The Spheres of the Kabbalists Continued
A heavily abridged and notated introduction by Zurishaddai to:
An Intoduction to:
THE SEPHER HA-ZOHAR. OR THE BOOK OF LIGHT.
BY NURHO DE MANHAR.
The words in Blue Italics are generally notes that I have added to fill in the gaps caused by the removal of large portions of text, and to give examples or elaborate on matters either as scriptural texts or other concepts of which I have some knowledge that I consider may be helpful in this study. The scriptural quotes in Red have also been added as I felt a reference was required for the casusal reader.
The great influence of its philosophy is reflected in the writings of Albert the Great, Reuchlin, Raymond Lully, Boehmen, More the Platonist, Spinoza, Balzac, and many others whose names are famous in the annals of literature and learning.
The ancient Jews were not different from other nations in having occult schools and institutions in which secret doctrines were inculcated and imparted to neophytes, or the sons of the prophets, as they are termed in the Bible. These teachings were twofold in their nature and character, and denominated Beresith, or the science of the natural world; also Mercaba, which had relation to heavenly or spiritual science.
That which was received was termed "Kabbalah," a Hebrew word, signifying reception, or, rather, what is received and handed on to others in short aphorisms and mnemonical words, the meaning of which could only be deciphered and comprehended by those who had successfully passed through a long course of esoteric studies.
The common tradition (as to the origin) and most generally accepted is that Moses himself was the real author of Kabbalah, having received it during his residence of forty days and nights on Mount Sinai. After his descent therefrom he imparted it to Aaron, who in turn handed it on to his sons, through whom it was given to the seventy elders of the children of Israel and coadjutors of Moses in juridical government and polity.
Exodus 28:30 And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.
In the pictures depicting the Tree of Life in the previous post, observe carefully the picture numbered sphere 8 as it shows where the Urim and Thummin on Aarons breastplate may have been. The 8th sphere represents Glory (HOD) which is associated with passive and cognitive energies, prophecy and communication.
During the reigns of the various kings of Israel and Judah we gather that this Kabbalah was widely taught and studied in the schools or colleges of the prophets, presided over by hierophants, of whom Elijah and Elisha were remarkable examples.
These occult societies (occult simply means secret and has no more to do with evil than a kitchen knife), were generally distinguished by the wearing of some special badge or emblem indicative of the peculiar occultism of which they were the professed followers and adherents, such as a raven or hawk, eagle or dove, a lion, a wolf, an ox or a lamb.
1 Kings 17:4-6
And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
The above may well indicate that God had commanded the ‘Sons of the Prophets’, in this case from the Raven school to care for Elijah.
The Essenes lived an ascetic life, and at stated intervals indulged in meditation after reading portions of sacred books or writings entrusted to them. "They spoke slowly and with deliberation," says Philo, "regarding eloquence not so much as clearness in expression of ideas. In the interpretation of Scripture they indulged greatly in the use of allegories, as the law appeared to them like a living being. The physical body was the letters and words; the soul was the invisible spirit hidden within them.
The Torah of the wise is a fountain of life, Turning one away from the snares of death.
Many believe that Messiah attended the school of the Essenes and point to his many uses of allegories, as in:
The kingdom of heaven is like unto, with what shall I liken it to ect. And repeated time after time.
They fully recognized that the spiritual world was no remote region in the universe, but was surrounding them and not very far away from them. For them there existed no broad deep gulf, no solid wall or partition between the natural and spiritual worlds.
Ere entering upon the analysis of the Zohar and its contents, we would premise that the Kabbalists teach that the Divine Being has expressly committed his mysteries to certain chosen individuals, who in their turn handed down to others who proved themselves worthy recipients of them. These mysteries relating to man's spiritual existence and guidance are concealed in parts of the Holy Scriptures.
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
The next section will need to be read slowly and carefully but I think it is essential to grasp this fundamental principle:
Adam Kadmon is not Adam the first man in our Bibles and should never be confused with him. Adam Kadmon or the Archetypal Man is also known as the Christ Conciousness.
