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ALL finite creatures are, in divergent senses and varying degrees, part and parcel of the Deity. Creatio ex nihilo is unthinkable, seeing that God, in the Neoplatonic view, is the Perfect One, 'an undivided One,' to whom no qualities or characteristics can be ascribed, and to whom, therefore, no such idea as that of intention or purpose, or change or movement, can be applied. All existences are emanations from the Deity. The Deity reveals Himself in all existences because He is immanent in them. But though dwelling in them, He is greater than they. He is apart from them. He transcends them.

The foregoing might be said to be a general résumé of the philosophy of the Ten Sefirot. To quote a passage from the section of the Zohar called the Idra Zūtta ('Small Assembly'):

"The Most Ancient One 1 is at the same

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time the most Hidden of the hidden. He is separated from all things, and is at the same time not separated from all things. For all things are united in Him, and He unites Himself with all things. There is nothing which is not in Him. He has a shape, and one can say that He has not one. In assuming a shape, He has given existence to all things. He made ten lights spring forth from His midst, lights which shine with the form which they have borrowed from Him, and which shed everywhere the light of a brilliant day. The Ancient One, the most Hidden of the hidden, is a high beacon, and we know Him only by His lights, which illuminate our eyes so abundantly. His Holy Name is no other thing than these lights."

The 'ten lights' are, of course, the Ten Sefirot, the ten successive emanations from the Godhead, the ten powers or qualities which were latent from all eternity in the Godhead. But what is meant by saying that 'His Holy Name is no other thing but these lights'? We turn to another passage in the Zohar for the explanation. It reads as follows:

"The name 'I am' [in Hebrew, ěhěyěh; see Exodus, iii. 14, 'I am that I am'--in Hebrew, ěhěyěh ăshěr ěhěyěh] signifies the unity of all things. Afterwards He brought out that light which is the celestial mother, and when she bare a child, then He called Himself 'that I am' (ăshěr ěhěyěh). And

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when all else came into existence, and everything became perfected and in its right place, then He called Himself Jahveh" (iii. 65).

The passage seems hopeless as regards a meaning. But on deeper consideration it becomes quite clear. The Divine Name, 'I am that I am,' is inferior to the Divine Name Jahveh. It typifies an earlier, less-developed stage. The student of Hebrew will readily know why this is. Although translated into English as 'I am that I am' it belongs grammatically to what the Semitic philologists call the 'imperfect tense,' representing an unfinished action. But 'Jahveh' is grammatically the 'present tense' (i.e. a noun formed from this tense). Hence 'I am that I am' signifies the Godhead as He was when He existed as the 'Hidden of the hidden,' i.e. when He was the 'undivided One,' the Absolute containing in Himself the All, before He had, so to speak, unfolded Himself in His creative acts, before any emanations had radiated out from Him. But 'Jahveh' denotes the crown and summit of the Divine self-manifestation; in other words, it denotes God as immanent in all the numberless parts of the cosmos, which is but a revelation, an embodiment of the Divine thought. The idea of the 'celestial mother' having a child is part of the Zohar's doctrine of emanation, where, as will be shown later on, a certain one of the Ten Sefirot is

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called 'father' (Abba) and another is called 'mother' (Imma), and from the union of the two, there is born another of the Sefirot, called the 'son' (Ben).

Hence to say that 'God's Holy Name is no other thing than these lights' is but to say that the Sefirot which represent the world as the copy of an ever-active, ever-energising God, sum up all that the Divine Name stands for. And that the Divine Name denotes a strongly mystical aspect of the relation between God and the universe is abundantly clear from the Essenic literature, as well as from the Book Yetsirah. In fact, it appears occasionally in this sense, in the Talmudic and Midrashic records (see, e.g., T.B. Pesaḥim, 55b), and the germ of the idea can be traced back to the Old Testament, to such phrases as: "This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations" (Exodus, iii. 15); or: "Thy name, O Lord, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O Lord, throughout all generations" (Psalm, cxxxv. 13).

