March 26, 2009
Posted by Benjamin under judaism
, Tarot 1 Comment
generally tarot decks go
and here must be your princess earth
You of course raise a valid point.
We see this in kabbalah in the fractal nature of things, worlds within worlds. Or Etz chaim (tree of life) within each emanation.
So we see this in tarot, water contains fire air water and earth
and so on.
So what do we get?
YHVH the tetragrammaton is generally seen as:
father mother child consort
The Yod and the Vau are male
the two Hehs are female.
This of course can lead to us looking to the Gnostic myth of Sophia, there being a heavenly Sophia and a fallen material Sophia (Sophia Ecamoth)
But we return to our oringinal conundrum. How can male be female and female be male?
Well as we have demonstrated lately, certain people in this group are incapable of seeing polarity and SEX for what it is, a DYNAMIC changing force.
So the four elements in the court cards in tarot represent:
The four qworld of Kabbalah
or as more standard from WIKI:
Atziluth (אֲצִילוּת), or “World of Emanations”; on this level the light of the Ain Sof radiates and is still united with its source.
Beri’ah (בְּרִיאָה) or “World of Creation”; on this level is the first concept of creation ex nihilo however without any shape or form. This is also where the Highest Ranking Angels are to be found.
Yetzirah (יְצִירָה) or “World of Formation”; on this level the created being assumes shape and form.
Asiyah’ (עֲשִׂיָּה) or “World of Actions”; on this level the creation is complete, however it is still on a spiritual level. At a later stage there is the ‘physical Asiyah’ comprising our physical world with all its creatures.
from idea to implementation… air leads to fire to water to earth
idea…transformation of idea..emotions and spirit and physicality…
We also see dynamic polarity. Not only do the four elemnets in the court cards represent the four modes, four world, 4 elements, 4 animals (ezekiel) etc. but they also represent polarity.
For as you point out, Fire contains water and earth, thus fire is Male but it is also female. How is this possible you cry?
It is possible as polairty is DYNAMIC, it changes constantly. One returns to kabbalah, the sefirot, they are not male or female, they are always BOTH at all times. A first mistake of many beginners is to think that Hod mercury is male, Venus Netzach is female etc. This is incorrect…they are both. Polarity IS DYNAMIC. We can see this dynamism in pretty much ALL paths that speak of polarity. The Hindus do not refer to it as a DANCE without reason.
So How can Yod and Vau be female and male?
It depends on where you are.
WHich world, which expression you are in.
We see things as we are
Not as they are
March 18, 2009
Posted by Benjamin under mysticism Leave a Comment
The prayer of the monk is not perfect until he no longer recognizes himself or the fact that he is praying.
March 12, 2009
Posted by Benjamin under bible
, early church
, religion Leave a Comment
The passage in Exodus 20 contains more than ten imperative statements, totalling 14 or 15 in all. While the Bible itself assigns the count of “10″, using the Hebrew phrase aseret had’varim—translated as the 10 words, statements or things, this phrase does not appear in Exodus 20. Various religions parse the commandments differently. The table below highlights those differences.
Division of the Ten Commandments by religion/denomination
Anglican, Reformed, and other Christian
I am the Lord your God
You shall have no other gods before me
You shall not make for yourself an idol
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
Honor your father and mother
You shall not murder*
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal***
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife
You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor
The Roman Catholic Church uses the translation ‘kill’ (less specific) instead of ‘murder‘.
Some Lutheran churches use a slightly different division of the Ninth and Tenth Commandments (9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house; 10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his workers, or his cattle, or anything that is your neighbor’s).
Sources within Judaism assert that this is a reference to kidnapping, whereas Leviticus 19:11 is the Biblical reference banning the stealing of property. This understanding is based on the Talmudical hermeneutic known as דבר הלמד מעניינו/davar ha-lamed me-inyano, (lit. Something proved by the context), by which this must refer to a capital offense just as the previous two commandments refer to capital offenses.
The “Talmudic Division” is the breakdown held by modern Judaism, and dates to at least the Third Century. The “Philonic Division”, which dates to the first century, is found in the writings of Philo and Josephus. They ended the first commandment after verse 3 and list the second commandment as verses 4-6, similar to most Protestants (non-Lutheran) and the Eastern Orthodox Church. .
Classical Jewish interpretations
The arrangement of the commandments on the two tablets is interpreted in different ways in the classical Jewish tradition. Rabbi Hanina ben Gamaliel says that each tablet contained five commandments, “but the Sages say ten on one tablet and ten on the other”. Because the commandments establish a covenant, it is likely that they were duplicated on both tablets. This can be compared to diplomatic treaties of Ancient Egypt, in which a copy was made for each party.
According to the Talmud, the compendium of traditional Rabbinic Jewish law, tradition, and interpretation, the Biblical verse “the tablets were written on both their sides”, implies that the carving went through the full thickness of the tablets. The stones in the center part of some letters were not connected to the rest of the tablet, but they did not fall out. Moreover, the writing was also legible from both sides; it was not a mirror image of the text on the other side. The Talmud regards both phenomena as miraculous.
Significance of the Decalogue
The Torah includes hundreds of commandments (generally enumerated in Rabbinic Judaism as 613 mitzvot), including the ten from the Decalogue. When compared to the whole canon of Jewish law, the Ten Commandments are not given any greater significance in observance or special status. In fact, when undue emphasis was being placed on them, their daily communal recitation was discontinued. Jewish tradition does, however, recognize them as the ideological basis for the rest of the commandments; a number of works (starting with Rabbi Saadia Gaon) have made groupings of the commandments according to their links with the Ten Commandments.
The traditional Rabbinical Jewish belief is that the observance of these commandments and the other mitzvot are required solely of the Jewish people, and that the laws incumbent on humanity in general are outlined in the seven Noahide Laws (several of which overlap with the Ten Commandments). In the era of the Sanhedrin, transgressing any one of six of the Ten Commandments theoretically carried the death penalty, though this was rarely enforced due to a large number of stringent evidentiary requirements imposed by the oral law.
Traditional division and interpretation
According to the Medieval Sefer ha-Chinuch, the first four statements concern the relationship between God and humans, while the next six statements concern the relationships between people. Rabbinic literature holds that the Ten Statements in fact contain 14 or 15 distinct instructions; see listing under Yitro (parsha).
- “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me…”
- This commandment is to believe in the existence of God and His influence on events in the world , and that the goal of the redemption from Egypt was to become His servants (Rashi). It prohibits belief in or worship of any additional deities.
- “Do not make an image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above…”
- This prohibits the construction or fashioning of “idols” in the likeness of created things (beasts, fish, birds, people) and worshipping them.
- “Do not swear falsely by the name of the LORD…”
- This commandment is to never take the name of God in a vain, pointless or insincere oath.
- “Remember [zachor] the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (the version in Deuteronomy reads shamor, “observe”)
- The seventh day of the week is termed Shabbat and is holy, just as God ceased creative activity during Creation. The aspect of zachor is performed by declaring the greatness of the day (kiddush), by having three festive meals, and by engaging in Torah study and pleasurable activities. The aspect of shamor is performed by abstaining from productive activity (39 melachot) on the Shabbat.
- “Honor your father and your mother…”
- The obligation to honor one’s parents is an obligation that one owes to God and fulfills this obligation through one’s actions towards one’s parents.
- “Do not murder”
- Murdering a human being is a capital sin.
- “Do not commit adultery.”
- Adultery is defined as sexual intercourse between a man and a married woman who is not his wife.
- “Do not steal.”
- According to Rashi, this is not understood as stealing in the conventional sense, since theft of property is forbidden elsewhere and is not a capital offense. In this context it is to be taken as “do not kidnap.”
- “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor”
- One must not bear false witness in a court of law or other proceeding.
- “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife”
- One is forbidden to desire and plan how one may obtain that which God has given to another. Maimonides makes a distinction in codifying the laws between the instruction given here in Exodus (You shall not covet) and that given in Deuteronomy (You shall not desire), according to which one does not violate the Exodus commandment unless there is a physical action associated with the desire, even if this is legally purchasing an envied object.
Use in Jewish ritual
The Mishnah records that it was the practice, in the Temple, to recite the Ten Commandments every day before the reading of the Shema, but that this practice was abolished in the synagogues so as not to give ammunition to heretics who claimed that they were the only important part of Jewish law.
In the normal course of the reading of the Torah, the Ten Commandments are read twice a year: the Exodus version in parashat Yitro around January, and the Deuteronomy version in parashat Va’etchanan in August-September. In addition, the Exodus version constitutes the main Torah reading for the festival of Shavuot. It is widespread custom for the congregation to stand while they are being read.
In printed Bibles the Ten Commandments carry two sets of cantillation marks. The ta’am ‘elyon (upper accentuation), which makes each Commandment into a separate verse, is used for public Torah reading, while the ta’am tachton (lower accentuation), which divides the text into verses of more even length, is used for private reading or study. It is thought that these differences originally represented the difference between the customs of Eretz Yisrael and those of Babylonia. As it happens, the verse numbering in Christian Bibles follows the ta’am elyon while that in Jewish Bibles follows the ta’am tachton. In Jewish Bibles the references to the Ten Commandments are therefore 20:2–14 and 5:6–18.
The Samaritan Pentateuch varies in the ten commandments passages, both in that their Deuteronomical version of the passage is much closer to that in Exodus, and in the addition of a commandment on the sanctity of Mount Gerizim.
