From The Wisdom of the Zohar: An Anthology of Texts by Isiah Tishby, 1982, pp269-270
“Most of these terms were not selected for their intrinsic worth, nor were they originally arranged in a unified systematic order to indicate the nature of the sefirot. This is particularly obvious in the choice of the names of the seven lower sefirot, six of which were based on 1st Chronicles 29:11 ‘Yours, O Lord is the greatness and the power, and the beauty, and the victory, and the majesty…Yours is the kingdom.’ That is to say, that the origin of these names was exegetical, and intrinsic to the subject in hand. Therefore, in their original form they were basically terms of praise and glorification, which do not say a great deal about the nature of the individual sefirot.”
“But if we introduce certain specific variations, that is if we change Keter into Razon (Will) and Tiferet into Rachamim (Mercy)—names frequently found in the Zohar—and if we use, as was customary, Hesed (Love) instead of Gedulah [Greatness], then we have a much more useful arrangement.” Also, the variations of Din (Judgment) and Pachad (Fear) as variations of Gevurah (Power) reveal that sefirahs nature and importance.
The Rabbis, both the philosophically inclined and the mystically inclined, were impressed with and influenced by the Greek philosophers Plato, and the neo-platonic thinkers, as well as the teachings of Aristotle.
Aristotle stated in his logic the basic principles of Greek grammar and thought. The idea that there are only two choices and that these two choice are an oppositional position. This idea and attitude was embodied in first three ‘laws’ of logic as presented by Aristotle.
These first three laws are the Law of Identity, A is A; the Law of Non-Contradiction, A is not non-A, and the Law of Exclusions of the Middle Ground, there is no transition from A to not-A.
What this means is that the Greeks, and those who built upon them—Western Civilizations and cultures, recognized that all things can be listed into pairs, into dualities. Each of these pairs could be organized into groups and interrelated. With the application of a pair of value judgments you create a cultural bias. The value judgment pairs are the pairing of good vs. bad or good vs. evil, or right or wrong. By the application of these value judgment pairs all the other list of paired opposites become judged as well. So you ended up with this situation:
Light vs Dark
Male vs Female
Immaterial vs Material
Spirit vs Matter
Spirit vs flesh
Mind vs body
Changeless vs change
Deathless vs Death
Immortal vs mortal
Divine vs Human
Sun vs Earth
Sun vs Moon
White vs Black
Heaven vs Earth
Above vs Below
One vs Many
Where everything listed on the left is good and everything listed on the right is bad or evil. This dichotomy became embedded into the mindset and world view of the Western World and influenced all who it touched. The rabbis were no exception. They adopted this perspective and gave it a Jewish spin. Maimonides spent the totality of his book The Guide for the Perplexed with the intention and reconciling Aristotle’s philosophy and the teachings of the Rabbis. Though Maimonides had no qualms for disagreeing with Aristotle and explaining how the Jewish perspective differed, and of course, he, Maimonides, considered more complete if not more accurate.
For Aristotle God was The Prime Mover and the One reminiscent of Plato’s concept. This God was immaterial, changeless, immortal, and pure thought as well as purity of thought. God was thus the exact opposite of human beings, who were material, subject to change, mortal, and were physical and full of many conflicting thoughts, many based in humanities physical substance being and needs. God was to be above all the other lesser unmoved movers- the planets, and other entities. But God as the Prime Mover was the source of all movement.
For Aristotle God to be pure in thought would mean it could not be contaminated by any impurities. Hence could not consider the impurities of the physical world and of physical humans. God could, would, and must only contemplate perfection such as its self.
Maimonides had one additional concept about God that Aristotle did not have. The singular difference was that for Maimonides the Torah, aka TaNaK, based difference was that God was incomparable. God was unique and different than anything else. All created beings were similar in a variety of manner and ways. But God, being above and the Creator was above and beyond and not like anything else in all of existence. God is unique and thus One, beyond equal.
Maimonides agrees with Aristotle and even uses his reasoning of God of Pure Intellect to explain Maimonides idea of prayer as it is explained in The Guide. Since God contemplates only its own perfect self, it takes no notice of changing, physical and impure humans. Pray changes us but has no effect on God itself.
It was this attitude of God being untouched by human concerns and prayers that the mystical Rabbis rebelled against. Though they accepted the rest of Maimonides and Aristotle.
The philosophic idea of God and the mystical idea of God was merged into explaining what is known by Ayn Sof. The only difference is that in the Kabbalah humanity can interact with some aspect of the Infinite Divine. This would be by means of Ayn Sof’s creation and emanation called the Sefirot.
