Since my last post was just going over the Sefer Yetzirah again, and I need to catch up with Huck as far as comparing allegories, sefirotic diagram to I Ching, I will proceed immediately to that subject.
TEASING OUT THE ALLEGORY
in another part of his book (p. 216) divides the universe into 7 regions, each with its attendant spirits. Of the 6th he says:
6. The sefira Malkhut. This sefira is the beginning, in ascending order, of the world of the sefirot. This world is higher than the world of motion to which the previous five levels belong. Those preceding levels are all attached to matter in some form, and consequently it is those to which most souls are able to attach. It is impossible, however, for souls to become attached to this and the next level except through knowledge of the secrets of the Torah and the performance of its commandments.
By "secrets" he means the "oral Torah", not divulged to other nations. The one level higher is that of Tiferet, associated with the four-letter name of God (p. 217). The next two lower levels are first, those of spirits associated with the fixed stars and then, below them, the spirits associated with the seven planets. The lowest is the "mutable world" in which we live, associated with the "universal spirit".
's idea is that below the sefirot, are the "worlds of motion", which the sefirot, although at rest, put in motion, through a kind of universal yearning. This is his Kabbalist adaptation of an Aristotelian idea.
It strikes me that motion is characterized by a change in nearness to one or another of two opposites, or more than two. When changing location we go further in one of east vs. west, in one of north vs. south, and perhaps even in elevation. Time passes, and we arrive at a place sooner or later (between "first and last"). Those are the famous four dimensions of Einstein's theory of relativity. The Sefer Yetzirah's fifth is "good and evil", the dimension that Einstein didn't take into account when he said that the atomic bomb was possible. He later regretted his error. It is in that aspect that the atomic bomb is impossible, he later thought.
Although the pairs can be called "North-South", "East-West","Up-Down", "Good-Evil", and "First-Last" (or, in place of the last two, "Breath/second breath" and "water from breath/fire from water"), they do not have to stay that way. The Kabbalists had quite different names for the sefirot, although there may be some allegorical correspondence. With suitable titles, the sefirotic diagram might be able to show us how to achieve balance in achieving the mean between several exremes.
in this same discussion mentions two more pairs of opposites: "Justice and Mercy" and "spiritual and material." And the midpoint is called "Tiferet" (p. 220, http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ewXQ8jM2P0k/V ... ley220.JPG
Jacob took as his measure the sefira Tiferet, the middle line that unites the higher and lower existents, Justice and Mercy, spiritual and material.
So we have "Justice" and "Mercy", i.e. Gevurah and Hesed, in the place of points H and D in the diagram; and we can put B, the highest sefirot, as "spiritual-most" (analogously to northernmost), i.e. Keter, and J, the lowest, as "material-most", i.e. Malkhut. Since the sefirot are spiritual entities, most of them will be above Malkhut. The diagram is necesarily top heavy.
Although we have "Justice" and "Mercy" as two sefirot, we don't yet know which is on the left and which is on the right. Our Kabbalists have decided that between the two, Mercy is closer to God and so higher. In the law, kings often had the power to pardon but not convict. Conviction had to be done by a special agency called the Court of Justice. Likewise we would all be condemned were it not for the clemency of God. Since Hebrew goes from right to left, Mercy would thus seem to be on the right, with a lower number (and so closer to God) than Justice.
You will recall that the Sefer Yetzirah specifies that north is on the left and south is on the right (Long Version 1.22:
Nine: He sealed south, faced to his right, and sealed it with YVH.
Ten: He sealed north, faced to his left, and sealed it with HVY.
Similarly, by Alemanno
's time the Kabbalists seem to have identified "Mercy" or "Love", sefira 4, with the South (Pico, thesis 28.14, Farmer, Syncretism in the West
, p. 351) and "Justice", sefira 5, with the north (thesis 28.6, Farmer p. 349; for both together, thesis 28.24, Farmer p. 355). It might be because the south is warm, like love, and the north cold, like justice. (In contrast, the Sefer Yetzirah characterizes 4 as "fire from water" and 5 as "above".) This use of "north" and "south" suggests that the analogy of a map was indeed part of the Kabbalist construction of the sefirotic diagram, even if it is rotated 90 degrees from what we are used to.
A pair of opposites that Alemanno
does not mention is one that features prominently in the I Ching, that of active/determining vs. passive/receptive. But perhaps it fits under "up/down" viewed in a sexual way, the male being active and the female receptive. Tiferet was frequently viewed as corresponding to the Sun in the heavens, and Malkhut to the Moon. In this case, the mean might be an equal combination of the two tendencies. He does in another place (p. 130, http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-pgEV6RlsDXo/V ... ley130.JPG
The wisdom that Abraham invented is the science of unification which unites opposites, such as day and night, the greater and the lesser light, heaven and earth, north and south, and all other opposites.
The "greater and the lesser light" are the Sun and the Moon, which shine in the day and night respectively. It is their allegorical unification that is being considered.