One of the clearest passages in the Zohar stating what the Ten Sefirot are, is the following:

"For the waters of the sea are limitless and shapeless. But when they are spread over the earth, then they produce a shape (dimiōn), and we can calculate like this: The source of the waters of the sea and the force

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which it emits to spread itself over the soil, are two things. Then an immense basin is formed by the waters just as is formed when one makes a very deep digging. This basin is filled by the waters which emanate from the source; it is the sea itself, and can be regarded as a third thing. This very large hollow [of waters] is split up into seven canals, which are like so many long tubes, by means of which the waters are conveyed. The source, the current, the sea, and the seven canals form together the number ten. And should the workman who constructed these tubes come to break them up, then the waters return to their source, and there remains naught but the débris and the water dried up. It is thus that the Cause of causes has created the Ten Sefirot. The Crown is the source whence there springs a light without end, from which comes the name En-Sof, i.e. Infinite, designating the Supreme Cause; for while in this state it possesses neither shape nor figure; there are no means of comprehending it; there is no way of knowing it. It is in this sense that it has been said, 'Seek not the things that are too hard for thee' (Ecclesiasticus, iii. 21). Then there is formed a vessel contracted to a mere point [the letter Yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet] into which the Divine light penetrates. It is the source of Wisdom, it is Wisdom itself, in virtue of which the Supreme 

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[paragraph continues] Cause is called the God of Wisdom. Afterwards, it [i.e. the Supreme Cause] constructs a channel, wide as the sea, which is called Intellect [or Intelligence]. From this, comes the title of 'God who understands' [i.e. is intelligent]. We must know, however, that God only understands and is wise by means of His own essential substance; for Wisdom does not merit the title by itself, but only by the instrumentality of Him who is wise and who has produced it from the light which emanates from Him. One cannot conceive what 'knowing' is by itself, but by Him who is the 'knowing One,' and who fills it with His own essential substance.

"Finally, the sea is divided into seven parts, and there result [from this division] the seven precious channels which are called: (a) Compassion (or Greatness), (b) Justice (or Force), (c) Beauty, (d) Victory, (e) Glory, (f) Royalty, and (g) Foundation. 1 It is for this reason that God is called the 'Great' or the 'Compassionate,' the 'Strong,' the 'Magnificent,' the 'God of Victories,' the 'Creator to whom all glory belongs,' and the 'Foundation of all things.' It is this latter attribute which sustains all the others, as well as the totality of the worlds. And yet, He is also the King of the universe, for all things are in His power whether He wills to lessen the number of the channels and increase the

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light which springs from them, or whether He wills the contrary" (foll. 42, 43).

According to this characteristic passage, the Sefirot are the Names of the Deity--but only in the deeply mystical sense of 'Names' as has been referred to above. The Divine Name is, on this understanding, equivalent to the Presence of God, the eternal Source of the power and intelligence enshrined in the constitution of the world and the heart of man. The Ten Sefirot together are thus a picture of how an infinite, undivided, unknowable God takes on the attributes of the finite, the divided, the knowable, and thus becomes the cause of, the power lying at the bottom of, all the multifarious modes of existence in the finite plane--all of which are thus a reflection of the Divine. The Sefirot have no real tangible existence at all. They are but a figure of speech showing the Divine immanence in all cosmic phenomena, in all the grades of man's spiritual and moral achievement.

It should, however, be pointed out here, that the functions and natures of the Sefirot are described by the Zohar in the most enigmatic of enigmatic language. Hence different deductions have always been possible, and hence, too, the rise of more than one school of Zohar interpretation. The view mostly followed--and it may be said to be the universally-accepted standard--is

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that of the school of Luria and Cordovero, the two most famous Kabbalists of the sixteenth century.

Let us now consider each of the Sefirot separately. What we shall say will amount in substance, though not in form, to a commentary on the lengthy passage from the Zohar previously quoted. Prior to the first of the Sefirot must come, what our extract has termed the Supreme Cause (literally the 'Cause of causes') or the En-Sof. What is the relation of the En-Sof to the Sefirot? According to the theories of Luria and Cordovero, all the Sefirot emanate from the En-Sof, who, although eternally present in them all, is not comprehended in them, but transcends them. All modes of existence and thought embody some fragment of the En-Sof, but, with all this, the En-Sof is divided from them by an impassable gulf. He remains the hidden, unapproachable Being. This is why, while each of the Sefirot has a well-known name, the En-Sof has no name. Just as in the Talmudic mysticism of the Shechinah the idea of a universally-diffused, all-penetrating Deity is conveyed by the metaphor of light, so in the case of the mediæval Kabbalah the En-Sof is likewise spoken of as Light (Or En-Sof = 'The Infinite Light'). The Christian mystics also favoured the same figure. Closely connected with this teaching is the general Kabbalistic doctrine of Tsimtsūm,