The text of the commandment follows:
- And it shall come to pass when the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land of the Canaanites whither thou goest to take possession of it, thou shalt erect unto thee large stones, and thou shalt cover them with lime, and thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this Law, and it shall come to pass when ye cross the Jordan, ye shall erect these stones which I command thee upon Mount Gerizim, and thou shalt build there an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones, and thou shalt not lift upon them iron, of perfect stones shalt thou build thine altar, and thou shalt bring upon it burnt offerings to the Lord thy God, and thou shalt sacrifice peace offerings, and thou shalt eat there and rejoice before the Lord thy God. That mountain is on the other side of the Jordan at the end of the road towards the going down of the sun in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the Arabah facing Gilgal close by Elon Moreh facing Shechem.
Roman Catholic and Lutheran Christianity
The Lutheran (Protestant) and Roman Catholic division of the commandments both follow the one established by St. Augustine, following the then current synagogue scribal division. The first three commandments govern the relationship between God and humans, the fourth through eighth govern public relationships between people, and the last two govern private thoughts. For additional information on the Catholic understanding of the Ten Commandments, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), sections 2052–2557. References to the Catechism are provided below for each commandment as well as the interpretation used by Lutherans and Catholics. The following text is from Deuteronomy 5:6–5:21 NRSV
- “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
- Catholic teaching distinguishes between dulia—paying honor, respect and veneration to saints and also indirectly to God through contemplation of objects such as paintings and statues—and latria— adoration directed to God alone. (See Catechism 2084–2141.)
- “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”
- This commandment prohibits not just swearing but also the misappropriation of religious language in order to commit a crime, participating in occult practices, and blaspheming against places or people that are holy to God. (See Catechism 2142–2167.)
- “Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.”
- “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
- This commandment emphasizes the family as part of God’s design, as well as an extended metaphor that God uses for his relationship with his creation. (See Catechism 2197–2257.)
- “(Roman Catholic) You shall not kill / (Lutheran) You shall not murder”
- The right of states to execute criminals is not absolutely forbidden by this commandment. However, other methods of protecting society (incarceration, rehabilitation) are increasingly available and more in keeping with other Christian moral teaching. Catholics (along with many Lutherans) also consider abortion sinful and a violation of this commandment. War, if rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy are met (that is, the “use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”), is not a violation because “governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.” (See Catechism 2258–2330.)
- “Neither shall you commit adultery.”
- Adultery is the breaking of the holy bond between husband and wife, and is thus a sacrilege. This commandment includes not just the act of adultery, but lust as well. (See Catechism 2331–2400.)
- “Neither shall you steal.”
- (See Catechism 2401–2463.)
- “Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.”
- This commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in relations with others. This also forbids lying. (See Catechism 2464–2513.)
- “Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.”
- (See Catechism 2514–2533.)
- “Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
- (See Catechism 2534–2557.)
The Commandments are seen as general “subject headings” for moral theology, in addition to being specific commandments in themselves. Thus, the commandment to honor father and mother is seen as a heading for a general rule to respect legitimate authority, including the authority of the state. The commandment not to commit adultery is traditionally taken to be a heading for a general rule to be sexually pure, the specific content of the purity depending, of course, on whether one is married or not. In this way, the Ten Commandments can be seen as dividing up all of morality.They are also to be seen as the most fundamental of guidance on how to achieve progress in meditation or prayer – the obvious example being that it would be difficult to consider a rising spirt when the heart was planning murder.
There are many different denominations of Protestantism, and it is impossible to generalize in a way that covers them all. However, this diversity arose historically from fewer sources, the various teachings of which can be summarized, in general terms.
Lutherans, Reformed (Calvinists) and Anglicans, and Anabaptists all taught, and their descendants still predominantly teach, that the Ten Commandments have both an explicitly negative content, and an implied positive content. Besides those things that ought not to be done, there are things which ought not to be left undone. So that, besides not transgressing the prohibitions, a faithful abiding by the commands of God includes keeping the obligations of love. The ethic contained in the Ten Commandments and indeed in all of Scripture is, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself”, and, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Lutherans theorize that there is an antithesis between these two sides of the Word of God, the positive and the negative. Love and gratitude is a guide to those under the Gospel, and the prohibitions are for unbelievers and profane people. This antithesis between Law and Gospel runs through every ethical command, according to Lutheran understanding.
The Anabaptists have held that the commandments of God are the content of the covenant established through Christ: faith is faithfulness, and thus, belief is essentially the same thing as obedience.
Reformed and Anglicans have taught the abiding validity of the commandments, and call it a summation of the “moral law”, binding on all people. However, they emphasize the union of the believer with Christ – so that the will and power to perform the commandments does not arise from the commandment itself, but from the gift of the Holy Spirit. Apart from this grace, the commandment is only productive of condemnation, according to this family of doctrine.
Modern Evangelicalism, under the influence of dispensationalism, commonly denies that the commandments have any abiding validity as a requirement binding upon Christians; however, they contain principles which are beneficial to the believer. Dispensationalism is particularly emphatic about the dangers of legalism, and thus, in a distinctive way de-emphasizes the teaching of the law (see also antinomianism). Somewhat analogously, Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement typically emphasizes the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the freedom of the Christian from outward commandments, sometimes in antithesis to the letter of the Law. Quakers and Pietists have historically set themselves against the Law as a form of commandment binding on Christians, and have emphasized the inner guidance and liberty of the believer, so that the law is fulfilled not merely by avoiding what the Law prohibits, but by carrying out what the Spirit of God urges upon their conscience.
Typical Protestant view
For those Christians who believe that the Ten Commandments continue to be binding for Christians (see also Old Testament—Christian view of the Law), their negative and positive content can be summarized as follows.
- Preface: vs 1–2
Implies the obligation to keep all of the commandments of God, in gratitude because of the abundance of his mercy.
Forbids ingratitude to God and denial that he is our God.
- vs 3
Enjoins that God must be known and acknowledged to be the only true God, and our God; and, to worship him and to make him known as he has been made known to us.
Forbids not worshiping and glorifying the true God as God, and as our God; and forbids giving worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.
- vs 4–6
Requires receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed; and zeal in resisting those who would corrupt worship; because of God’s ownership of us, and interest in our salvation.
Prohibits the worshiping of God by images, or by confusion of any creature with God, or any other way not appointed in his Word. (According to the traditional presbyterian and reformed view, this commandment also prohibits any man-made inventions to worship, which formed a basis for their criticsm of Roman Catholic liturgies.)
- vs 7
Enjoins a holy and a reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.
Forbids all abuse of anything by which God makes Himself known. Some Protestants, especially in the tradition of pacifism, read this Commandment as forbidding any and all oaths, including judicial oaths and oaths of allegiance to a government, noting that human weakness cannot foretell whether such oaths will in fact be vain.
- vs 8–11
Requires setting apart to God such set times as are appointed in his Word. Many Protestants are increasingly concerned that the values of the marketplace do not dominate entirely, and deprive people of leisure and energy needed for worship, for the creation of civilized culture. The setting of time apart from and free from the demands of commerce is one of the foundations of a decent human society. See Sabbath.
Forbids the omission, or careless performance, of the religious duties, using the day for idleness, or for doing that which is in itself sinful; and prohibits requiring of others any such omission, or transgression, on the designated day.
- vs 12
The only commandment with explicitly positive content, rather than a prohibition; it connects all of the temporal blessings of God, with reverence for and obedience to authority, and especially for father and mother.
Forbids doing anything against, or failing to give, the honor and duty which belongs to anyone, whether because they possess authority or because they are subject to authority.
- vs 13
Requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.
Forbids taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor, unjustly (Just taking of life includes self-defense, executions by the magistrate and times of war.); and, anything that tends toward depriving life. By extension it condemns even verbal abuse and anger, as exmplified by Christ’s interpretation in the sermon on the mount.
- vs 14
Enjoins protection of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.
Forbids all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.
- vs 15
Requires a defense of all lawful things that further the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.
Prohibits whatever deprives our neighbor, or ourselves, of lawfully gained wealth or outward estate.
- vs 16
Requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between people, and of our neighbor’s good name and our own, especially in witness-bearing.
Forbids whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s, good name.
- vs 17
Enjoins contentment with our own condition, and a charitable attitude toward our neighbor and all that is his, being thankful for his sake that he has whatever is beneficial to him, as we are for those things that benefit us.
Forbids discontent or envy, prohibits any grief over the betterment of our neighbor’s estate, and all inordinate desires to obtain for ourselves, or scheming to wrest for our benefit, anything that is his.
In Islam Moses (Musa) is venerated as one of the greatest prophets of God. However, Islam also teaches that the texts of the Torah and the Gospels have been corrupted from their divine originals over the years, due to carelessness and self-interest. Despite this purported corruption, messages from the Torah and the Gospels still coincide closely with certain verses in the Qur’an. This is by-and-large the case with the Ten Commandments. Consequently, despite the Ten Commandments not being explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an they are substantially similar to the following verses in the Qur’an (using Jewish numbering of the Commandments):
- “There is no other god beside God.” (Qur’an 47:19)
- “My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols.” (Qur’an 14:35)
- “And make not Allah’s (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth all things.” (Qur’an 2:224) This quranic verse is not entirely analogous to the Old Testament’s “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God…” Verse 2:224 is explained by the Prophet Muhammad as: “If anyone takes a solemn oath [that he would do or refrain from doing such-and such a thing], and thereupon realizes that something else would be a more righteous course, then let him do that which is more righteous, and let him break his oath and then atone for it” (Bukhari and Muslim; and other variants of the same Tradition in other compilations).
- “O you who believe, when the Congregational Prayer (Salat Al-Jumu`ah) is announced on Friday, you shall hasten to the commemoration of GOD, and drop all business.” (Qur’an 62:9)
The Sabbath was relinquished with the revelation of the Quran. Muslims are told in the Quran that the Sabbath was only decreed for the Jews. (Qur’an 16:124) God, however, ordered Muslims to make every effort and drop all businesses to attend the congregational (Friday) prayer. The Submitters may tend to their business during the rest of the day.