There is a natural sexual analogy here: the Sun gives light, while the Moon receives light and responds by reflecting the sun's rays. It is like the man and the woman in bed, as conventionally conceived. The midpoint is the phallus/vagina connection. So we have another of the opposing pairs of sefirot, the second of the two on the vertical central axis.
If Tiferet is to be directly connected with all the sefirot, including Malkhut, then it makes sense to identify the sefira just above the bottom one as Tiferet's phallus, connecting with Malkhut through the line FJ as the phallus/vagina union. There is then another allegorical meaning appropriate to this point F, namely, circumcision. It is that symbol of the covenant which every Jew makes with God that is the Foundation of the Chosen People. Hence the name Yesod, meaning Foundation. It is also, I think, what Alemanno
is referring to when he speaks of "the circumcision of Tiferet".
Now, with the allegorical meanings more flushed out, we can consider whether our final two diagonals should go to connect Malkhut with all three of the lower sefirot, down at the bottom, or near the top, to connect the Justice and Mercy sefirot diagonally with the pair above them, so that they are each connected with both of the ones above them.
In the Kabbalist application of the Sefer Yetzirah system, Malkhut is always in danger of being disconnected from the rest of the sefirot. Allemano says (p. 221, http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-pfx9hwV6IWk/V ... ley221.JPG
And the rest of the nations of the world at the time believed that there was no unity to the world, and no connection between higher and lower worlds, so that they understood Malkhut only as separated from the spiritual world. The nations put all their efforts to separating Malkhut, as the ruler of the material world, from the unified structure. But the sons of Jacob, in contrast, strove to unite it to the spiritual world. When they said to Jacob, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one," he replied, "Blessed be His name, whose glorious Kingdom (Malkhuto) is for ever and ever (as in Jewish Liturgy)."
The reason Malkhut is in such a perilous circumstance, requiring constant affirmation of divine Unity, is that it is connected to the sefirot only in one place to Yesod above her, the phallus/vagina linking "up" with "down" and the material world with the spiritual world of God. Allegorically, the phallus is a circumcised one, symbolizing the covenant of God with his people. This act connects God with his people, and for males it cannot be omitted. (For both males and females, in Jewish law, there is also water immersion. The two together seem to be as important as baptism for Christians. But I do not see Jewish Kabbalists discussing this.) Hence the only line between Malkhut (point J on our diagram) and the rest of the sefirot is through Yesod (point F). This the sons of Jacob maintained. Only with Moses was there a return to where Jacob and Abraham stood, at Tiferet.
This point, of the tenuous connection between Malkhut and the rest, was also emphasized earlier by Joseph Gikatilla in Gates of Light
, which was known at the time both in Hebrew and in Latin. He, too, has only one link from Malkhut to the rest. The Bahir diagram is the same. And the same configuration is articulated a little later in Safed by Moses Cordovero. So probably that diagram is the one known in Florence in Alemanno
Pico also emphasized the fragility of the connection. In thesis 28.4 (Farmer p. 347) he says
The sin of Adam was the severing of kingdom from the other shoots.
In other words, cutting off the connection is the origin of sin, i.e. separation from God.
This is also evident in a later thesis:
28.36. The sin of Sodom came from severing the last shoot.
The sin of Sodom is evidence of wickedness, hence separation from God. That he says "shoot" indicates that there is only one connection between Malkhut and the rest of the tree. He also says (p. 359):
28. 31. Circumcision was given to free us from the impure powers that circle about.
28.32. Circumcision occurs on the eighth day, because it is superior to the universalized bride.
Here, according to Farmer (p. 358), "eighth day" = Yesod, the 9th sefira, and "univesalized bride" = Malkhut, the 10th sefira. This confirms the interpretation of Yesod as the phallus, or perhaps phallus/vagina connection, that connects Malkhut as bride to Tiferet as groom.
What we lose in such an allegory, of course, is a more multifarious connection between Malkhut and the rest. If sefirot seven and eight represent obedience to God's commandments (I will discuss that suggestion in a moment), then that could suggest other ways to make the connection. But that would de-emphasize the importance of the covenant symbolized by circumcision, perhaps even suggesting that circumcision can be bypassed, that following the commandments (represented in 7 and 8) is enough.
So what we have, at least tentatively, is the diagram below, in which I have put the last 2 diagonals in blue:
We still have several more parts of the allegory to flesh out. For these we will need to know more about the allegorical meanings of the two remaining pairs. I will have to turn to a different part of Alemanno
's text (parts of pp. 116-138 in Lesley's translation).
One pair not yet part of the allegory is the line from sefira 2 to sefira 3 (C and A in my diagram). sefira 1 (point B), in the middle. In Allemano's classification of goodnesses, this might be the contrast between that which allows the mastery of skills and arts, which he calls "intelligence", and that which imparts understanding, which he calls "wisdom", e.g. on p. 116:
Right Understanding - Science
This includes what the gentiles call Wisdom, and the prophets, Understanding. It is divided into Natural and Political wisdom.
