Carlo Suares: The Sepher Yetsira: An Explanation

The present writer, being obliged to use our language in order to make himself understood, cannot offer the reader the truth of Genesis, but only images of that truth. Our language is of sensous origin. By its use, we can only understand by means of imagery. Nevertheless we shall do our best not to stray into illusory beliefs and dreams of the supernatural.

Let us now concern ourself with the individual Hebrew letter-numbers according to the code.

Hypertext Hebrew Alphabet: The Letter-Numbers

The first nine letters are the archetypes of numbers from 1 to 9.

Aleph, no. 1, is the unthinkable life-death, abstract principle of all that is and all that is not.

Bayt (or Vayt), no. 2, is the archetype of all "dwellings", of all containers: the physical support without which nothing is.

Ghimel, no. 3, is the organic movement of every Bayt animated by Aleph.

Dallet, no. 4, is physical existence, as response to life, of all that, in nature, is organically active with Ghimel. Where the structure is inorganic Dallet is its own resistance to destruction.

Hay, no. 5, is the archetype of iniversal life. When it is conferred upon Dallet, it allows it to play the game of existence, in partnership with the intermittent life-death process.

Vav (or Waw), no. 6 expresses the fertilizing agent, that which impregnates. It is the direct result of Hay upon Dallet.

Zayn, no. 7, is the achievement of every vital impregnation: this number opens the field of every possible possbility.

Hayt, no. 8, is the sphere of storage of all undifferentiated energy, or unstructured substance. It expresses the most un-evolved state of energy, as opposed to its achived freedom in Zayn.

Tayt, no. 9, as archeytpe of the primeval female energy, draws its life from Hayt and builds it gradually into structures.

Such is the fundamental equations set and developed in Genesis.

The following nine letters, from Yod no. 10 to Tsadde no. 90, describe the process of the nine archetypes in their factual, conditioned existence: their projections in manifestation are always multiples of 10.

The nine multiples of 100 express the exalted archetypes in their cosmic states.

The number 1000, is written with an enlarged Aleph (Aleph, in Hebrew actually means a thousand), but is seldom used. It expresses a supreme power, a tremendous cosmic energy, all-pervading, timeless, unthinkable.

The study of those multiples by 10 and by 100 is therefore the study of the very archetypes in their various spheres of emanation. The student will find it useful to examine them, so to say, vertically,: 1.10.100-2.20.200... and so on.

The choice for Kaf (20) for 500, of Mem (40) for 600, and of Noun (50) for 700 in finals of schemata means that those numbers acquire such cosmic values when they unfold in human beings. Thus: Adam is 1.4.40 when immature and achieves 1.4.600 when attaining his full maturity.

Here is a brief general view of the relationship between the archetypes and their multiples:

Aleph-Yod-Qof (1.10.100): Whereas Aleph (1) is the beat, or pulsation of life-death-life-death, Yod (10) is its projection in temporal continuity. So Yod (in Hebrew: the hand), is the opposite of Aleph, its partner playing against it the game without which nothing would be. The Qof (100) is the most difficult symbol to understand. It includes Aleph exalted in its principle yet acting through its projection, against itself, and thereby being cosmically deathless. It is best seen in Qaheen (Cain) that mythical destroyer of illusions.

Bayt-Kaf-Raysh (2.20.200): Whereas Bayt (2), the archetype of all containers, has its roots in the cosmic resistance to life, Kaf (20) -- in Hebrew, the hollow of the hand -- is ready to receive all that comes and Raysh (200), the cosmic container of all existence, has its roots in the intense organic movement of the universe.

Ghimel-Lammed-Sheen (3.30.300): these three letter-numbers express a movement in progressive enlargement, from the uncontrolled functional action of Ghimel (2), through the controlled connecting agent Lammed (30), going as far as the universal Sheen (300), mythically considered to be the "spirit", of "breath" of God.

Dallet-Mem-Tav (4.40.400): the physical resistance of structures, Dallet (4) finds its purveyor in the maternal waters, Mem (40), where all life originates. Tav (400) is the exaltation of the entire cosmic existence in its utmost capacity to resist to life-death. The root Dallet-Mem (Dam) is "blood" in Hebrew and the root Mem-Tav (Met) is "death." Thus the two together express the complete cycle of existence.

Hay-Noun-Kaf in finals (5.50.500): the universal life, Hay (5) is condensed in individual existences as Noun (50) and is exalted cosmically as Kaf (500) in terminals.