- “….and your parents shall be honoured. As long as one or both of them live, you shall never (even) say to them, “Uff” (the slightest gesture of annoyance), nor shall you shout at them; you shall treat them amicably.” (Qur’an 17:23)
- “….anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people.” (Qur’an 5:32)
- “You shall not commit adultery; it is a gross sin, and an evil behaviour.” (Qur’an 17:32)
- “They shall not steal.” (Al-Mumtahanah 60: 12) and “The thief, male or female, you shall mark their hands as a punishment for their crime, and to serve as an example from God. God is Almighty, Most Wise.” (Qur’an 5:38)
- “Do not withhold any testimony by concealing what you had witnessed. Anyone who withholds a testimony is sinful at heart.” (Qur’an 2:283)
- “And do not covet what we bestowed upon any other people. Such are temporary ornaments of this life, whereby we put them to the test. What your Lord provides for you is far better, and everlasting.” (Qur’an 20:131)
It can also be noted that in the 17th chapter, “Al-Israa” (“The Night Journey”), verses [Qur'an 17:22], the Qur’an provides a set of moral stipulations which are “among the (precepts of) wisdom, which thy Lord has revealed to thee” that can be reasonably categorised as ten in number. According to S. A. Nigosian, Professor of religious studies at the University of Toronto, these resemble the Ten Commandments in the Bible and “represents the fullest statement of the code of behavior every Muslim must follow”.  It should be noted however, that these verses are not regarded by Islamic scholars as being somehow set apart from any other moral stipulations in the Qur’an, nor are they regarded as a substitute, replacement or abrogation of some other set of commandments as found in the previous revelations.
- Worship only God: Take not with Allah another object of worship; or thou (O man!) wilt sit in disgrace and destitution. (17:22)
- Be kind, honourable and humble to one’s parents: Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. (17:23) And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” (17:24)
- Be neither miserly nor wasteful in one’s expenditure: And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. (17:26) Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful. (17:27) And even if thou hast to turn away from them in pursuit of the Mercy from thy Lord which thou dost expect, yet speak to them a word of easy kindness. (17:28) Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard’s) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute. (17:29)
- Do not engage in ‘mercy killings’ for fear of starvation: Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin. (17:31)
- Do not commit adultery: Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils). (17:32)
- Do not kill unjustly: Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law). (17:33)
- Care for orphaned children: Come not nigh to the orphan’s property except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength…(17:34)
- Keep one’s promises: …fulfil (every) engagement [i.e. promise/covenant], for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning). (17:34)
- Be honest and fair in one’s interactions: Give full measure when ye measure, and weigh with a balance that is straight: that is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the final determination. (17:35)
- Do not be arrogant in one’s claims or beliefs: And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning). (17:36) Nor walk on the earth with insolence: for thou canst not rend the earth asunder, nor reach the mountains in height. (17:37)
Analogues in other traditions
In atheist Soviet Union the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism had many notions much resembling the Ten Commandments.
Whilst Kabbalists concede a correlation between the “Ten Commandments” and the Sefirot, there are several variances of opinion regarding the exact attribution of the Commandments to the Sefirot. To date there is still no universally acknowledged set of attributions. Most would simply place the Ten Commandments in their exact order from Keter to Malchut, whilst others have arranged them around the Tree of Life in accordance with some reasoned pattern.
Now, before one might find correlations between the Ten Commandments and the ten Sefirot, one should consider exactly what comprises the Ten Commandments. You might think this should be quite obvious, since they are listed in Exodus 20, but this is indeed no easy matter. There are differences of opinion as to exactly what constitutes each commandment. For example, for the majority of Jews the first three Commandments (which amongst esotericists would correspond to the first three Sefirot) are:
Commandment 1: “I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
Commandment 2: “Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.”
Commandment 3: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.”
Compare these three to ONE of the sets of Commandments to be found in mainstream Christianity (Roman Catholic):
Commandment 1: “I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.”
Commandment 2: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.”
Commandment 3: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
Consider further that there are not only these differences of opinion regarding the Ten Commandments between Judaism and Christianity, but that there are equally serious differences on this very topic between Roman Catholics and Protestant Christians, and even amongst the protestant factions. The main “commandment” here would seem to be “Thou shalt agree not to agree,” and I am sure you can imagine how difficult it is in this situation for an uninformed readership to ascertain the “correct” (?) attributions of the Ten Commandments to the Sefirot. Here, for what it is worth, are the more generally accepted correlations to be found in “traditional Kabbalah”:
1. Keter - “I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
2. Chochmah - “Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.”
3. Binah - “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.“
4. Chesed - “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
5. Gevurah - “Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.“
6. Tiferet - “Thou shalt not murder.”
7. Netzach - “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
8. Hod - “Thou shalt not steal.”
9. Yesod - “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.“
10. Malchut - “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
In perusing these attributes, considered “positive forces,” keep in mind that one should also consider the associated ten “negative forces” represented by the ten “plagues.” These are linked to the Sefirot in reverse order to the “positive forces,” that is to start with the first plague linked with Malchut and the tenth, the “death of the first born,” associated with Keter.
March 11, 2009
“All creatures depend no less on God than lines on the point; they have no beauty nor anything agreeable except that which they receive from the presence of God, who creates them perpetually, just as nothing is perfect in creatures except for God. Hence the greater the beauty in creatures, the more assistance God gives to them; and the greater the quantity of light which he dispenses to them and with which he illuminates them; just as numbers are greater according to the greater multitude of rays which unity sends out to them, and to which it communicates itself more fully; just as one can say that all possible numbers are nothing other than unity made common, or the love, perfection, and communication of unity without which no number can exist.
Now consonances depend on the unison as lines on the point, numbers on unity, and creatures on God: this is why they are sweeter as they approach closer to it, for they have nothing sweet or agreeable but what they borrow from the union of their sounds, which is the greater as it tends more toward the unison…..
…..when one knows the art and practice of meditation on true pleasure, one will soon discover that the eternal ideas are its only true object, and consequently that we err in believing that Beauty has her seat in the existence of creatures distinct or separate from the existence of the Creator. For beauty, and that which we call agreeable in sensible or intelligible things, depends on the uncreated Being, just as numbers depend on unity, lines on the point, time on the moment, movement on the motionless, and consonances on the unison.”
- Marin Mersenne (Harmonie Universelle) (The Harmony of the Spheres: The Pythagorean Tradition in Music)
1. Agreement; harmony; accord.
a. Close correspondence of sounds.
b. The repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, especially at the ends of words, as in blank and think or strong and string.
3. Music A simultaneous combination of sounds not requiring resolution to another combination of sounds for finality of effect and conventionally regarded as harmonious or pleasing.
March 11, 2009
Posted by Benjamin under Tarot 1 Comment
Simple divination is but one use of tarot. Tarot is most effectively used to help transform conciousness and to meditate upon. There are 2 types of tarot users, those who rely upon their innate “abilities” (which all people have to a greater or lesser extent) and those that are the same as the 1st group BUT also KNOW and communicate with their deck.
First and foremost as tarot users we should know that Tarot is ALIVE. A simple way to approach any deck is to treat them as: “TAROT ARE LIKE A PERSON, TREAT THEM BADLY AND THEY’LL TREAT YOU BADLY, TREAT THEM WELL AND THEY’LL BE YOUR FRIENDS.”
This simple yet effective exercise should be undertaken for those who are regular meditators, at least this will be most effective for those that meditate often. Part 2 will examine a simple yet effective method to “get to know” your entiure deck.
court card exercise
1. Remove all the court cards from your deck. Set aside the rest of the deck, you will not be using them.
2. Briefly enter silence and still your mind. Take the cards and shuffle them in this “silent” mode.
3. From this deck choose 1 card, face down. Place the rest of the cards aside.
4. With your chosen card place it in both hands. Caress the card. Briefly enter silence and meditate upon the card, stilling the mind, free yourself allowing the card to “talk to you”.
5. After this brief period turn over the card. Hold the card close to your face and study it. Clear your mind and meditate open eyed on the card. Let the card fill your conciousness. The card may begin to move and become alive, do not resist this, only resist absurdities such as an appearance of mickey mouse. Meditate open eyed holding the card in your conciousness for 5-10 mins.
6. Now you have communicated with the cards. This is a simple exercise that is surprisingly effective. Feel free to write down any exeperiences or things you have learnt.
The Tarot is generally made up of 78 cards. We have 22 “trump cards” (22 Hebrew letters) 16 Court cards (king, queen, knight and “page”. Lastly we have remaining 40 numerical cards (4 sets of 10). We shall explore this more later.
For now let’s move onto a simple but LONG term exercise.
You should get to KNOW your deck intimately. How does one do this? One meditates.
You should obtain a book to be used as a journal. Now you have to meditate upon every one of the 78 cards!…yes a daunting task, but there are no quick fixes; a good meal isn’t made up of “fast food.”
Feel free to add to your journal at all times.
- Take a card from your deck. Now Which card should this be? That is up to YOU. There are several methods a0 follow a numerical value system. Such as start with card #1 of the trump cards…then move on to card #2 etc. Or you could follow a system based upon how the cards are placed upon the tree of life. Or simply meditate and pick a card from the deck. The choice is YOURS. But stick to it!
2. Now you must meditate upon your chosen card daily. Do this initially by staring at the card. Place it close to your eyes. Allow the image to fill your consciousness. At this initial stage do not allow anything to move. You are merely attempting to fix the image in your mind. SO much so you could close your eyes and see the card. DO this initial “staring” for around 10 minutes a night, preferably at the same time every night. Do this for at least a week, perhaps 2 weeks.
