Reading Sa’adia

I have been reading the Saadian version of the Sefer Yetzirah quite a bit. It isn’t long at all so it is easy to read it once before bed or sometime in the evening. Not quite every night, I sit down to contemplate through some piece of it. If I want to look at just one section and absorb it, I tend to read either Chapter 1 and Chapter 4.

There is a horizon of texts around that, too. I am reading into the meat of Kaplan’s commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah (which is spectacular and opens many avenues). I have pulled down my JPS translation of the Tanakh, glancing at Genesis and Isaiah, looking up a verse referenced in Kaplan’s discussion. I have various texts that excerpt Ibn’Arabi’s Meccan Revelations close to hand and have turned to them frequently when they seem to offer perspective on the material at hand. I’ve cracked the Bible for clarification (Mary Magdalen at the now-angel-occupied tomb features prominently).

I’ve just checked out Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglements. Keller’s text has turned out to be much less promising than its title suggested (I was genuinely hoping for planetary entanglements to refer to the planets and their presence in Christian mysticism), but it is oddly resonant. Let me share some examples for your amusement.

I had just mused about Don Quixote as the opening of the anthropocene, sorted through the apophatic dimensions of the depths, and corrected myself for forgetting the Jupiterian thunder in geomantic assignments before getting the text. The first section I open to in the book is called “The Thunderclap of Entanglement.” The book opens with Keller’s youthful recollection of playing for the musical The Man from La Mancha. One of the major strands of the book deals with the kataphatic possibilities of apophatic discourse. There is an aside about Anne Conway and her discussion of cloud formation resonates with, and informs, what is going on in Chapter 4 of the Saadia text’s discussion of Breath and the formation of the solar system.

I keep thinking that I am going to sit down and write about all this reading specifically, develop and respond to them from within their own place, but I instead find myself on this gnostic radio station talking about distortions and interference patterns, the matrix contra the sefirotic archetype, the concubine, Inanna and Ereshkigal, Aphrodite, Orion, Andromeda, and Draco. to the extent that I have managed to talk about that reading, it always takes a turn away from the material and toward its edges, toward the exiled unclean words and the blood red holy spirit.

This shouldn’t exactly be surprising, I guess. Take a look over this blog and you see again and again the same network of topics and it was exactly the sympathy between those topics and the Saadia material that brought me back into all this. What it tells me me, though, is that all of this talk belongs to the constellation of material from which Christianity, Islam, and Judaism take their departure, except it is a different departure.

If there is a problem with this departure it is that it has, historically, had a great deal of difficulty taking place in an honest fashion. Too often, in the history of both Islam and Christianity, the departure has been forbidden and so those called to it have had to do so by way of concealment, in spite of the clear prohibitions regarding such behavior within the Bible and Qur’an themselves that endorse separation over forced conflation.

These are the only departures, either, just the ones closest to this. There is a long history of departures, back into prehistory, from which a common strand of inarticulate history undertakes a series of departures to manifest the diversity required to give voice to the invisible majesty of the divine. There is the departures undertaken into Asia, Australia, and the Americas, the flows through the mother continent of Africa, and the spread outward into the waters.

It isn’t always about departure, either. It is also about return, about the coming back together of something that had been separated in departure. Too often, though, the return is used to dismiss the necessity of departure, the necessity for a path to be taken away, that I think it best to focus on departures, especially for the work that calls most to me, which has been under great pressure to not depart. Most genuine returns are departures all their own, with the joining requiring those coming together to depart from long habits of separation.

The Mother of Our Departures has her own place in all this and in tracing all of these shifts, breaks, and distortions, I am bearing witness to her presence in the work. That requires this close relationship with her partners, which is why all of this circles back through the mystical material of texts that often make her exclusion essential. What runs there also runs through her in ways that illuminate deeper mysteries. There is a wound that opens in all of this which has yet to run clean.

Here, I haven’t done this in a while. Have my earworm:

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2 thoughts on “Reading Sa’adia

  1. Pingback: Permutations: Sefer Yetzirah and Astrology | Disrupt & Repair

  2. Pingback: From the Seven Churches to the Twelve Gates | Disrupt & Repair

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