Written by me:

Peter has come and Paul has come

James has come and John has come,

Muriel and Mary Virgin have come,

Uriel the all-beneficent has come,

Ariel the beauteousness of the young has come,

Gabriel the seer of the Virgin has come,

Raphael prince of the valiant has come,

Michael the chief of the hosts has come,

The spirit of true guidance has come,

And the king of kings has come upon the helm,

All to bestow on thee their affection and their love.”

–traditional Scottish


When building a conception of reality we arguably need a map or compass. With this we may travel through our inner cosmos and inner planes. This idea of “a direction is a destination” is a perennial teaching found in many major traditions. In the Western tradition we find a 7 directional model. This is based on many things. However one traditional way is to work with what IS there.

This means three dimensional space, the cube, the sphere, physical reality.

The Arch Angelic beings are well known and found in many traditions. In the Western traditions we can find several patterns. We typically relate to Qabalah. There are a few popular patterns and we can examine the overall changes that have occurred, but instead we shall just use a pattern.

Why seven archangels? Often we jump straight to the idea of Chakras. However I will not mention chakras. In the Western path we can see the idea of seven coming from the seven days of creation and thus defining three dimensional space




3 sunsfinal mini

In alchemic and Hermetic traditions, suns (Sun symbol.svg) are employed to symbolize a variety of concepts, much like the sun in astrology. Suns can correspond to gold, citrinitas, generative masculine principles, imagery of ‘the king’ or Apollo, the fiery spirit or sulfur,[1] the divine spark in man,[2] nobility, or incorruptibility. Recurring images of specific solar motifs can be found in the form of a “Dark” or “Black Sun”, or a green lion devouring a sun.

Sol niger

The black sun as pictured in the Putrifaction emblem of Philosophia Reformata (Johann Daniel Mylius).

Sol niger (black sun) can refer to the first stage of the alchemical magnum opus, the nigredo (blackening). In a text ascribed to Marsilio Ficino three suns are described: black, white, and red, corresponding to the three most used alchemical color stages. Of the sol niger he writes:

The body must be dissolved in the subtlest middle air: The body is also dissolved by its own heat and humidity; where the soul, the middle nature holds the principality in the colour of blackness all in the glass: which blackness of Nature the ancient Philosophers called the crows head, or the black sun.[3]

The black sun is used to illuminate the dissolution of the body, a blackening of matter, or putrefaction in Splendor Solis,[4] and Johann Daniel Mylius’s Philosophia Reformata.[5]

At the core of this was a vision of an alchemical process occurring through a cycle of colour changes, from an initial blackness to the perfection of the quintessence.
The alchemist envisaged each stage of the process being heralded by a colour change and a meeting with certain animals.

Blackening – Black Crow, Raven, Toad, Massa Confusa.
Whitening – White Swan, White Eagle, skeleton.
Greening – Green Lion.
Rapid cycling through iridescent colours – Peacock’s Tail.
White Stone – Unicorn.
Reddening – Pelican feeding young with its own blood, cockerel.
Final transmutation – Phoenix reborn from the fire.

The phase of Blackening which usually marked the beginning of the work, was brought about either by heating the prima materia in the process of Calcination (the ‘dry way’ of the alchemists), or by the process of Putrefaction, a slow rotting or digestion over a period of weeks or months (the so-called ‘wet way’). The Black Crow or Raven was often associated with this Calcination, for on vigorous heating the calcined material would usually carbonise and layers would flake off and move like a crow’s wings in the flask. The Toad was a better symbol of the Putrefaction, the decaying mass slowly pulsating and shifting as gasses were given off, while the substance rotted down to a black mass. Another symbol of this stage was the dragon, a familiar inhabitant of the alchemists flasks. The dragon is however a more complex symbol and is also used when winged as a symbol for the spiritualising of the earthly substance. Thus to the alchemists the dragon appeared at the beginning and at the end of the work.