- Now you should know the card off by heart and pretty much be able to see the card without even looking at it. Continue as in stage 2 but allow the card to Move. You should be able to now meditate closed eyed upon the card. Do this for several days.
- Gradually carry on as before. But now you should move your consciousness so you are within the card. Feel free to interact with any of the beings in the card.
March 11, 2009
Posted by Benjamin under kabbalah Leave a Comment
(also transliterated Kether)
“The Mystic Quest” by David S. Ariel
“Keter (crown), is the first Sefirah emanated from Eyn Sof. It is the highest and most glorious of the Sefirot and crowns them all. It stands as the barrier between Eyn Sof and the other Sefirot and, so, encircles and crowns Eyn Sof. Because each Sefirah is emanated from another, the highest one, Keter, stands hierarchically above them all.
Sometimes Keter is identified with Eyn Sof. Most often, however, Keter is the first Sefirah radiated, or emanated, by Eyn Sof which stands above it. Those who identify Keter with Eyn Sof lean toward the ‘essentialist’ point of view and believe that the Sefirot are only different stages in the unfolding of God’s infinite essence. Those who believe that Keter is the first Sefirah and is not identical with Eyn Sof, generally follow the view that Eyn Sof acts through vessels, the Sefirot, and that God and His vessels are not similar. Therefore, the essentialists favor the ‘personalist’ notion of God and theorize that Keter is the same as Eyn Sof. The instrumentalists believe that God is impersonal, and Eyn Sof is above Keter.
There are many other names for Keter in the Kabbalah. It is often called Ayin (nothingness) because it is beyond all existence and is nonetheless the cause of all existing things. In the Prayer of Nehunyah ben ha-Kanah, written in the thirteenth century, a hymn to Keter appears:
‘Everything is in it,
for the internal powers of the Sefirot are in it.
The vitality and existence of everything stem from it.
It is analogous to the soul
which gives life to the body
and constitutes it.
The constitution of everything is in Keter.
There is no front or back,
right or left, in this Sefirah.
It is called ‘Indifferent Unity.’
It is also called Chochmah Penimit (internal wisdom) because it is the hidden potentiality of divine wisdom before it is revealed or Machshavah Elohit (divine thought) because it is produced by Eyn Sof, the pure Mind. Keter is similar to Eyn Sof in many of these respects but different in others. It differs in that it is the highest aspect of God which moves into activity out of the repose of Eyn Sof. Both Eyn Sof and Keter are unknowable and imperceptible. Keter is the more active representation of God’s will which cannot be known except during the rare moment when God chose to reveal Himself as Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (I am What I Am). The Kabbalists display a certain ambivalence about whether Keter can be known.
In the following passage Eyn Sof and Keter are described paradoxically as the hidden and revealed will of God, respectively. Keter, however, cannot be known except through the unique intuition that comes about through mystical revelation.
‘Rabbi Shimon said:
I raise my hands upward in prayer.
When the divine will up above (i.e., Eyn Sof)
shines upon the will
which is eternally unknown and imperceptible,
the first hidden upper will (i.e. Keter)
produces its unknowable creation
and radiates what it does secretly.
Then, the will of divine thought
pursues the first will
in order to be illuminated by it.
A curtain is then opened
and, from inside, with the divine will
pursuing (the upper will),
it reaches and yet does not reach [up]
and the curtain begins to radiate.
Then illumination coming from
the hidden upper unknown will strikes the
light of the curtain
which is lit up by the will
which is unknown, unknowable and concealed.
The light of the concealed thought
strikes the light of the curtain
and they both radiate,
creating nine palaces.’ [Sefer ha-Zohar]
This passage illustrates how in moments of deep revelation Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the voice of the Zohar, reveals his mystical knowledge. Eyn Sof emanates its essence upon Keter and activates it. Keter, in turn, turns back to Eyn Sof to draw down further essence linking them together. As Keter turns back to reflect its light toward Eyn Sof, its source, it strikes a barrier that stands between it and Eyn Sof. The barrier reflects the light of Keter back to it and creates the third Sefirah. This process of emanation and reflection creates the ten Sefirot.
The Kabbalists placed great importance on the inner workings of God especially on the relationship of Eyn Sof to Keter. They attempted to explain how the infinite God can bridge the abyss between Himself and the world. In the passage above there is very little difference between Eyn Sof and Keter except the slight gradations of difference between the divine will and the upper will. Still, there is a curtain that separates them. When they sweep aside that separation, they radiate against each other and create the other Sefirot.
Some Kabbalists were disturbed by the idea that there is little difference between Eyn Sof and Keter. They believed that there were a series of three imperceptible luminous beings that interposed between Eyn Sof and Keter. They radiate out from Eyn Sof and become embedded in Keter. Keter then becomes God’s pure Thought. This is described in the following passage quoted from the Responsum of Hai Gaon:
‘The three supernal lights have no beginning for they are the name and essence and root of all roots. Thought cannot apprehend them because apprehension is impossible and the knowledge of all creatures is too weak to comprehend the Holy Name. We have learned their names: ‘primordial internal light’ which radiates in the hidden root and shines from its radiant power the likeness of the two great luminaries. The ‘polished light’ and the ‘clear light,’ all of which are one light, one essence, and one root hidden infinitely.’
Keter cannot be known because it is either identical with, or only slightly different from, Eyn Sof. Like a king who is hidden from most of his subjects, he can be known by his venerable crown which is filled with precious gems and diamonds. Keter is, however, identified as divine thought and the source of all the other Sefirot. The thirteenth-century Tradition of Wisdom from the Sages of Mata Mahasya describes Keter:
‘Supernal Keter is a world hidden unto itself. All the Sefirot receive from its emanation even though it is separate, recondite and bound up with the root of all roots which cannot be apprehended by thought. Keter receives from the root without any interruption in a subtle whisper. It emanates and pours forth from its reservoir upon the other crowns which are always close to its emanation.’
The unknowability of Keter is due to its identity with, or proximity to, Eyn Sof. Yet it is also the root of all the other phenomena of the world especially the other Sefirot. It is the cause of the Sefirot and produces them through Atzilut (emanation). Emanation, according to most Kabbalists, is a process of hypertrophy, or overflow, from Eyn Sof. Eyn Sof is, by nature, effulgent and tends to spread its essence outward. The Sefirot are there to receive this essence.
Emanation, according to other Kabbalists, most notably Nachmanides, is a process in which Eyn Sof limits its own infinity through contracting or constricting itself. God cannot create anything directly from His own boundless and infinite essence unless He voluntarily limits Himself. The Kabbalists use the analogy of the sun to explain this process. The radiant light of the sun shines endlessly due to its great power and brilliance. Nothing could be seen, however, unless the unbridles light of the sun is restricted, allowing for the emergence of shapes, contours, and details. In the same manner the radiance of Eyn Sof must be contracted and limited through the emanation of Keter , a channeling of the infinite mind and will into the more defined thought and will. Keter is the means by which the infinite God makes all other creations possible. It is the transition between God’s infinity and the finite world.
It is ironic that the Kabbalists should have so much to say about an unknowable God. They speculated endlessly on the nature of God and on His Sefirot. Although much consideration was given to Eyn Sof and Keter, the Kabbalists recognized that human knowledge could never adequately penetrate the secrets of the infinite God.”
he term, while Asher ben David employed it in a distinctly personal and theistic way.
Ein-Sof is the absolute perfection in which there are no distinctions and no differentiations, and according to some even no volition. It does not reveal itself in a way that makes knowledge of its nature possible, and it is not accessible even to the innermost thought (hirhur ha-lev) of the contemplative. Only through the finite nature of every existing thing, through the actual existence of creation itself, is it possible to deduce the eixtence of Ein-Sof as the first infinite cause. The author of Ma’arechet ha-Elohut put forward the extreme thesis (not without arousing the opposition of more cautious kabbalists) that the whole biblical revelation, and the Oral Law as well, contained no reference to Ein-Sof, and that only the mystics had received some hint of it. Hence the author of this treatise, followed by several other writers, was led to the daring conclusion that only the revealed God can in reality be called ‘God,’ and not the hidden ‘deus absconditus,’ who cannot be an object of religious thought. When ideas of this kind returned in a later period in Shabbatean and quasi-Shabbatean Kabbalah, between 1670 and 1740, they were considered heretical.