Waw-Sammekh-Mem in finals (6.60.600): Waw (6) is the male agent of fertility, Sammekh (60) is the female. Mem when in terminals (600) is the cosmic achievement of fruitfulness both in the intelligent or immaterial part of man and in the flesh. In Hebrew, Waw maintains its character grammatically as copulative or connecting agent.

Zayn-Ayn-Noun in finals (7.70.700): Zayn (7) as an opening towards all possible possibilities has its source and its vision in Ayn (70), which is the word for "eye" in Hebrew. Its is exalted in Noun (700): this number expresses the very principle contended for in the interplay of energies thoughout the universe: the principle of indetermination in which life itself is at stake. Here we find Cain again.

Hhayt-Pay-Phay in finals (8.80.800): in every sphere of the emanation, from the densest to the most rarefied essence, these numbers stand for the primordial substance, the unfathomed reserve of undifferentiated, unstructured energy.

Tayt-Tsadde-Tsadde in finals (9.90.900): these ideograms express a progression ascending from the simplest and most primative cell (or female structural energy) up to the transfigured symbols of womanhood, social and mythical.

Some authors write Hay, Hay-Aleph; other Hay-Yod. I think that life (Hay) must not in any way be limited. Moses' revelation, Ehiaya-Asher-Ehiayh (Aleph-Hay, Yod, Hay), means "Aleph living, Yod living." These equations contain all the Revelations.

In studying the Autiot, one must learn how to open them completely so as to have picture of the anatomy.

Here are the pictures of Aleph and Bayt.





It is very instructive to make a comparative study of the processes indicated by the anatomic pictures of the whole Autiot. It is also useful to see which Aut enters another Aut, and which does not, and how many times each intervenes in the whole twentty-two, and why. What does it mean that Bayt, Dallet, Hhayt, Tayt end at Tav? Is there a special connection between them? Why does Phay go only with Hay? Why (and this is important) is Sheen (the mythic Breath of Elohim) introducted by Raysh? There are many other questions who ansers show the depth of cabalisic thought with remarkable clearness, such as the difference between Seen and Sheen. They are the same number yet their functions are not the same.

The further the Autiot are studied the more it is realised that they are the complete Qabala, and that it is not advisible to lose oneself by reading two or three thousand ancient texts in search of knowledge which is distorted by conceptions un-connected with the cipher code of the Autiot.

One also realises that cabalistic thought is monolithic and that the expression closest to its source is The Sepher Yetsira.

This is why the book remains mysterious for people who call themselves cabalists but who lack the basis of the Autiot.

It is a complex study, consisting of a scripture, symbols and a language relating to the science of the structure of Energy, but never separate from the fundamental postulate of Unity.

The Meaning of the Words

The greatest difficulty for a student of the cabalistic revival stems from not thinking enough questions to ask. We are so accustomed to take for granted that table means table and chair means chair that we have forgotten that the words are not the object. The word house has not real connection with a house, nor, in French, with the word maison, nor in Italian with the word casa.

But if Aleph is Aleph, and not Aret or Anek, or any other combination, it is because Lammed and Phay, aded to the first incomprehensible symbol, have a tremendous meaning that these Autiot, Lammed and Phay, alone possess.

In this monolithic thought the meaning of each Aut in any equaton is important, as each fragment contains the whole. We are familiar with holograms -- photographic plates taken by a laser. When the plate is broken up each fragment contains an image of the whole. More familiarly, we know that if a child resembles some trifling details of his father's looks it is because everthing that makes up a person is contained in one genetic cell.

It is the same with the Autiot -- the sacred languages of the cycle of civilisation -- because their essential equations given in the three great cabalistic texts that I have named are thought projectons of cosmic energy, and not just words formed by idiomatic usage. As primarily and above all, The Sepher Yetsira is about the Autiot, let us begin reading this book by learning to read the word.

In the singular Aut is written Aleph-Waw-Tav, an equation formed similarly to light, Aur: Aleph-Waw-Raysh. We have seen that Aur is the projection of Aleph, the infinite, in Raysh, its container (in which Aleph becomes unconscious of its life), and that Aleph and Raysh are connected by the copulative sign Waw, Aleph fertilises Raysh.

The seed Aut says the same thing, with all the difference that there is between Raysh and Tav. For Raysh (200) is the name of the cosmic "house," but Tav (400) is the resistance to the container of Aleph, a resistance necessary to contain this energy, but which, what is more, engenders an energy of an equal but contrary character.

Here we are touching on one of the essential ideas of the Qabala: the living energy of Aleph is not just absorbed in the projection of the Universe; it is reflected and returned to Aleph in such a way that universal life is a dual flow of energy, the One being twofold in its emanation. Is short, Tav is, simultaneously, resistance to Aleph, its tabernacle, and eventually, Aleph is disguise.