In what follows, he uses the word "wisdom" to apply to these subject-matters very often. He also uses it in the next two sections, on "theoretical knowledge", (p. 117), which includes those of "dialectic and sophistic" (p. 122), "nature and metaphysics" (p. 129), and "intuitive knowledge" (p. 129), on. "Intelligence" was the main way that sefira 3 was understood in the Renaissance, certainly by Pico in the 900 Theses
(see Farmer p. 350f, citing Scholem in commenting on Theses 28.10-13). In Thesis 28.13 Pico speaks of sefira 3 in terms of "mysterium portarum intelligentiae", the mystery of the gates of intelligence.
Granted this distinction, Wisdom would be higher than Intelligence, and so Wisdom would be on the right in the diagram. With this identification, we can see why it is important to have a path between A and D in my diagram, as well as C and H. Love or Mercy, which is what D allegorically is, needs a dose of Intelligence in its application. And Justice needs a dose of Wisdom. i.e. the intuitive grasping of essences, as in the case of Solomon with the two women. Also, there is otherwise a problem of how one ascends from 4 to 3, or descends from 3 to 4, without a path connecting the two, part of the so-called "zigzag path" of ascent and descent through the sefirot. (One could, I suppose, just leap, but the intelligence-love path makes it easier to see.)
The other pair not yet allegorized is sefiroth 7 and 8, E to G, whose meaning is not easy to tease out of Alemanno
's text. I think he has alluded to them in the next part of his book starting on p. 129, which also tells us more about what sefira 2 (Hochma) is, in its highest aspect. My scans of pp. 129-130 are at http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1dfhOEOOUb8/V ... ley129.JPG
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-N5zhGBpZZm4/V ... ley130.JPG
On p. 129, Alemanno
relates "intuitive knowledge" to Psalm 89, which he says the rabbis teach was authored by Abraham, who also wrote the Sefer Yetzirah. And yet Solomon was wiser than Abraham:
Intuitive knowledge, which the prophet also included in the word, "wisdom," is intended by the phrase, "For he was wiser than....Ethan the Ezrahite (I Kings 5:11). The rabbis tell us that Ethan the Ezrahite was Abraham, considered to be the author of Psalm 89: "Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite (v. 1." (Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 4.3) His wisdom is shown by the book he wrote, the Book of Formation , as well as from this psalm (89), which is written about wisdom.
Here it is fairly clear that intuitive knowledge is an important component of wisdom; it is also what the Sefer Yetzirah imparts.
Lesley's reference in parentheses to I Kings, I think, should be 4:31 (http://biblehub.com/1_kings/4-31.htm
), at least as Christians identify verses. The number 89 for the psalm is correct. Looking at psalm 89, I see a lot of pairs of opposites: raging sea vs. still waves, strong enemies vs. enemies slain; heavens and earth; north and south; justice and mercy; faithfulness vs. faithlessness; lovingkindness vs. wrath; sun and moon. And also some implied pairs: day and night, high and low, strong and weak. (Sun and moon contain the opposition of giving light vs. receiving light, and so also active vs. receptive.) It is in reference to this psalm and its spirit, that Alemanno
continues, in a passage I quoted from earlier (p. 130):
The wisdom that Abraham invented is the science of unification, which unites opposites, such as day and night, the greater and the lesser light, heaven and earth, north and south, and in general all opposites. He demonstrated the falsity of the belief in duality, of good and bad divinities, which was widespread n his time. He also introduced the science of the sefirot, which was not known in his time.
The point is that all are from God, and within each is always some of the other. In a similar way, the yin contains yang, darkness contains light, etc. God, despite our faithlessness, will never lose faith in us, etc. So one side of the opposition can change into the other, in the sense of becoming predominant.
Allemano also sees in psalm 89 a division of existents into four parts (p. 130):
In this psalm he divides all existents into four parts: "skies" (shahaq, v. 7), a reference to the spheres; "holy ones" (hna elokim, v. 8), the movers of the spheres; "the great council of the holy ones" (sod qdoshim rabba: v. 8), the world of the seferot; and "mighty one" (hasin yah: v. 9), the agent intellect, which mightily brings all the latent forms from potentiality into actuality, and is affected by the name "Yah," which includes the three highest sefirot.
It would be tempting to say that this doctrine, that the "mighty one" includes the three highest sefirot, implies the doctrine of the Trinity. Others did draw that conclusion, for sure. But that would not be inclusive enough for Alemanno
: God, in the Sefer Yetzirah, is "without end". In fact He includes not only all opposites but all differences (still p. 130):
In the Book of Formation[/i] he [Abraham] is concerned with describing the world of the sefirot, with the single foundation that unites all multiplicity, whether of opposed pairs or not, and with the unification of all the worlds.
And how many worlds are there? In the preceding quote, he had four divisions, counting the upper three sefirot as one "world". However it appears that there is another world there beneath the "skies":
On this last, he says that everything is in the mutable world is in the world of motion, and everything in the world of motion is in the sefirotic world.
