Sunday, 18 January 2015

Blavatsky and the Kabbalah 1 : the Sefer Yetzirah

HPB wrote rather extensively on the Kabbalah, for example, Isis Unveiled, chapter 5, the Secret Doctrine, I,2,5 "The Hidden Deity", and the The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 3, ‘’The Eastern Gupta Vidya and the Kabalah’’. Here's a somewhat cryptic passage referencing the Sepher Yetzireh (SD I, p. 337). The reference is re-used on p. 447 and is actually an uncredited passage from  Isis Unveiled (p. 272.):

‘’In the Sepher Jezireh, the Kabalistic Book of Creation, the author has evidently repeated the words of Manu. In it, the Divine Substance is represented as having alone existed from the eternity, boundless and absolute; and as having emitted from itself the Spirit.* “One is the Spirit of the living God, blessed be Its name, which liveth for ever! Voice, Spirit, and Word, this is the Holy Spirit;”† and this is the Kabalistic abstract Trinity, so unceremoniously anthropomorphised by the Christian Fathers. From this triple One emanated the whole Kosmos. First from One emanated number Two, or Air (the Father), the creative element; and then number Three, Water (the Mother), proceeded from the air; Ether or Fire completes the mystic four, the Arba-il.‡ “When the Concealed of the Concealed wanted to reveal Himself, he first made a point (primordial point, or the first Sephiroth, air, or Holy Ghost), shaped into a sacred form (the ten Sephiroth, or the Heavenly man), and covered it with a rich and splendid garment, that is the world.”§’’

Footnote(s) ——————————————— * The manifested Spirit; Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also.
† “Sepher Jezireh,” chap. 1, Mishna ix. ‡ Ibid. It is from Arba that Abram is made to come.
§ “Sohar,” I., 2a.

Added explanations to this passage appear in the SD Vol. 3, p.181 (note the editors add a more accurate translation, but this doesn’t affect the interpretation, as will be shown).

‘’As is constantly shown in the Zohar, the Infinite Unity, or Ain-Suph, is ever placed outside human thought and appreciation; and in Sepher Jetzirah we see the Spirit of God - the Logos, not the Deity itself - One is the Spirit of the Living God . . Who liveth forever. Voice, Spirit, [of the spirit], and Word: this is the Holy Spirit, [ Mishna, i. 9.] Three-in-one and Four - - and the Quaternary. From this Cube emanates the whole Kosmos.’’

There's another reference to that passage in SD 3- “The “Zohar” on Creation and the Elohim” which gives further details, this time it's quoted from the British Kabbalist MacGregor Mathers from a private correspondence that HPB reproduces:

“In the Sepher Yetzirah,or Book of Formation, we read:“One is She the Ruach Elohim Chum - (Spirit of the Living Elohim). . . . Voice, Spirit, and Word; and this is She, the Spirit of the Holy One.” Here again we see the intimate connection which exists between the Holy Spirit and the Elohim. Furthermore, farther on in this same Book of Formation- which is be it remembered, one of the oldest of the Kabalistical Books, and whose authorship is ascribed to Abraham the Patriarch - we shall find the idea of a Feminine Trinity in the first place, from whom a masculine Trinity proceeds; or as it is said in the text: “Three Mothers whence proceed three Fathers.” And yet this double Triad forms, as it were, but one complete Trinity. Again it is worthy of note that the Second and Third Sephiroth (Wisdom and Understanding) are both distinguished by feminine names, Chokmah and Binah, notwithstanding that to the former more particularly the masculine idea, and to the latter the feminine, are attributed, under the titles of Abba and Aima (or Father and Mother).”(p.168)

For the Kabalistic tetrad, it is not obvious to me how a trinity is derived from Sefer Yetzirah 1, 9. I think Boris de Zirkoff (in his edition of the Secret Doctrine) adds an appropriate reference to 1, 12 which would more clearly refer to the tetrad of one, air, water, and fire.

Interestingly, in Aryeh Kaplan's commentary of the Sefer Yetzirah 1, 9 (Weiser, 1997, p.71) he refers to a kabalistic tetrad of Keter, Chakmah, Binah and Ruach Hakodesh which is strikingly similar to Blavatsky’s interpretation:"This 'Holy Spirit' can be seen as the intermediate between Voice and Speech. It is thus also intermediate between Chakmah and Binah consciousness. Ruach HaKodesh is the divine inspiration and information that one can bring back from a state of Chakmah consciousness to one's normal state of Binah consciousness. Such Ruach HaKodesh is like Keter, which stands between Chakman and Binah, but which is above them. Both Chakhmah and Binah are functions of the mind itself, while Ruach HaKodesh is the 'breath of God' mentioned in the verse, 'I will fill him with the Breath of God, with Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge.’’

This article to be concluded in part two.