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i.e. contraction. It, too, is found in the Talmud and Midrashim, and it is from them that the Kabbalah, most likely, received it. Thus Genesis Rabba, iv. 5, dwells on the paradox (mentioned also by Philo) of the world being too small to hold God, but yet the space between the Ark's staves being large enough. The Kabbalistic idea of Tsimtsūm is an attempt to explain the contraction or limitation of the En-Sof (the Infinite), in order to make possible the emanation of the Sefirot, i.e. in order to produce the finite world of phenomena. The universal infiltration of the light of the En-Sof, its diffusion throughout all the Sefirot, gave rise to the idea of the existence of a changeable and an unchangeable element in each of the Sefirot. The former represents the material, outward, perishable side of man and the universe. The latter is the changeless, unfading eternal quality embedded in man and the universe. It is just this dual aspect which is referred to in the long extract from the Zohar quoted above, in the words: "Should the workman who constructed these tubes come to break them up, then the waters return to their source, and there remains naught but the débris and the water dried up." In other words, should the En-Sof withdraw its eternal immanent light and life from any one of the Sefirot, or, to speak in untechnical language, should God, who is

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the Life of the universe, the Power lying beneath and behind all phenomena, by some miraculous intervention withdraw or suspend some fragment of Himself, then the cosmos reverts to chaos.

The first of the Ten Sefirot is the Crown (in Hebrew, Keter). It is of importance for the reader to note that whereas Neoplatonism is largely responsible for the basis of the Zohar's doctrines of emanation, the names of the Sefirot and the teaching embraced and conveyed by those names are entirely drawn from the field of the Old Testament and Rabbinical theology. All ages of Jewish thought (as well as of Jewish art) employ the word, image, and idea of a 'crown' in a considerable variety of senses. In Biblical Hebrew there are no less than five different words all indiscriminately translated as 'crown,' but denoting really either different forms of the thing or different prominent portions of it. In the Apocryphal and Rabbinical literature men 'crowned' themselves in all sorts of ways, and the crown was symbolic of a host of religious ideas. In the theological realm, 'crown' played many parts.

Only two references--both germane to our subject--can be quoted here. In T.B. Berachoth, 17a, it is said: "In the world to come there is neither eating nor drinking, nor marrying, nor bargaining, nor envy,

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nor hatred, nor quarrel; but the righteous sit, with crowns upon their heads, and feed upon the splendour of the Shechinah, as it is said of the nobles of the children of Israel, 'He laid not His hand upon them, but they saw God, and this was equivalent to their eating and their drinking' [so the Targumic paraphrase of Exodus, xxiv. 11]." T.B. Megillah, 15b, says: "In the time to come, God will be a crown of glory upon the head of each saint, as it is written, 'In that day shall the Lord of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people' (Isaiah, xxviii. 5)." Hence, it is not hard to discover by what process of reasoning the mediæval Jewish mystics thought it fitting to designate the first of the Sefirot as the Crown.

"It is," says the Zohar, "the principle of all principles, the hidden Wisdom, the Crown which the Highest of the high, and by which all crowns and diadems are crowned" (iii. 288). It is the first of the emanations from the En-Sof. The latter being, as has been said above, the infinite, hidden, unknowable Being, the Crown represents, as it were, the first stage by which the Infinite Being takes on the properties of the finite and becomes drawn out of His impenetrable isolation. But, nevertheless, the Crown is an absolute indivisible unity, possessing no attributes or qualities, and baffling all

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analysis and description. It is, to quote the original, a 'nekūdah peshtūah,' i.e. 'a simple point,' or 'nekūda rishōnah,' i.e. 'a primordial point.' The idea here is that the first manifestation of the Divine is a point, i.e. a unity, unanalysable, indescribable, and yet possessing the All. In other words, it is the Hegelian idea of 'pure being' (das reine sein). This 'pure being' or 'existence' is the thought or reason of God. The starting-point of everything is the thought as it existed in God. The universe is this 'thought' of God. It is in this 'thought' of God that everything was originally embraced. The first of the Sefirot denotes, then, the primordial Divine Thought (or Divine Will, as the Hebrew commentators often style it); and to say this is tantamount to saying that the Crown contained within itself the plan of the universe in its infinity of time and space, in its endless varieties of form, colour, and movement. And it is an emanation from the En-Sof who, while immanent in the Crown, and hence immanent in all the Sefirot, yet transcends them all.