Since the celestial bodies were considered subject to motion but not change, this seems to imply a fifth "world" below the skies, which is nonetheless part of the "world of motion". As to why "everything inthe world of motion is in the sefirotic world", this is probably the idea that Malkhut includes everything below it as well.
Other Kabbalists before Alemanno
had four worlds. Although modern commentators on the Zohar do not find it there, Idel has traced this idea, with its distinctive labels, as far back as R. Yitzhaq ben Samuel of Acre, whom he located in Sicily of the end of the 13th century. For Yitzhaq the four worlds are as follows (Idel, p. 247f at http://archive.org/stream/MosheIdelKabb ... y_djvu.txt
The highest one, that of 'Atzilut, is the world of emanation, referred to by R. Yitzhaq in the first A of the 'ABYA' acronym. The next one is the world of Beriy'ah, namely Creation, which is the world of the Divine Chariot, hinted at by the letter Bet. The third, the world of Yetzirah, meaning Formation, is the world of the angels, and corresponds to the letter Yod. Finally, the world of 'Asiyah, the lower world, is to be understood as the world of making.
I would think that the astrological entities would be part of the world of Yetzirah. The parts of the human body are below that. I am not sure where the units of time fit in.
So what does the Sefer Yetzirah
teach? Here is Alemanno
again (p. 130):
This is the science which is acquired through the divine imaginative faculty which is in the soul of the prophet who sees, through his intuition, the sefirotic world.
In other words, when in a trance produced by reciting the divine names in various letter-combinations, having done the proper incantations and obeyed the commandments, this is what the prophet sees, re-enacting the creation. And Solomon sees more than Abraham (p. 130f):
Solomon was greater than Abraham in such wisdom. Whereas Abraham sought to be attached to God through the sefira Gedulah, called "mercy (hesed) to Abraham (Micah 5:20)," Solomon sought to rise to the second sefira, Hokma.
That identification of the second sefira as Wisdom includes the intuitive understanding that comes from God. Solomon rose to that level, we learn elsewhere, by attaching to Tiferet, the unifying center. That is where Moses fixed himself, too. But (p. 131, at http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-3xAXVbvmkzA/V ... ley131.JPG
It is also said that Solomon "was wiser than....Haman (I Kings 5:11)." That is a reference to Moses, about whom it is said, "He is trusted (na'eman) throughout my household (Numbers 12:7)."
How is that possible, for Solomon to have been wiser than Moses? We do not find out until the next page of Lesley's translation (p. 132, at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-y91SnlTLq0Y/V ... ley132.JPG
Doubtless Moses knew better than anyone how the observance of the commandments in the Torah and the avoidance of the prohibitions of the Tarah would benefit the Israelite people; truly, "never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord singled out, face to face (Deuteronomy34:10)." Among the nations, however, Balaam resembled him in his cognate knowledge of spiritual forces available to the gentiles. It was in this knowledge that Solomon surpassed Moses.
is saying that Balaam, a gentile magician and diviner, was comparable to Solomon in understanding hidden spiritual forces, but from a non-Jewish foundation, i.e. from "impure" sources. It appears that Solomon knew both the Jewish and the gentile "wisdom". In that way he was wiser than Moses, by delving into impermissible areas.
In the above quote (from p. 132), I think I see another pair of opposites: positive commandments and negative commandments (i.e. prohibitions). There is a remark by Pico that suggests that these were attached to the 7th and 8th sefirot.
When the Cabalists say that sons should be sought from the seventh and the eighth, those petitions in the inferior merkabah are to be interpreted this way: so that one is asked to grant them, the other not to prohibit them. And which he grants and which one prohbits anyone who is knowledgable in astrology and Cabala can understand from the preceding conclusions.
By "inferior merkabah" I think Pico means the sefirot below the first three. Even though this statement is about petitions and not commandments, the preceding conclusion is in fact about commandments. There he correlates the 4th commandment with the 7th sefira and the 8th commandment with the 8th sefira. I think, from reading Wikipedia's article on the the Ten Commandments, that the 4th commandment would have been "Remember the sabbath, and keep it holy". a positive commandment. (Another possibility is "Honor thy mother and father", also positive.) The 8th would have been "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor", a negative commandment (the other possibility being another "Thou shalt not). So the 7th sefira is about positive commandments and the 8th about negative ones. This division fits the general tenor of the left side of the diagram, which has above the 8th "strict judgment", as opposed to "love" and "mercy" on the other side. Both of the positive commandments have to do with love. In Gikatilla's Gates of Light
, the 7th sefira, Netzach, is the agent of "compassion upon Israel" (Weinstein translation p. 142); the 8th sefira, Hod, is that of God's armies, "to bring low the enemy, win wars", as in Daniel 10:8: "My majesty [veHODi] became a destroyer..." (p. 123).
