Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 85


Containing the doctrines of the Kabbalah, together with the discourses and teachings of its author, the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai, and now for the first time translated into English with notes, references, and expository remarks.



"BRASHITH." "In the beginning" was En Soph,15a the Divine, the self-existent infinite begin, without likeness or reflection, the incomprehensible, the unknowable One, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. who only hath immortality, dwelling in Light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen or can see, before whom the great archangel with face beneath his wings bends in lowly reverence and adoration, crying, "Holy! Holy! Holy! who art and was and evermore shall be."

Tune had begun. Its great pendulum, whose beats are the ages, commenced to vibrate. The era of creation or manifestation had at last arrived. The nekuda reshima, primal point or nucleus, appeared. From it emanated and expanded the primary substance, the illimitable phosphorescent ether, of the nature of light, formless, colorless, being neither black nor green nor red. In it, latent yet potentially as in a mighty womb, lay the myriad prototypes and numberless forms of all created things as yet indiscernible, indistinguishable. By the secret and silent action of the divine will, from this primal luminous point radiated forth the vital life-giving spark which, pervading and operating in the great, enteric ocean of forms, became the soul of the universe, the fount and origin of all mundane life and motion and terrestrial existence, and in its nature and essence and secret operation remains ineffable, incomprehensible and indefinable. It has been conceived of as the divine Logos, the Word, and called Brashith, for the same was in the beginning with God.

p. 86

[paragraph continues] (All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life became the light of man.)

"They that understand (the secret doctrine) shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they who turn or lead many into the might path (of knowledge) as the stars forever and ever." (Dan. xii. 3.) The word zohar (brightness) designates that nekuda reshima, the central ray or point of light which was the primal manifestation of the Divine, En Soph. From it proceeded vibrations which made luminous the illimitable ether, from which was formed the universe that became the glorious temple or palace of the great Unknown. It was in a manner the holy seed or germ that gave origin and birth to the world, and is occultly referred to in the words: "The holy seed shall be the substance thereof." (Is. vi. 13.) Its analogue in nature is the silkworm which, unseen and in secret, elaborates and prepares a product that ultimately constitutes the material of the monarch's purple robe of splendor. Furthermore, for the manifestation of the glory of the divine Unknown to humanity, making use of verbal terms and letters, it has built for it the name15a-15b alhim, or lord, as evidenced in the mystic sense of brashith bara alhim. "In the beginning, alhim created"; or, as it should be rendered by rushith, that is the primal zohar, the origin of all words, "God created alhim." The use of the word bara (created) need not excite surprise, for it occurs again in the words: "And he created alhim, the man, in his image." (Gen. i. 27.) This zohar, their, denotes the mysterious. One called brashith because the beginning of all things. In answer to the desire of Moses to know the name of the divine Being, it was given AHIH ASHR AHIH, "I am that or who I am." The sacred name AHIH is as a two-sided figure, whilst the name alhim is as a crown; and asher formed of the same letters as the word rash (head or crown) is a synonym of alhim and proceeds or comes forth from brashith. Whilst the primal zohar or divine ray of life was quiescent and unmanifested it was impossible for it to become known by any word or term whatsoever. But after operating in the boundless ether, the receptacle of all forms and prototypes of created things in the universe that was to be, then asher, representing the divine essence, took upon itself the form of a head or crown (rash) between the two AHIH's of the divine appellation, AHIH asher AHIH. Observe now, that the word brashith is composed of rash (crown), synonym of asher, and beth (house

p. 87

or palace). Hence the occult signification or rendering of the words "Brashith bara Alhim" is this: When rash the divine germ from which emanated and expanded the boundless ether appeared, and this ether became differentiated into form and color giving rise to the universe or palace of the great king, then was created alhim the great secret fructifying principle of nature, which was and is as a point that gives rise to lines which produce surfaces, or as the letter yod I, whence proceed all the other letters of the alphabet.

