The “Sepher Yetzirah,” or Book of Formation, which is perhaps the oldest philosophical treatise as yet extent in the Hebrew language, opens as follows:
“In the two and thirty most occult and wonderful paths of wisdom, did IAH, the Lord of Hosts, engrave his name . . . He created this universe by the three Sepharim, Number Writing, and Speech.
“Ten are the numbers, as are the Sephiroth, and twenty-two the letters; these are the Foundation of all things. Of these letters, three are mothers, seven are double, and twelve are simple.
“The ten numbers formed from nothing, are the Decad; these are seen in the fingers of the hands, five on one, five on the other, and over them is the Covenant by voice spiritual, and the rite of Circumcision, corporeal (as of Abraham).
“Ten are the numbers of the ineffable Sephiroth, tenandnotnine, tenandnoteleven. Learn this wisdom, and be wise in the understanding of it; investigate these numbers, and draw knowledge from them; fix the design in its purity, and pass from it to its Creator seated on his throne.” (Dr. Westcott’s translation.)
It is well to notice that the ancient Qabalists made a particular point of the fact that there are TEN Sephiroth, neither more nor less. If we examine the formation of the “Tree of Life” in the following Figure (XII), we shall understand why they were so careful to make this plain.
One might at first be inclined to suppose that there should be another Sephira in the center of the upper hexagon, and this is, as a matter of fact, the location assigned to the Sphere of DAATH, or Knowledge, as the child of Chokmah and Binah. But it is not to be shown in the plan of the Tree for it represents a Higher Dimensional Knowledge, which should be drawn from the whole Tree, as it is written, “Draw knowledge from the.” Should such a sphere be shown in the design, it would also necessitate extra “Paths” leading thereto, but we are clearly told that the Paths of Wisdom are thirty-two in all, that is to say, the Ten Numerical Emanations and their connecting links formed by the Twenty-two letters.
Likewise we notice that there are no paths from 2 to 5 and from 3 to 4 or from 1 to 4 and 1 to 5. Had there been, we should see the symbol of the upright Pentagram, which is the Star of unconquered Will in the Microcosm, united with the Sign of the Hexagram of the Macrocosm. But this unification represents the Great Work which must be accomplished by man, and it is part of the Universal Plan that he should discover their equivalence for himself in order that he may become a conscious co-operator in the Divine Scheme of Creation. Therefor we find an “Abyss,” and no direct link between Binah and Chesed.
Again, one might be tempted to suppose that there should be three averse equilateral triangles, 2-6-3, 4-9-5, and 7-10-8. But should 4-9 and 5-9 be connected by paths, a figure of the evil and averse Pentagram with its two points uppermost, would appear upon the tree; thus:
We must do nothing, then which will in any way interfere with the arrangement as it stands, for it is a veritable Work of Wisdom.
Let us again examine the arrangement and juxtaposition of the Paths as shown in figure XII. It will be noticed that the Hexagon bounded by 1-2-4-6-5-3, is perfect in form; all its sides are equal. That the Triangles 2-3-6 and 7-8-10 are perfectly equilateral. That the triangles 1-2-3, 2-4-6, 3-5-6, 4-5-6, 7-6-8, 7-9-8, and 8-9-10 are all equal and have an angle of 120 degrees or exactly one-third of a circle. That the small triangles 4-6-7 and 5-6-8 are both equilateral. That the paths connecting 6-7-9-8 produce a diamond which is in the proportion of a perfect Vesica.
It should further be noticed that the two rectangles, 3-2-4-5 and 5-4-7-8 are each exactly based on the proportion of the Vesica, so that they partake of all the properties shown in figure V, as explained in detail by Brother Klein.
If the breadth of the Tree be taken as the Length of One Vesica, the height from the center of Malkuth to the center of Kether is exactly the Width of Four such Vesicae.
The Path from Kether to Tiphereth is exactly equal to the combined lengths of the two paths of the Middle Pillar between Tiphereth and Malkuth. Further study on the part of the Student will disclose many other proportions.
The learned but anonymous author of “The Canon,” published by Elkin Mathews in 1897, makes several important statements in regard to the Vesica Piscis and its relation to the Mysteries of the Qabalah, Architecture, etc. He writes: “It is known, both to freemasons and architects, that the mystical figure called the Vesica Piscis, so popular in the Middle Ages, and generally placed as the first proposition of Euclid, was a symbol applied by the masons in planning their temples. Albert Durer, Serlio, and other architectural writers depict the Vesica in their works, but presumably because of an unspeakable mystery attached to it, these authors make no reference to it.