The middle way here, represented in both Yesod (from below) and Tiferet (from above), is of course not that of doing things that are neither commanded nor prohibited, but rather of attending to both equally. Yesod is the sefira of Righteousness. Tiferet is the agent of compassionate judgment, sending his forces to the right or the left as needed.
The passage from Alemanno
just quoted (p. 132) also articulates another pair of opposites, namely "spiritual forces available to the Jews" and "spiritual forces available to the gentiles". Solomon, it appears, tried to know both. I do not see this pair among the sefirot. Alemanno
is rather bold to include it, but it is also in keeping with the inclusive spirit of this period in Florence.
There is a danger in this project: in knowing the gods of others, one is in danger of worshiping them. Alemanno
sees a metaphor in the thousand wives of Solomon (p. 132).
R. Menahem of Recanati wrote in his commentary ont he Pentateuch: "All my days I ahv been astounded that such a wise man should have been trapped by women, when his own book, Proverbs, is full of warnings about them." When I recognized that the text says that he had a total of a thousand foreign wives (I Kings 11:3), I understood that these mean the thousand ranks of unclean spirits that are influence by the higher tree, Tiferet, and that Solomon, attached to this sefira, tried to complete his wisdom by understanding them. This is what was intended in the verse, "For Solomon went after Ashtoreth (I Kings 11:5): not that he worshipped them, but that he sought to complete his knowledge and went beyond the permissible point of investigation. Solomon tried to understand the customs and cults of the nations."
Looking up I Kings 11: 5, I see that it has "Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites". It seems to me that Lesley has put the quotation marks in the wrong place: they go after "Ashtoreth"; the rest is Alemanno
's interpretation of "went after Ashtoreth". etc. Moses did not try to understand foreign gods (still p. 132):
In contrast, Moses sought only to preserve his power of receiving influences through Tiferet, the commandments of the Torah, as is written: "That caused his glorious (Tifarto) arm to go at the right hand of Moses (Isaiah 63:12)."
The problem is that in trying to understand the cults and customs of the nations, one is letting the door open to idol-worship, by others in one's domain if not oneself. This leads to the weakenng of Israel in the generations that follows. In this context Alemanno
himself is of interest. He studied Greek and Arabic philosophers and even conversed with the Christians of his own time and place. Like the rabbis who commented on the Arabic philosophers, Alemanno
is using this language, which of course the scriptures never heard of, in a way that is like what the Christians do but still tries to be true to Judaism. To many, at that time and since, this was considered dangerous and impermissible.
I do not see in these pages any suggestion that the golden calf was Moses' idea, an idea Idel finds in Alemanno
's Notebooks. In "Solomon's Ascents" Alemanno
says: (p. 138)
..the making of the calf was obviously taken from the science of talismans, as Ezra comments (to Exodux 32:2vv).
But it would seem to have been the Israelites' idea, not Moses, because he says that the Israelites asked God to forgive them (p. 138).
They sought to have God forgive them, and punish their children, for the rabbis say: "No punishment comes to the world that does not contain an accounting for the making of the calf, as indicted by the verse, 'But when I make an accounting, I will bring them to account for their sins (Exodus 12:34) (Exodus Rabba 42; Sanhedren 102a).'"
That was rather mean-spirited of them, to wish that their sons be punished and not themselves, who committed the crime! Alemanno
continues (still p. 138):
Every transgression contains some element of idolatry. But God pardoned them.
So apparently making the golden calf was, although not Moses' idea, at least a transgression. Alemanno
Solomon was wiser than they in building such forbidden idols. They built only one calf, but for his wives he built thousands of them. Like the Israelites, he was pardoned: although his son suffered for his sins, Solomon himself repented at the end of his life and was pardoned...
I am not totally sure what the sin was. Making idols for his wives is letting impurity flourish (and so seemingly unwise). On the other hand, the gentiles have wisdom that Jews may and have used to get closer to God (the learning of which would make one wiser). I have no further clarification. For anyone who wants to try, I give Alemanno
's text 133-138:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YRwkSzmeJVc/V ... ley133.JPG
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WWA0yWCPcN4/V ... ley134.JPG
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-xWwYhQlD_FE/V ... ley136.JPG
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-gmAFtNI9nbU/V ... ley137.JPG
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-5hDlgQPeIAE/V ... ley138.JPG
Of these I have only discussed p. 138.
Given that Malkhut is the gate to Yesod, that Tiferet is in the middle, and Kether at the top, there are, for these 4 sefirot, 2 vertical pairs, one with Yesod as mid-point and the other with Tiferet as midpoint. There are also 3 horizontal pairs, all with Tiferet as midpoint. The five pairs of the Sefer Yetzirah are now all interpreted allegorically.
It might be possible to find 2 more pairs in this same diagram, to the extent that H (Gevurah), allegorically understood, is between A (Binah) and G (Hod), and D (Chesed) is between C (Hokmah) and E (Netzach). It may well be that Strict Judgment is between Intelligence (skill at questioning witnesses and interpreting statutes) on the one hand and negative commandments (sefira 8, prohibitions/negative judgments) on the other. It may well be that acts of Mercy or Love are between intuitive/rational wisdom (sefira 2) and positive commandments/decrees.
