Astrological Language in the Sepher Yetsira / Sefer Yetzirah: Book of Formation

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Astrological language and conceptual structures are so deeply imbedded in Western thought that they are not recognized at all, though almost every scheme of classic or modern personality analysis is a derivative or partial mapping of astrological understanding. Tripartite (Freudian) and quadrapartite (Jungian and Myer-Briggs) personality typologies can be mapped to astrology's more complex and dynamic system of seven impersonal energies in twelve active states of organization.

Astrology and Tarot are both rejected by modern and post-modern thought, which, while appropriating their concepts, place the parent systems outside the boundaries of acceptibility, assigned to the territory of primitive mysticism and fortune-telling in the junkyard of thought.

A basic problem is that the symbols themselves don't mean anything. "Mars" or "Aries" are the names of Roman or Greek gods, and may provide vague mythological associations, but the words and their letters convey nothing of the meaning of Mars or Aries in themselves. This is why they are arbitrary in their usage. Other languages have other names for the same planets and constellations.

In the energy-language of the Sepher Yetzirah, which is a non-arbitrary, semantically-accurate symbol system, the names of the planets and signs of the zodiac are equations which accurately describe the meaning of the energies they embody and project (the signifier is the signified). The familiar primary symbols of astrological language, planets, signs and houses, can be seen as corresponding to the structuralizing energies of inner and outer experience in the context of a still-larger symbol system dealing with the basic energies and structures of life/death and existence.

The mode of thought embedded in the Sepher Yetsira offers astrology an opportunity to perceive its familiar planets and signs from the inside, as it were, and see both the components of the symbol and its place in a larger language system.

Our focus at this point is an analysis of the language systems of traditional astrology and the Sefer Yetzirah, not any "beliefs" about popular astrology or mystical Judaism. We're looking for a language-system hidden in the perfect place to hide and preserve it, inside another language, and trying to verify that we can find and at least partially de-code/understand it.

Traditional astrology interprets "Mars" variously as initiative, energy, aggression, activity,

Mars is the indicator of how you express your energy or anger. It points out how you take action and assert yourself to satisfy your inner needs as dictated by your sun-sign. This planet also has rulership over your sexual expression and represents the type of physical man women are attracted to. Wherever Mars is located in your chart highlights where there is the most activity in your life.         Zodiac House


Mars represents the physical side of the native's life, and is an index of his energy, endurance, and so on -- of his ability to carry projects through, and of the active side of his temperament.
        Fred Gettings, Arkana Dictionary of Astrology, Penguin, 1990


Mars, in its indication of initiative, provides the basic approach for any understanding, through the horoscope, of man's day-by-day efficiency. The passing and shifting thresholds of choice or decisions are his objective means for an impersonal disjunction of life's relations as he encounters them. This process of an opportunistic self-act, when seen as pure convienience, is little more than efficiency in affirmation or negation, in commencement or refusal to begin. Neither vitality nor motivation are involved ...

... The familiar ruddy planet charts the way in which a native starts things, or the pattern of expediency under which he releases, directs and applies force or energy of a tangible sort in the world about him.
        Mark Edmund Jones, Astrology, How and Why It Works, Aurora, 1993

With these basic traditional astrological ideas of Mars as a background, we can consider an analysis of Mars from another symbolic language, and from the perspective of the Sepher Yetsira, a text written in that language.

In Hebrew, unlike other Western languages, each letter has a meaning and a spelling that reflects that meaning. In the Sefer Yetzirah and other "sacred" texts, the meaning of each word is composed of the meanings of each letter of the word, just as each letter can itself be spelled with letters, each of which has its own information structure/meaning.

For example, The symbol known as "Mars," Meadim in Hebrew, is spelled Mem-Aleph-Dallet-Yod-Mem in that language.

Meadim   /   Mars

40 10 4 1 40

With only the knowledge that the East is our symbolic future, and that in the psychological cube of space, this direction, in front of us, leads to the Hebrew letter Dallet forming Mars/Meadim, we can consider:

Meadim (Mars) formed by Thallet-Dallet to the East, towards which we look, is always ahead of us. However long we look in that direction,we can never completely grasp it. The name Adam is contained in its name, mixed with Mem and Yod, the Autiot of the Waters. We project on Mars the wisdom which we have not yet attained. Our response to that projection is Hhokmah (intelligence) by Thallet in 'Aqarav (Scorpio); our blunt resistance to the future is Olet (folly).     Suares, The Sepher Sefer Yetzirah, p.133

Again, in Hebrew, Mars is Meadim , spelled Mem- Aleph- Dallet- Yod- Mem, 40-1-4-10-40.

Primitively translated: (biological) resistance - life/death - (archetypal) resistance - existence - (biological) resistance.

What does this mean? Among other problems, like the need to be able to think in abstract structural-energetic terms and sense continuity across boundaries of analogy, we also have no preparation for the basic metaphor of the Sepher Yetsira -- Energy is a two-way flow in the Great Game of Aleph, life-death, and Yod, existence.

The depth of this insistence, permeating Qabalistic thought from the first word of the Bible, Bereshyt, seems to have been completely missed by the commentators on the tradition.

So we will not be able to go any further unless we are able to temporarily adopt a point of view of the world we live in which may be initially disorienting. This viewpoint is found imbedded in the meaning of the familiar astrological planet Mars when considered not in the idiom but in the root language of the symbol.

This viewpoint understands creation on its various levels, including our material, observable universe, as the result of a twofold flow of energy and the cooperation of two basic players -- that which is discontinuous and beyond thought (Aleph) and that which is continous and in existence (Yod).