Other terms or images signifying the domain of the hidden God that lies beyond any impulse toward creation occur in the writings of the Gerona kabbalists and in the literature of the speculative school. Examples of these terms are mah she-ein ha-machshavah masseget (‘that which thought cannot attain’ – sometimes used also to describe the first emanation), ha-or ha-mit’allem (‘the concealed light’), sefer ha-ta’alumah (‘the concealment of secrecy’), yitron (‘superfluity’ – apparently as a translation of the neoplatonic term hyperousia), ha-achdut ha-shavah (‘indistinguishable unity,’ in the sense of a unity in which all opposites are equal and in which there is no differentiation), or even simply ha-mahut (‘the essence’). The factor common to all these terms is that Ein Sof and its synonyms are above or beyond thought.A certain wavering between the personal and the neutral approach to the concept of Ein Sof can also be seen in the main part of the Zohar, while in the later stratum, in the Ra’aya Meheimna and the Tikkunim, a personal concept is paramount. Ein-Sof is often (not always) identified with the Aristotelian ’cause of all causes,’ and, through the kabbalistic use of neoplatonic idiom, with the ‘root of all roots.’ While all the definitions above have a common negative element, occasionally in the Zohar there is a remarkable positive designation which gives the name Ein-Sof to the nine lights of thought that shine from the Divine Thought, thus bringing Ein-Sof out of its concealment and down to a more humble level of emanation (the contrast between the two concepts emerges through comparison between various passages, e.g., e:21a and 2:239a with 2:226a). In later cevelopment of Lurianic Kabbalah, however, in distinct opposition to the view of the earlier kabbalists, several differentiations were made even within Ein-Sof. In Kabbalah, therefore, Ein-Sof is absolute reality, and there was no question as to its spiritual and transcendent nature. This was so even though the lack of clarity in some of the expressions used by the kabbalists in speaking of the relationship of the revealed God to His creation gives the impression tht the very substance of God Himself is also immanent within creation. In all kabbalistic systems, light-symbolism is very commonly used with regard to Ein-Sof, although it is emphasized that this use is merely hyperbolical, and in later Kabbalah a clear distinction was sometimes made between Ein-Sof and ‘the light of Ein Sof.’ In the popular Kabbalah which finds expression in ethical writings and chasidic literature, Ein Sof is merely a synonym for the traditional God of religion, a linguistic usage far removed from that of the classical Kabbalah, where there is evidence of the sharp distinction between Ein-Sof and the revealed Divine Creator. This can be seen not only in the formulations of the early kabbalists (e.g., Isaac of Acre in his commentary to the Sefer Yetzirah) but also among the later ones; Baruch Kosover (c. 1770) writes: ‘Ein-Sof is not His proper name, but a word which signifies his complete concealment, and our sacred tongue has now word like these two to signify his concealment. And it is not right to say “Ein-Sof, blessed be He” or “may He be blessed” because He cannot be blessed by our lips’ (Ammud ha-Avodah).
The whole problem of creation, even in its most recondite aspects, is bound up with the revelaiton of the hidden God and His outward movement – even thought ‘there is nothing outside Him’ (Azriel), for in the last resort ‘all comes from the One, and all returns to the One,’ according to the neoplatonic formula adopted by the early kabbalists. In kabbalistic teaching the transition of Ein Sof to ‘manifestation,’ or to what might be called ‘God the Creator,’ is connected with the question of the first emanation and its definition. Although there were widely differing views on the nature of the first step from concealment to manifestation, all stressed that no account of this process could be an objective description of a process in Ein-Sof; it was no more than could be conjectured from the perspective of created beings and was expressed through their ideas, which in reality cannot be applied to God at all. Therefore, descriptions of these processes have only a symbolic or, at best, an approximate value. Nevertheless side by side with this thesis, there is detailed speculation which frequently claims objective reality for the process it describes. This is one of the paradoxes inherent in Kabbalah, as in other attempts to explain the world in a mystical fashion.
The decision to emerge from concealment into manifestation and creation is not in any sense a process which is a necessary consequence of the essence of Ein-Sof, it is a free decision which remains a constant and impenetrable mystery (Cordover, at the beginning of Elimah). Therefore, in the view of most kabbalists, the question of the ultimate motivation of creation is not a legitimate one, and the assertion found in many books that God wished to reveal the measure of His goodness is there simply as an expedient that is never systematically developed. These first outward steps, as a result of which Divinity becomes accessible to the contemplative probings of the kabbalist, take place within God Himself and do not ‘leave the category of the Divine’ (Cordovero). Here the Kabbalah departs from all rationalistic presentations of creation and assumes the character of a theosophic doctrine, that is, one concerned with the inner life and processes of God Himself. A distinction in the stages of such processes in the unity of the Godhead can be made only by human abstraction, but in reality they are bound together and unified in a manner beyond all human understanding. The basic differences in the various kabbalistic systems are already apparent with regard to the first step, and since such ideas were presented in obscure and figurative fashion in the classical literature, such as the Bahir and the Zohar, exponents of widely differeing opinions were all able to look to them for authority.”
“The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah” by Leo Schaya
“Kether, the ‘crown’ – also called kether elyon, the ‘supreme crown’ amongst all the divine ‘crowns,’ Sefiroth, or universal principles – is the uncreated and infinite all-reality of God. Nothing is outside of him; nothingness does not exist, for if it did it would no longer be nothingness but reality.
Kether, the only reality, on the one hand remains hidden in itself, in its absolute transcendence, and on the other manifests itself as uncreated immanence in the midst of its own transitory reflection: the creation.
Kether in itself is pure selfness, superintelligible essence, unity without trace of duality. It is reality without condition, without definition, in which God is what he is, beyond being; for Being is not reality as such, but its first affirmation.
Kether rests in its essence, its super-being – more than conscious of itself, without wishing anything whatsoever, without activity of any kind. For its essence is all; and, in it, all is it – all is all, without the slightest restriction, distinction, opposition or relation. In essence there is neither subject nor object, neither cause nor effect; there is only the One without a second, selfness without otherness, indivisible totality.
Kether, in its pure and absolute essence, has no aspects; it is the eternally mysterious reality: ‘There is not other to be compared with it or associated with it’ (en sheni lehamshil lo lehahbirah). It would be impossible to speak of it except by denying what it is not, or by placing it above all that is intelligible; that is, describing it in terms which are negative or superlative, or again, interrogatory.
Thus, the Kabbalah calls kether in itself: ain, ‘nothingness,’ the absence of any definite or conditioned reality: non-being or super-being, non-cause, the absolute: en sof, ‘no end,’ infinite; raza derazin, ‘mystery of mysteries,’ the superintelligible or superconscious; mi, ‘who?,’ the ‘eternal object of search’; attika de-attikin, the ‘ancient of ancients,’ or principle of all universal principles; attika kadisha, the ‘holy Ancient One,’ or supreme principle.
The absolute infinity of the supreme essence, the pure selfness of Kether, excludes all otherness and consequently all knowledge of it: ‘en sof cannot be known, nor how it makes beginning or end…..’ What is the beginning? This is the supernal point, the beginning of all, hidden in ‘thought’ (a synonym of hochmah, the supreme ‘wisdom’ which emanates from Kether), and it makes the end (of all emanation) which is called ‘the end of the matter’
(Ecclesiastes 12:13). But beyond (in kether, pure infinity) there is ‘no end,’ neither intention nor light nor lamp; all the lights are dependent on it (kether), but it cannot be reached. This is a supreme will, mysterious above all mysteries. It is ‘nothingness’ (ain, which is the absolute) (Zohar, Pekude 239a)
However, kether is not only the reality which excludes all that is not itself, but also the reality which is all-inclusive, since there is nothing outside of it. Kether is exclusive in so far as it is ain, the ‘nothingness’ of all that is not it; but as en sof, the infinite, it includes all that is possible in its boundless unity. Thus, although dwelling beyond being and knowledge in its non-causal essence, the only reality, thanks to its own unlimitedness, becomes conscious of its universal possibilities. Through its causal, intelligent and intelligible being, it knows itself and affirms itself as the unique, necessary ontological principle: ‘I AM THAT I AM’ (Ehyeh asher Ehyeh) (Exodus 3:14) ‘I am the first and I am the last and beside me there is no God. And who, as I, can proclaim – let him declare it, and set it in order for me….. Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no rock (necessary being beside me)’ (Isaiah 44:6-8). ‘Before me there was no God formed (manifested), neither shall any be after me…..I am God’ (ibid. 43:10, 13).
In the absolute unity of its super-being (ain), kether bears no trace of multiplicity and transcends the causal unity of its being (ehyeh) which contains, in the entity of its intelligible aspects, or Sefiroth, the archetypes of the cosmic multitude: duality in principle. But at the same time the unity of being surpasses all dualism thanks to its infinity, which integrates itself – eternally and without any movement – in the pure and non-dual essence: super-being. In the One, therefore, there is no scission, no separation between being and super-being or non-being, nor is there any hierarchical confusion amongst them. Just as non-being includes, without distinction, being – of which it is the pure and indeterminate essence – but nevertheless is not being, having no need ‘to be’ in order to be real; so is it that being, while ‘being’ non-being, through essential identity with it, is nevertheless not non-being, in its first and ontological determination.
Kether is thus the principle which is identical at once with ain and with ehyeh, without nullifying the hierarchy of universal degrees; in other words, kether is en sof which, in its all-possibility, includes both being and non-being, while allowing each possibility to retain its own character. This is why one speaks of kether or en sof when considering this infinite, all-inclusive unity, but either of ain or of ehyeh when wishing to describe one or another of its two supreme aspects.
The identity of Kether and ain is mysteriously revealed in the introduction to the Decalogue (Exodus 20:2) ‘I (am) YHVH, thy God.’ If the A N Y are taken from the word ANoKhY, ‘I,’ these letters – according to one application of the Kabbalistic permutation of letters – form by themselves the word A Y N (nothingness); what remains is Kh (kaf), the initial of the word kether, which, according to the esoteric tradition, indicates that the Sefirah kether is the supreme universal degree, ain. Seen ad intra, kether therefore in no way differs from ain; it is only from the ‘extrinsic’ point of view of the emanated or manifested that it becomes ehyeh, the non-acting cause, situated between ain, the non-cause, and hochmah, the divine ‘wisdom,’ which is the first emanation and active cause.
In its aspect as ehyeh, or ’cause of causes,’ kether rests eternally and indistinctly in its absolute and unchangeable essence, ain; it does not act, but leaves it to the nine other Sefiroth, its emanations and ontological intellections, its ‘lights’ or ‘lamps,’ to operate in its name. He who is anokhi, the divine ‘I’ or supreme ‘self’ of all things, remains unaffected by radiations and their cosmic effects. He contains all that is, as the unity within his unity; and each thing contains him in the deepest part of itself, as the One, the unchangeable. He is the essential identity of all things with the absolute. He is the absolute itself: the ‘One without a second’.”
