Sepher Yetzirah

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By the science of the Sepher Jezirah the human spirit is fixed to truth, and in reason, and is able to take account of the possible development of intelligence by the evolutions of numbers. The Zohar represents absolute truth, and the Sepher Jezirah provides the means by which we may seize, appropriate and make use of it. The clouds which the imagination of commentators have gathered around it, will be dissipated, if we look for, in it, not mysteries of ineffable wisdom, but an attempt at a reasonable doctrine, made when reason arose, an effort to grasp the plan of the universe, and to secure the link which binds to one common principle, all the elements which are around us.

The last word of this system is the substitution of the absolute divine Unity for every idea of Dualism, for that pagan philosophy which saw in matter an eternal substance whose laws were not in accord with Divine Will; and for the Biblical doctrine, which by its idea of Creation, postulates two things, the Universe and God, as two substances absolutely distinct one from the other. So God is at once, in the highest sense, both the matter and the form of the universe. Yet He is not only that form; for nothing can or does exist outside of Himself; His substance is the foundation of all, and all things bear His imprint and are symbols of His intelligence.

Other historical notices are those of Saadya Gaon, who died A. Some modern critics have attributed the authorship to the Rabbi Akiba, who lived in the time of the Emperor Hadrian, A. Graetz however assigns it to early Gnostic times, third or fourth century, and Zunz speaks of it as post Talmudical, and belonging to the Geonim period A. The Talmuds were first collected into a concrete whole, and printed in Venice, A.

Some parts are not very ancient, because the Crusades are mentioned in one chapter.

The oldest of these six recensions was that of Saadjah Gaon by some critics called spurious. There are still extant three Latin versions, viz. Yet in some versions the paragraphs and subject-matter are found in a different arrangement. Jude, of which two MSS.

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In essence this work was, doubtless, the crystallisation of centuries of tradition, by one writer, and it has been added to from time to time, by later authors, who have also revised it. Some of the additions, which were rejected even by mediaeval students, I have not incorporated with the text at all, and I present in this volume only the undoubted kernel of this occult nut, upon which many great authorities, Hebrew, German, Jesuit and others, have written long Commentaries, and yet have failed to explain satisfactorily.

For convenience of study I have placed the Notes in a separate form at the end of the work, and I have made a short definition of the subject-matter of each chapter. Anna Kingsford, President, in the chair. He produced Beth, and referred it to Wisdom ; He crowned it, combined and formed with it the Moon in the Universe, the first day of the week, and the right eye of man. He produced Gimel, and referred it to Health; He crowned it, combined and joined with it Mars in the Universe, the second day of the week, and the right ear of man. He produced Daleth, and referred it to Fertility; He crowned it, combined and formed with it the Sun in the Universe, the third day of the week, and the right nostril of man.

He produced Kaph, and referred it to Life; He crowned it, combined and formed with it Venus in the Universe, the fourth day of the week, and the left eye of man. He produced Peh, and referred it to Power; He crowned it, combined and formed with it Mercury in the Universe, the fifth day of the week, and the left ear of man. He produced Resh, and referred it to Peace; He crowned it, combined and formed with it Saturn in the Universe, the sixth day of the week, and the left nostril of man.

Sepher Yetzirah

He produced Tau, and referred it to Beauty; He crowned it, combined and formed with it Jupiter in the Universe, the Seventh Day of the week, and the mouth of man. By these Seven letters were also made seven worlds, seven heavens, seven earths, seven seas, seven rivers, seven deserts, seven days, seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost, and every seventh year a Jubilee. He made these, as it were provinces, and arranged them as in order of battle for warfare.

And also the Elohim 48 made one from the region of the other. Three Fathers and their generations, Seven conquerors and their armies, and Twelve bounds of the Universe. See now, of these words, the faithful witnesses are the Universe, the Year and Man. The dodecad, the heptad, and the triad with their provinces; above is the Celestial Dragon, T L I, 49 and below is the World, and lastly the heart of Man.

The Three are Water, Air and Fire; Fire above, Water below, and Air conciliating between them; and the sign of these things is that the Fire sustains volatilises the waters; Mem is mute, Shin is sibilant, and Aleph is the Mediator and as it were a friend placed between them. The Kabalists said that one must enter and pass up through the Gates to attain to the Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom; and that even Moses only passed through the forty-ninth Gate, and never entered the fiftieth.

These paragraphs are very obscure in meaning, and the Hebrew text is probably very corrupt.

The Second Path is that of the Illuminating Intelligence: The Fourth Path is named the Cohesive or Receptacular Intelligence; and is so called because it contains all the holy powers, and from it emanate all the spiritual virtues with the most exalted essences: The Fifth Path is called the Radical Intelligence, because it resembles the Unity, uniting itself to the Binah, 2 or Intelligence which emanates from the Primordial depths of Wisdom or Chokmah.