From: Aristotle’s Concept of God by Stanley Sfekas (https://heptapolis.com/aristotles-concept-god and can also be found at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286412818_ARISTOTLE'S_CONCEPT_OF_GOD)
[Stanley Sfekas (Greek: Στάνλεϋ Σφήκας; born 1942) is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Indianapolis. (https://heptapolis.com/cv/stanley-sfekas)]
Moses Maimonides’s idea of God. By Warren Zev Harvey (From https://www.academia.edu/39364549/Warren_Zev_Harvey_Maimonides_Monotheism_Between_the_Bible_and_Aristotle_in_Ada_Taggar-Cohen_et_al._eds._Proceedings_of_the_7th_CISMOR_Conference_on_Jewish_Studies_Kyoto_Doshisha_University_2013_56-67)
An introduction to My mystic insight into a new understanding of the nature of the divine and us.
By Gary M. Jaron / Gershom ben Zalmen
May 9 2020
I shall begin with a story. The story with my encounter with the Infinite Divine. In the summer of my ninth year, one bright sunny day I was in my backyard and pondering. Then, unexpectedly I was taken out of time and space and in that instance the Infinite revealed itself to me. I was given a core insight. I was given a mission. I was given a guide—the voice of the Divine to be with me always.
That is how it started. Here is where I ended up. What I am laying out before you came from and was inspired by my encounter and revelation from the Infinite Divine.
I was guided to teachers.
But they were not living personalities. So, I never had to worry about being overcome by someone else’s sense of self importance. I didn’t have to deal with a guru or a master. Gurus and masters believe completely in the rightness of their vision and their teachings. They have unwavering certainty in themselves. But, I have only read about such people in books. They do not impress me. My own mystical experience inoculated me from being overly impressed by any other person claiming to speak for the Infinite, for the Divine, for God. I’ve been there and done that. So I need not concern myself with being impressed by their sense of mastery and importance. I only am impressed with what they can teach me. I listen but I am the finally arbiter of what is of value and significance, not them.
Being guided to teachers in the form of books gave me a special relationship to their wisdom and knowledge. I could take the information in and at my own pace. I need not worry about being overwhelmed and lost in their visions. I would only take in what was meaningful and useful to me at the time that I was reading their books. I could build slowly upon what I read, and I could come back to that teacher, that book, and re-read it for new insights and understandings that I was now at that time capable of taking in.
The key term of my revelation was summed up in a word—self-doubt.
The key phrase of my revelation was summed up in a phrase—we shape, and are shaped by, ideas.
Since I’m about to explain my kabbalah mythos, I should first introduce you to my teachers that inspired my ideas. I do not read and speak any language other than English and thus of the ancient source texts I have only encountered them in secondary English translations. They are listed in approximately the order I encountered them. (First date listed is the original publication date, the second date is the edition I own and read from.)
Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (1946/1975)
Erich Fromm’s The Revolution of Hope: Towards a Humanized Technology (1968/ 1974)
Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941/1973), On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, Kabbalah (1960/1970), and Kabbalah (1974/1978)
William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902/1978)
Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (1910/1974)
Peter L. Berger’s The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (1967/1969)
Arthur Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine (1967), and The Act of Creation (1964/1970)
Robert E. Ornstein’s The Psychology of Consciousness (1972/1975)
Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Value (1974/1975)
Lao Tzu’s The Tao Te Ching, Wing Tsit Chan’s Translation (1963)
Holmes Welch’s Taoism: The Parting of the Way (1966)
Alfred Korzybski’s Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (1933/1973)
Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962/1970)
Aryeh Kaplan’s Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation—In Theory and Practice (1990/1997)
Isaiah Tishby’s The Wisdom of The Zohar: An Anthology of Texts (1982/1983)
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (1999)
Sanford L. Drob’s Symbols of the Kabbalah: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives (2000) and Kabbalistic Metaphors: Jewish Mystical Themes in Ancient and Modern Thought (2000)
Steven T. Katz’s Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis: A collection of essays (1978)
Robert K. C. Forman’s The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy (1990/ 1997)
Ellen M. Chen’s The Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (1989) and In Praise of Nothing: An Exploration of Daoist Fundamental Ontology (2012)
Leonard R. Glotzer’s The Fundamentals of Jewish Mysticism: The Book of Creation and Its Commentaries (1992)
William James’s The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897/1956), Pragmatism: A New name of Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907/1978), The Meaning of Truth: A Sequel to Pragmatism (1909/1978) and Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912/1996), A Pluralistic Universe (1909/1996) and Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy (1911/1996)
So, that might give you clues to the how’s and why’s concerning what I am about to present.