March 11, 2009
oh mom, was always wondering why i was into sports
oh mom, was always wondering why i was staying after school
i’m into sports mom and also i’m in the locker room with the boys
i’m in the shower and i drop the soap every time
homos uh huh uh huh uh huh
homos no one knows a homo like us
we love homos
lesbians are cool
and straights are fools
lesbians rule their scene
but the homos are the coolest of the cools
homos uh huh uh huh uh huh
they never knock at my front door
they never ring on the phone
they always come through the window
through the back door
through the throat
homos uh huh uh huh uh huh
March 10, 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Neophytes, and Friends,
This is the third in a series of posts on Gnostic morality; the
first was on April 25, and the second on May 10. They are still
available in the archives of the Yahoo group, and we will also be
editing and posting them all onto the webpage.
Here we will be discussing a third component of what we have
christened the Tri-Fold Path, Right Intention. As you may recall
from the earlier posts, this is actually the second principle of the
three (the other two being Moderation and Non-Harm), but we skipped
ahead to cover the third, Non-Harm, because of current events and
the prisoner abuse scandal. I hope this has not become overly
confusing, and that you will bear with me as I go back to fill in
this middle part of a neo-classical Gnostic moral framework.
To understand the import of Right Intention, we must first realize
what I alluded to in the discussion of Moderation – namely, that
Gnosticism does not construct morality from some kind of
deontological belief in universal opposing metaphysical "principles"
of "good" and "evil. " Such a system, typified today by much of at
least conservative mainstream Christianity, proclaims certain
actions just and other actions wrong based on arbitrary decisions by
what, in the end, amounts to a largely capricious God.
In contrast, we do not believe that the "good/evil" dichotomy
represents a manifestation of "universal opposing metaphysical
principles." In fact, we do not believe that "good" and "evil" are
really either universal, or metaphysical, or opposing principles.
Let me explain briefly. Divisions, dualisms, or dichotomies such as
that represented by the concepts of "good" and "evil" base their
very raison d'être on their "universality. " If this claim is to
be judged true, such concepts would have to be universal not only
spatially (in terms of their applicability to all people and
situations at any one given time), but also temporally, so they
would be applicable to all people in all places and at all given
times. However, their own sacred texts and traditions deeply
complicate such claims by Judeo-Christian traditions.
Consider, for example, the story of creation and the "Fall of Man."
Laying aside the literal details of the myth, we can see that even
the most metaphorical interpretation of the Fall, conducted by the
most liberal of Christians, implies a certain sort of theological
implication, which is that somewhere, at some time in a past that
has faded into the mists of collective memory, human beings lived in
a primordial world that had no suffering and no pain and no death,
simply because evil had not yet touched them. If you accept these
ideas about what I call the "primordial Disneyland" and its
corollary, the "Ejection from Disneyland" or "Fall of Man," then you
are virtually admitting that there was some time when "evil" was not
a universal experience, and further when "good" did not really exist
either, since it took the fruit of the "knowledge of good and evil"
to bring both parts of the equation into the metaphorical picture of
human experience. Perhaps you could try to say that evil was sort
of free-floating around the world, like some kind of flying elephant
rampant without any ground under its feet, either in the figure of
the "devil" or as a potentiality inherent to acts that were rooted
in "free will," but even with the use of such circumlocutions, it is
clear that good and evil, as principles, did not adhere or inhere to
human beings, to the human will, or to human actions. Thus, even
according to Christianity's own mythologies, there was a time
when "good" and "evil" were not an inherent part of the human
experience, or the God-human relationship, and so the principles
fail the test of being temporally as well as spatially universal.
Now, I can already sense you responding, "But we Gnostics do not
believe in the Fall, nor do we think that there was ever
a `Primordial Disneyland'!" and you are quite right. From
our perspective, to claim that "good" and "evil" are universal
principles is even more ridiculous, because to be universal, they
would have to be universally manifested not just in time and space,
but beyond time and space – i.e., they would have to be analogous
the aeons, to Christ and Sophia, and ultimately to God. But as you
know, our prime claim as Gnostic theists is this: there is one
living and true God, undivided, undiminished, perfect in nature of
being since perfect in the realization of existence. All things
that can transcend the material world, even conceptually – such
the ideas of Love, Happiness, Unity as ideal forms – must
fundamentally conform to God's nature, since transcendence of the
material world means union with God. So it is impossible for a
dichotomy like "good" and "evil" to be universal in our
understanding of the transcendent sense.
This observation will serve as well for the claim of metaphysical
status. There is no "evil god" figure in Gnosticism, as there is in
the case of the Christian devil. Even though critics of Gnosticism
often imagine that the demiurge serves as such an "evil" figure, we
have noted many times that our primary claim is that there is one
God, source of all spirit and all perfection. So there can be
no "evil" either in God, or evil transcendent in a "bad god,"
because everything that transcends the material realm – in
or origin, or character, or final destination – is part of the
God, living and true. Similarly, God is not "good" in the Christian
sense of the word, because to say God is good is to say that God
is "not-evil," just as when they say the devil is "evil," and by
that mean that he is "not-good." The good/evil dichotomy is self-
supporting in its constitutive conceptual-semantic origin, and
cannot function without both halves, which is what requires the
Christian devil for the Christian God to exist. To us, God
is "good" only insofar as the word "good" references perfection and
fullness of being; this is a good that has no degrees, per se, and
has no corollary opposing principle. This, again, should straddle
the claims of the final point as well, demonstrating that "good"
and "evil" are ultimately not really opposing principles, but rather
parts of the same conceptual equation.
Now, I am sure most of you are saying, "Fine! Get on with it! I am
not impressed by your vocabulary, mister multisyllabic! What is it
that we believe?" My answer is that our continuum, which replaces
the good/evil dichotomy, is one of perfection and imperfection.
Imperfection, however, is not at all in the same relationship to
perfection that evil is to good. First, imperfection is less of a
principle or even a source than it is a descriptive class; imperfect
things and indeed imperfection itself, either manifested or
conceptualized, is not inherently "unperfect" or "perfection-
incapable," but simply not yet perfected. It is a continuum of
things that simply have not yet attained the fullness of being, and
so are in various ways limited by internal and external factors and
circumstances from reaching this fully articulated existence.
Because of this, perfection and imperfection do not form a
dichotomy, a dualism, or a dialectic; they are not opposing, self-
supporting, or mutually constitutive in the way that the common
Christian conception of good and evil is.
Because of this, Gnosticism tends to be neutral about various
particulars of action and inaction. We might call this a kind
of "act-libertarianism" in the articulation of moral philosophy.
This means that we do not believe rightness or wrongness adhere to
acts themselves, but rather to the intentions that motivate them and
the consequences that flow from them. This is NOT, however, to say
that we are "moral libertarians" or "libertines." It simply is that
we have a different way of articulating and applying our moral
Very often this ends up overlapping the standard Judeo-Christian
moralities on many fundamental issues, but decisions are reasoned
out in different ways, with important implications. Before I show
you how this works on a more individual level, let us review how it
applies to inter-personal or external relationships. Let us take,
for example, the issue of violence. A violent act, unless it is
done in self-defense or under various limited justifications, is
absolutely wrong from a Gnostic perspective, as it is from a
Christian perspective. For example, it is absolutely wrong for me
to hit a senior lady on the head with a can of tuna. However,
unlike Christianity, we do not consider even this an example of the
act itself being bad; it is not as if wrongness adhered to my arm
and hand and the can of tuna as it flew through the air. Rather,
the act is wrong for two reasons: because it is undertaken by a
_wrong intention_ on my part, an intention to use my body as a mean
of inflicting suffering on another rather than as an instrument of
compassion, and therefore pulls me farther away from my spiritual
core; second, because it harms another being who is my spiritual
equal, as all other human beings are.
In that sort of case, Christian and Gnostic moralities overlap. On
the other hand, there are a number of cases where the moral systems
do not overlap. This goes in two separate directions. First,
Christianity condemns many actions not because of any harm they
cause, but simply because they fail to adhere to the arbitrary moral
principles historically articulated by Christianity and attributed
to "divine revelation." Gnosticism rejects such moralizing as being
sometimes bizarre, often hypocritical, and always capricious. The
most striking example of this right now is the issue of
homosexuality and other alternative sexualities. It is important
that we understand how radical the conservative Christian stance
against homosexuality is; it depends on the notion that homosexual
desires are in their very nature perversions, that homosexual acts
are wrong because they are inherently and constitutively evil. In
contrast, a Gnostic understanding views sexuality, like everything
else that involves the body and intellect, as a tool – a tool
can be used for good or ill, to bring love into the world or to
bring suffering into the world. There is nothing inherently "right"
or "wrong" about heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality,
transgendered sexuality, or any other kind of sexuality; sexuality
becomes "wrong," or rather is put to the wrong use, only when it
fails to be rooted in compassion and spiritual awareness.
