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)

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