Again, from another aspect, when zohar the primal luminous point or ray gave rise to the emanating ether, it took. upon itself the form of the vowels holem (  ‏ֹ‎  ) shurek (  ‏ּ‎  ) and hirek (  ‏ִ‎  ) which are different dispositions of the one and same elementary point in their esoteric meaning.

When the primal vibration of the divine word took place it produced and impressed a wavelike motion throughout the boundless ether in which were contained all the sounds of the alphabet from A to Th. This operation and effect is symbolized by the union of these two letters forming the word ath as it is found written ath ha-shamayim (the heavens). Thus: Brashith bara Alhim ath hashamayim signify: He, the unknown mysterious One, created alhim the fructifying and generative principle of the heavens, one in origin but dual in operation. Hence it is seen that the divine word and essence designated by the word asher is found between the fecundative and generative principles, both of which are symbolized by the same name AHIH in the divine appellation AHIH asher AHIH.

The Zohar (brightness) also denotes the generative essence and includes all the letters taken as types and forms of creatures and things in its operation. Such also is the signification of the verse: "Jehovah, our God is one Jehovah"15b (Deut. vi. 4), containing three names expressive of the three gradations of the divine essence, as exhibited in the three first words of Genesis. "Brashith balm Alhim ath hashamayim." Brashith specifies the mysterious divine Being; bara, the mystery of creation: alhim, the mystery of preservation: ath hashamayim, the fructifying and generative principles considered as one. If to the word ath be added h from the following word hashamayim (heavens) we get the pronominal term athah (thou)--Alhim, the divine Being to which the scripture alludes. "Thou ( Athah) givest life to all creatures." (Nehem. ix. 6). In this deeply mysterious ath, therefore, is comprehended the divine essence in its fructifying

p. 88

and generative form, and Alhim the point of union between them; and it may thus be regarded as a mystic analogue, though dimly and obscurely, of that majestic unknown Being that operated in the creation and production of the illimitable universe, whose goodness and beneficence are manifested in the preservation of the world with its myriads of creatures, who in their fructifying and generative powers and functions are finite replica of Himself, the "I am that I am." In concluding these remarks on this first verse in Genesis,15b-16a observe that brashith (in the beginning) is equivalent to bra-shith (he created six) and refers to the scriptural words: "From one side of the heaven to the other," that is, to the six directions of space (north, south, east, west, above, and below), all converging to the three points representing the divine essence, which are one and the same, the mystery of which is included and hidden in the divine name composed of forty-two letters.

"They that are wise shall shine,"Dan. 12:3 i.e., those who are initiated into the secret doctrine. They are like the notes and accents in music by which musicians and singers are guided and led in their playing and chanting, as troops that follow their leader and chief. The consonants and vowels are the chief elements in the formation of words, but the wise alone by their understanding give life and meaning to them. "Those who turn many into the right way (of knowledge) shall shine as the stars forever and ever." By the word stars is meant the signs of punctuation used to separate the parts of a sentence and render the words intelligible, and thus are teachers and students of the secret doctrine. who, by their intellectual and spiritual enlightenment and knowledge of esoteric science. cause earth's ofttimes weary wandering and belated pilgrims to find the true path of light that leads them to the higher and diviner life. happy are they engaged in the work of guiding others into the right way! Around them is a halo which the prophet Ezekiel beheld in vision encircling the heads of cherubim, the brightness and refulgence of which shall never become faded or dimmed but endure forever.