In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim.
He was in the beginning with Elohim.
All came to be through Him,1 and without Him not even one came to be that came to be. Footnote: 1Eph. 3:9, Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2, Heb. 11:3, 2 Peter 3:5, Ps. 33:6
as it has been written, “I have made you a father of many nations” – in the presence of Him whom he believed, even Elohim, who gives life to the dead and calls that which does not exist as existing,
Letters are the organic elements of speech, and therefore he who taught man language or who made him, as one of the Targums expresses it, "ruach mamelella," a speaking spirit, must have been the author of the letters of the primeval language. The first ten numbers and the twenty-two letters of the alphabet, considered analogically as types of divine operation, are denominated the thirty-two paths of wisdom of which the almighty created the universe. "The works of God," says the author of "Cosri," another famous Kabbalistic work, "are the writing of Him whose writing is his Word, and whose word is his thought, so that the words, work and thought of God are one, though they seem to man to be three." The unit predominates over the three. The three rules over the seven; the seven over the twelve.
The Hebrew alphabet (alephbet) contains 22 letters as does the Tanuk or Old Testament contain 22 books. For more information on letters see my article:
When I first started to write this summary, little did I realise how difficult it was to be. The question of what to include and what to discard is a judgment that I sincerely hope the Holy Set Apart Spirit had guided me in making. What makes it of so great an importance is the words of Christ with reference to leading people astray and the subsequent results or penalties. What hopefully I have managed to do is to reduce a 13,000 word document to around 3,000 words. What I cannot possibly do is to shorten the following and for this reason I have placed it on its own page. When we consider that this is simply an introduction leading to the study of just one book and that there are many others and that we haven't even started studying the writings of the zohar; 10,000 words is in itself perhaps a summary. The only offer of assistance I can make is to colour red whatsoever I consider to be of critical importance or essential to us. The fact is that none of it should go unread and anybody wishing to consider this anything but a passing interest on their part, must read the introduction in it's entirety.
Continuing The Introduction to the Zohar by Nuro De Manhar... from page 8/9 and extending through to page 16.
The body of the books takes the form of a commentary extending over the five books of Moses, viz.: the Book of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and is of a highly mystical and allegorical character, and which was the most general and favored method of teaching and imparting instruction in Eastern countries. In addition to these, there are eighteen supplementary portions, viz.:
1. Siphra Dzeniutha, The Book of Mysteries.
2. Idra Rabba, The Great Assembly, referring to the school
or college of Rabbi Simeon's students in their conferences for Kabbalistic discussion.
3. Idra Seta, The Lesser Assembly, of the few disciples that that remained for the same purpose toward the end of their master's life or after his decease.
4. Sabba, The Aged Man.
5. Midrash Ruth, a mystical exposition of The Book of Ruth.
6. Seper Ha Bahia, The Book of Clear Light.
7. Tosephtha, An Addition.
8. Raia Mehima, The Faithful Shepherd (Moses).
9. Hechaloth, The Palaces.
10. Sithrey Torah, The Secrets of the Law.
11. Midrash Ha-Neelam, The Concealed Treatise.
12. Rose de Rasin, The Mystery of Mysteries.
13. Midrash Chasith, On the Canticles.
14 Maamar Ta chasi, a discourse, so-called from its first words, "Come and See."
15. Ianuka, "The Youth."
16. Pekuda, Illustrations of the Law.
17. Chibbura Kadma, The Early Work.
18. Mathuitin, Doctrines.
The commentary is sometimes called Zohar gadol, the Greater Light; the supplements, Zohar Katon, or the Lesser Light. Though the Zohar is said to be a commentary on the Pentateuch, it must be understood that the interpretation is Kabbalistic, and that the literal sense of the words is only a covering or garment of the true meaning. With the Kabbalists there are two ways of regarding and speaking of the Divine Being. When they speak simply and directly of his nature and attributes their style is severely metaphysical and abstruse, but at other times they indulge in the use of metaphor and allegory to a most extraordinary, if not extravagant, degree, at the same time declaiming against the possibility of any attempt to describe the incomprehensible (because infinite) Being. This is especially the case with the Siphra Dzeniutha, or Book of Mysteries, of which the following extract is a fair sample of its style:
"He is the ancient of ancients, the mystery of mysteries, the concealed of the concealed. He hath a form peculiar to himself, but he hath chosen to appear to us the ancient of ancients. Yet in the form whereby we know him he remaineth still unknown.
