” of the treasures were exhorted “In the name of El Shadai, the rock of ages.....” to “Leave the silver and gold there.....” etc. I have very little to say about this Name of Power being reduced to such vulgar indulgences serving man’s greed.
A much greater consideration of the power and importance of this Divine Name, is the understanding that its force is expressed in the Archangel Metatron. As it is, the gematria of the letters in both the words (Shadai) and (Metatron) equate. Abraham Abulafia wrote in his Chayei ha-Olam ha-Bah (Life of the Future World), “Thus, ‘our way is his strength’ (Dark-enu Koch-o = 314). Likewise, ‘our strength is his way’ (Koch-enu Dark-o = 314).” This is of course the value of Metatron and Shadai. Abulafia continues: “Behold God’s name Shadai. This is Metatron. He is the ‘Prince of Names’ (Sar HaShemot), who speaks the ‘authority of the Name’ [Reshut HaShem].” Note that the Hebrew terms Sar HaShemot and Reshut HaShem contain the same letters. So the understanding that the power of Shadai is within Metatron, would also mean that every time one invokes this Divine Name for protection, etc., one automatically also calls upon the “Angel of the Divine Presence.”