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Spirituality for the Skeptic




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THE SEFIROT OF EMANATION AND RETURN

THE CELESTIAL AND MYSTICAL SEFIROT

THE SEFIROT OF EMANATION:

 

At the core of Kabbalah is the Sefirot, often known as the Cosmic Tree of Life.  It comprises a diagram that to modern eyes resembles a flow chart.  From this chart flows a hierarchy of 10 mysterious symbols of both celestial and mystical significance based on secret ancient teachings.   The hierarchy itself came into being among Hebrew sages of the dark ages, and emerged full bloom in 16th century Europe among distinguished Jewish scholars. 

 

At that time the scholar, Moses Cordovero called it the Tree of Emanation, reflecting the Neo Platonic concept of Spirit corrupting into matter as the cosmos evolved.  Meanwhile, the distinguished Isaac Luria depicted it as the Tree of Return, reflecting a mystical journey of the material self returning back through the spiritual hierarchy to the Divine.  However, Luria did not neglect the cosmic evolution, as we will see.   

 

Rather than depicting the ludicrousy of an anthropomorphic God as creator, the Sefirot speaks of Ein Sof  (Literally, Eternity): the Source Mystery of all being and becoming.   According to the visions of Luria:  In the Beginning, the enigmatic energy of Ein Sof stretched out to infinity.  Then came the infinite flux when this unspeakable expanse of energy suddenly collapsed inward into hidden realms to leave an eternal void of nothingness and non-being.

 

Then the unthinkable, condensed power of Ein Sof radiated out into the emptiness to suddenly create the glowing void called Keter (literally, circle or crown) surrounded by the nebulous vapor of creation.  And within that Void lurked Hokhmah  (literally, Wisdom) or Cosmic Law, which impregnated the Void to create Binah, the Cosmic Womb of Creation.  Henceforth, Hokmah was metaphorically known as Abba, Father-God of the universe, and Binah as Imma, the Cosmic Mother of all things.

 

But the horrendous energy of Ein Sof was such that it shattered the Void into multiple forces.  And from the shattering emerged Hesed, or absolute freedom and expansiveness exploding toward chaos.  But thanks to cosmic lawfulness Gervurah, or constricting power, appeared to balance the free-wheeling energy, and create order from the chaos.   Then the symmetry emerged as Tif'eret (Literally Beauty), the Cosmic Offspring (or "Son") as new creation evolving throughout the universe.

 

What amazes some scholars today is:  (1) the sparseness of mythical personification in the cosmology, and  (2) How close this medieval rendition comes to modern cosmology.  In search of a unified cosmic theory, scientists speak today of an 11 dimensional universe collapsing most of its dimensions, then suddenly inflating, and its unified force field initially shattering into the separate forces (i.e. the gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces) as it expanded into its current realm.

 

Supernatural rhetoric does not seem to consistently appear until the Sefirot comes down to the lower realms of consciousness, as we know it.  Netsah represents eternal prophecy and could be rendered as Neshema, the highest aspect of the human soul where it connects to its cosmic Ground of Being.  Netsha is balanced by Hod, or splendor, which could be rendered as Ruah the spiritual body.  And emanating from each living form is Yesod, or life force, which could be rendered as Nepesh, the animal soul (its symbol, the phallus). 

 

And underlying it all is the Shekhina, or Malkhut, the maternal gateway known by many names including the Moon Queen and God's maternal Presence among us.  But are these lower realms supernatural or symbolic?  To find out, we must go to the Mystical Sefirot, better known as the Sefirot of Return.

 

THE SEFIROT OF RETURN

 

The Sefirot diagram in the Kabbalah crudely resembles the figure of a person.  The esteemed Rabbi Isaac Kook (1865-1935) claimed that all existence was the body of God.  And each of us, being an infinitesimal fractal of that body, is a universe within a universe. As above and without, so below and within.  Ironically scientists recently found a constellation of galaxies shaped like a human body reaching far out into the universe.  And in the Gospel of Thomas the Christos says, "I take my stand in the midst of the cosmos."

 

The Kabbalah sees us at the bottom of the cosmic hierarchy as broken vessels losing their light, vessels that must be mended through meditation and sacred rites, with kindness and wisdom.  It is said the Divine cannot work for persons except in and through persons, but needs their help to do so.  In the Sefirot of Return we must reverse the process of emanations from above to reconnect with the Divine Source.

 

At the lowest rung of the Sefirot is the Shekhina, also known as Gods maternal Presence in our world, and the maternal gateway to salvation.  Gateways to vital transitions appear always guarded by pitfalls and stumbling blocks.  The supernal gate is also guarded by many "demons" of the soul; and they are called sloth, fear, ignorance, temptation, distraction and doubt. Such obstacles must be overcome with self-discipline and meditative practices that are beyond the scope of this section.  Suffice it that the feminine side of the Godhead is less menacing than the patriarchal side and becomes the symbolic Maternal Gate.

 

If the adept is to achieve the self-discipline and find the methods to enter the gate, he or she must also be in close connection with Yesod,   (known archaically as the life force or nepesh, the animal soul).  I believe Freud's term "Eros", the life drive (as opposed to "Thanatos", the death drive) might be more familiar to modern minds here.  Few realize until too late how insidiously the drive towards spiritual and physical death can take hold during depression, addiction, or an undisciplined lifestyle.

 

Once inertia is overcome and the drive toward life is vitalized, the adept can become filled with the spirit of healing and well being as symbolized by the splendor of Hod or ruah, the spiritual self.  Then comes the stage of Netsah, or neshema the connection to ones true being as part of humanity, nature and the cosmos.  Here healing turns to realizing and actualising of ones true potentials

 

The next stage is that of Tif'eret where the soul obliviates beyond the self into oneness with the constant cosmic resurrection into new being and becoming.  Here self-actualization leaps into self-transcendence and the adept becomes twice born. 

Lest the ensuing state of loving freedom called Hesed becomes chaotic, the state of Gevurah or disciplined equanimity must be achieved if sanity is to be preserved.

 

Then comes mystical union as the guiding light of Hokhimah shines forth from Binah, the cosmic womb and final gateway to the shining Void of Keter and oneness with Ein Sof, the Source mystery of all Being.

 

In an age of Christian persecution and witch hunts, the language of the Kabbalah was purposefully symbolic, and obscure.  For a clearer depiction of the mystical journey and experience, click "The Mystic Way" below.

 

 

 

 

 

THE MYSTIC WAY

THE TRUE NUMEROLOGY


THE BOOK OF THOMAS THE DOUBTER

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