Thomas Kerrich, a freemason and principal librarian of the University of Cambridge, read a paper upon this mystical figure before the Society of Antiquaries on January 20, 1820. He illustrated his remarks with many diagrams illustrating its use by the ancient masons, and piously concludes by saying: ‘I would by no means indulge in conjectures as to the reference these figures might possibly have to the most sacred mysteries of religion.’ Dr. Oliver (“Discrep.” p. 109), speaking of the Vesica says: ‘This mysterious figure Vesica Piscis possessed an unbounded influence on the details of sacred architecture; and it constituted the great and enduring secret of our ancient brethren. The plans of religious buildings were determined by its use; and the proportions of length and height were dependent on it alone.’ Mr. Clarkson (Introductory Essay to Billings’ “Temple Church”) considered that the elementary letters of the primitive language were derived from the same mystical symbol. He says that it was known to Plato and ‘his masters in the Egyptian colleges’ and was to the old builders ‘an archetype of ideal beauty.’ The Vesica was also regarded as a baneful object under the name of ‘Evil Eye,’ and the charm most generally employed to avert the dread effects of its fascination was the Phallus ((J. Millinger’s “Archeologia,” XIX). In Heraldry, the Vesica was used as the feminine shield. It was interchangeable with the Fusill, or Mascule, and was also figured as a lozenge or rhombus. In the East the Vesica was used as a symbol of the womb, and was joined to the cross by the Egyptians forming the handle of the Crux Ansata.
“Geometrically, the Vesica is constructed from two intersecting circles, so that it may be taken as having a double significance. Edward Clarkson says it ‘means astronomically at the present day a starry conjunction; and by a very intelligent transfer of typical ideas a divine marriage,’ or the two-fold essence of life, which the ancients supposed to be male and female. To every Christian the Vesica is familiar from its constant use in early art, for not only was it an attribute of the Virgin, and the feminine aspect of the Savior as symbolized by the wound in his side, but it commonly surrounds the figure of Christ, as His Throne when seated in Glory. As a hieroglyphic the combination of Christ with the Vesica is analogous to the Crux Ansata of the Egyptians.”
A little further on in his book the author of “The Canon” also makes the following remarks:
“Geometrically, the diagram containing the ten steps of the Cabala is shown by Kircher and other authorities in the form ascribed by Freemasons to what they call the ‘Double Cube,’ that is to say, an irregular hexagon, which will exactly enclose a Vesica. Consequently its length and breadth are of the proportion of 26 to 15. It is said that the ten cabalistic steps, in their entirety, symbolize the aspect of the Deity expressed by the four mystic letters IHVH, whose numerical value is 26. This number was said by the Jews to comprise the most sacred mysteries of the Law. No explanation, however, has ever been given showing how the number 26 afforded a key to all the science of the Israelites. It is now suggested that the Vesica, whose proportion is in the ration of 26 to 15, was the symbol of the hidden rule or canon, by which the synthesis of nature was reduced to a comprehensible figure, capable of demonstrating to initiates the truth and knowledge which constituted the sacred wisdom of antiquity.”
The last sentence is of much interest in the light of our present researches. I had not noticed this reference when first writing this book, but it is not alone a confirmation of our general ideas, but leads to others of importance.
Brother Klein gives the true proportion of the Vesica Piscis as that of 8 to 13.85, but probably the nearest in whole numbers is that above given by the author of The Canon, viz.: 15 to 26. (I think the exact proportion is 15.01 to 26.) Now these numbers 26 and 15 are of great Qabalistic value. 26, as stated by the author of the “Canon,” is the numeration of IHVH, and this, as shown in “Q.B.L.” and elsewhere, is the “Formula” upon which the whole System is based. 15 is the numeration of IH or “Jah,” the venerable Name of God, attributed in the “Sepher Yetzirah” to the Creator Who devised the Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom which we are discussing.
The author of the “Canon” makes a valuable suggestion when he remarks that the length and breadth of the Tree of Life are as 26 to 15, although his statement is not actually correct. Qabalistically, however, we may notice a very interesting thing. The Total numeration of the Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar, or the length of the Tree, is 1 + 6 + 9 + 10 = 26, while the two Sephiroth forming the bases of the side pillars, and indicating the breadth of the Tree are Netzach = 7 and Hod = 8, thus 7 + 8 = 15.