The Crown, for the reasons just mentioned, is ofttimes styled Resha Hivra, i.e. the 'White Head'--'head' denoting the idea of source, and 'white' being the blend of all the colours (just as the Crown is the blend of all forms in the cosmos). But the idea may possibly be drawn from Daniel,

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vii. 9, where "One that was ancient of days did sit; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool" (cf. 1 Enoch, xiv. 18-22; Revelation, i. 14). The original Aramaic for 'ancient of days' is 'attik'; and this, too, is a name for the first of the Sefirot, and is frequently employed in the Kabbalah, generally as a designation of the Deity.

Wisdom and Intelligence are the second and third of the Ten Sefirot. They are parallel emanations from the Crown or first Sefirah. Here we alight upon an interesting feature of this mysticism, viz. the application of the idea of the sexual relationship to the solution of the problem of existence. "When the Ancient One, the Holy One, desired to bring all things into being, He created them all as male and female" (iii. 290). Wisdom is the 'father,' i.e. the masculine active principle which engenders all things and imposes on them form and measure (an idea derived from Job, xxviii. 12). Intelligence is the 'mother,' the passive, receptive principle (derived from Proverbs, ii. 3, "Yea, if thou cry after discernment," i.e. 'Binah' in Hebrew; and the word rendered by 'if' can, by the slightest alteration of a vowel, be rendered by 'mother,' and thus the passage is translated by the Zohar as, "Yea, if mother thou tallest discernment"). Out of the union of

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[paragraph continues] Wisdom and Intelligence comes a 'son' who is dowered with the characteristics of both parents. This son is Reason (Da‘at), which is, by the way, not regarded as an independent Sefirah. These three, father, mother, son (i.e. the two Sefirot, viz. Wisdom and Intelligence, and their offspring Reason), hold and unite in themselves all that which has been, which is, and which will be. But they in their turn are all united to the first Sefirah (the Crown), who is the all-comprehensive One who is, was, and will be.

Here one meets again with a foreshadowing of the Hegelian teaching concerning the identity of thought and being. The universe is an expression of the ideas or the absolute forms of intelligence. Cordovero says:

"The first three Sefirot must be considered as one and the same thing. The first represents 'knowledge,' the second 'the knower,' the third 'that which is known.' The Creator is Himself, at one and the same time, knowledge, the knower, and the known. Indeed, His manner of knowing does not consist in applying His thought to things outside Him; it is by self-knowledge that He knows and perceives everything which is. There exists nothing which is not united to Him and which He does not find in His own essence. He is the type of all being, and all things exist in Him under their most pure and most perfect form. . . . It is thus that all

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existing things in the universe have their form in the Sefirot, and the Sefirot have theirs in the source from which they emanate."

Thus, the first three Sefirot form a triad constituting the world as a manifestation of the Divine Thought. The remaining seven Sefirot likewise fall into triads. The Divine Thought is the source whence emanate two opposing principles, one active or masculine, the other passive or feminine. The former is Mercy (Ḥesed), the latter is Justice (Dīn). From the union of these two there results Beauty (Tifěrěth). The logical connections between these three principles, as they stand in the Zohar, are extremely difficult to fathom. But Cordovero and other Hebrew commentators give us the needed solution of the problem. The Sefirot Mercy and Justice represent the universe as being at one and the same time an expansion and contraction of the Divine Will. Mercy, as the active masculine principle, is the life-giving, ever-productive because ever-forgiving power innate in man and the universe. Justice is the necessarily-opposed immanent faculty holding in check what would otherwise prove to be the excesses of Mercy. The theology of the Talmudic Rabbis shows itself unmistakably here. In the beginning, say the Rabbis, God thought to create the universe by the 'attribute of justice' (designated by the word 'Jahveh'). But on considering

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that the universe could not exist by 'justice' alone, He determined to join the 'attribute of mercy' (designated by the word 'Elohim') with the 'attribute of justice,' and to create the universe--as He finally did--by the dual means. Likewise in the Zohar mysticism, the moral order of the universe can only follow on a combination of the Sefirot Mercy and Justice. And the inevitable product of the union is the sixth Sefirah, Beauty. The reasoning is apparent. We have thus far seen how the first triad of Sefirot pictures God as the immanent thinking power of the universe, and how the second triad interprets God as the immanent moral power of the universe.