The alchemists paralleled these experiences in their souls as a withdrawal into the darkness of their interior space, a darkness pregnant with possibility. We have to a great extent lost the sense that still lived in the medieval and renaissance alchemists, that this darkness contained all potentialities. Like children we fear the dark, and for twentieth century humanity darkness often holds only an existential dread – philosophers of science have in the last decade brought us this terrible image of the ‘Black Hole’ which swallows up and annihilates everything that comes into its orbit. Perhaps we do not gaze enough at the blackness of the heavens. For if we look deep into the blackness of space on a clear night, we will sense more stars hidden between the known visible stars, especially in the vast star fields of the Milky Way. Cosmic space is pregnant with the possibility of other worlds as yet unseen. It is this image of blackness we must try to recover if we are to become alchemists. An echo of this perhaps remains in the often used phrase “a profound darkness”. In alchemy, to meet with the black crow is a good omen. Thus in the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, as our hero sets out on his journey of transformation, he meets with a Crow which by a turn of fate decides which among the various paths open to him is the one that will lead him to the Castle of the King.


The three Suns. That above, most familiar. That within, seen in an instant, in a fleeting moment that may take a moment or a life time to see. Below the Sun at midnight. The interior Sun or Star, deep within the Earth itself.

Perhaps a supreme expression of the maxim As Above so Below. The interior pereption and exierience there in of. A hidden secret.



This I Believe:
There is a light in all of us, and the more we search out ways to express ourselves, the brighter that light shines. Whether your passion be baseball, or computers, or painting, or eating, laughing, hiking, biking, films, teaching, listening, or cooking, whenever you engage yourself in doing something that you love you make the world a little bit brighter. Through finding your own source of enthusiasm and love, you invite others to do the same in their own way, and you spread the joy that comes with truly living.
While it can be all too easy to just sit back and watch life go by, don’t forget about the things that make a difference in your life, the people that inspire you, and the dreams that help nudge you out of bed in the morning.

I believe that we all want to become a better version of ourselves, and that we are continually given chances to step up and challenge ourselves to be better. We just have to be willing to welcome those challenges, and see them as gifts rather than curses. It all depends on the perspective you choose to take. What will you choose today? Will you simply sit back, and let others take the lead, or will you step up and conquer your fear and indifference, break out of your shell, and take actions that better yourself and the world? I believe that what you focus on grows: the more you complain, the more reasons to complain will appear; the more you see life as a blessing, the more blessings will pour out into your waiting arms. Rejoice in what life has to offer, and help to open others’ eyes the the beauty and opportunity that surrounds us at every moment. We are given a great power: free will. Because of this power we are always given a choice. We may not be able to change our outer circumstances (at least not in the short run), but we can always change the way we think about something. The power of the mind is incredible! It can drag us down into the depths, or it can liberate us! Find the joy in your life today–take a chance, challenge yourself and see the resulting growth, dare to become more alive! And best of all, as you become a brighter light, so will those around you catch your reflection, and the world will be filled with suns, moons and stars…



The formula of spagyrics is similar to that of Solve et Coagula – to separate and recombine. This is the backbone of alchemy. In slightly less basic alchemical procedures, distillation is used to separate organic matter into these three principles using distillation – yielding unpurified salt in the form of black ash, essential oil, and the spirit of the plant. These are each purified after separation, and recombined, creating a purified instance of the original subject which is then consumed.




If this metaphysical space is to be known,

such knowledge can be attained only by faith and grace,

not by ‘entering’ but by ‘being entered’

-this is so because the greater must reveal itself to the lesser.

Put differently, that which is immanently ‘Spirit’ can only be known receptively,

through its own intellective vision, and not any derivative faculty such as reason,

feeling or sensation. Reason can only discern conceptually,

at best reducing reality to a dualism of subject and object

(as in the case of Descartes) or catagorical postulate

(as in the case of Kant) or dialectic process

(as in the case of Hegel) – its ‘telos’ will tend to be utopian(as in the case of Marx),

fundamentalist( as in the cases of religious, political or secular dogmatism)

or anthropocentrically consencual (as in the case of Rousseau’s social contract);

while sensation or feeling even where elevated to

the level of empirical ‘science,’ can only discern reality as matter or as psyche,

quantitatively, thereby cutting it off from its transcendent

and qualitative roots, leading to an emphasis on hypertrophic subjectivism

(as in the case of Nietzsche), Psychologism(as in the case of Freud),

or reductive positivism(as in the cases of philosophical positivism and of scientism).

That which transcends us cannot be known reductively

but only by that transcendent faculty which is immanent in us-which in

Tradition is termed the ‘Intellect’

or the Self-knowing Spirit. To know is to discern BEING.

We must empty ourselves or our ‘self’ in order to know who we ARE.