His vesture is white and his aspect that of an unveiled face. He sitteth on a throne of splendors, and the white light streameth over a hundred thousand worlds. This white light will be the inheritance of the righteous in the world to come. Before all time En Soph, the boundless One, the unoriginated and infinite Being, existed without likeness, incomprehensible and unknowable. In the production of finite existence the first act was the evolution of the Memra, or the Word, which was the first point in the descending series of beings, and from whom in nine other degrees of manifestation emanated those forms which at once compose the universe and express the attributes and presence of its eternal ruler. To these nine forms is given the common name of Sephiroth, signifying Splendors. The whole or some of these Sephiroth constitute the universe, the manifestation of God, their names being:
1. Kether, Crown.
2. Chocma, Wisdom.
3. Binah, Understanding.
4. Chesed, Mercy.
5. Din, Justice.
6. Tiphereth, Beauty.
7. Netzach, Triumph.
8. Hod, Glory.
9. Yesod, Foundation.
10. Malkuth, Kingdom or Dominion.
The primordial essence is before all things. In his abstract and eternal nature and condition he is incomprehensible, and as an object of the understanding, according to the Zohar, he is nothing, the mystery of mysteries; but he took form as he called forth them all. The ancient of ancients is now seen in his own light; that light is his holy name, the totality of the Sephiroth. The order of their emanation is as follows: From Kether, the Crown, the primal emanation of En Soph, proceed two other Sephiroth--Chocma (wisdom), active and masculine; the other Binah (understanding), passive and feminine, the combination of which results in thought, of which the universe is the effect. The crowned Memro, or Kether, or primordial Logos, is the thinking power in creation, Chocma the act of thinking, and Binah the subject of the thinking. Says Cordovero, author of a famous Kabbalistic work, Pardis Rimmonim, or the Garden of Pomegranates: "The forms of all earthly beings are in these three Sephiroth, as they themselves are in him who is their fountain."
The seven other Sephiroth develop themselves also into triads, in which two antithetical members are united by a third. Thus Chesed (mercy) is the antithesis of Din (justice), and both are united in Tiphereth (beauty). These terms, however, are not used as in our common theology and ethics in the moral or spiritual sense, but have rather a cosmological or dynamic meaning, Chesed signifying the expansion of the divine Will, and Din its concentrated energy. These two attributes are called in the Zohar the arms of God;
The Elohim of old is a refuge, and beneath are everlasting arms. And He drives out the enemy from before you and says, ‘Destroy!’
and Tiphereth, whose symbol is the breast or heart, is the expression for the good they produce and uphold. The next three Sephiroth--Netzach, Hod, and Yesod--are also of a dynamical character, representing the producing power of all existence. Netzach, masculine, and Hod, feminine, are used in the sense of expansiveness and grandeur, and denote the power from which all the forces of the universe proceed and combine themselves in a common principle, Yesod, the foundation or basis of all things. Viewed under one aspect, these three Sephiroth or attributes reveal the Deity in the character in which the Bible speaks of him as Jehovah Zebaoth, or the Lord of Hosts. The tenth and last of the Sephiroth, Malkuth, sets forth the divine sovereignty and its never-ending reign within and by all the others. Thus we see that these Sephiroth are not mere instruments different from the divine substance. He is present in them; but is more than what these forms of being make visible. They cannot in themselves express the Infinite. While each of them has a well-defined name, he, as Infinite, can have no name. Whilst, therefore, God pervades all worlds which reveal to us his presence, he is at the same time exalted above them. His immutable nature can never be meted or scanned; therefore the Zohar compares these Sephiroth to classes of various colors through which as media the divine light shines unchanged as the sun-beam is unchanged, whatever medium transmits it. Again, these ten theogonic Sephiroth are resolved into three classes, and make what is termed olam atzoloth, the world of emanation. The first three are of a purely intellectual nature, and are exponents of the olam maskel, or "intelligent world," and set forth the absolute identity of being and thought. The second triad is of a cosmological and moral character, expressing the energy of rectitude and grace in the revelation of the beautiful. In them the almighty appears as the summum bonum. The remaining triad represents the divine architect as the foundation
and producing cause of all visible being, and is termed olam hamotava, the physically developed world.