Now although the Vesica Piscis is the hidden rule or canon upon which the figure is built, the true proportion of the Tree is much more wonderful than if its length and breadth were in the proportion of a simple Vesica. As explained before, the true proportion is that of the width of four Vesicae in height to the length of one Vesica in width. This suggests the “Four Worlds” of the Qabalah. But since the rectangle bounding a Vesica may be divided into three equal parts by lines parallel to the shorter sides, and the divisions thus formed are found each to have the same proportions as the original figure, we shall also find that three out of the four parts of the height of the Tree of Life will represent the exact length of a Vesica the breadth of which is equal to the breadth of the Tree from center to center of the Sephiroth forming the side pillars. To make this plainer: if we take the reciprocal path from Chesed to Geburah as equivalent to 26 (it being the length of one of the four vesicae and at the same time the width of the Tree) and construct thereon another Vesica we shall find that its highest and lowest points will be in the centers of Kether and Yesod. Thus the first Nine Sephiroth are in exact proportion of the Vesica and Malkuth remains as a pendant. The height of this Vesica will now be 45 and its width 26. We have examined the number 26 as to its mystical value, but 45 is found to be the mystic number of Yesod, which represents the generative organs. In addition to this we find that the sum of the numbers of the Sephiroth 1-9 is 45, and this is the numeration of ADM the Hebrew ADAM. Further if we notice the Vesica thus formed, it will be found to have its apex in Kether while the left hand curve cuts through the center of Geburah and the right hand curve through that of Chesed, both these terminating in Yesod. Therefore these lines unite 1 + 4 + 5 + 9 = 19. Now 19 is the numeration of ChVH, or Chavvah, which is the Hebrew word for EVE. Thus we find ADAM and EVE united; with IHVH in the midst of their union.
The fact that we find these first Nine Sephiroth forming a perfect Vesica and producing such symbolism is indeed significant, and this coupled with the fact that we find the circle of Malkuth below this Vesica, and that Malkuth has been referred to the World of Shells or Excrement (Gross Matter) and has been called The Un-Redeemed Daughter, is indeed a startling piece of natural symbolism.
But so far we have a Vesica and a Sphere pendant, and our Tree of Life is not fully represented in terms of Vesicae.
The real mystery lies in the fact that just as in the first proposition of Euclid, the Vesica is formed by the intersectionoftwocircles, so the true proportion of this figure is found to be that of the intersectionoftwoVesicae. In which case the Upright line of the Middle Pillar represents the Father, the Horizontal line which runs through Tiphereth represents the Son, the Upper Vesica the Mother, and the lower one the Daughter. Thus we have the complete representation of IHVH in graphic form, and the exact proportions of the Tree of Life are shown.
The foregoing properties, alone, make this Figure of the Tree of Life quite unique, but when we add its regular Qabalistic Correspondences as a symbolic universal basis of all Ideas, and a proper means of their classification in perfect Order, we are almost overwhelmed at the sublimity of the conception. But we have hardly begun to consider its possibilities in other directions. We have not as yet discussed the proper proportion of the Sephirotic Circles to the length of the Paths, but this matter will be taken up in detail later on. Meanwhile let us notice that the connecting Paths are lines, and the Sephiroth Circles (or Spheres). The Line and the Circle make up the Number 10, and also represent the letter IO equivalent to the root of the God-name of Jove, who is identical with the Hebrew Jehovah.
[Transcriber’s note: The proportion of the Sephirotic Spheres is not again dealt with until almost the end of the book. But several of the discoveries in the following chapters do not work correctly except when the proper proportions are used. The correct radius of a Sephirotic Sphere is one-fourth the radius of the original generating circles. The correct width of the Paths is one-half the radius of the Sephiroth,
or one-eighth the radius of the generating circles.]
Let us consider some of the statements of the Sepher Yetzirah in greater detail.
Firstly we find the words “In two and thirty most occult and wonderful paths of wisdom, did IAH, the Lord of Hosts, engrave his name.” Let us consider the words two and thirty. Two is the numeration of the letter Beth, which is attributed to Mercury or Wisdom, and to the Magician or Occultists who controls the elemental forces. Thirty is “Lamed” or “Ox-Goad” or sharp pointed “engraver.” It is also the letter of Libra or of Justice and Balance, so here in one letter we get the idea of the Scales with the tongue of the balance (or ox-goad) between them. The letters BL in Hebrew form the word meaning “Lord,” while LB means “Mind” or “Heart.” The Mind is the receptacle of Wisdom and the Heart of Live and Will. The number 32 is the numeration of AHIH the Divine Name of Kether, and IHVH the Ineffable Name ruling the other Nine Sephiroth, coalesced, in the Great Name AHIHVH which embraces the whole Ten in One. The Name IAH is in Hebrew Yod-He or IH and this is called the Monogram of the Eternal. The letters are the first two of IHVH and represent the Father and Mother conjoined and concealing the Son (A, the Microcosm or Star of Unconquered Will) within them. Yod is the letter of Fire, He of Water, and the concealed Aleph is Air. These are the natures of the three Sepharim, Number, Writing, and Speech, by which Jah is said to have created the Universe. Number is Fire (the writing of the Starts), Writing flows like Water, and Air is the basis of Speech.
