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vol. 1, p. 162
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< Cabalism. The Sepher Jetzera or Book of Creation (continued from page 1-161) >

The creative air is represented by number two. In it He engraved the twenty-two letters. The water is represented by the number three: in it he engraved darkness, emptiness sad slime (void earth and water, the source oi matter). The fire is represented by number four. “In it he engraved the throne of His glory, the Ophanim, the Seraphim, the sacred animals and the ministering angels, and from these three he formed his habitation; as it is written, ‘He maketh the wind his messengers, taming fire his servants.’” Cod is not immediately connected with universe of matter and form, but his creative fiat is the active energy giving motion, life and vitality to matter of both the celestial and mundane worlds. In the celestial it is manifested in the form of light, which in the mundane is not seen. It is the light that shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. It is also called intelligent light, and by Ibn Giberol, an Arabian philosopher who flourished in the second half of the eleventh century, as “the substance of the intellect" or more properly speaking the receptacle or soul of the intellect. It is therefore the soul of the celestial world.

Then comes the hexade, which represents space in six directions: east, west, north and south, as well as height and depth; in the center of which is the holy temple supporting the whole. This symbolic division of the universe is more clearly shown by the following diagram representing the tetrade and hexade, united from the decade, which correspond to the ten sephiroths, representing a spiritual outline of the universe. The astral light bears the same relation to the hexade as the celestial light does to the tetrade. The two combined form the soul of the astral and mundane worlds. They Also constitute the soul of man. The soul of the hexade is therefore dual, consisting of celestial and astral light. The former is the life and dynamic principle of the hexagonal division of the universe, but is not visible to the physical senses on account of man’s degradation. It is this light that gives to man supreme wisdom, for it opens to him the divine and omni-present causal world. It is alleged that this light was lost by the fall of Adam, and the re-finding of it constitutes illumination and initiation into the great mysteries. Every individual soul possesses it in a dormant state, and the searching for it constitutes the basis of Cabalistic teach- ng. It is represented in the hexade as the Holy Temple.


Then follows the twenty-two letters, of which God having drawn, hewed, and weighed them, (corresponding to weight, measure, and number,) and variously changed and put them together, formed the souls of everything that has been made or shall be nude. These letters are divided into three groups, as follows: —

1st. The three mothers, or fundamental letters.

2d. The seven double letters.

3d. The twelve single letters, or simple consonants.

The three mothers—Aleph, Mem, and Shin—represent the three primordeal elements, air, water, and fire or light, which are yet partially ideal and etherial, become more palpable in their course of emanations. The celestial fire develops itself into astral light; the element water concretes into moisture and the element air becomes the universal ether of the hear enly spheres, thns forming the three fundamental types of the universe. These elements thicken still more, and give birth to another order of things; fire developing itself into heat, from water emanates cold, and from the air winds and storms.

They extend in another direction. Celestial fire or light represents the human head, which is the seat of intelligence; the air represents the chest, which is called the hermetic bellows, and the water represents the abdomen and genital organs, water being regarded as the womb of nature, from which all forms proceed.

The three letters Aleph, Mem, and Shin, also represent the elements phonetically. Aleph is a gentle aspirate, symbolizing air, and is expressed with a soft, full breath. Mem, as a labial or mute, symbolizes water, and is expressed with a continued wavering sound. Shin, as a sibillent, symbolizing fire, and is expressed with a hissing sound. This triad may be arranged as follows: —

Macrocosm—Fire, Water, Air.

Microcosm—Head, Genitals, Breast.

Revolution of time, Heat, Cold, Moisture.

The three primordial elements develop themselves still further in the seven double letters, viz.: Beth, Gemel, Daleth, Caph, Pe, Rath, and Tau. These seven consonants symbolize in the Macrocosm the seven planets. In the Microcosm, the seven sensuous faculties, and in the evolution of time the seven days. As these seven letters have a double pronunciation, hard and soft, they also symbolize the opposites in the movements of human life, viz: —Wisdom, Riches, Fruitfulness Life, Liberty, Peace, and Beauty. The opposites are Ignorance, Poverty, Barrenness, Death, Bondage, War, and Deformity.

They also correspond to the seven ends, vis: Above, below, cist, west, north, south, and the Holy Palace in the centre, which supports them.

The primal triad is developed still further into twelve parts, which are symbolized by the twelve simple consonants. The macrocosm into the twelve signs of the zodiac; the macrocosm into twelve active organs; and the revolution of time into twelve months of the year. This triad continues to evolve gradually into an infinite variety of forms, which proceed from the combination of a few. Thus the Hebrew alphabet by combination and transformation yields an endless variety of words, form, and figures, which are made to represent all the varied phenomena of nature. The book Jetzera, as well as the Sohar, contemplates God, the infinite and inscrutable being, as reigning over but not apart from organic existences. They teach that each element flows from a higher one, and all have in them the word, or Holy Spirit, which is the fountain of Living Water. The number One contains the All, and from it comes the first emanation of the divine substance. Therefore the one is over the three, the three is over the seven, and the seven over the twelve, and the whole inseparably connected, representing the unity and synthesis of God as manifested in nature. Creation, as delineated by the Sepher Jetzera, may be compared to a pyramid pointed at the top, which represents the beginning, and its base the manifold component parts. The book also teaches that throughout the universe there are two perceptible opposites, with a reconciling or harmonizing medium, which is represented by the three primordial elements. These opposites can be traced in the cosmic, telluric, and organic spheres, as well as in the moral world. The opposites are the two pillars of the temple, united by the arch, which is the symbol of harmony. The latter is the unique law, and results from the analogy of contraries. Separate the pillars by the destruction of the arch, and the temple falls, which is symbolized in the allegory of Sampson in the destruction of the temple. Hence we find that God has placed in all things one to oppose the other—good to oppose evil; good proceeding from good, and evil from evil, the former resulting from harmony, and the latter from disharmony.

The book Jetzera is regarded as the basis or key of the doctrines of the Sohar, but the arrangements of the works differ somewhat. In the latter, the ten sephiroths are unfolded with a greater amplitude than in the former. In the Sohar, they are no longer symbolized by numbers, but are <... continues on page 1-163 >

Editor's notes

  1. image by unknown author