We must return to the sacred emptiness of the space that is our

ontological core in order to know that which truly IS.

–M Ali Lakhani (the Distance between us, found in Sacred Web issue 31)

It is precisely the challenge involved

in using inadequate words

that drives the mind

beyond all words…

At the borders of speech

we open ourselves

to the positive value of silence….

Literary reading,

through its complexity, its music,

its suggestiveness, points to a fuller realm of being.

–Edward k Kaplan (citing Abraham Joshua Heschel)

“As men’s Prayers are a Disease of the Will, so are their Creeds a disease of the Intellect.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is the use of gnosis, if it is so forbiddingly elitist? Since the alternatives are diseases of the will and of the intellect, why invoke the criterion of usefulness? Prayers are a more interesting literary form than creeds, but even the most impressive of prayers will not change us, let alone change God. And nearly all prayers are directed anyway to the archons, the angels who made and marred this world, and whom we worship, William Blake warned, as Jesus and Jehovah, Divine Names misapplied to our prison warders. The Accusers who are the gods of this world have won all of the victories, and they will go on triumphing over us. History is always on their side, for they are history. Everyone who would return us to history always performs the work of the Accusers. Most scholars worship history, the Composite God who rewards their labors by granting them their illusion of value. Emerson remarked that there was no history, only biography, which is another Gnostic recognition.

Do not pray, do not believe; only know and be known. Many among us know without knowing that we know; Bentley Layton catches this when he suggests that gnosis should be translated as ‘acquaintance’ rather than as ‘knowing.’ Acquaintance with your own deepest self will not come often or easily, but it is unmistakable when (and if ) it comes. Neither the will nor the intellect spurs such acquaintance, but both come into play once it is achieved. To be acquainted with what is best and oldest in yourself, is to know yourself as you were, before the world was made, before you emerged into time.

–Harold Bloom (from “Alone with the Alone” by Henry Corbin)


Read Entire Book Faiths of Man Part 1

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Abadon. Hebrew. “ Destruction ” personified as the Greek

Apolluōn (Revelat. ix, 11), and as Asmodeus (see Asmodeus) called

by Rabbis Ashmadai (see Job xxvi, 6); and in the Book of Wisdom

(xviii, 25) Olothreuōn in the Greek.


Abel. It is necessary to distinguish Abel the second son of Adam

(Hebrew Habl), from Habāl or Hobāl the great Arabian deity,

though the letters seem the same (see Habāl). Abel is usually

supposed to be the Babylonian word Ablu “ son.” The Hebrew Ābel

is again different—a common term for “ meadow.” Arabs and

Persians call Abel and Cain, Habīl and Ḳ abīl. No very satisfactory

explanation of their legends in Genesis has been given (see Ḳain).

Detail of the Ghent Altarpiece (1432) at Saint Bavo Cathedral.

Detail of the Ghent Altarpiece (1432) at Saint Bavo Cathedral.

Aben. Hebrew Eben, “ a stone.” Perhaps the root is found in

Banah “ to build,” as Ban or Ben (“ a son ”) is builder of the family

(see Ben). Ebenezer (“ stone of help ”) was a stone emblem of the

god, like those of Arabia (see Arabia). Jeremiah tells his tribe that

a stone begat them, and that they committed adulteries with stones

Jer. ii, 27 ; iii, 9. See also Gen. xxxi, 48 ; and 1 Sam. iv, 1 ;

vii, 12). Āban (says Delitzsch) has the sense of a “ peak ” or “ pointed

thing ”—the Assyrian Ubanu “ peak, rock, or finger ” (see Finger).

Abhi-Marsin. Sanskrit. Courting, inciting.

Abi-Kāma. Sanskrit. “ Love primeval,” intense desire, struggle,


Ablathanabla. See Abraxas.

Abors. Bors. The Asamese term for the wild race, calling

themselves Padams or Pagdams, inhabiting the N.E. frontier of British

territory at the bend of the Brāhmapūtra River (N. and N.W.), and

embracing the greater and lesser Dihong river valleys, north of

Sadiya. The term Abor is said to mean “ savage,” “ non-tribute

payer,” or “ fierce man ” : for Abors are a much-feared people who

hunt down even the “ wild cow ” (or Nilgau), and eat buffalo beef,

but not cows—showing a Hindu influence. They worship Nāts or

fays, spirits of the woods and waters : they tattoo their bodies, and

clothe themselves in skins and bark, but go naked in the hot season.

