[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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Exemplary Cases: Yesod, Klippot, and Fan Fiction

The way in which fan fiction operates may serve as a case study for understanding the way in which the klippot can function, specifically as the klippot of a specific operation that can take place under the auspices of the sefirot Yesod. Let me see if I can walk you through my reasoning.

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[NB] Apocryphon of John and the Sefirot

I’ve been reading Buckley’s Female Fault and Fulfilmennt in Gnosticism and in it she briefly articulate the five aeons of the Apocryphon of John and makes clear that the five aeons are, in fact, ten aeons; each of the five aeons is divided in two according to a principle of gendered duality. Oh, yeah, and that duality is gathered together into an overarching third (Father over the Mother and Son). While trying to keep firmly in mind the maxim about things looking like a nail when you are holding a hammer, it is a little difficult for me not to think about Kabbalism as I read this.

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[PSA] Edited Page, Pictures

Working through the Elemental lines of the Sefer Yetzirah made clear that I needed to update one of the geomancy pages a bit. I haven’t quite gotten a full revision done, but I’ve done some work toward that end. It’s a bit messy, really, updating as I learn, but I like having stable pages where that gets reflected, so for now I’m sticking to the plan of having stable pages that get edited to reflect improvements in my understanding.

This revision also saw the addition of diagrams. They are just photos of hand drawn material, but they are definitely an improvement over the wall of text. One of the three images is included below. It represents my current take of how to map a number of kabbalistic concepts onto the Gra diagram. Inset to the right are diagrams of each of the three kinds of lines (Elemental, Double, Mother) on their own, with the sefirot and klippot dotted in for reference.

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.

Grafting the Branches

One of the reasons I have enjoyed evacuating the sefirot is that it so clearly allows me to see the common roots of Kabbalism and Sufism in a broadly Middle Eastern magico-mystical thinking that likely sinks its roots into prehistory (regionally and, if Gordon’s right, globally; speaking of dragons, yeah, we’re probably going to have a discussion about serpents in the near future, but that requires a detour through personal practice that I’m not quite sure how to get at for this format).

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Ten Sefirot, One Sefirot

When the Sefer Yetzirah summarizes the essence of the sefirot, it does so by describing them as “of nothingness.” More so than any of the channels, they are united in a common being, which is no being, or a being so full that it exceeds being as a specific beings like planets and stars and animals. This nothingness divides itself and in dividing itself sets the tree in motion.

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[NB] Zohar and Plant Spirit

I keep meaning to post this, so now I am:

They sewed together fig leaves. They knew to be covered by the shade of that tree from which they had eaten, called ‘leaves of the tree.’

And made themselves loincloths. Rabbe Yose said, ‘Once they knew of this world and clung to it, they saw that this world is conducted by those leaves of the tree. So they built themselves a stronghold, fortifying themselves with them in this world, discovering every kind of magic. They sought to gird themselves with the weapons of those leaves of the tree for protection.”—Zohar, translated by Daniel Matt (1:36b, p. 229)

This being Kabbalism, there are probably a few puns going on, but I do wonder if reading them like dream puns might be the way to go (i.e., all of the levels of meaning are active even if we favor one level at at time in discursive thought).

In other words, yes, these ‘leaves of the tree’ are the sefirot, and the sefirot ‘conduct’ the world (Chokmah and Binah), but they are also the leaves of a tree, a sacred tree through which magical-sorcerous knowledge was procured. The knowledge of the sefirot might then be joined to partaking of the knowledge of the plant world.

Also, that the world of plants ‘conducts’ this world.

[NB] Emanation and Sefirot

I find that after i write a post like the last one, I return to the Kabbalistic material with more clarity. Writing out my current sense of the material also liberates me from that understanding and when I return to the texts, I come to them refreshed. This post pulls together threads spun in this post (on the misunderstandings that result from reading Kabbalistic material with a heavy Neoplatonic bias) and the last post (contemplating the relationship of the sefirot). It should be fairly short.

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Kabbalah with Less Neoplatonism

Yesterday, I had a brief exchange between Ted Hand and Cole Tucker on twitter that warrants a lengthier response for which twitter is not suited. The discussion began with a question from Ted as to whether we should identify the Kabbalistic sefirot with the Neoplatonic henads. He also posted a snippet from a related discussion in which the Porphyrian Tree was used to suggest the common roots of Kabbalah and Neoplatonism (here is a link to Wikipedia where you can see the tree more clearly).

I want to unpack my answer (that the proper units of comparison should be between the henads and the channels of the tree, the henads and the sacred alphabet) because I think that comparison helps to differentiate the Kabbalistic perspective from the Neoplatonic one. The tendency to fuse Kabbalism and Neoplatonism has obscured fundamental differences between them and I want to talk about how my practice has led me to redifferentiate them. This is primarily a conceptual discussion, though, and I touch on practical matters lightly, as illustrative tangents.

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