Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tracing the Bet - Part 3

Let us look at a meditation/ritual procedure pertaining to the “Twelve Banners,” which is one of two such procedures I have addressed in fair detail in "The Book of Self Creation," and which I have found especially useful. Both practices have been taught to me under the title “Tracing the Bet.”
Commenting on the twelve “single letters” of the Hebrew alphabet, referred to in the “Sefer Yetzirah,” Aryeh Kaplan makes reference to an exercise in which one meditates the twelve gevulim (boundaries/ definitions) of space, collectively represented as a “cosmic cube” so to speak. We are told that these “boundaries” correspond to the twelve permutations of the Ineffable Name, and that each set of three in turn relates to one of the four directions. In this regard, Aryeh Kaplan wrote “The permutations beginning with Y corresponding to the east; those beginning with the first H, to the south; the V, to the west, and the final H, to the north.”
Aryeh Kaplan further explained that “in each of these four directions, one first takes the upward boundary, then the right boundary, and then the lower boundary. In this manner, one describes the letter Bet on each side. This corresponds to the teaching that the world was created with a Bet, this being the first letter of the Torah.” He mentioned that “the initiate meditates on the four letters Bet which seal the universe on four sides, setting the limits of thought.” To this he adds that the initiate “also meditates the twelve permutations of the Tetragrammaton, which correspond to the twelve diagonals. In this manner, he can reach the level where they extend to ‘eternity of eternities,’ beyond the realm of space and time.”
In the current “Tracing the Bet” exercise, titled “Contemplating Definitions: Gevulim,” the twelve “boundaries” of the “cosmic Bayit” (Cosmic House or Cosmic Cube) are mentally traced in each quarter (direction), in accordance with the pattern of the letter Bet. Here, the “Twelve Banners” are, as it were, virtually engraved mentally, in a manner in which the three permutations comprising each set, sort of slot into one another. In this way, each set forms the letter Bet which can then be clearly visualised. Here are the four patterns associated with the four directions. Remember that the Hebrew text is always written and read from right to left, and also that the positions of North and South are always reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.
Note how the permutations comprising each set, are integrated to form the letter Bet. Working this meditation requires only a little skill, which is easily acquired with regular practice.
Commence by visualising and tracing, i.e. mentally writing or engraving, Y–H–V–H from right to left in exact order, so as to form the upper line of the Bet, simultaneously vocalizing each letter. Next, trace the downward stroke of the Bet with the permutation Y–H–H–V. Starting at the top right, focus the Yod, coinciding it exactly with the one on the upper line, then mentally writing the second permutation from top to bottom, while uttering the sound of each letter. Lastly, trace the bottom stroke of the letter Bet by visualising the third permutation Y–V–H–H, positioning the initial letter of this permutation (Yod) to the right of the last letter (Vav) of the previous permutation. From Right to left, continue tracing the final permutation of the “first banner,” conjoining the second letter (Vav) with the one which concluded the “downstroke” permutation, and completing the pattern with the two letters Heh, again simultaneously uttering the sounds of the letters whilst tracing the concluding permutation of this first set. The same model is repeated with the three permutations of each of the remaining “banners.”
The practice is concluded with a brief contemplation of the four Bet’s, these being the four “banners” formed into the “Cosmic Bayit” (house) which was traced in this special practice. Also remember to pay some attention to the way in which the “Four Banners” are collectively an expression of the Tetragrammaton, each respective “banner” being a letter of the Ineffable Name. You might find it most meaningful to complete the procedure with the standard Hebrew formula:
Baruch Shem K’vod Malchuto l’Olam Va’ed
"Blessed is the Name of his glorious kingdom throughout eternity forever."

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