The Sixth Path is called the Mediating Intelligence, because in it are multiplied the influxes of the emanations, for it causes that influence to flow into all the reservoirs of the Blessings, with which these themselves are united. The Seventh Path is the Occult Intelligence, because it is the Refulgent Splendour of all the Intellectual virtues which are perceived by the eyes of intellect, and by the contemplation of faith.

The Eighth Path is called the Absolute or Perfect Intelligence, because it is the means of the primordial, which has no root by which it can cleave, nor rest, except in the hidden places of Gedulah , 4 Magnificence, from which emanates its own proper essence.


The Ninth Path is the Pure Intelligence, so called because it purifies the Numerations, it proves and corrects the designing of their representation, and disposes their unity with which they are combined without diminution or division. The Tenth Path is the Resplendent Intelligence, because it is exalted above every head, and sits on the throne of Binah the Intelligence spoken of in the Third Path. It illuminates the splendour of all the lights, and causes an influence to emanate from the Prince of countenances.

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For convenience of study I have placed the Notes in a separate form at the end of the work, and I have made a short definition of the subject-matter of each chapter. The Fifth Path is called the Radical Intelligence, because it resembles the Unity, uniting itself to the Binah, 2 or Intelligence which emanates from the Primordial depths of Wisdom or Chokmah. He produced Samech, predominant in sleep, crowned, combined, and formed Sagittarius in the world, Kislev in the year, and the stomach of man. He produced Gimel, and referred it to Health; He crowned it, combined and joined with it Mars in the Universe, the second day of the week, and the right ear of man. This is the special chapter of the Heptad, the powers and properties of the Seven. The Twenty-fourth Path is the Imaginative Intelligence, and it is so called because it gives a likeness to all the similitudes which are created in like manner similar to its harmonious elegancies.

The Eleventh Path is the Scintillating Intelligence, because it is the essence of that curtain which is placed close to the order of the disposition, and this is a special dignity given to it that it may be able to stand before the Face of the Cause of Causes. The Twelfth Path is the Intelligence of Transparency, because it is that species of Magnificence called Chazchazit, 6 the place whence issues the vision of those seeing in apparitions.

That is the prophecies by seers in a vision. It is the Consummation of the Truth of individual spiritual things. The Fourteenth Path is the Illuminating Intelligence and is so called because it is that Chashmal 7 which is the founder of the concealed and fundamental ideas of holiness and of their stages of preparation. The Fifteenth Path is the Constituting Intelligence, so called because it constitutes the substance of creation in pure darkness, and men have spoken of these contemplations; it is that darkness spoken of in Scripture, Job xxxviii.

The seven double letters produced the seven planets, the "seven days," and the seven apertures in man two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and one mouth. Again, as the seven double letters vary, being pronounced either hard or soft, so the seven planets are in continuous movement, approaching or receding from the earth. The "seven days," in like manner, were created by the seven double letters because they change in time according to their relation to the planets.

The seven apertures in man connect him with the outer world as the seven planets join heaven and earth. Hence these organs are subject to the influence of the planets, the right eye being under Saturn, the left eye under Jupiter, and the like. The twelve "simple" letters created the twelve signs of the zodiac, whose relation to the earth is always simple or stable; and to them belong the twelve months in time, and the twelve "leaders" in man. The latter are those organs which perform functions in the body independent of the outside world, being the hands, feet, kidneys, gall, intestines, stomach, liver, pancreas, and spleen; and they are, accordingly, subject to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.

In its relation to the construction of the cosmos, matter consists of the three primordial elements, which, however, are not chemically connected with one another, but modify one another only physically. The "dragon" rules over the world matter and the heavenly bodies ; the sphere rules time; and the heart rules over the human body.

The author sums up this explanation in a single sentence: To harmonize the biblical statement of the creation " ex nihilo " with the doctrine of the primordial elements, the Sefer Yetzirah assumes a double creation, one ideal and the other real. Their name is possibly derived from the fact that as numbers express only the relations of two objects to each other, so the ten Sefirot are only abstractions and not realities.

Again, as the numbers from two to ten are derived from the number one, so the ten Sefirot are derived from one "their end is fixed in their beginning, as the flame is bound to the coal" i.

Sefer Yetzirah: Teaching Wisdom

Hence the Sefirot must not be conceived as emanations in the ordinary sense of the word, but rather as modifications of the will of God, which first changes to air, then becomes water, and finally fire, the last being no further removed from God than the first. The Sefer Yetzirah shows how the sephirot are a creation of God and the will of God in its varied manifestations. Besides these abstract ten Sefirot , which are conceived only ideally, the twenty-two letters of the alphabet produced the material world, for they are real, and are the formative powers of all existence and development.