When YHWH wishes to confer immortality on Cain (Quayn: Qof-Yod-Noun) he names him with an Aut (Genesis Book One). If one is satisfied by reading that he puts a "sign" on him, one fails to know what it means. Such is this unfortunate way of reading the Bible, for, in fact, he confers Aleph-Waw-Tav on him; hence the double-flowing energy of life. In other words he defined Cain as mankind's creative genius, always triumphant whenever attempts to extinguish it are made.

In the roots of Hebraic idioms it is not surprising to discover an unconscious memory and an unconscious knowledge of the real meaning of the biblical text, since Aut is sign, proof, symbol and even miracle in one.

When idiomatically, Aut designates a letter of the alphabet, its plural, strangely, is Yod-Waw-Tav, instead of being Waw-Tav, like all the other feminine plurals.

The introduction of the Yod is extremely important, although it has never been understood. Howevery, if it is understood it means that one is really aware of the heart of The Sepher Yetsira.

Likewise, aw I have said above, the Revelation of Moses, Aleph-Hay-Yod-Hay indicates that Aleph and Yod are alive. In short, the Autiot expresses the following equations:

Aleph - Waw - Tav
Yod - Waw - Tav

That is to say, the Autiot are the active agents ferilising Tav by Aleph and by Yod.

We are now at the origin of the Sacred Language, having glanced at the second chapter of The Sepher Yetsira, particularly at II,5, where it is stated that all that is formed and uttered proceeds from the Name One. Here again is the idea of the Word as creator of all structures.

The Sepher Yetsira or "book" or "sphere" of Formation, confines itself to the study of structures. It is implied that this limitation is imposed by our understanding, that we are immersed in an impenetrable mystery and that we are this mystery. But it is averred that the twenty-two "letters" are, nevertheless, intended to make us enter into this vital movement that braces all structures, including ours. (For the moment we will not tackle the ten Sephirot which are "transformers," of the energy of Aleph in Yod.) The twenty-two Autiot are the "workmen" who make them function. By virtue of this their general meaning is included in Aleph-Waw-Tav-Yod-Waw-Tav, because, simultaneously, they all share in the action of Aleph and Yod: that is to say, in the non-structured, intemporal life-death, and in existent life. These two lives act in coniunctio oppositorum upon Tav, the cosmic force of resistance. Thus the joint participaton of the Autiot in the Aleph and Yod, energising the metaphysics of the Qabala, plays the role attributed in some theologies, to angels, intermediaries between "God" and men.

From the second verse The Sepher Yetsira mentions to 22 Autiot, "Yassod" (Yod-Sammekh-Waw-Dallet: and "Yassod" almost always returns coupled with the Autiot. Usually it is translated as "fundament," which explains nothing and introduces a proposition that is not in the text. Rather, the two equations should be read as they are without an intermediary agent: one as feminine plural; the other as masculine singular. This is not the only instance: is not Elohim a plural taken as a singular? The correct procedure is to treat the Autiot similarly, because they form a whole, all of whose elements are components closely bound together.

Yassod, (Yod-Sammekh-Waw-Dallet) qualifies the Autiot and makes their ambivalent character clear. Here Yod, the existence, manifests Sammekh (60), feminine generative force, and Waw (6), the male generative force, and their resistance (or foundation, or substructure), Dallet (4). Here again is a feature common to the Autiot and to angelic cohorts. Yassod expresses something solid, a massing of elements which constitute a whole. This multiple and single intermediary messenger, Autiot Yassod, entering the world of Aleph and Yod, seems more like Jacob's ladder than the angels who are supposed to go up and down it: the coming and going movement is the making of the ladder's substance. It is an internal process.

This interior movement is the base (or fundament) of the cabalistic tongue and distinguishes it from all the profane languages. Its internal process is a continual requestioning, a continual regrouping of fixed elements, a moving weft by means of which the cabalist is free to understand, in his own way, not only concepts, symbols, signs and names, not only to interpret their combinations accoridng to his own judment, but to abandon himself to the play of forces vital to new combinations, making u se of them to discover in himself and in the cosmic play of life, death and existence, depths hitherto unsuspected. In short, the cabalist is a creator.

Autiot and Sephirot

The Sepher Yetsira is a summary of knowwledge taken for granted by the cabalists. The enigmas which it poses are directed at the experienced cabalist as a school book sets problems to the student who knows his subject and is suposed to be able to understand them. But as my intention is to present a wider public with an introduction to this work, certain basic ideas, which are not mentioned in it, but on which it relies, must be expanded.