Furthermore, these worlds are divided in a fourfold manner, viz.: (1) Atzeloth, emanative world; (2) Bariah, creative world, referring to the higher order of spirits; (3) Yetsira, formative world, including all the heavenly bodies; (4) Asosah, or olam hamotava, terrestrial world, which latter, though containing the dregs of existence, is nevertheless considered as immaterial, for matter in the ordinary idea or conception of it, on account of its imperfection and inability, would be, as an emanation from God, an impossibility and a contradiction. The divine efflux of vivifying glory, so resplendent at its fontal source, becomes less potent as it descends in the scale of being, till, in the phenomenon termed "matter," it exists in its embers, or, as the Kabbalists describe it: "Like a coal in which there is no longer any light." The Zohar gives a beautiful illustration of the intimate and unique relation of three worlds from the flame of a lamp, the upper and white light of which symbolizes the intellectual; the lower and more shaded light, which insensibly blends itself with the upper one, represents the world of feeling; whilst the grosser material, which is beneath all, is the emblem of the physical world. That the above remarks may be better understood, we subjoin the following:
Taking the three central Sephiroth as the highest manifestation of their respective trinities, the Zohar represents the crown as symbol of the one infinite substance; Tiphereth, or beauty, as the highest expression of moral perfection, and Malkuth, the kingdom, the permanent activity of all the Sephiroth together--the presence or shekinah of the divine in the universe. The ground principle of Zohar philosophy is that every form of life, from the lowest element of the organic world up to the purest and brightest beams of the Eternal Wisdom, is an emanative manifestation of God, and consequently that every substance separate from the first great cause is both a chimera and an impossibility. All substance must be ever with and in him, or it would vanish like a shadow. He is therefore ever-present, not with it only, but in it. In him it has its being, and its Icing is himself. All is one unbroken chain of Being, of which the Memra is the second and En Soph the first element. There can therefore be no such thing as annihilation. if evil exists, it can only be an aberration of the divine Law, and not as a principle. With the Kabbalists bereshith (creation) and beraka (blessing) are interchangeable terms. He believes that in the moral world wicked beings will eventually develop a better state of character and conduct; that Satan himself at some future time will regain his primitive angel name and nature. Cordovero asserts that "hell itself will vanish; suffering, sin, temptation and death will be outlived by humanity and he succeeded by an eternal feast, a Sabbath without end." Another teaching of the Zohar is that the lower world is an image of the one above it. Every phenomenon of nature is the expression of a divine idea. The starry firmament is a heavenly alphabet by which the wise and spiritually-minded can read the interpretation of the present and the history of the future.