"And the earth was tohu and bohu" (Gen. i. 2), that is, without form and void. The word "was" relating to the past, is here used to indicate the primeval state of the earth at the time of its creation. The water covering the earth was cold as snow and impregnated and contaminated with mud and debris which by the action of a strong fire congested and hardened and

p. 89

the space or place it occupied in becoming separated from the water was called Tohu, or the place of waste and dregs, and corresponded to the evil demons that made it their abode. Bohu, on the contrary, was that part or portion of the earth that became purified. If it be asked: by the action of what power was this purification accomplished, the scripture answers:16a "Darkness was upon the face of the deep." The term darkness refers to the fire or light which, though of divine origin, existed like a nebulous dark cloud at the beginning of creation. "And the spirit of God proceeded from the lord of life and hovered or moved upon the face of the waters." (Gen. i. 2). After impregnating them with the breath of life, and causing them to become purified and fructified, then from out of the state of Tohu came forth a great and mighty wind that overthrew mountains and broke into pieces the rocks, similar in its effects to the sight beheld by the prophet Elijah, as it is written; "after the wind, an earthquake" (I. Kings xix. 12), that dispelled the darkness in which was the hidden and concealed fire that transformed the world from tohu into Bohu, and from a state of chaos made it receptive of seeds and germs of life. This is expressed in the words; "and after the fire a still small voice" (I. Kings xix., 12).

Tohu was thus a state of chaos in which the world existed for ages after its first creation, enshrouded in darkness and immersed in water. By the action of fire, in its qualities of heat and flame, and the concomitant operation of the divine spirit, the constituent elements became differentiated and each imbued with energies and powers of attraction and cohesion, as also of repulsion, and thus prepared to be taken up and used in the elaboration of material forms and bodies in which pre-existing spiritual entities or beings might incarnate and manifest themselves in accordance with laws regulating and governing their birth, growth and development. This preparatory and progressive stage in the world's physical history was what is termed bohu, a state of darkness which was at the same time an allotrophic form of the divine light that in its infinite modes of energy and operation pervaded the vast expanse, making it pregnant with the germs of life that eventually came forth out of the earth's mighty womb and began their ascent on the spiral curve of evolutionary existence; until, after aeons of upward struggle and ceaseless endeavor, they attained their destiny, becoming children of Light, assimilated in the grandeur of their expanded faculties of mind and heart with the great Father of Light, the

p. 90

[paragraph continues] Holy One (blessed be He), whose love and beneficence to all his creatures are as great as his power, and who knows neither measure nor end.

"And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters"; and then went forth the fiat of the divine word: "Let there be light and light was" (Gen. i. 3), light radiant and glittering with a thousand different colors and rays, fringing and embellishing all objects with a halo and sheen of beauty and splendor, entering into and informing each atom and evoking its latent life and energy and exciting it to the display and exercise of its inherent properties and functions in the great economy of nature.

In all the various phases of development from tohu to bohu,16a-16b through countless ages of silent, secret and ceaseless progression from lower to higher stages and states of being, the Divine has manifested itself under many and different aspects or characters corresponding to and symbolical of them. Thus, whilst the earth was in a state of chaos, it manifested itself as Shaddai, the Almighty; and when it passed from the state of tohu to bohu, as Sabaoth, or Hosts. When darkness disappeared, then became it known as Alhim. But not until the life-giving word was spoken, did it become known as Jehovah, the "I am that I am." This is wherefore the scripture states in the vision of Elijah: "Jehovah was not in the earthquake" (I. Kings xix. 2), but Shaddai. Jehovah was not in the fire (I. Kings, xix. 12), but was "Sabaoth." "After the fire a darkness made visible," it manifested as Alhim; then was heard the still small voice and the name Jehovah was complete, the four letters of which serve as symbols of the divine essence as the hands and feet represent the human frame.

Taking now the tetragrammaton or holy name, AHIH, manifested in these three aspects or forms of cosmic development, we find the divine appellation of twelve letters, AHIH asher AHIH, the name revealed to the prophet Elijah. "And God said: Let there be light and light was."

