Talking about the sefirah and the sippur yetzihas Mitzrayim reminds me that I have a little notebook post that I have wanted to make for a while about Pharaoh as a spiritual power. His redemption at the last moment forms part of Ibn al’Arabi’s account of Moses in the Bezels of Wisdom, making him something like a mediating power between the necromantic absorption of Mitzrayim’s wisdom. He also shows up in the Justin’s Baruch as the tenth angel of Mother Eden.
Reading the account of Exodus adds depth to that way of thinking. One of the strange things about Exodus is that God is regularly described as hardening the heart of Pharaoh against Moses and Aaron. This suggests that in some basic fashion, the destruction of Pharaoh is as much a part of the Exodus as actually getting the Hebrew people out of Egypt. I think that we are seeing Pharaoh prepared for his role as mediating power between the line of Moses and the wisdom of Egypt.
Interestingly there are ten plagues, which parallels the ten sefirah, and Pharaoh’s heart is hardened seven times, the number of the double lines. That hardening starts to look like his heart being treated with the power of the double lines while the plagues activate the power of the sefirah in Egypt, beginning the process of dissolution (see my last post on the sefirah for their destructive character).
We might be able to flesh out what that hardening entails, too, by looking to the process of the ascent described by Ibn al’Arabi in the Meccan Revelations. As the saint proceeds toward God, they leave behind a piece of themselves at each waystation, and with each hardening we can think of Pharaoh being driven further and further from his kingship in the world toward his redemption and installation in the realm of formation where he will serve Moses.
That Egypt is called Mitzrayim underscores a sympathy between the account of Exodus and that of Ibn al’Arabi. In Ibn al’Arabi’s cosmology there is an important term, barzakh. Barzak refers to the realm that both separated and joins this life from and to the next life, but has its roots in a term that refers to an impassable barrier where salt and fresh water meet (like the sea of reeds) and refers to all kinds of obstacles and limitations. Similarly, Mitrayim is related to a word referring to a sea strait and refers more generally to constraint and limitation.
Egypt as the source of limitation, a symbol for the world as black iron prison, with its Pharaoh who is nonetheless doing the will of God, whose hardening installs him as the gatekeeper between this world and the heaven of God.