This approach to the sefirot in terms of opposing pairs is not foreign to the Sefer Yetzirah. But it is quite different in its particulars. When I look at the Sefer Yetzirah, I see that it, too, often talks of opposed pairs. Of the "mothers" it says:
...The heavens were created from fire, the earth was created from water, and the air from breath decides between them.
...The hot was created from fire, the cold is created from water, and the temperate from breath decides between them.
...The head was created from fire, the belly was created from water, and the chest from breath decides between them.
Correspondingly, in the diagram whose letter assignments are derived from the Book Bahir (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephirot#m ... Hebrew.svg
), the upper horizontal line is associated with Shin, the letter assigned to fire, the lower horizontal with Mem, the letter assigned to Water, and the middle horizontal is Alef, the letter assigned to Breath or Air. That is the only time that I can find where the diagram pictures a mediation between what is signified by the letters. It is probably because in the universe Fire was considered the highest sphere of the elements, Air next, and Water below that.
That is another way in which the diagram is a map: it shows how the three elements are situated spatially in relation to one another. Similarly, in the Bahir diagram, the letters for the seven planets are presented in order on the vertical lines, starting on the top left and working down to the bottom. And the signs for the zodiac there, assuming the Sefer Yetzirah assignments, form a kind of band from the top of our stretched square to the bottom, like the ecliptic except that some constellations are out of order by one or two places (see the end of my earlier post in this thread at posting.php?mode=reply&f=11&t=1049#pr15953
But the Sefer Yetzirah suggests no oppositions, and neither does the arrangement in the diagram. It does mention, in connection with the planets, seven oppositions: life and death, peace and strife, wisdom and folly, wealth and poverty, beauty and ugliness, fertility and sterility, lordship and servitude (Long Version 4.1). But in this case both members of each pair are associated with one planet. So there is no opposition between planets here.
The Sefer Yetzirah also mentions other oppositions. Short Version 5.5 says
Seven: three opposite three, and one divided.
This sounds like three good planets and three bad planets. But they are never named. In the diagram, there are 2 verticals on each side and 3 in the middle. A 16th century alchemical diagram is closer (my scan from Roob, Alchemy and Mysicism
, p. 308):
The Sefer Yetzirah also finds oppositions among the 12. Section 5.5 continues:
There are three who love and three who hate, three who give life and three who kill.
That makes 12, which you might think refer to the zodiacal signs. However does not mention those signs. The passage does associate each of the 12 with different body parts; but these body parts are not, except in two cases, associated with particular zodiacal signs.
So there is a certain tension betwen Alamenno's identification of the opposites, which I have found easy to attach to sefirot as they are positioned in the diagram, and the Sefer Yetzirah's own identification of opposites, which is mostly disconnected from the diagram's oppositions (left-right, up-down, etc.) and even oppositions between qualities mentioned in the text itself. The Sefer Yetzirah, mainly concerned with the creation of the world by means of the Hebrew letters, which in the diagram correspond to the paths between sefirot, has little to say about the sefirot themselves, except that they are a unity made up of five opposing pairs. Alemanno
, like Gikatilla and most other Kabbalists, is concerned with allegorizing the opposing pairs and achieving a balance between the two sides of the opposition.
This tendency to emphasize the sefirot and their relationships rather than the astrological components of 3, 7, and 12 may be reflected in the version of the sefirotic diagram that became most used by Christian hermeticists, namely, that presented by Kircher in 1652 (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... f_Life.png
). If you look carefully on that tree (or any following it, such as Crowley's), you will see that the assignments of letters to paths do not reflect the division into 3 horizontals, 7 verticals, and 12 diagonals at all. Alef is at the top, between Kether and Hokma, and thus would be one of the 12 diagonals. However the Sefer Yetzirah clearly says that it is a mother letter; so it should be one of the horizontals. It is the same throughout. The principle Kircher's tree follows is not that of the 3, 7, and 12 but rather that of simply going from the top down, with Alef at the top and Tau at the bottom. That is good for picturing the allegorical relationships between the sefirot, but not for picturing astrology.
And when Kircher's diagram does add astrology, it does it in a way those who diagrammed the Sefer Yetzirah never dreamed of: it assigns planets to sefirot rather than to the 7 vertical paths, and not simply in descending order but with an adjustment that better fits the meaning of the various sefirot: it goes 4 Jupiter, 5 Mars, 6 Sun, 7 Venus, 8 Saturn, 9 Mercury, 10 Moon. This is a variation on what Pico did in his 900 Theses
, not as what Jewish kabbalists did but as his innovation (Thesis 11>48); the only difference is that Pico made Saturn 8 and Venus 9; he was probably thinking of the left side as "feminine" and the right as "masculine".