They are never without their bows and arrows—the latter poisoned

(for war) with the powdered root of the wild aconite, or with blood.

They wear a dhār, or long cutlass, at the waist, or slung (as by

Burmese) over the shoulder.

These people are scarcely as yet out of the communal stage, and

pay scant respect to chiefs, with some 250 of whom the Government had to deal in 1859-1870, and to try to keep them quiet by

subsidies. They are all sullen, clownish, and violent when roused,

like their congeners of Tibet and Barmah. Families are distinguished

by totems, or by marks on the forehead. The poorer are often

polyandrous : the richer are polygamous ; and sometimes they are

communists, a group of men living with a group of women. There

are barracks for bachelors and women, where considerable licence is

practised ; and chastity consists in having no intercourse outside the

clan. As regards religion, they believe in a life hereafter, with rewards

and punishments ; and sacrifices are said to please and propitiate the

spirits, and to be necessary to prevent famine and pestilence.

Abram. Abraham. There is no very satisfactory etymology of

this mythical patriarch’s name. Abram (Babylonian Ab-ramu) is

usually rendered “ high father,” that is to say, a deity like Brahmā.

Abraham is compared with the Arabic rahām, “ a host—a “ Lord of

Hosts” like Gānesa, or Yahveh. Hindus call a loving brother Rāmu.

The tablets of Esarhaddon’s days give such names as Abi-ramu and

Am-ramu. If we take the root to be Abr “ strong,” as in Abir a

“ bull ” or “ hero,” the m is only a suffix—as in Hebrew, Sabean, or

Babylonian speech. Some think this word connected with ’Abr (see

Gen. xiv, 13, and Exod. v, 3) ; for Abraham is especially called the

“ Hebrew,” and descendant of ’Eber, father of Peleg. Coming from

Padan-Aram he would naturally worship the “ high God ” (El-’Eliūn),

and seek his shrine at Ieru-salem (“ the abode of salvation ”). There

stood (no doubt) his symbol, a sacred stone (menhir or lingam) ; and

naturally he dedicated to this the agent of creation by circumcision,

swearing solemn oaths thereby, as we read that Abram and Isaac did

by what is euphemistically called the “ thigh.” See the Jewish World

(3rd April 1885), where the learned writer says: “ Abraham is a title

applied to the Creator only ” ; and if so, based on the root Bra “ create “

(Gen. i, 1).

Most Syrians and Arabs considered Abraham to be a Messiah ;

and prayers are still addressed to him (at his tomb in Hebron), as

Christians pray to Christ or to Mary. Abraham, as Ab-ram, “ the high

father,” was both a Malaki-ṣadī ḳ (Melchisedec), or “ King of righteousness,”

and a Shem—“ sign ” or “ mark.” Yet, says the Rev. Dr Cheyne

(Hibbert Lectures, 1892), “ Abraham must be given up as an historical

figure . . . some one must confess this truth, which ought, long ago,

to have found its way into our schools and colleges.”

This view is corroborated by the various widely different periods

assigned as the age of Abraham. The Samaritan and Greek Bibles say

he lived in 2605 B.C. Josephus said 2576, and the Vulgate, 2015 B.C.

Prof. Hommel (in 1896-7), says he “could not have lived earlier

than 1900 B.C.,” and Archbishop Ussher makes him 175 years

old in 1821 B.C. According to this Biblical chronology, he left Padan

Ararn in 1921 B.C. (see Bible), and went to Egypt on account of a

famine. But by Egypt we may understand the south of Palestine,

then perhaps an Egyptian province. Thence, about 1917 B.C., he

went to settle with Lot, “ towards Sodom.” In 1913 B.C. Chedorlaomer,

King of Elam, came, with ’Aniraphel, King of Shinar, Tidal king of

nations, and Arioch, King of Ellasar (Larsa), to quell a rebellion in

Eastern Palestine, which had been under Elam for twelve years.

The Biblical legend runs that Abraham (apparently 83 years old),

pursued this Babylonian army with three hundred and eighteen armed

retainers, defeating it, and taking the spoil and prisoners (Lot among

them), near Ḥ obah, “ north of Damascus.” This Hebrew fable, however,

enables us to test the dates. A tablet from Tell Lo ḥ (Revue Assyr. iv, p.