And here we have Mars/Meadim ("formed" by Dallet, 4, archetype of resistance) with both primary players trapped between three resistances. What could this mean, the concepts of life/death and existence in one word, and all these resistances?

Having temporarily adopted a viewpoint of the universe as structured by a simultaneous two-way flow of energy between the "spiritual" and the "material", and understanding the Aleph and Yod in Meadim/Mars to represent the fundamental conflict/cooperation which allows anything to be, now we have to locate that conflict in the East, and understand the nature of our psychological future, where we are torn by the forces of change and stability.

Meadim "forms" or "structures" the energy of Dallet (4, resistance) in the universe. Meadim is resistance/response to (two-fold) life. In this sense it is always our future, our psychological immaturity and our unresolved conflicts. It is where we resist change and choose between paths that develop our individualities or drown them in repetitive developmental dead-ends (the "waters" of existence).

Now that we have the outline of a psychological future, described from the inside, we can ask, what is our relationship to this "future" so abstractly described?

The Sepher Sefer Yetzirah says that each planet, in addition to its innate structure and formative letter, has two "contrary qualities." For Mars/Meadim, these qualities are Hhokman and Olet, which turn out to mean -- "wisdom" and "folly."

Thallet-Dallet (4) form Meadim which expresses in its two signs, Scorpio and Aries, man undergoing and realizing, or not, his mutation.

Meadim ... brings the extraordinary pattern of the whole of human existence. In it the Aleph (of Adam) is seen still immersed in the waters (between two Mem) which engender him. There Aleph, who now appears in the Zodiac, is held back, blocked, entangled in a thick resistant network in Aries and acquires intelligence and wisdom in Scorpio.     Suares, The Sepher Yetsira, p.157,159

In the over-determined, analogical language of the Sepher Yetsira, Meadim is not "assigned" to the East, it is itself an energy-structure that describes man's relationship to his psychological (and often physical) future -- symbolized by the direction of the rising sun -- as based in resistance to life. The two qualities of this resistance are (read as equations, not to be taken literally as) folly and wisdom.

In the psychological cube of space, man finds himself at the center of the six directions, with the seventh inside him. He can either face his psychological future or repeat the unconscious energies of his conditioned past. And what do we find in man's future (Meadim) but Man himself (Adam).

Now, as we study the inner structure of Mars/Meadim we suddenly find both ourselves and an image of our incompleteness reflected back.


Here is the both the future -- Adam immersed in the waters of existence (Adam, Aleph-Dallet-Mem inside Mayim, Mem-Yod-Mem -- and the definition of man himself, as the biological structure capable of resisting/becoming Aleph.

Using Mars as our entry point into this language, we quickly notice that we are dealing with an incredibly rich network of meaning, where the symbols describe themselves and metaphor and metonymy converge.

Since this is a language designed to specify structuration across all levels of analogy, the meaning of a particular symbol (Mars) can be analyzed down to its letters and up through all its analogical developments. In this sense, it is a self-verifying code, since it "hand-shakes" at every level of conceptualization.

Thus, there are several layers of related symbolism that explain and determine Mars/Meadim from the standpoint of the language of the Sepher Yetsirah: the structure of the word/equation with its component letters; its direction in the Cube of Space; the Hebrew "formative letter" for that energy; the two "contrary qualities" of the energy in its native environment; and the Sephira it occupies (7 for Meadim) in the Cube.

So it is that we ask "what is Mars?" and receive the answer to "what is (the future of) Man?"

Adam,   Aleph-Dallet-Mem, Aleph immersed in blood as Meadim is Adam immersed in the waters of life, Mayim, Mem-Yod-Mem.

This is Man -- a living resistance to timeless immanence. This is his choice -- resist or become fruitful. This is his future -- become open to Aleph, or drown in the uncertain waters of existence.

Entering though Mars, we immediately find three structual equations: Meadim, man's future where he comes face to face with himself, Adam, the equation of Man with its resistance to Aleph, and Mayim, twin (40-10-40) biological supports for both life/death and existence.

On top of this we build a semantic network with these additional layers and equations: the direction, East/Face, the formative level, Dallet, 4, Resistance, the native environments of Mars/Meadim (Aries/Toleh and Scorpio/'Aqarav), the two contrary qualities in those enviroments (folly/Olet, wisdom/Hhokmah), and the number and structure of the seventh sephirot. All these layers of meaning are logically and rationally related (see our wise or foolish future or our dead or alive bodies), not arbitrarily constructed out of "assignments." In the language of the Sepher Yetsira, they are a single, integrated, semantic object — the One Name.

When this is done, we begin to get a picture of the structuralizing energy represented by "Mars," and its place and relationship to other energies which contribute to the formation and process of human experience in this system.

We can now see shadows and traces of the interpretations of traditional astrology, though perhaps in a larger or more coherent framework, which suggests that some of the qualities traditionally assigned to Mars might fit better in other places.

For instance, the concepts of initiative, action, response, conflict, motivation and energy/vitality are all associated with Mars. This study of Mars suggests that just as Jones denies motivation and energy to Mars, we might also do the same with action and some aspects of initiative. Actions, per se, may be better assigned to the Sun, the planet opposite Mars at the eighth Sephirot, as containers for the energy that the Sun provides (we structure our lives with actions), and belong to our psychological past. The traces of all our actions form the unstructured energy of our personal unconsious. Actions taken to resist/respond to the future, now our past (but mistaken for the future) (see Hegemonikon for impulse/assent).

Mars/Meadim, on the other hand, is not something that we have done or even are doing, but something that is happening to us, that is always ahead of us, and with which we are often in conflict. Our response to this impending future of our own psychological immaturity can be foolish or wise.

Sepher Yetsira Index | Astrological Equations in the Sepher Yetsira: Book of Formation