Proceed we now to investigate and acquaint ourselves with the hidden mysteries and teachings of the secret doctrine regarding creation which have just been outlined in a general manner. Hitherto we have dwelt upon the secret operation of En Soph or the unknown infinite and eternal Being in preparing the earth and impregnating its substance with a mysterious divine virtue or power which rendered it capable of becoming the medium for the enfoldment and manifestation of pre-existing

p. 91

spiritual entities and beings. These effects achieved, there was needed the omnific, life-giving Logos or Word to originate and utter the symphonal vibration that should impart life and breath and motion to the universe. Then and not till then was it spoken; then and not till then the celestial and terrestrial worlds becoming bound and associated together by a reciprocal influence, a new and a living way was opened for the incarnation and exhibition of life upon the earth. This is why in the antecedent primal stages of development in the world's history the expression "God said," is not found in scripture. At first he willed, as the Arabic version gives it, and his will operated silently, slowly, yet surely and effectively. The primary substance of the earth being thus prepared, it was through the mysterious action of the Word that it became endowed with vital properties and attributes through the divine vibration imparted to it. This is what scripture affirms: "And God said," that is, Alhim manifested himself by and through the divine Logos; and thus by and through the Word, produced motion or vibration under the laws of which created matter, or substance, resolved itself into an infinitude of different forms.

"Let light be." Now the word yehe (he) is composed of16b three letters, IHI, yod being the first and third letter and H coming between them. The yod, or I, represents the male and the female principle. The full word is therefore a symbol of the divine Father and Mother, the final yod being the same as the first in order to show that all the three aspects or forms as stated, under which En Soph operated in the creation and production of the universe, were only the manifestations of one and the same divine Being. The first yod also designates the Father, the engenderer of light; the second letter H denotes the Logos; the third letter yod, the primal light. The divine aspects are further symbolized by the three vowel points, holem (  ‏ֹ‎  ) shurek (  ‏ּ‎  ) and hirek (  ‏ִ‎  ) the Father, the Word and the Light. Before the manifestation of the Logos seven other letters were formed, but the primal light proceeding from the Father was too ethereal and empyreal to receive and become impressed with their forms and signatures. When, however, the state, of tohu gave place to that of bohu, other seven letters were formed; but, again, as matter was not sufficiently condensed, it could not retain them. At the manifestation of the creative Logos, eight others completing the letters of the alphabet were formed, which endured because by the action of the Logos, the barrier between the spiritual and

p. 92

earthly was done away and they began to exercise a reciprocal influence on each other. This is the occult meaning of the words: "Let there be a firmament" and thus form a medium, a point of union between the higher and lower worlds. This taking place was the prelude to the appearance of life upon the earth.

"God saw the light that it was good" (Gen. i. 4), for then the universe became lighted up and pervaded throughout with the divine life which preserves it for the common weal and happiness of created and animated beings.16b-17a

"And God called the light Day" (Gen. i. 5). Why is it written: "He called"? Because Alhim wished or willed an emanation distinct from the Logos, which should constitute the world-soul, the foundation root of universal life. This light emanation, the life of the world, is termed Day, representing and corresponding to the first AHIH in the divine appellation "I am that I am." "And the darkness he called Night." That is, He produced from out of the primal darkness a passive or reflected light like that of the moon and called it Night.

It was by the union of Day and Night, symbolizing light and darkness, the male and female principles, that the Logos or creative Word proceeded. This mystery is also symbolized by the vowel points (  ‏ֹ‎  ) (  ‏ּ‎  ) (  ‏ִ‎  ). When the creative and passive light blend and unite, that is, when the active male principle unites with the passive female principle, an equilibrium is established and procreation takes place. The union of these two lights or principles gives rise to a sense of pleasure and delight which has been personified as the goddess Venus, and is known and termed in the secret doctrine as "Musaph" (something additional, augmentation) without which life would not be worth living. This it was that caused all as yet unembodied spirits and holy souls to be filled with a joyous longing and desire for incarnation on the earth plane and thereby attain to higher states and stages of existence and thus approximate nearer to the great Being who in scripture is termed Jehovah, Zebaoth, the Lord of Hosts, God of all the countless myriads of created souls and Lord of all the earth. From what has just been said it will be perceived that the words Day and Night in scripture are symbols of the heavenly or divine lights from the synthesis of which creation, as it exists, has resulted.