But this tendency, too, is anticipated in Alemanno
and probably other Jewish Kabbalists before him, when he associates the 3rd safira, Binah, with Saturn (Idel p. 188 at http://archive.org/stream/MosheIdelKabb ... y_djvu.txt
). How the other planets then run he doesn't say. The Christian hermeticists, as though oblivious to the Sefer Yetzirah, which they also used, then went down the order, similar to Kircher's until they made further innovations near the end, with 8 Hod as Mercury, 9 Yesod as the Moon, and 10 Malkhut-- this last in Jewish lore mainly associated with the Moon--as the earth.
There is another version that also does not fit, namely, the one on the cover of Paolo Ricci's translation of Gikatilla's Gates of Light
, 1515. That one has 17 paths (see http://dcsymbols.com/journey/tree1516.jpg
; I count the forked one as 1 vertical and 2 diagonals). Since the sefirot were always justified by reference to the Sefer Yetzirah, to which Ricci's picture still has a deformed connection (4 verticals, 1 horizontal, 12 diagonals), there must have been 22 paths. It is only Gikatilla's total disconnection from the astrological assignments in his writing that makes such a misrepresentation possible.
GENERALIZATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
, the sefirot, in the context of the sefirotic diagram and Alemanno
's outline of "goods" reproduced in the previous post, constitute a schema not only for human choices but for change in general, as it affects the "world of motion". Someone who can attain the level of the sefirot is in a position to know, for example, whether in a particular case, Justice or Mercy is the stronger, if they are balanced, and likewise for the other sefirot. The sefirot, with God's help, allow one to see behind appearances to the essential.
In the Sefer Yetzirah's own allegory, relating to astrological entities, units of time, and parts of the body, the same is true, but mostly not in relation to the diagram or even the sefirot. The only connection between its schema and the diagram, with the one exception in the case of the three mother letters, is in how the associated letters are grouped in terms of the different types of Hebrew letters, the 3 mothers, 7 doubles, and 12 elementals. Correspondingly, there are 3 horizontal lines, 7 vertical lines, and 12 diagonal lines in the diagram. But that is the only connection. It is even unlikely that in the Sefer Yetzirah the letters constitute paths between sefirot, given that the lower 6 sefirot are most likely faces of a cube, or at least something that one sees when facing different directions; the upper 4 only seem to be concerned with the conditions under which lines are generated, i.e. the conditions under which He speaks (time, goodness).
's view of the sefirot, an analogy might be to Newton's laws. of motion and gravitation. From them it is possible to know in a particular case what will happen to a given object in relation to other objects, knowing their mass, speed, density, etc. These laws are "occult" in operating invisibly; it is not a matter of chains or levers pushing and pulling the objects around. The forces work in a hidden way, known only to the wise, who know both the principles and how to apply them, through the various sciences, to particular cases in the "mutable world".
However in Alemanno
's world numerical operations are not differential calculus but rather gematria supplemented by ecstatic vocalizations of very precise permutations; and the "sciences" include those of alchemy along with astrology and other forms of divinaion. Yet at the same time "mechanics", in which mathematics is an important tool, and "experiment", as specified in his list of "goods", are parts of what we must learn to understand the world. With such means it is possible to make progress toward understanding some of these "occult" forces in the way that Kepler and Newton eventually did. How much their verified theories left out is another issue.
Astrology, given the Sefer Yetzirah, for Alemanno
is the mathematical science that governs the stars, with the sefirot above them. In the Sefer Yetzirah, it is a way from sounds and combinations of sounds called "letters" to entities in the world. How they relate to the sefirot is not even mentioned. Medicine and bodily health are also incorporated in the Sefer Yetzirah, since particular bodily organs are assigned to particular paths. However the parts still must be put together in a coherent whole. The Kabbalists' sefirotic system, as a product of a monotheistic consciousness that includes the "en sof" as its unifying principle, offers this unity.
Apart from the Sefer Yetzirah's mystical assignments of the Hebrew letters, there are the allegorical meanings of the sefirot themselves, not mentioned in that book but interpreted, as Alemanno
does, in relation to cognate biblical verses and kabbalist commentaries. That is how Moses got the power of Tiferet in his right arm, as Alemanno
The sefirotic system then forms, or is understood to form, a kind of "science of sciences", a book for understanding all changes in the lower world, based on knowing the energy in the paths and spheres of the sefirot. It is a kind of "book of changes", in other words. Just as the I Ching is based on the unity between yin and yang, broken lines and whole lines, and the various subjects and combinations under which this unity can play out, on six different axes, so the Sefer Yetzirah does something similar, on at least five different axes and 32 different situations. The sefirotic system makes up for its lower number--32 vs. 64--by recognizing the continuum between the opposites and the middle way. Perhaps the I Ching does so as well, in its own way. I have not studied it.
The I Ching, besides being a book of wisdom-poems, also gives a method of focusing on one or a few of these poems, the method of casting sticks, which may or may not be legitimately simplified by the tossing of coins. That is where the tarot comes in.