85, 1897), has been supposed to mention ’Amraphel (as Ḥ ammurabi),

with Arioch (Eriaku),and Tidal (Tudkhal), in which case Abraham would

live about the 22nd century B.C. [This translation is, however, rejected

by most specialists ; and the tablet is late, and probably refers to events

about 648 B.C.—ED.] Ḥ ammurabi (Kha-am-mu-ra-bi), is usually

supposed to have acceded in 2139 B.C. (the date given by Dr Peiser,

and by Col. Conder in his Hittites, p. 175). He ruled over “ the

west ” (Martu in Akkadian), like his successor Ammi-satana

(2034-2009 B.C.).

It has puzzled some commentators that Abraham went “ south ”

from Egypt on his way to Bethel [see Gen. xiii, 3. But the Hebrew

word so rendered is Negeb, a term applying to the “ dry ” country—as

the word means—near Beersheba.—ED.] The fatherland of Abraham

was at “ Ur of the Chaldees ” (Hebrew “ Ur of the Kasdīm ”), the later

Edessa, now Orfah. Ignoring this site, scholars have placed Ur at

Mugeiyer in Chaldea (near the mouth of the Euphrates), and have been

puzzled to explain why he went to Ḥ aran (near Edessa); but that

Ḥ aran was his fatherland, we see by his sending his confidential servant

there to seek a wife for Isaac. [The error is due to following the Greek

translation of Kasdīm by Khaldaioi (whom Herodotos mentions in

Babylon), and identifying them with the Kaldu, a people of Kaldea,

south of Babylon. Kasdīm appears to mean “ conquerors ” in Assyrian.—

ED.] The author of Acts vii, 2-4 calls Padan-Aram (Mesopotamia), the

“ land of the Ohaldeans.” Ṭ eraḥ called his youngest son also Ḥ aran ; and

there are still many legends of the patriarchs in this region—such as that

Orham, King of Or (Edessa), called Abram Ab-or-ham—reminding us of

Pater Orchamus (Ovid. Metam. iv, 212), the fabled son of Zeus, founder

of the empire of the Anatolian Mineans, who ruled Boiōtia and North

Greece from their capital Orkhomenos. M. Renan (Hist. Israel, i,

p. 63), even says, “Orham has lent his name, and several characteristic

traits, to the history of Abraham.”

Many years after the above was first written appeared the

valuable paper by Mr Hormazd Rassam, the old explorer of Nineveh

(Proc. Soc. Bib. Arch., February 1898), which proves that “ Ur of the

Ohaldees ” was Edessa, or Orfah. Cappadocia (Kappadokia) proves to

have been early entered by the Babylonians, who spread all over

North Syria. The name Khaldaioi (in the Septuagint) may thus be

connected with that of Khaldis on the Vannic inscriptions [applying

to a deity.—ED.]. From Ur, Ṭ era ḥ ’s family went to Ḥ aran, which is

only some two days’ journey from Edessa. In Judith (v, 6, 7), Jews

are called descendants of the Arameans, “a belief prevalent among all

Hebrews in Biblical lands at the present day” (Rassam). It is not

known, however, why the Septuagint translators changed the Hebrew

Kasdīm into “ Chaldeans.” According to Ezekiel (i, 3), the “ land

of the Kasdīm ” was by the River Chebar (or Khabūr River), a great

tributary of the Euphrates, one affluent of which rises in the Aram

or “ high land ” near to where Edessa is situated. It was the country

of Bal’aam (Deut. xxiii, 4), and was higher up the Euphrates than

Babylon, whereas Mugeiyer is near the mouth of that river, far below

Babylon. All this, and more, is ably set forth by Mr Rassam, who

only follows in the track of many other Oriental scholars.

In the Book Zohar (see Ḳ abbala) Abraham is called an “ incarnation

of love, mystery, and divine unity ” : he is symbolised by a pillar

(p. 41) as were Zeus, Yahveh, etc. He was the first to teach the

Ḳ abbala to Egypt, and received the mysteries “ from Noah, who

received them from Adam, who received them from God ” (Ginsburg’s

Zohar). Moses had personal intercourse with Abraham, as had most

legislators down to David and Solomon (p. 80). In the Book Jetzira

(“ Creation ”) the Ḳ abbala is called “ a monologue of Abraham,”

whereby he is induced to accept the true faith; and he is there said

to have invented writing and the Hebrew characters (p. 65). Elsewhere

he is described as a “ giant, a monster, having the strength of

seventy-four men, and requiring the food and drink of the same.”