The third triad are: Victory (Nezaḥ), Glory (Hōd), and Foundation (Yesōd). The first of these is the masculine active principle. The second is the feminine passive principle, while the third is the effect of their combination. What aspect of a God-saturated world do these three Sefirot point to? The Zohar tells us, as follows: "Extension, variety [or multiplication], and force are gathered together in them; and all forces that come out, come out from them, and it is for this reason that they are called Hosts [i.e. armies or forces]. They are [the two fore-mentioned Sefirot] Victory and Glory" (iii. 296). The allusion is obviously to the physical, dynamic aspect of the universe, the ceaseless, developing world with its multiplicity

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and variety of forces, changes and movements. From their coalescence comes the ninth Sefirah, Foundation. Rightly so; for it is the endless, changeless ebb and flow of the world's forces that, in the last resort, guarantees the stability of the world and builds up its 'foundation.' It creates the reproductive power of nature, endows it with, as it were, a generative organ from which all things proceed, and upon which all things finally depend.

The last of the Sefirot is Royalty (Malkūt). Its function is not very apparent, and its existence may be due to the desire on the part of the Kabbalists to make up the number ten--a number which looms largely in the Old Testament literature, as well as in the theology of the Talmud, Midrashim, and Philo. Generally speaking, this tenth Sefirah indicates the abiding truth of the harmonious co-operation of all the Sefirot, thus making the universe in its orderliness and in its symmetry a true and exact manifestation of the Divine Mind--an ‘Olam Azilut, i.e. a world of emanation, as the Kabbalists themselves style it.

The fact that the Sefirot fall into triads or trinities, and the ascription to them of such sexual titles as 'father,' 'mother,' 'son,' has encouraged many an apologist for Christianity to say that the essential Christian dogma of the Trinity is implicit in the Jewish mystical

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literature. But it is beyond a doubt that the resemblance is quite a matter of accident. It cannot be too often repeated that there is a substantial admixture of foreign elements in all branches of the Kabbalah. The philosophy of Salomon Ibn Gabirol (which largely echoes Plato), Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Philonism, and other systems have all left indelible traces. But Christianity, be it remembered, besides being a debtor to Judaism, is a debtor to these sources as well; so that what appears to be Christian may be, in reality, Jewish; a development of the original material by an unbroken succession of Jewish minds. This original material is the old Talmudic and Midrashic exegesis upon which was foisted the alien philosophies just alluded to. That there should be a resultant resemblance to Christianity is quite a normal outcome; but it is beyond dispute that the Christian Trinity and the trinities of the Ten Sefirot lie in quite distinct planes.

The Jewish Prayer Book echoes much of the theological sentiment of the Zohar. There is a fine hymn in the Sabbath-morning service which, while giving a noteworthy prominence to the names of the Sefirot, reproduces with a charming simplicity of Hebrew diction, the main body of the Zoharic doctrine, its cosmology, angelology, astrology, and psychology. It is as follows: 1 "God,

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the Lord over all works, blessed is He, and ever to be blessed by the mouth of everything that hath breath. His greatness and goodness fill the world; knowledge (Da‘at) and understanding (Tebūnah = Bīnah) [i.e. intelligence] surround Him. He is exalted above the holy Ḥayot, and is adorned in glory (Kabod = Hōd) above the celestial chariot (merkabah); purity and rectitude are before his throne, loving-kindness (Ḥesed) and tender mercy before his glory. The luminaries are good which our God hath created: He formed them with knowledge, understanding, and discernment; He gave them might and power to rule in the midst of the world. They are full of lustre, 1 and they radiate brightness; beautiful is their lustre throughout all the world. They rejoice in their going forth, and are glad in their returning; they perform with awe the will of their Master. Glory and honour they render unto his name, exultation and rejoicing at the remembrance of his sovereignty (Malkūt). He called unto the sun, and it shone forth in light; He looked and ordained the figure of the moon. All the hosts on high render praise unto Him, the Seraphim, the Ophanim, and the holy Ḥayot ascribing glory (lit. beauty, i.e. Tifěrěth) and greatness." 2


136:1 One of the favourite names for God in the mediæval Kabbalah. It is based on the phrase in Daniel, vii. 9, 13, 22, 'ancient of days.'

141:1 Some authorities invert the order of f and g.

153:1 From the Authorised Daily Prayer Book, ed. Singer, p. 129.

154:1 Ziv in Hebrew, a mystical term for the shining of the Shechinah.

154:2 Another appellation for Ḥesed, the fourth Sefirah.

Next: Chapter VIII. The Soul