Apophasis and Permutation in the Sefer Yetzirah

I will probably sit down sometime soon and think about adding a few new categories and subcategories around the discussions of the Kabbalistic material. I’m holding off a little because I want to have a sense of the directions it is opening. For this post I want to talk a little more about the apophatic dimension of the sefirot that I see underscored in Sefer Yetzirah (SY).

This returns to some of the practice-minded implications that began this growing series of posts around the SY.

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Permutations: Sefer Yetzirah and Astrology

“Oh, do not be stupid, boy!” Mrs Whatsit scolded. “You know perfectly well what I am driving at!”
“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict from, but freedom within it?”
“Yes,” Mrs Whatsit said. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”
—Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (192)

The Sefer Yetzirah account of permutation stood out boldly on this morning’s reading. It seems to be one of the most basic elements of the material and forms one of the keys to the operations both within the Kabbalistic material and to the broader magical techne of which it forms a part. Sheesh, it is easy to see the influence of the practice on the grimoire tradition and the Enochian practices of Dee and Kelley.

The discussion of the twelve elemental lines (the diagonals) opens so many doors. it begins with the simplest of things, the permutation of pairs. For reasons that are only partially clear to me, the permutation of Tet and Yud (shaping Leo and Virgo) gets my engines running. But the pairs are really only the training wheels of the permutations. The text proceeds to expand the practice to include the total permutation of the diagonals, the rearrangement of the constellations into all of their possible orders. That is wild! That entails working through the latent potentialities of the firmament itself.

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