The Arabian El Kindy (in our 8th-9th century) says, “ Abraham

lived seventy years in Ḥ aran, worshipping Al’Ozzah, who is still

revered in Arabia ” (see Royal Asiatic Society Journal, January 1882 ;

and Sir W. Muir’s El Kindy). He says that the inhabitants were

given to human sacrifice—which Abram wished to continue in

Palestine, whence the early rite of devoting the first-born to Yahveh.

The sacrifice of Isaac (or, as the Arabs say, of Ishm’ael) has now been

whittled down by Ezra-itic writers, who were evidently ashamed of it,

as making their God a bloodthirsty fiend, and their patriarch the

heartless murderer of his innocent boy. Tradition, and the persistence

of race barbarism, are however too strong for the would-be cleansers of

history ; and God and man still appear cruel and deceitful, while

multitudes still commemorate the half-enacted rite (see Sacrifice).

Abraham is represented as trying to hide his murderous purpose from

his son and servants by a lie, saying he would return with the child.

The deity doubts his sincerity till the knife is raised, when the wouldbe

murderer is lauded for wondrous “ Faith.” Faith in a God ?

—nay, in a dream. His God then promises him wealth, and offspring,

in abundance.

The sacrifice was originaJly commemorated in autumn, when

human sacrifices were common ; and what would be more orthodox

than that a great Sheikh, entering on a new land to found a colony,

should begin by offering his first-born to the god of the land ? Did

not the Christian Saint Columba bury his brother, St. Oran, in the

foundations of his church ? (Rivers of Life, ii, p. 340.)

Abraham, however, seems to have been anything but wealthy

when he died, possessing only the burial-place that he is said to have

purchased. He had given “ all he possessed ” to Isaac, and “ the

rest ” to numerous children by two stray wives. Islāmis say that he

travelled in both Arabia and Babylonia, but chiefly in Arabia ; and

that he assisted Ishm’ael in building the fourth shrine of Makka, and

in establishing the “ Black Stone ” (see our Short Studies, p. 539).

Hebrews and Arabs have reverently called him the Khalīl, or “ friend ”

of Allah (see Gen. xv, 17 ; Isaiah xli, 8).

Among arithmetical errors in the Bible is the statement that he

was born when Ṭ era ḥ was 70 years old, yet was 75 when (apparently)

Ṭ era ḥ died at the age of 205 years. He is also said not to have

known Yahveh, but only the tree gods—Āle-im or Elohim. He twice

dissembled to save his life by endangering his wife’s chastity, which

he seems to have valued little, as she lived some time in the harīms of

Pharaoh and Abimelek, who heaped riches on Abraham. It is untrue

to say that Sarah was “ without shame or reproach,” for Genesis

xii, 19 should read, “ she is my sister though I have taken her for

my wife.”

We shall not attempt to record the voluminous legends (in the

Talmud, etc.) concerning Abraham, of which the Old Testament does

not give a tithe. He is said to have visited Nimrod, and to have

converted him by the old feeble argument: “ Fire must not be worshipped

for water quenches it ; nor water because clouds carry this ;

nor clouds because winds drive them.” He might have added, “ Nor

Yahveh because we invented him.” According to other traditions,

Yahveh found great difficulty in calling (or killing) Abraham. He

sent the archangel Michael several times, to break the command to

Abraham as gently as possible : for the patriarch loved life. The

archangel—whom he fed—told his mission to Isaac, who tried to

explain it, deploring that both sun and moon (Abram and Sarah)

must ascend to heaven. The patriarch then accused Michael of

trying to steal away his soul, which he said he would never yield up.

The Lord then reminded him, by Michael, of all that he had done

for him ; and that, like Adam and others, he must die. Abraham

asked that he might first see “ all peoples and their deeds ” ; but,

when carried up in a chariot, he was so disgusted, by what he saw,

that he begged the earth might open and swallow all peoples. God

then shut his eyes lest they should all be destroyed, saying, “ I do not

wish it so, for I created all, and will only destroy the wicked.”