Above all, the Autiot Yassod must be understood thoroughtly in oder to recognise their character, their profound constitution, so that their origin and their connection with Elohim are revealed, enabling us to integrate them with our own consciousness.

The text reminds us that they are engendered by the second Sephira. Let us say provisionally that the first Sephira is the turn-table operating the first transmutation (or graduation) of infinitely energising life into an energy that is project into structures; and that the second Sepira is the return shock, the feed-back, the response of structured energy. In symbolic language, it is "the breath of breath." Translated into Hebrew its name, Hhockmah means consciousness, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom. Read according to the code (Hayt-Kaf-Mem-Hay:, it expresses life emanating from what can be called nondifferentiated energy, powerfullly prominent in its individual corporeal existence. The word that best describes the second Sephira is "consciousness." One realises that consciousness is taken to be a structured energy formed by the energising life in physical form. And this consciousness begets the Autiot Yassod whose function is "to go against the stream," so to say, towards unity, in one dynamic movement. Indeed, during the course of our reading we shall see some of the Autiot "going against" lower Sephirot up to the first Sephira, Keter which "crowns," all degrees of construction.

In the Autiot, the essential movement of this unifying idea characterising the Qabala is already there. Furthermore. this movement of infinity to number and from number to infinity is discernible in each component of the written text, whichever passage is being studied: each part, each component of the secret language is this very movement and, consequently, reveal the whole. All things considered, this scripture always repeats this movement (which is life) on different scales.

As the Autiot are feminine plural, their substance has a female character. In Hebrew, the masculine plural Im (Yod-Mem) and the feminine Aut (Waw-Tav) sometimes have transpositions that are apparently disconcerting. Actually, these ending express two different states of the construction of energy. Yod-Mem, that is, 10.40, has a solid existence, while Waw-Tav, feminine, is make of masculine centrifugal Waw (6) joined to cosmic Tav (400). Between Waw and Tav there is no communication. Tav is the end which contains the beginning. Like Aleph, it is an absolute. Now the symbol of the feminine is the development in continuity . The structured "masculine" must fertiise the "feminine" forcefully, and the feminine becomes structured and structural energy simultaneosly.

The Autiot -- feminine plural -- constitutes a masculine singular unity, Yassod. It is an endogenic, self-fertilising organism. Its intense to-and-fro movement through the ten Sephirot binds them to one another, and thus puts them in motion, in such a way that their end is without end .. they flow and come, rush headlong like a tempest and bow down before the throne of Elohim ... Their end is made fast to their beginning and their beginning is made fast to their end ... These translations of verses I,6-7 can give the reader an overall view of the theme elaborated by The Sepher Yetsira. For is it not necesssary to behold a building in its entirety, to understand its function, to have an idea of the materials of which it is made, before examining it in detail?

For the moment we are discussing only the Sephirot as formed by the Autiot. The Sepher Yetsira investigates them one by one, hierarchically, in the numerical order of 1 to 10, but that does not mean that they have been created one after another, in the sense of entering matter in depth: they are co-eternal in Elohim, and we know that Elohim is the method by which One, the unique, the "Al" in its Aleph function, becomes Yod (10) by projection. In Elohim, the Sephirot are therefore an ever-changing method of construction, a method analysed by The Sepher Yetsira.

The graphic signs which specify the Autiot, these initials of the names constituting the Hebraic alphabet, have, as phoneme, characters distinct enough for us to see if they should be pronounced on the lips, in the throat, or with the breath, etc. This somatic aspect of the letters is hardly dealt with in The Sepher Yetsira. which also, in other respects, fails to explain their graphology (said to be designed by Ezra). In the course of ages this has undergone transformation. The current graphology is not uninteresting. All the signs have Yod at the beginning as a clue, since the Autiot always refer to the constructed states of life-in-existence, never to speculations about the unreal. These states do not only cast themselves in mental representations: they show themselves in signs which reflect them in the world of experience. The study of these signs is therefore allied to physiognomy.

We will give one characteristic example: the graphic for Aleph. Does not it design, with a diagonal line symbolising the mysterious origin of life, express the the element which, according to biologists, breaks the symmetry of crystallisations and thus instigates a life-engendering movement? Is not the hammer like stroke surmounting the diagonal the presence of the world within it, and is not the stroke below, to the left, like a leg, the symbol of the future coming in existence? Is not the whole sign a curiously alive, moving cross, simultaneously separating and reuniting two worlds that are really one? Such a symbolical whole is not fortuitous. Is sums up the meaning of the Autiot. Cabalists have always said that Aleph contains them all.