The rabbis, both philosophic and mystical, were unduly influenced by Aristotle and Neo-Platonic thinking. From those Greek teachers and writers they wove the rabbinic understanding both philosophical and mystical insights into the nature of the Infinite Divine called Ayn Sof. This idea of Ayn Sof which became the teachings of the Zohar and rabbi Isaac Luria was that Ayn Sof was the ‘Unmoved Mover’. The infinite, unchanging, hidden, separate, untouchable, unknowable, and emmanator/creator of a flawed creation in need of repair, restoration and healing. This idea of Ayn Sof/God was generally tainted by a Patriarchal/sexist/male-dominate orientation.
My own idea of the Infinite Divine is that it is the emmanator/creator of a flawed creation in need of repair, restoration and healing. Ayn Sof/Tao emanated outward in the act of creation in a series of flowing steps. There is no separation in this process. It is an ongoing and continues event from the moment it started till forever. Out of Ayn Sof/Tao comes Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are a complementary pair just as Ayn Sof/Tao and Yin/Yang are a complementary pair. From Yin/Yang comes the Myriad Ten Thousand Things aka the Cosmos/creation. These two are also a complementary pair. Which ultimately makes Ayn Sof/Tao as the One a complementary pair to the Many. The Infinite is a complementary pair to the infinity of time-space-matter.
The process of this emanation and revelation is from Ayn Sof comes Keter. From Keter comes Hochmah and Binah. Out of Binah comes Da’at. Then the moment of the breaking and shattering of the Spheres. Then the hasty outpouring to attempt to finish the act of creation. The result of which is a newly built Sefirot from Keter all the way down to Malkuth. Da’at is merely hinted at in the nexus of the interconnecting paths of the Sefirot.
The intention of Ayn Sof was to create a structure of creation that matches the image of the Tree as presented by Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, known as the Vilna Gaon or known by the initials as The GRA. This structure had Da’at as one of the ten sefrahs. Malkuth was merely a totally passive receptacle for the upper ten aspects of the Divine.
However in the failed act of emanation and creation Da’at was the center of the shattering and the result of Malkuth became an intimate part of the outcome. In actuality in my mythos all Divine power left the upper nine sefrahs and Ayn Sof. All Divine power had almost completely flowed into Malkuth. Within Malkuth lies the Divine power of transformation and creation, as well as the Divine will. Whereas in the GRA’s system Malkuth was utterly powerless and utterly insignificant. Now in the resulting flawed creation, Ayn Sof was utterly powerless and utterly insignificant. All the power and significance to restore and repair the flawed creations lies in Malkuth.
Ayn Sof is the Tao. The Tao is Ayn Sof.
Ayn Sof is without attribution, it is ‘The Tao that can not be spoken about’.
Ayn Sof’s counterpart is Keter, the way to understand the mystery of Ayn Sof. Keter is ‘The Tao that can be spoken about’.
Where Keter and Hockmah are colored by Yang influence. Malkuth and Ayn Sof are colored by Yin influence.
Jewish mysticism: Preliminary contexts
The rabbis who wrote in the Talmud and midrash…many of them are what would now be called mystics.
Mystics are those individuals who either were sought out by God/Divine, like the prophets or are people who sought to connect with God/Divine by pray and/or meditation.
The quality of mystical experience was described by William James in his 1902 book The Varieties of Religious Experience.
One of the most amazing descriptions of this kind of experience is one that might be familiar. It shaped a later generation's idea of these kinds of experiences. The imagery is potent. The amazing thing is the language used to describe the occurrence. Now that description to me proves that it was a first-hand record of what the person experienced. It doesn’t make sense that someone would make up that language to impress. So often the name associated with the Biblical book is not necessarily the actual author or that someone later added to it. The language of the experience seems to me to guarantee authenticity of at minimum that specific passage.
I am talking about The opening section to the book of Ezekiel:
1: 5 And out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. …1:13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like coals of fire, burning like the appearance of torches; 1:14 And the living creature ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
That is just a sampling, but notice the language and the words used. ‘Likeness’, ‘appearance’, and ‘like the appearance of’. There is a hesitancy in the language. There is a description offered but it is a qualified description with an uncertainty that what is being described is what the thing truly looks like. That is a remarkable passage. It is an important passage since it demonstrates that although the one who has the experience is certain of its reality what is seen is felt to be beyond description however there is the compulsion to try. Few have the self-awareness to truly state what it seems to be with such honesty. It is a part of the truth in all mystical experiences that what is later described is done so through the metaphors that are available to the one who had the experience prior to the event.