So with respect to man; he is the compendium and climax of the works of God, the terrestrial shekinah. He is something more than mere flesh and bone, which are the veil, the vestment, which, when he leaves earth, he throws off and is then unclothed. As the firmament is written over with planets and stars, which, rightly read, make the hidden known, so on the firmament of the human surface or skin there are lines and configurations which are symbols and marks of character and destiny. The inner man is, however, the true man. In him, as in the Divine self, there is a trinity in unity, viz.: 1, The Neshama (spirit); 2, Ruach (soul); 3, Nephesh (the sensuous or animal life), intimately related to the body and dissolving when it, the body, dies. The Nephesh never enters the portals of Eden or the celestial Paradise. Besides these elements in us, there is another representing an idea or type of the person which descends from heaven at the time of conception. It grows as we grow, remains ever with us, and accompanies us when we leave the earth. It is known as our ycchidah, or principle of our individuality. The temporal union of the two higher elements, spirit and soul, is not regarded, as with the ancient Gnostics, an evil, but a means of moral education, a wholesome state of trial, in which the soul or lower nature works out in the domain of sense, a probation for ultimate felicity. Human life, in its perfect character, is the complete agreement between the higher and lower selves, or, as the Zohar expresses it, between the king and queen. The soul at present is being schooled and disciplined to this harmony. It is like a king's son sent away for a time from the palace to fulfil a course of training and education, and then to be recalled home. Another prominent doctrine in the Zohar regarding man is the union of the masculine and feminine principles in him, and which in combination form one moral being. Before the earthly state the male and female soul, the two halves of our nature, existed then in union. When they came forth upon the earth to work out their probation they were at first separated, but eventually will come together and be indissolubly united. If probation of final bliss he not accomplished or successfully achieved in one life, another life is entered upon, and then, if necessary, a third. When the work of purification and enlightenment is completed and ended the soul attains to the consummate happiness in the fruition of the divine; that is, in the intuitive vision of his glory, in perfect love, and in that oneness with himself in which it will have the same ideas and the same will with him and like him will hold dominion in the universe as St. Paul himself affirms: "We shall judge the angels."
From this brief outline and sketch of the teachings of the Zohar we may sum them up as follows: Regarding the facts and words of the Scriptures as symbols, it teaches us to confide in our own powers in the task of interpreting them. It sets up reason in place of priestly authority. Instead of a material world distinguishable from God, brought out of nothing by his will and subjected to successive changes in fulfilling the purposes and plan of the creator, it recognizes countless forms under which one divine substance unfolds and manifests itself and all of them pre-existent in the divine intelligence; that man is the highest and most perfect of these forms, and the only one through whom God is individually represented; that man is the bond between God and the world, being the image of each according to his spiritual and elemental nature. Originally in the divine substance, man returns to it again when the necessary and preparatory process of the earthly life shall be finished and completed; for from the Divine have we come, and unto the Divine must we return at last.
The chief aim and object of all systems of philosophy has been to give a rational account of man's relation to the Divine; a right conception of which is the fundamental basis of all social, political, and spiritual growth and progress. Ignorant of this, the mind of man can never become imbued with clear ideas and conceptions as to the true object of his existence, of its whence or whither, and is therefore doomed to wander in a state of mental darkness and incertitude highly prejudicial to the exercise of those faculties by which he is able to investigate the real nature of things and understand the laws governing the universe in which, as a part, he lives and moves and has his being. In proportion that he has attained to the knowledge of nature, and extracted from her the secrets of his being, so has he succeeded in ridding himself from the errors of the past and marched with slow though steady steps towards a higher plane of life and thought, which, having gained, brighter and grander vistas of higher truths present themselves, inviting him to further research and investigation which, though attended with errors and mistakes, have been corrected by experience--the test of all true knowledge and the great and universal teacher of mankind. For this reason the history of philosophy may be described as the epitome of human errors and mistakes, of erroneous opinions and misconceptions; of cosmological systems based upon inadequate notions and imperfect inductions; all of whist had their day and then vanished into oblivion, the tomb of creeds, the grave of specious systems and dogmas that were unable to subsist and endure because they were not the true expositions of human life and destiny.
To trace their origin and investigate their beginning is not without profit and advantage to those students who, comparing past and present systems of religion and philosophy, are thus able to divine and cull therefrom the truth that makes us free, that expands the mind and qualifies us to behold and view things not as they seem to be, but as they are in themselves; so that we catch glimpses of her majestic form not as in a glass darkly, but face to face.