When the tarot expresses the sefirot, including the lines between them, it, too, becomes a "science of sciences", focused on a particular person at a particular time. However I doubt if it is one accessible to the ignorant--despite what Alemanno
says about children's interpretations of scripture--but rather only someone like Solomon, who has mastered all the particular sciences, even down to stonecutting and shepherding. (That point would seem to be a given in Camillo's massive theatre of all knowledge and the memory systems to hold it all in one's mind.) Once one knows how the sefirot are charged, one can predict the future, Alemanno
says--just as surely as a physicist today who knows Newtonian mechanics can predict the course of a spaceship, given that he knows the relevant facts to put in the equations. And just as the scientist can adjust the thrust of the rocket remotely to achieve success, so might a Kabbalist be able to adjust the relevant energy levels in the sefirot and their paths. Divination, aided by piety, becomes magic.
With the tarot, it is a matter of understanding that the same basic laws that are expressed in the sefirot govern the distribution of cards, when done in a way that connects them to their divine archetypes. It is a matter of interpreting them according to definite principles. The Sefer Yetzirah then becomes a key to understanding the cards, or at least the 22 "triumphs", now properly seen as "major secrets". Their astrological and medical diagnoses can be read from the letter corresponding to the number of the card. And to the extent that cards can be linked with particular sefirot, by the method of numerical and subject correspondence, it is possible to use their meanings, understood in terms of the Kabbalist commentaries, for occult diagnoses and predictions as well. '
On p. 136 of Lesley's translation, we also learn Alemanno
's explanation of why it is that there is more to the meaning of work than meets the eye. It is something that would apply as well to the tarot:
He [Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes] made every subject comprehensivle to every person, each according to his taste and desire, in order to gather together the thoughts and opinions of the people. He apologized for this by saying, "The words of the wise are as goads (Ecc. 12:11)," to arouse the lazy. As such, they must at first sound like what is familiar to the learner, so that he will accept them; then, when he is receptive, he gradually comes to learn the truth. So the words of the wise teacher must partly resemble the opinions of the fools, to insert a brace of truth. Ultimately, this mixture of the pleasant and the instructive will give the people knowledge of the sefirotic world and the immortality that comes with knowledge of that world.
But there are problems. For one thing, when the paths are assigned to Greco-Babylonian astrological entities, then the allegory of paths as gradations between pairs of opposites is lost--if, for example, the Fortitude card is understood in isolation from Rashness and Cowardice. In that case it may be possible to appeal to "surrounding cards". Perhaps in this context the number cards would have been of use.
More seriously, there is the problem of how to correlate the letters with cards. Is card 1 Alef, card 2 Beth, and so on, or might it go in the reverse direction, as de Mellet supposed? It would seem that the subjects of the tarot sequence are of some relevance, and not merely their number. But how to do justice to both the subject and the number? There is also the question of what letter to assign to the Fool card, which has no number. Maybe it, instead of card 1, should be "Aleph". And apart from the astrological correspondences, may one correlate cards with the sefirot themselves, even past the number 10 (perhaps by ignoring the "1" in front, and reversing the order, as I have suggested at ). At least here there is no problem about what number to give the Fool; the "En Sof" also is unnumbered.
Then there is the question of what the proper order of the sequence is, given that many orders existed by Alemanno
's time. Does it matter, or is there one or more that is correct, rationally and intuitively?
There is also the question of who is qualified to be a tarot reader. Alemanno
admits that astrology is a science even though not Jewish. Is the same true, going in the other direction, for Kabbalah? Is a Kabbalist tarot-reader necessarily someone who follows the precepts ofJudaism, or can others adapt Kabbalah to their beliefs? If so, must they still practice the Abulafian permutations?
In part these problems are simplified when you consider that Alemanno
and the Kabbalsits before him de-emphasized the astrological and biological parts of the Sefer Yetzirah in favor of an elaboration of the sefirot themselves, in ways far beyond what that book imagined. It is possible to get a meaningful Kabbalist interpretation of the cards without considering those other areas, astrology and biology, at all. I have examined this issue at
Papus and others spoke of "triads" within the tarot sequence corresponding to "triads" in the sefirot, such that one mediates between or encompasses the other two. That is very much in the spirit of Alemanno
's approach to the seferot. The astrological, biological, and linguistic reflections are then secondary at best. They are like old things kept for their sentimental value, not thrown out but never actually used in one's current life.They can be used, in the way that children might dress up in the old clothes they find in the attic, but in Jewish Kabbalah, astrology and astrological medicine seem to have been regarded as a kind of foreign accretion picked up in the Babylonian captivity and not really a proper Jewish endeavor. And while it may or may not work in the modern day, the framework of Jewish morality that it projects is still valuable: let the spiritual infuse the material, keep the heart's commandments as though they were agreements with God, love what is lovable and hate what deserves to be hated, develop your practical intelligence and your intuitive wisdom, temper justice with mercy and love with intelligence.