So, whenever you are reading the writings of a prophet or a mystic, remember the lesson of Ezekiel, it only seems to have the likeness and appearance of. That certainty hides the reality of it being initially beyond description.
It is an accepted idea within the kabbalistic literature that Divine power resides within the top or upper portion of the Tree, the Sefirot. That Ein Sof or Keter or both are the source of the Divine power. Whereas, at the bottom of the Sefirot, Malkuth, is considered merely the passive receptacle of all this power from above. That Malkuth contributes nothing to the Divine potency and power.
What utter nonsense. What a bunch of masculine ego-tripping.
Consider some simple biological facts.
The male is passive in the sexual creative system of biology. The male passes its seed onto the female. Some males just shoot that seed in a mere matter of moments, seconds even. That is considered some grand act of creation and creative activity. Ask any women and she’ll tell you what a disappointment that is, and what many men are when it comes to sexual relations.
Women, on the other hand, go through labor. The very word should have told any thinking person that this is describing the real creative and biological activity and processes. The women is the true active creative and biological being. It is within and by the nature of the female that creation and creative work is done.
The idea that Yin/feminine is passive while Yang/masculine is active is in actuality utterly wrong and backward. Yin/feminine is the active creative power while Yang/masculine is the passive receptacle of the passive seed in all that biological processes.
Males have gotten it all egotistically muddled up for centuries. In their masculine arrogance, they lay claim to power whereas they have the power by means of stealing it, controlling it in the social realm by acts of domination and coercion. In the symbolic world of the Kabballah, once you look at the actual mythic tales of creation in Zohar and in the presentation of ARI, the truth is plain to see.
According to Zohar the verse concerning the eight kings of Edom Genesis/Bereshit 36:31+
In this case, the mystics read this not as a account of an ancestral branch off from the tree of Israel, but as a cosmic revelation, a allegoric telling of what preceded creation (Zohar III: 128a; 135a-b; Sefer ha-Gilgulim 15). The hermeneutic key is the phrase, "...who reigned....before any king reigned over the Israelites." The "king" here is taken to refer to the God of Israel. Prior to this creation, then, there were forces that disrupted God's effective rule of the earlier worlds. The references to the 'death' of each king refer to God's undoing of these worlds. What was the fundamental flaw in these primordial worlds? They were dominated by edom, "red [blood]." This means these worlds were too filled with strict judgment and lacked the balancing [matkela, in the language of the Zohar] quality of mercy in sufficient proportions for the cosmos to endure” [Scholem, Kabbalah, pp. 116-117; On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism, p. p. 112. Also see Elior, "The Doctrine of Transmigration in Galya Raza," pp. 248-249.]. Some interpret this overweening judgment as the meaning of the "darkness" that existed before the light of creation (Galya Raza MS II, 102b).
To correct for past mistakes, God ensured this world would continue by introducing Abraham, who embodies loving mercy (hesed), only then followed by Isaac, who personifies justice (din), as does his first son Esau, who was born 'red' (Gen. 25:24), but finally harmonizes the two forces with Jacob, the ish tam ("perfect man" - Gen. 25: 27), which is why, the kabbalists reason, the earlier failed worlds get recounted in the midst of his saga. [source: http://ejmmm2007.blogspot.com/2008/12/first-edom-then-eden-primordial-kings.html]
The idea is that prior to this cosmos that we live in, there were other worlds/universes that were created and found wanting and thus destroyed. Until this world/universe that we inhabit came to be. However, as ARI explains this world is the universe where the spheres shattered and creation was deeply flawed. This cosmos is in need of Tikkun Olam – healing, repair, and restoration. There is a need to restore the cosmos back to harmonious balance. Now, this can only be done by human action. The flawed creation performed by the Divine meant that it was powerless and trapped. It could do nothing to fix the mess it made. Only we humans have the power of Tikkun.
This to me means that all the Divine power lies not in the upper realms of the Sefirot, including none residing any longer in Ein Sof as well, but in the last and finally sefirah - it all lies in Malkuth. It is only within the realm of Malkuth where we reside that humanity has the power if it can properly act to transform all of creation, including the Divine itself, by its acts of Tikkun.