On the other hand, as I have suggested before, Gnostic morality
“usually” is far more rigorous and expansive than mainstream
Christian morality. This is, paradoxically, also because we do not
locate the nature of moral decision-making within acts. What I mean
is that many actions, neutral in themselves, can be turned either
right or wrong by particular circumstances and the intentions of the
individual. Gnosticism is much stronger in emphasizing this part
of morality than many other religions. If you understand what I
mean, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph, but for those who may
still be struggling with the concept, I will give you a few examples
of what I mean. Let us take the older lady from the previous
example. Imagine now that I am angry with her, but instead of
beating her severely about the head with a can of tuna, I begin to
scream at her, and tell her she is as ugly as a tuna and I hope she
dies. From a Gnostic perspective, even though the act in question
is "less serious," what I have just done <i>morally</i> is really
almost as wrong as hitting her in the head with the can, because I
have deliberately taken it upon myself to bring harm upon her spirit
and bring her sorrow and suffering, rather than acting
compassionately. Even more distinctive is our view of environmental
stewardship, because it is based on the notion that animals, plants,
and nature itself are also infused with the same kind of spirit we
are; so littering, to take an unfortunately prevalent example, is
wrong not merely because it is an example of selfishness, but more
importantly because it harms the spirit of the world around us. If
you have ever seen a badger or small animal caught in the snares of
plastic bag or the head of a bottle, you know that such suffering is
like the suffering of other human beings when we are hurt either
physically or emotionally, and to harm another spiritual being
invariably harms us by moving us away from our own spiritual
identity. For a more positive example, consider the simple act of
pouring a glass of water; a more neutral action can hardly be
imagined. Yet, when I perform this simple act and take the water
outside to someone working on a fence or repairing the road outside
my home, I have done a great work of compassion. I have made Christ
and Sophia manifest in the material world, and I may have set off a
great train of spiritual progress in that person's heart.
So, you see that in our relationships to others, Right Intention and
Non-Harm are actually interpenetrated. Right Intention, however,
also serves as a guide to reflexive actions that primarily affect
ourselves. Again, we start from a position of "act-neutrality," and
render our moral decisions based on the simple principle that
everything we do, every use we make of our power to will, every use
we put our bodies and our intellects to – all these things either
move us closer to the spirit, or farther away, not
because "rightness" or "wrongness" inheres to the actions, but
because our intentionality and our usage of certain acts has such an
effect. We can see this, for example, with issues such as sexuality
and various kinds of drugs. In both cases, we can use these actions
in a healthy way, in a way that promotes connection with another,
that promotes meditation, that promotes contemplation, that helps us
come to a greater understanding of compassion. On the other hand,
we can use these things in a very destructive way, particularly when
they become addictions that cover up our ability to see things in a
In today's world, there is so much pain and suffering that people
are addicted to many different types of things, some chemical, some
emotional, some cultural. Ridding ourselves of addictions is the
first step toward becoming whole and living a moral life. This does
not mean cutting alcohol, drugs, sex, or anything else out of our
life, but rather finding a way to use these things according to our
own personal path without letting them “dominate” our lives and
our identities. Such a process takes a long time, of course, and it
must be done in stages, or the attempt will inevitably fail. And
the first stage is simply awareness – becoming aware of the
we use as crutches, as ultimately unreliable relievers of pain, as
shunts that pull our spiritual energy away from its proper channels
of self-discovery. That is why the first moral command of
Gnosticism is this: Wake up! Waking up is not an easy path; it is
full of pitfalls and real and genuine pain that must be dealt with;
it involves being "troubled" and "astonished" (Gos. Thom. 2). But
in that pain, in that dark night of the spirit, is a promise of the
dawn. Right now, many of us live as if we "were fast asleep and...a
prey to troubled dreams" (The Gospel of Truth). Let us awaken our
hearts and our spirits; let us shake off the troubled dreams and be
sober; let us shape our lives and our bodies and our minds to the
yearnings of the spirit, and the work of compassion to all those
around us. "The night is darkest just before the dawn," so let us
be darkness to the world, and light in the service of our Lord Jesus
Christ and his mystical bridge, Lady Sophia.
In Christ and Sophia,
March 9, 2009
Posted by Benjamin under Gnosticism Leave a Comment
Gnostic Morality Part 2
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is the continuation of the earlier post
articulating some basic
principles that may help you think about the
Gnosticism for modern morality and ethics.
I had planned to write
an article last week and follow up on our
previous discussion of the
principle of "moderation" by exploring a
second principle, that
of "right intention."
Events, however, have caught up with all
of us since then, and I am
sure we have all seen played over and over
the images of crimes
against humanity in Iraq, and so we are
brought face to face yet
again with the realities of human suffering,
human hatred, and human
fear. We are perhaps reminded of the
plaintive words of
Jeremiah: "A voice in heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter
weeping; Rachel is weeping for her children,
and she will not be
consoled, for they are no more." At any rate,
it seemed appropriate
now for me to set aside the principle of
right intention for the
moment, and move on to the last of the
three principles, the one
that focuses on our relations with
other people, namely "non-harm."
We are fully aware of how much our
action (and inaction) can impact
and touch those we love or come in
contact with. It can be hard,
however, to fit a cohesive notion of
the relationship between the
self and the other into our fundamental
religious frameworks. This
is due in no small measure to our
involuntary but not insignificant
immersion in a kind of popular modern
Christianity, defined by a
tremendous form of spiritual egotism,
elevating one's own self as a
kind of highest good, defining all
existence and spirituality by "MY
salvation, MY personal relationship to Jesus,
MY conversion"). In
the end, of course, this pseudo-Christian
solipsism is not really
even fulfilling to the self at all, which
is why we have such a mass
of seekers cast adrift as it were in the
sea of spiritual confusion
in the world today.
I certainly feel that Gnosticism offers
an alternative to this
deification of the ego, but to be fair
I should start by saying that
even Gnosticism itself can be subject
to this kind of (mis)
interpretation. Let me offer a few
pointed questions that critics
might pose and that Gnostics and
fellow-travelers really need to be
able to answer in this area. First,
is not gnosis a fundamentally
personal and individual process,
indeed the very realization and
actualization of the spiritual
core of the self? If so, how can a
religion based on such a process
have anything to say about
relations to others? Further, did
not Jesus say that we would have
to pursue gnosis essentially within
ourselves, as in the Gospel of
Thomas ("Blessed are the alone and
chosen, for you will find the
kingdom. For you are from it, and
to it you will return," Gos. Thom
47)? Finally, if, in the Gnostic view,
nothing is INHERENTLY "good"
or "evil," (which I shall discuss at
more length in the post
on "right intention") does Gnosticism
present anything other than a
vague confusion regarding our relationship
to other human beings and
the world around us?
I hope I have stated these questions
fairly and strongly enough,
because they are legitimate objections
to Gnosticism as far as they
go, although the essence of my response
is that they indeed fail to
go far enough in drawing out the
implications of a neo-classical
Gnostic worldview. Gnosis is indeed
an individual process that
involves a genuine actualization of
the spirit, the real source of
all "self." We must understand this,
however, in the context of
Gnostic cosmology, which sees such
spiritual selves lying under the
surface of all those around us as
well as within us. If I, as an
individual, am of genuine objective
value, it is because of that
spiritual essence within me that
gives the force and the energy and
the very existence to my life and my
identity, the spiritual spark
that innervates the material parts of
my being. If this is true,
however, it is also true that every
other individual shares this
same fundamental dignity and importance,
and indeed shares it in
equal measure with me, since there can be
no division or distinction
between spiritual essences, which all
partake as it were of the same
spiritual reality. This means, in turn,
that there can be no
distinctions in terms of the fundamental
spiritual equality of all
This must inform all our actions and
decisions because the spirit is
all interconnected; the destiny for all
of us is the same through
the liberation of gnosis, as Christ
himself taught: "If they say to
you, 'Where did you come from?',
say to them, 'We came from the
light, the place where the light
came into being on its own accord
and established itself and became
manifest through their image.' If
they say to you, 'Is it you?', say,
'We are its children, we are the
elect of the living father.'
If they ask you, 'What is the sign of
your father in you?', say to them,
'It is motion and rest" (Gos.
Thom., 50). The plural "you" and
"we" here seem quite intentional,
and quite significant, because we
are called through gnosis not only
to fulfill ourselves as individuals
(though that is certainly true),
but also to take our place among a
community linked by spiritual
Since we as Gnostics assert that
all spirit is interconnected and
intertwined in source and in destiny,
it is no great leap to
conclude that to undertake actions
that harm the spirit of another
essentially and fundamentally harm
the spirit within us. While no
act is inherently "evil" in terms of
Gnostic theology, there are
many acts that are harmful and simply
wrong when this standard
of "non-harm" is applied. In particular
we can immediately point to
acts of violence, acts intended to cause
emotional injury, acts
which elevate one's own self at the expense
of another. Perhaps
most serious of all, as Christ himself noted,
are actions that
injure or take advantage of a child or young
scarring them forever. The strongest moral
claims upon us are made
by those we are responsible for, such as
life partners and children,
for we are in some way deeply engaged in
helping them in or
hindering them from their own growth in
Though in many such cases a Gnostic morality
and mainstream "Judeo-
Christian" moralities may overlap, Gnostic
proves to be far more serious and rigorous,
in that it calls on us
to look not just as superficial realities
but into the heart and
soul of those with whom we engage on any
human level. In this
sense, morality to a Gnostic is totalizing
and universalizing; it
deals with all things, visible and invisible,
or as Christ said,
both "motion and rest." On the other hand,
this means that there are
no arbitrarily superficial rules imposed by
such a morality, such as
the bizarre conservative Christian stance
on homosexuality. It is
clear within a Gnostic framework that a
homosexual couple make a family that is
beautiful in the sight of
God, while a married heterosexual partnership
based on abuse or
coercion or a fundamental disengagement
between the partners does
Having said this, we must go on to
recognize that spirit is surely
not contained in humans only. Look
what damage such a species-based
arrogance has caused to the Earth
around us. To paraphrase
Augustine, consider the beauty of
the mountains and the sea,
consider the peacock's brilliant
plumage, consider the profundity of
the starry sky cast out as a great
canvas before our eyes – do all
these things not testify to the
fundamental beauty of the spirit
underlying a world that even at the
same moment can be harsh and
cruel? Do we not feel longing and
connection when we look to the
stars? Where can such longing arise
but in the fundamental affinity
of spirit for spirit? Therefore we
must also apply the standards of
non-harm and the principles of spiritual
equality to our actions
toward animals and the environment, to
all living things and indeed
to the things that do not live in our
sense of the word but breathe
out in their beauty the very spirit
and essence of almighty God.
