I have discovered there is a rhythm that works fairly well for me as I work my way deeper into the Sefer Yetzirah. I take a set of lines and begin working through them as a structure, contemplating them as they are represented on the diagram with which I focus my work alongside their witnesses. After a lot of that, I find myself drawn toward the letters proper, which is usually when things get more intense. After I have spent some time with the letters, the next structural unit starts to come to the fore, although with each step the previous letters remain present and active.
I am still working my way toward the elemental letters. Maybe that isn’t too surprising since they will complete the tree, which is a fairly big step which doesn’t happen overnight, or even over the narrow span of weeks. As I have been preparing myself, I have found the structural preparations to be intriguing all on their own.
What I am struck by about the elementals is that they manifest a much more subtle and internal set of processes than are expressed in the doubles and a more dynamic set of processes than are expressed through the mothers. The diagram represents this by having most of the elementals contained within the body of the diagram by the doubles. Only a four of the twelve diagonal lines operating in the diagram define the outline of the tree.
This has set me to thinking about the way in which the doubles relate to the planets and, more significantly, how we might think about the doctrine of signatures in light of this. The doubles manifest the face, our dynamic and responsive network at the heart of sensorium and a key means through which we are able to express ourselves to others. By contrast, the elementals manifest internal organs that organize themselves in relationship to the structures defined by the doubles and mothers.
The doctrine of signatures is essentially a statement about the properties of an organism based on its ‘face,’ based on the externally visible structures that give it an outward form. Those who have a facility with the doctrine of signatures learn to read the ‘face’ of plants and animals in an extended sense, using the outward face to determine the relationship between those bodies and certain powers usually identified with planetary potencies.
While I would tend to separate out the planetary influence as a direct impact on the signature, it does make sense to compare the signature on the organism to the signature of the planet which shares the creative relationship to the element of the ‘face.’ In other words, we learn to see Bet’s influence in the face of an organism and thereby understand something of Bet’s influence over Saturn. (The planets as doubles make sense, too, because like the face they are a more mobile and responsive dimension of the heavenly witnesses.)
The elementals do play an important role in the signature, since their structure can constrain the face taken by the shape, but reading the elementals in the signature takes more skill, and I suspect it plays a role in distinguishing symptoms, in distinguishing variations in the face that are caused by disruptions in internal, hidden processes.
It also makes it useful to consider the role played by opening up animals and plants in particular ritual circumstances. It makes sense of sacrifice as referencing an inner system aligned with the stars proper, in which the hidden interacts with the outward. From there, we get into the complex relationship between early anatomy and sacrifice, between reading the hidden signatures and the diagnosis of illness in the living.
There are implications, too, for the sort of work that makes modifications in the ‘face’ of a situation versus those that make modifications in its elemental aspects, implications for the coordination of those…in short, there is a whole prospectus of study on the other side of the constituted tree.