"And God said let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters" (Gen. i. 6). In these words the scripture begins to unfold and display in detail the various processes in mundane creation

p. 93

which began by dividing the waters above from the waters below. Amongst the many antinomies of existence by which we are able to distinguish their nature and thus attain unto truth, the conception of right and left will hest assist us in understanding and grasping the secret doctrine contained in these words, the right corresponding to light, goodness, harmony; the left, to darkness, evil, discord, from which has proceeded that state called Gehenna or Hell, a subject upon which Moses himself pondered and thought deeply and long in his studies on this part of Genesis. In the work of creation there was a differentiation of the divine essence resulting in two states of the primal substance,17a-17b called light and darkness, connoted also by the terms right and left. When Alhim, the creative mean, or word, appeared and became a point of union between them, they began to blend harmoniously together and thus gave occasion for the appearance of vegetable and animated existences. Discord vanished and peace universally prevailed. This primal discord between the light and darkness, the right and left, may be illustrated by the quarrel and contention that arose between Korah, and his associates, and Aaron, the high priest. After his studies on the great problem of the origin of Gehenna, Moses thus reasoned to himself: I must adjust and harmonize this difference and discord between Korah and Aaron on the principle of reconciliation that prevailed and operated between light and darkness at the time of creation, that is, I must become a mediator between them. Finding, however, that the contention on the part of Korah was of a stubborn and inflexible character, he said truly: This opposition and difference between the two parties, Korah and Aaron, is altogether different from what prevailed between primeval light and darkness, and though willing to mediate and make peace and harmony between them, Korah and his company have rejected and refused my counsels and thus have instituted and made a Gehenna or Hell into which they must eventually fall. In refusing to accept and comply with the proposition of Moses, Korah demonstrated that his fend and dispute had not for its object the advancement of the divine glory. He thus became an apostate and renegade to the divine rule or principle of reconciliation, by which opposites blend and work harmoniously together. In this consisted the sin of Korah and his company, which caused Moses, though of great meekness of character, to be filled with wrath and anger, not because of their rejection of him as a mediator, but on account of their adverse opposition

p. 94

and antagonism to the principles of reconciliation, the existence of which they failed to perceive or ignored as operating in the preservation of the world.

The following remarks are from an ancient occult work entitled Liber Adami, or, The Book of Adam. "When the passive light, termed in scripture 'darkness,' became blended and unified with the active light,17b there were myriads of spiritual beings or existences, part of whom were fully developed and ready for incarnation, the rest but imperfectly so. Believing that the light and darkness were antagonistic in nature and principle, there arose a division of opinion amongst them, some declaring themselves partisans of light, others its opponents and advocates of darkness. When the mediating Logos had blended light and darkness and thus symbolized the perfect unity of the divine essence, the advanced and enlightened amongst them embraced and received the fact, whilst those only partially developed remained obdurate in their ideas and opinions and thus by their contrariety and differences of thought and the contentions and quarrels that arose therefrom, Gehenna or Hell came into existence." This discord and dissension has found an entrance and reflection in the world and is distinguished by the object in view, whether it be actuated by desire for truth or motived by selfishness and a hankering and craving to rule and dominate over others. Examples and instances of these two classes of individuals are found in the history of mankind. Of the first class, were the famed teacher Hillel (nasior president of the school of Jerusalem at the beginning of the Christian era) with his colleague Schammai. Their only object was the research of truth and the advancement of the divine glory, and though their disputes were very keen and sharp, yet friendship and good will always existed between them. Of the second class, an example has just been given in the case of Korah and his party in their contention with Aaron for supremacy, which resulted in their destruction and descent into Hell, the limbo and native place of dissension and discord.