This discussion leaves us with the
fundamental principle of "right
intention," which in essence replaces
the Christian dogma of
metaphysical categories of "good"
and "evil," "right" and "wrong."
I will take this up in the next
installment of this series, and in
the meantime I encourage you to
post or email other questions you
might like me to address.
I warmly extend the apostolic
blessing of the Church on all who read
this and seek the truth with a sincere heart.
In Christ and Sophia,
March 7, 2009
Posted by Benjamin under Gnosticism Leave a Comment
Gnostic Morality, Part 1
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is the first part of multiple-post series to discuss the ways
in which we can articulate a Gnostic morality that is both faithful
to the long traditions that have preceded us and relevant to the
modern world. I hope these discussions will help prompt you to
consider first how you conceptualize your own personal ethical
framework, and also how you move into life applying this framework
in a practical way.
For those of you that have read the various posts in the brief time
that this group has been active, you know that much of our
discussion of Gnosticism is heavily theological, theoretical, and
intellectual in tone and subject matter. And indeed there is
nothing wrong with that – it is a wonderful way to help shape our
minds toward the life of the spirit. In fact, it is probably this
intellectual dimension of Gnosticism that has drawn many people to
the system over the course of history. Taking myself as an example,
my first forays into Gnosticism came about because I was not
satisfied with the mainstream Christian explanation of innocent
suffering, the "mysterium iniquatatem" so to speak, the
contortions of a theology that tried to simultaneously reconcile an
omnipotent and all-loving God with the existence of evil as a
fundamental metaphysical category (as opposed to a simple division
between perfection and imperfection). It was with the light of
natural reason that I first began to question the validity of such
mainstream Christian claims, and took my first steps on the journey
Again, all this is well and good, but we soon come to a looming
question: So what? Or, we might say, what do we do with what we
have found? For many of us, theological speculation is compelling,
even exciting and thrilling, and there is no sweetness in life
richer than first tasting that fruit of divine knowledge, and laying
our eyes upon a system that can finally help us make sense of the
mysteries that have confounded and disturbed us for so long. But if
religion ends on this merely speculative level, it is really no more
than an exercise in theological sophistry; it is totally irrelevant
to our lives unless it can help guide those lives and provide us
with principles that will help us move through the world as we
journey toward the achievement of gnosis.
That is the purpose of these discussions – to begin to articulate
the rudiments of a neo-classical Gnostic morality. My intention
here is not to force my ideas upon any of you, or indeed
create "official teachings" for our Church, but rather to begin to
define some avenues and vistas which then will be paved by you, and
hopefully shared in this venue as you begin to play out some of the
central implications of Gnosticism in the modern world.
As Gnostics, our moral thought and the actions that follow from it
must be fundamentally rooted in the division between the physical
and spiritual principles that we discern within the human person and
indeed in the larger cosmos. In short, the goal must be some way
of, as Christ himself taught, being "in the world but not of the
world," of living and dwelling in the physical world but attuning
our innermost being to the currents of the spiritual realm, and if
possible even using the physical and the intellectual as great
cosmic steppingstones toward the spirit.
Once again I say this is all well and good, but it is not at all a
simple task to carry out. There are several reasons for the
difficulty we face in doing so. First, while the physical and
spiritual principles are fundamentally and theoretically distinct
and have separate points of origin, in _actuality_ the human person
and the natural world consist of an interpenetration of the physical
and the spiritual principles. That is, the physical contains and
limits the spiritual precisely because the two are mixed together in
the way time and space are presently manifested – if this were
not the case, we would have no need for Gnosticism at all and indeed
I believe that the physical universe would collapse into itself, but
that is a topic for another day.
The consequence of this interpenetration of actual being is that we
cannot simply "reject" the body and the mind in favor of the
spirit. To be sure, there have been many Gnostics or semi-Gnostics
throughout history who have attempted to do just that, through
various forms of asceticism intended to bring physical impulses into
submission to spiritual ones. This indeed has been one of the
sources of Christian anti-Gnostic polemic over many centuries –
the accusation that we are "world-hating," dour, pessimistic,
asexual monks who roam through the world trying to exterminate all
happiness. At any rate, and apart from our desire not to play into
such stereotypes, I think there are some serious problems with
positing such an ascetic lifestyle as the necessarily conclusion of
Gnostic thought. Not least of these is that there is a very real
difference between "engagement with the world" and
"attachment to the world." Our goal is indeed to
reduce "attachments" to the merely physical and intellectual levels
of our beings, because these attachments direct our lives in such a
way that we are unable to taste the joy of the spirit. The
important point is that we can be attached to the physical by our
very rejection of it. That is to say, if the focus of my life is on
living an ascetic lifestyle that rejects "physical elements" such as
sexuality, pleasurable food and drink, enjoyment of artistic gifts –
I am just as attached to the physical as a crazed glutton having
orgies all day long, the only difference being is that he continues
to seek a kind of salvation in the physical by diving into it,
whereas I continue to seek salvation in the physical by a kind of
pride in my being able to deny it.
Having said all this, I do not want to suggest that some level of
asceticism is always wrong or counter-productive – I think such
things as fasts, temporary disengagement from impulses that have
become problematic for us, and so forth, can have an important role
to play in our spiritual element. What I am trying to emphasize
here is a rejection of asceticism as the FUNDAMENTAL crux of Gnostic
Now, we also know that some Gnostics historically, from very early
times, moved in just the converse direction. Their argument seemed
to be this: the spirit and the physical are distinct, and the spirit
is the only reality, therefore physicality is an illusion, and
nothing we do physically is wrong, so let's have a good time! At
any rate, this is the argument that Christian polemicists ascribed
to them – that Gnostics were crazed gluttons who had sex all day
while eating chocolate pastries, only stopping long enough to take
baths in expensive wine.
If I may be permitted to digress for a moment, I hope you see the
humor and the irony in this. Christians have historically (and
currently) attacked Gnostics in completely contradictory ways: we
are ascetic monks who hate sex and we are orgiastic gluttons, we are
dire cosmic pessimists and we are indulgent Epicureans. For those
of you who will be continuing in the Gnostic tradition, you must
realize that this will be a burden in your own journey, this
irrational and schizophrenic Christian fear of our religion.
Indeed, we are Christianity's great scapegoat, the sacrificial
lamb onto which is heaped all the sorrow, perversion, disgust,
hatred, fear, and pain that dwells deep in the underbelly of
mainstream Christianity and mainstream Christians. We are the great
whipping-boy of Christianity's bad conscience. As Jesus predicted
in the Gospel of Mark, we are throughout dragged before courts
(first the Inquisition, now the court of public opinion!) and rulers
by those who are baying for our death while believing they are doing
the will of the Father. We have our martyrs, we have our saints, we
have made our sacrifices, and centuries upon centuries after
Christianity compromised with the powers of the secular world from
Constantine on, we Gnostics continue to sacrifice for what we
To return to the point: we can call these groups "libertine"
Gnostics in order to contrast them to the ascetics. Whether they
actually had such extreme views as Christianity imputed to them is
doubtful, but at any rate their existence allows us to make an
important point. The crux of the libertine position is based on the
fundamental unreality of the physical principle. We by all means
agree with this in theory, if by "unreality" you mean that the
physical is not the ultimate reality, not the final unity into which
all being and existence will resolve at the end of time. In this
sense, physicality is indeed an illusion, a shadow, a reflection, as
compared to the full realization of being that is the spirit.
HOWEVER, we cannot mean by such statements that physicality does not
have its own internal reality that is inescapable within the
confines of physical dimensions of space and time; it is also not to
say that this physical reality cannot mire us further in the
physical world and restrain our ascent to the spirit beyond and our
descent to the spirit within us.
We can see the internal reality very easily – take a hammer and
bop yourself in the head. It is going to hurt like hell and swell
up no matter how spiritual a person you are. If someone bopped the
Buddha in the head, it would have hurt him too. We can't just escape
the inner laws of the physical cosmos by sheer will alone.
The other point is a bit more subtle, but becomes clear if we state
once more the fact that the physical and the spiritual are
interpenetrated in each human person. Because of this, what we do
in the realm of the physical world IS important, is significant, is
influential, because our present mode of being is so intermingled
between body, mind, and spirit. It is not like a layer cake in
which we can say, "Here is the hylic, here is the psychic, here
is the pneumatic"; if anything, it is more like a marble cake, and
when you take out a slice, you get the different essences mixed
So then, what physical actions help move us toward the spirit and
which ones move us farther away? Well that, my friends, will wait
until the next discussion. But what we have discovered here is very
important, and it forms what our particular church considers the
first of the three great principles of Gnostic morality,
MODERATION. The path toward detachment from the merely physical and
merely intellectual comes neither by denying them nor by denying
their reality, but by following the via media, the middle path. In
Christ and Sophia, we have the guideposts that keep us on this
middle road; we have the right and the left hand paths, so to speak,
and as we move through them in unison, we keep from veering too far
and going fundamentally off course in our quest for gnosis.
Next time I hope to move into much more practical applications, and
I will discuss the second of the three moral tenets: RIGHT INTENTION.
I fraternally extend the Church's apostolic blessing on all those
who read this letter.
In Christ and Sophia,
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