Let is add that this sign, contrary to the opinion of some people who translated it as A, is not pronounced. The accompanying vowels signs in postmassortic scriptures fix its pronounciation as A, E, I, or U, according to the usual conventions of language, but which the cabalist is not obliged to obey. Often, Aleph is not pronounced at all.

Another subject for study is the connection between the names of the Autiot and their numbers, and the names of the numbers. For example, Aleph is 1, but is called Ehhad (Aleph-Hhayt-Dallet: 1.8.4). As is seen from the meaning of the numbers according to the code, Ehhad sets a fixed equation . 1 is face to face with the archetypal, undifferentiated 8, and with the archetypal, extant force of resistance 4. On the other hand, the word Aleph (1.3.80) intruduces the organic movement of 30 into 8. In short, Ehhad (the name of number 1) is a biological survey of the said 1.

The relations between the anatomy and the biology of numbers is sometimes inverted. For example, the sign of number 2, Bayt, shows itself in the guise of a static, anatomical image (2.10.400). Nevertheless, the names of this number (Schnei, Schtei, Schnaim or Schtaim, according to whether they are in t he masculine, feminine or not in the 'absolute' reveal by their Sheen (300) the cosmic movement animating them.

Resume and Conclusion

Once again let us state that it is impossible to speak of the unknown in ou r common tongue (including Hebrew), without changing it arbitrarily into recognisible images. This artificial device is at the bottom of all "proofs of the existence of God." It is ineviliable that our tongues desecrate all that they discuss, because they have their being only in the measurable, in images, appraisments, comparisons. If they were not like this (by virtue of their nature) they would be u seless for our modus vivendi, which cannot operate without having and accurate language at its disposal. We know that the decay of these instruments brings social disorders in it train. It is less easy to understand that these disorders also originate from the introduction of profane language into religious matters. (Hebrew, which uses only the initials of the Autiot as an alphabet -- B for Bayt, etc. -- is as profane as other tongues.

In assembling clearly defined words, in surrounding, explicitly stating and isolating the subject under discussion, our languages proceed by methodical exclusion: a subject is defined and clearly indicated by the elimination of everything extraneous to it. This is evident from the fact that thinking dependent on these languages always acts by comparisons.

The language of The Sepher Yetsira is anything but this. It treats objects -- water, fire, human bodies, planets, the zodiac -- only in terms of their situation and of their role within an infinitely multiple, hierarchical, systemisation of the one energising life force. The equations indicating these objects consequent disignate, on all planes, all the structures which exist, or could exist, in the innumerable, known or unknown, conjugations of this hierarchical system, from the most material to the most rarefied, from the least to the highest state of consciousness. It is an all-inclusive languages which has no equivalent in ours. It propounds a deeply religious mode of thought, in as much as it offers the cabalist the opportunity to find, on all existent levels, the secret bond which ties everything ontologically to the mysterious equation of the Unfathomable.

As everything that this language speaks about is a state of energy, and as energy is movement, nothing is a "thing" offering itself to spirit. On the contrary spirit must pursue it through the metamorphosis of its groupings. But what happens to this language when its elements are themselves representative of differently structured conditions of this movement?

Instead of consisting of letters having no significance of their own (as are the letters of our alphabets) the language of the Qabala fully expresses itself in the whole Autiot, for the Autiot are projections of the vital movement that is both within and without Man who is the subject of Genesis and of The Sepher Yetsira.

Therefore, this sacred language is not an ordinary instrument capable of pointing something out, but incapable of conveying its meaning. (The words "music" and "colour" and a fortiori, "God" and "Eternity," do not make music heard, colours visible, etc.) This language is a moving projection of what it is dealing with. It can be compared to a perfect documentary film which shows us an unknown world "as if we were there," but there is more to it than what: we are there. It is not "as if." We are in the projection, we are projection, this documentary is our own situation, our own role, what we are and what we could be in the hierarchy of structures. But there is one further step in the adventure offered to us by this language, the possibility of effecting, producing new combinations within the Autiot. The cabalist who is steeped in contemplation of the Autiot and who becomes, in projecting their movement into himself, both this movement and the creator of new spheres, inevitably loses his sangfroid if his spirit is not completely free of religious myths (for then he feels he is a prophet), or of all will for power (for then he imagines he is a magician). If one is interested in these questions it is important to "play the game," without giving up one's critical faculties, because after all (or in spite of all), the Qabala is a matter of common sense.