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By means of these elements the actual creation of the world took place, and the ten Sefirot , which before this had only an ideal existence, became realities. This is, then, a modified form of the Talmudic doctrine that God created heaven and earth by means of letters Berachot 58a. The explanation on this point is obscure since the relation of the twenty-two letters to the ten Sefirot is not clearly defined. The first sentence of the book reads: While the Sefirot are expressly designated as "abstracts", it is said of the letters: God drew them, hewed them, combined them, weighed them, interchanged them, and through them produced the whole creation and everything that is destined to come into being" ii.

The letters are neither independent substances nor yet as mere forms. They seem to be the connecting-link between essence and form. They are designated as the instruments by which the real world, which consists of essence and form, was produced from the Sefirot , which are merely formless essences. In addition to the doctrine of the Sefirot and the letters, the theory of contrasts in nature, or of the syzygies "pairs" , as they are called by the Gnostics, occupies a prominent place in the Sefer Yetzirah. This doctrine is based on the assumption that the physical as well as the moral world consists of a series of contrasts mutually at war, yet pacified and equalized by the unity, God.

Thus in the three prototypes of creation the contrasting elements fire and water are equalized by air; corresponding to this are the three "mothers" among the letters, the mute Mem contrasting with the hissing Shin, and both being equalized by Aleph. From these premises the Sefer Yezirah draws the important conclusion that "good and evil" have no real existence, for since everything in nature can exist only by means of its contrast, a thing may be called good or evil according to its influence over man by the natural course of the contrast.

The book teaches that man is a free moral agent, and therefore a person is rewarded or punished for his or her actions. While the ideas of heaven and hell are left unmentioned in the book, it teaches that the virtuous man is rewarded by a favorable attitude of nature, while the wicked man finds it hostile to him. Sefer Yetzirah is similar to various Gnostic systems. As the Sefer Yetzirah divides the Hebrew alphabet into three groups, so the Gnostic Marcus divided the Greek letters into three classes, regarded by him as the symbolic emanations of the three powers which include the whole number of the upper elements.

Both systems attach great importance to the power of the combinations and permutations of the letters in explaining the genesis and development of multiplicity from unity. The Clementine writings present another form of gnosis which agrees in many points with the Sefer Yetzirah. The remaining six Sefirot , or the limitations of space by the three dimensions in a twofold direction, are also found in the Clementina, where God is described as the boundary of the universe and as the source of the six infinite dimensions.

The essential elements of the book are characteristic of the 3rd or 4th century; for a work of this nature, composed in the Geonic period could have been cast only in the form of Jewish gnosis, which remained stationary after the 4th century, if indeed it had not already become extinct. The historical origin of the Sefer Yetzirah was placed by Reitzenstein Poimandres , p. The date and origin of the book can not be definitely determined so long as there is no critical text of it.

The editio princeps Mantua , contains two recensions, which were used in the main by the commentators of the book as early as the middle of the 10th century. The shorter version Mantua I. The shorter version was also used by most of the later commentators, such as Judah b.

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Barzillai and Nahmanides , and it was, therefore, published in the ordinary editions. The longer recension, on the other hand, was little known, the form given in the editio princeps of the Sefer Yetzirah being probably a copy of the text found in Donnolo's commentary. In addition to these two principal recensions of the text, both versions contain a number of variant readings which have not yet been examined critically. As regards the relation of the two recensions, it may be said that the longer form contains entire paragraphs which are not found in the shorter, while the divergent arrangement of the material often modifies the meaning essentially.

Although the longer recension doubtless contains additions and interpolations which did not form part of the original text, it has many valuable readings which seem older and better than the corresponding passages in the shorter version, so that a critical edition of the text must consider both recensions. The history of the study of the Sefer Yetzirah is one of the most interesting in the records of Jewish literature.

With the exception of the Bible, scarcely any other book has been the subject of so much annotation. An intimate relation exists between the Sefer Yetzirah and the later mystics; and although there is a marked difference between the later Kabbalah and the Sefer Yetzirah for instance, the Sefirot of the Kabbalists do not correspond to those of the Sefer Yetzirah , the system laid down in the latter is the first visible link in the development of Kabbalistic ideas.

Instead of the immediate creation ex nihilo , both works postulate a series of emanations of mediums between God and the universe; and both consider God as the first cause only, and not as the immediate efficient cause of the world. A book of the same name was circulated among the Chassidei Ashkenaz Rhineland mystics between the eleventh and 13th centuries, for whom it became a source of magical speculation. This book seems to be a mystic work on the six days of creation, and corresponded in part to the small Midrash Seder Rabbah de-Bereshit.

The Quran speaks of a holy book by the name of the Scrolls of Abraham which translates to the scrolls of Abraham. Although most Muslims believe this book to have long perished it is speculated that this may be a reference to Sefer Yetzirah as Jewish tradition generally ascribes authorship of that book to Abraham. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Part of a series on Kabbalah Concepts. Mainstream displacement of rationalism with Kabbalah. Selective influence on Western thought. Mysticism after Spanish expulsion.

Mystics of 16th-century Safed. Mysticism in religious Zionism.