Rethinking Astrological Priority in the Sefer Yetzirah

I’ve been going through the thirty-one drafts that I had accumulated for this blog. I went through them ruthlessly and was left with nine posts that I can’t quite let go. They were composed at various points over the last few years, some reference discussions on blogs that don’t exist, and they are united in not quite fitting in with whatever I was working on at the time, oftentimes picking up a thread from an earlier post that I had left behind.

I want to shut this blog down cleanly, so before I get to the summation I am going to clear them out. That means some rewriting and, so far, that process has already resulted in one of those posts being binned, happily. Others of the nine will surely follow it into the bin, but I will probably end up posting at least a few of them. Those that do will be posted because (1) I like them, flaws and all, (2) they might be useful to someone else thinking about these things, even if only to disagree with, and (3) they are linked to some discussion that has gone on here, even if it is a very old discussion.

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Mohaveh’s Cosmology

I’m weird about cosmologies. I constantly make use of them in the middle of things, as a way toward structuring a specific spiritual working, but I am suspicious of them and, to be honest, generally think of them as a bit twee and precious. When it comes down to it, though, in the grand scheme that is the shape of human endeavor. Our ideas make so much possible, but it is their fate to be dissolved in the labors of daily life, to be undone and remade.

And, if I am going to talk about Mohaveh, I have to accept that it comes wrapped in its own cosmology, even if it is the cosmology of a sea anemone, all ragged and hungry. So, let me get to that. The aim here is to provide a cosmology that is both complex and clear, instructive and useful.

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Formation and Demolition

As I am talking about the sefirah, the Sefer Yetzirah, the book of Revelation, and Pharaoh’s spiritual function, I am also becoming increasingly aware of a difference in scale between this work and the work with which I began this blog. I named it Disrupt and Repair to reflect the texture of spiritual processes with which I was engaged. Following them out to my current work, I can see a family of practices centered upon formation and demolition.

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Gimel from the Court of Shin Descends

I started talking through what the sefirah are in the strict terms of the Sefer Yetzirah because it makes clear their visionary dimension. When you call forth the sefirah and place yourself in the midst of them, you are calling forth for a vision. The alphabetic work is part of that vision. Quite literally, it is the means by which the vision presents itself. You work them in order to have a vision and it is the vision that animates the work.

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[NB] Sefer Yetzirah 1.1-1.8 (Gra translation)

I have been fidgeting with a post on the sefirah/sefirot (using sefirah for plural; we’ll see if it sticks), and to do that I need to start toward the beginning of things.

So, let me take a moment and start from scratch, or scratch-ish, with walking through my thinking about section 1 of the <i>Sefer Yetzirah</i>. The first section is essential for talking about the sefirah, but it is awfully meaty. This post hits 1.1 -1.8, the next should finish off the rest of part one.

This will be eccentric, but I’m hoping useful to others; maybe I’m just crazy? I’m using Kaplan’s Gra translation as basis for this one, in part to shake up my own reliance on the Saadia account and in part because it allows me to point readers to this website to read along. Each section gets a quick summary, then me sharing notes around it. Some of the summaries are utterly redundant, but it’s part of that thinking through work I’m doing. This is all sketch work, so nothing final.

If I do this with later sections, the Gra translation might be more problematic since assignments get very tricky. I’m not borrowing that trouble at the moment.

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[NB] Orders Profane and Holy: 7

Only the Messiah himself consummates all history, in the sense that he alone redeems, completes, creates its relation to the Messianic. For this reason nothing historical can relate itself on its own account to anything Messianic. Therefore the Kingdom of God is not the telos of the historical dynamic: it cannot be set as a goal. From the standpoint of history it is not the goal but the end. Therefore the order of the profane cannot be built up on the idea of the Divine Kingdom, and therefore theocracy has no political, but only a religious meaning….

If one arrow points to the goal toward which the profane dynamic acts, and another marks the direction of Messianic intensity, then certainly the quest to free humanity for happiness runs counter to the Messianic direction; but just as a force can, through acting, increase another that is acting in the opposite direction, so the order of the profane assists, through being profane, the coming of the Messianic Kingdom. The profane, therefore, although not itself a category of this Kingdom, is a decisive category of its quietest approach. For in happiness all that is earthly seeks its downfall, and only in good fortune is its downfall destined to find it.—Walter Benjamin, “Theological-Political Fragment” in Reflections (312; emphasis mine)

Let’s look at the book of Revelation in light of this structure. I don’t think it will be a perfect match, but the notion that there is a profane world which, developed, calls forth its own Messianic conclusion allows us to better appreciate the operations of the Apocalypse. That messianic movement takes place along the axis of the sevens, what in Kabbalistic terms refers us to the double letters in their generative aspect in the Sefer Yetzirah. This moves us closer to the substance of the transition from the seven churches to the renewed twelve tribes.

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[NB] Enneagram of the Head

I am working on a very long post about the Boston Public Library, but that work is throwing off some sparks that merit some short posts. One of those has to do with the Enneagram. I’ve mentioned before that Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way formed some of the backdrop to my youthful forays into matters mystical and magical, so I came in contact with the Enneagram a while ago. As I ws thinking about the image of the severed head, a new story on the Enneagram popped up alongside another in my news feed.

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Growing the Tree of Life: Uranus and Neptune

My reading has been all over the place of late, but the last few days I have found some of that coming together around some peculiar, zigzagging relationships between myth and astronomy. I had been reading about the Basque victory over Roland from the Song of Roland because I was thinking about a sculpture from one of my alma maters. Thanks to Stranger Things, I spent a little time over on Wikipedia reading about the birth and development of Demogorgon from a scribal error to a significant player in European demonology* to a monster in Dungeons & Dragons. Thanks to the Oatmeal, I have been trying to give myself another refresher in the astronomy of our solar system.

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Geomancy on the Tree of Life Diagram

[Oy. I don’t know, part of me is tempted to delete this and let the more recent series on geomancy and Kabbalism hold its place, but I don’t think that is quite right. Part of that is bearing witness to the process which I think is what gives us permission to give others permission to work through their own errors. Part of that, too, is that the more recent series doesn’t precisely supplant this so much as lay out its foundations more clearly, with the implication that there is still more to build atop those foundations. I didn’t quite have the right story to anchor what I was doing. Anyway, I think this may be the last page to take down and roll into a post.]

The first thing I want to discuss at length is the relationship between the geomantic figures to the Kabbalistic tree of life diagram. As with the geomantic discussions, I will presume some familiarity with the esoteric Kabbalism that circulates through the Western Magical Traditions like the Golden Dawn and Thelema. Similarly, though, I will expect readers to consider my work as belonging to an alternative formulation of it, one rooted in an rearticulation of the Tree of Life diagram upon the model presented in the Saadia retention of the Sefer Yetzirah (SY), as well as in some study of Jewish Kabbalism more broadly.

A drawing of the tree of life as described in this essay. Sefirot are represented as blue squares, elemental lines are in red, double lines are in black, and mother lines are in gree.

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Geomantic Pe (Venus, Friday, Right Ear)


Geomantic acquisitio.svg          Geomantic amissio.svg

Within the planetary circuit, Pe follows Dalet and precedes Resh. In the sequence of the week it follows Gimel and precedes Bet. Upon the plane of orifices that constitute the face, Pe defines the extension of the ears alongside Resh. Within the Tree of Life, it is the bottom double upon the pillar of mercy, crowned with Chesed and resting upon Netzach. In all of these assemblages, it finds expression through the geomantic figures of Acquisitio and Amissio.

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