But these are all mysteriously connected symbolically with the Perfect Number 10, of which 0 is the Naught of the Unmanifest, and 1 the First Positive Idea. The Mouth from which issues the Fire of the Spirit in the form of Breath, and also the Water, is when closed, a horizontal line, When open it is a Circle; thus, 10.
The Pen whereby Ideas are transmitted in the form of Writing, has been referred to in the Scriptures and “The Pen of a Man” and this is dipped in a vessel which represents both a line and a circle, for purposes of reproduction and transmission of form and substance. Thus we have the idea “IH” once more. Speech cometh from the Opening and Closing of the Mouth, thus by the combined ideas of 1 and 0 or 10. In the Tarot the Letter Aleph (1) is that of Air, and also of The Fool, which is marked Zero, or 0. Aleph is the Ox; Lamed, as mentioned above, is the Ox-goad, together they are AL, the most sacred Name of the One God, and LA which means “Not” or Zero which is 0. AL is numerically 31, suggesting the Three Sepharim in One and 3 + 1 = 4; and the sum of the numbers from 1 - 4 = 10. “Ten are the numbers, as are the Sephiroth, and twenty-two the letters, these are the Foundation of all things.” Twenty is the numeration of the basic simple Hebrew Letter or IOD, spelt in full. Beth (2) is the House or Womb. Yod is equivalent to the spermatozoon in one sense. Twenty is also the numeration of the Hebrew Letter Kaph which means the palm of the hand in the act of grasping. Yod also means the Hand. So we have the chief instrument of action, the hand, in the act of opening and closing, representing expansion and contraction. 22 is the numeration of the word IChD which means Unity.
“Of these letters, three are mothers, seven are double, and twelve are simple.” We have mentioned the three Mother Letters under the form of the Three Sepharim. These represent the Three Elements, which combined, form Earth. The Seven Double letters are assigned to the Seven Planetary Intelligences, the Forces which govern Nature; and the Twelve Simple letters are attributed to the Signs of the Zodiac, or Circle of Life, which represents the great Star Universe. Thus in the twenty-two letters we have the basis of all Universal Ideas. The One Substance with its three Elementary divisions combining in material form; the Planets and Solar System, the Star Universe, all permeated with the One Life which is the Subtle Substance of Light Itself.
The Three Mother Letters are equivalent to the Three Primary Colors, which break up into the Seven Colors of the Rainbow, and may be further divided into Twelve. So the Paths of the Tree represent all the Colors between Light and Darkness, and, of course, a host of other ideas as may be found in “Q.B.L.” and Book 777.
The Book of Hermes, or Thoth, called the Tarot, contains Twenty-two symbolic Designs, which have been attributed to these Paths, and thus we may read in them the ancient Tradition by means of this Universal Alphabet of Symbols, as shown in my treatise “The Egyptian Revival.”
“The ten numbers formed from nothing, are the Decad; these are seen in the fingers of the hands, five on one, five on the other, and over them is the Covenant by voice spiritual, and the rite of Circumcision, corporeal (as of Abraham).”
The Ten Sephiroth were said to have come from the AIN or Nothing; we have made some explanation of this in the Introduction. Reference is again made to the “hands” (which connect the idea of the Paths with that of the Sephiroth, as shown above). The hands represent the pairs of opposites, or balanced ideas, but these must always be united to find the point of equilibrium. They also represent two Pentagrams, or the Divine and Human Wills. When united in the strong grip of the Lion, these two five-fold stars meet in fellowship and harmony, as 10.
The peculiar statements about the Covenant by voice spiritual, and the rite of Circumcision, corporeal, are worthy of study. The Ideas are those of the great opposites, Spirit and Matter, which are ever United in the Sun of the Soul. But again the “voice” requires the opening of the “mouth” thus changing the horizontal line into a circle. The rite of circumcision has the effect of cutting away the “circle” of the foreskin, and disclosing the “vertical line” upon the head of the male organ. The organ itself represents a line, either vertical or horizontal, and this “rite” was for the purpose of making this organ safe from possible impurity, when connected with the “Circle.” This act again is symbolic of the descent (or ascent) of Spirit into Matter, or the Harmonious union of Fire and Water, producing Air, which is in turn the representative of the “Soul” or Mediator.
With all this truly wonderful symbolism attached to the number 10, it is hardly surprising, if for no other reason, that the next verse of the Sepher Yetzirah makes it so clear that the Sephiroth are Ten, and not nine or eleven.
But this verse also tells us that after investigating these numbers, we must “fix the design in its purity,” so it is time we returned to our discussion of that subject.