5.0 out of 5 starsEvery wonder the reasoning behind the way Hermetic Qabalists attribute ...
August 16, 2014
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Every wonder the reasoning behind the way Hermetic Qabalists attribute Hebrew letters to the Tree? You won't find the answer in Dion Fortune, Wm. Gray, Gareth Knight, Israel Regardie, or Robert Wang,'s books, but you'll find it here! This book was very well researched and offers, among other things, an objective and fair comparison between traditional and Hermetic attributions to the Tree of Life.
So…who is the GRA?
He is Elijah ben Shlomo Zalmen ( aka the GRA) who was born in Vilna Lithuania in 1720. The GRA is a Hebrew acronym that stands for ‘Gaon (Hebrew for ‘genius’) Rabbi Elijah.’ He is the genius of Vilna. His knowledge, understanding and insights into Torah, Talmud, and Jewish Kabbalah earned him this title.
He is important to us for his commentary published in 1884 on the Kabbalistic text The Sefer Yetzirah. In that text he presented a figure which has become known as the GRA’s Tree. It is a diagram of the Sefiroth aka The Tree of Life. Many books and websites have referred to this version of the Tree. The vast majority of images found on the web and the vast majority of the books talking about the GRA’s tree are mistaken. They are not describing and discussing the GRA’s tree but rather are discussing Aryeh Kaplan’s version of the Tree that he calls ‘the Natural Array’ from Kaplan’s The Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Creation: In Theory and Practice (Revised Edition), Samuel Weiser Books Inc, 1990.
To my knowledge the only book illustrating and explaining the GRA’s tree is my own book The Qabalah Paths of Light. This blog is a simplified presentation of what can be found in my book pp 154 – 176, as well as on my Acedemia.com website postings.
Let me explain. To understand what Kaplan called figure 6, the actual 1884 GRA Tree we need to understand the following rules.
1) They are ten sefirahs on the Tree. These would be found at the intersections of the lines on the GRA’s figure. Also included in this figure is a circle above representing AYN SOF, the name of the Infinite Divine according to the Rabbis. The bottom circle I deduce as the sefirah Malkuth. (To understand this statement you would need to refer to my writings on this subject in my book and online essay.)
2) There are 22 paths/lines that connect those sefirahs.
3) There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
4) Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is assigned to one and only one path/line of the Tree.
5) According to the Sefer Yetzirah the Hebrew letters are grouped into 3 groups. Three letters are the Mother letters and these are assigned to the 3 horizontal path/lines on the Tree. Seven letters are the ‘Double’ letters and these are assigned to the 7 vertical path/lines on the Tree. The remaining twelve letters are assigned to the 12 diagonal path/lines on the Tree.
6) According to rules 2-5 I deduced that the letter Mem that is shown twice on figure 6, was a publishing error in the 1884 book. The Mem being one of the three Mother letters can only be assigned to a horizontal path/line and not to a vertical line. Therefore the Hebrew letter that should be assigned to the bottom vertical line should be the Tav, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
According to my understanding of the GRA’s thinking based on commentary made by the GRA (again see my book for further insights) I conclude that given that the upper circle designates Ayn Sof, the lower circle connected by a final vertical line is Malkuth and that means that on the GRA’s tree at one of the intersecting points is located the sefirah Daat.
Hence my rendering of the GRA’s Tree.
As for what is commonly found on the web as the GRA’s Tree? This is due to a misunderstanding of figure 5 in Aryeh Kaplan’s book The Sefer Yetzirah.
Note that the figure is described as ‘The 32 paths according to the GRA’. What I interpret this to mean is that Kaplan assigned to his Natural Array the Hebrew letters according to the principles as Kaplan understood them by examining the 1884 figure of the GRA’s Tree, Kaplan’s figure 6.
It is interesting to note that even Kaplan is a bit dubious about his own ‘Natural Array’. His text even says that the ‘Natural Array’ was never used by the Rabbis. ‘In practice, for reasons dealing with the basic nature of the Sefiroth, they are not arranged in this natural order, but have the middle line lowered somewhat.‘ (Kaplan, pg. 32)
Therefore what is called on the web and in all other books as the 'GRA’s Tree' is in actual fact is only Aryeh Kaplan’s Natural Array with Hebrew letters assigned to them. This version of the tree is an invention of Kaplan. Any association of this with the GRA is a complete mistake and misunderstanding.
Garshom Yaron aka Gary Jaron has been exploring the Occult Qabalah and the Rabbinic Kabbalah since he was a teen.