We can now discern the reason why God made the firmament and separated the waters that were above from the waters that were beneath, that is, he caused a clear distinction to be made between those who, entertaining different views and opinions, were actuated by the desire for truth, and those whose object, through crass, self-willed ignorance, was the rejection of and antagonism towards it. In connection with Korah and his company,

p. 95

cut off or separated from the congregation of Israel, the same word, yabdel (separated), is used by Alhim in dividing the waters above and the waters beneath the firmament, as also by Moses when he spake: Deut. 10:8"Seemeth it to you a small thing that the God of Israel hath separated yon from the congregation," etc., and further, "the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord."17b-18a

Here the question may arise: If on the second day of creation the separation between light and darkness occurred, how was it that the quarrel arose with Levi the third tribe of the children of Israel? Should it not have been in connection with Simeon, the second tribe? The fact of the case is this: the tribe of Levi though reckoned the third, in the eye of Jacob, was accounted as second. The form of service called separation recited by the children of Israel at the close of the sabbath has for its object the separation of the spirit ruling during weeks days from the spirit that rules and presides over the sabbath day. When the sabbath closes, the wicked spirit is filled with the desire to acquire ascendency over Israel, but as soon as it hears the recitation of the verse: "Let the beauty of the Lord our God he upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea the work of our hands establish thou it" (Ps. xc. 17), it betakes itself to flight, and when with the sprig of myrtle and cup of wine in hand the word of "separation" is spoken, it hurries away and returns to Gehenna whence it came, its own place, where dwell Korah and his company as it is written: "They and the accomplices went down alive into the pit" (Num. xvi. 33). They were not, however, swallowed up until the congregation of Israel had separated itself from them, even as the descent into hell of the wicked and contentious angels occurs only after the repetition of the formula of separation at the close of the sabbath. There are two Gehennas; one above, where are the wicked and rebellions spirits; and the other, whither Korah descended and is the pattern of the former.

"Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters" (Gen. i. 6). The word Alhim, God, is composed of two words AL-HIM, which signify God, water, or sea. This last word has the same letters as yamah, by which the scripture teaches that all division of opinion, symbolized by the term sea, is right and just when its object is the glory of the divine, as then AL becomes united to HIM. When, however, this is not so, AL remains separated and detached and yamah, or HIM, then symbolizes the great

p. 96

ocean or abyss of darkness in which Hell is enshrouded18a and concealed. When the waters became separated, then Alhim interposed and became the point of union between them, and harmony prevailed and dissension ceased. The waters above the firmament, the male part; those below, the female. Those above were designated Alhim, and distinguished by the first H in the divine name IHVH; those below were called Adonai, and characterized by the second H. Although the mediation of Alhim took place on the second day, unity and harmony did not begin to prevail only on the third day when, as the scripture states: "God saw that it was good," which is not affirmed of either the first or second day of the work of creation. It was then the letter V entered in the divine name and took up its position between the two H's. This interposition and mediation of Alhim, between the waters above and those below the firmament, is further symbolized by the waters of the river JordanJosh. 3:16 when they became separated to allow of the passage of the children of Israel into the promised land. The waters flowing down to the place of passage formed into a heap, whilst those below flowed into the sea and the children of Israel passed over between them. In order to distinguish and emphasize the separation of the waters which, had not Alhim become mediator between them. would never have proved fruitful and brought forth abundantly the living creature, the scripture repeats five times the word raqiang (firmament).

Now the time essential for this correlative union was a period of five hundred years, during which the waters above and those below flowed unitedly by the tree of life, serving as a point of contact and junction, so that by their reciprocal action they might give rise to vegetable and animal life upon the earth plane. This union or blending together was thus necessary ere their proper distribution could take place, as it is recorded of David after gathering together food and provisions, he afterwards distributed them2 Sam. 6:19 to all the congregation of Israel. It is also written: "That thou givest them, they gather" (Ps. civ. 28), and again, "She riseth also whilst it is night, and giveth meat to her household" (Prov. xxxi. 15).

Next: Chapter II.