Abraham then saw a narrow road with few people on it, and a man

on a gold throne, “ terrible and like God,” though it was only Adam :

and again a broad road thronged with people, and with pursuing

angels. The man (or god) tore his hair and beard in sorrow, and

cast himself and his throne to the ground ; but, as people increased

on the narrow way, he rose rejoicing though “ in 7000 years only

one soul is saved.” The angels were scourging the wicked with

whips of fire ; and at the door of heaven sat one “ like the Son

of God,” though he was only Abel, having before him a table, and

a Bible twelve yards long and eight yards wide. He wrote down

the virtues and sins of all, and then weighed the souls (like Thoth).

The Lord had commanded Abel to judge all till the final judgment,

which is to be by the Son of God. Some souls were however set

aside as wanting an extra good deed, and “ Abraham prayed for such,

and the Lord saved them because of Abraham’s holiness.” He also

saved, at his request, all whom Abraham had cursed on earth. The

patriarch was then taken back to his house, to the great joy of his

family, and commanded to settle his worldly affairs, and to give up

his soul to Michael. This Abraham again refused to do; so the

Angel of Death was told to visit him—which he was very unwilling

to do. He was however commanded to disguise himself as a gentle

and beautiful spirit ; but he confessed to Abraham that he was the

“ poison of Death.” He argued long that he could not depart

without Abraham’s soul ; and he assumed many horrid forms, but

did not frighten the patriarch, who accused Death of killing even

boys and girls, and made him kneel down with him and pray for

their restoration. Death continued to torment the patriarch, who

was 175 years old ; and at last he slept on his bed, and kissed

Death’s hand, mistaking it for that of his son, so receiving “ the

poison of death.” Michael and innumerable angels “bore away his

pure soul, and placed it in the hands of the Lord ; and his body was

swathed in pure white linen, and buried in ‘ Dria the Black ’ or Elonē-

Mamre.” (From a Roumanian text, published by Dr Gaster, who

gives this interesting Apocalypse in the Transactions, Bib. Arch.

Soc., ix, 1.)

Abraxas. Abrasax. Abracadabra. Ablathanabla.

Abanathabla. Various terms on Gnostik charms—see Rivers of

Life, i, p. 511. [The translations are much disputed. Probably

they are Aramaic sentences: Abrak ha dabra, “ I bless the deed ” :

Ablaṭ ha nabla, “I give life to the corpse” : Abana thabla, “ Thou

our father leadest.”—ED.] The Persian sun-god was seen in the

Greek letters Abraxas, representing in numbers 365—the days of

the solar year. This word, placed on an amulet or seal, exorcised

evil spirits, and was eXplained by Semites as meaning Abra-Shedabara,

“go out bad spirit out” [or perhaps better, Abrak ha āsh, “I

bless the man.”—ED.] In Syria Abraxas was a form of Iao (Yahveh),

Mithras, Ṣ abaoth, or Adonis, figured as a lion-headed solar serpent

with a rayed glory (Rivers of Life, ii, p. 274) : or as a cock-headed

serpent, or the eastern serpent (Sesha) biting his own tail as Ananta

“ the Eternal.” In Egyptian Abrasax was thought to signify “hurt me

not ” ; and the pious Christian Marullus bequeathed to his children

an amulet, with this name on the one side, and a serpent on the

other, of jasper enclosed in a golden Bulla shaped like a heart—the

seat of emotions. Such bullæ are said to be the origin of the “ Sacred

Heart,” and to explain the name of Papal “ Bulls,” though these had

leaden “ seals ” later (Rivers of Life, ii, pp. 237-8). Such amulets

cured bodily pains, and averted the evil eye. We read of the

physician of Gordian II. as prescribing one for his patient (see King’s

Gnostics, pp. 105-6). Basilides the Gnostik is said to have invented

Abraxas, to denote the spirit presiding over the 365 days of the year.

But the radical idea was that of fecundity, for the image is found as

a bearded Priapus grasping his organ like Osiris.

The Doctrine of the Origin of Evil


Lurianic and Sabbatian Kabbalah

and in the

‘Awakening of Faith’


Mahayanistic Buddhism


Evgeny A. Torchinov

The doctrine of evil is a crucial question for every religious and mystico-theosophical system of thought. In Christianity this problem was a source of a serious controversy which led to the appearance of a number of systems of theodicy, i.e., explanations of the coexistence of an all-good God Creator and evil in the world created by this God.

One of the most influential answers to this theological challenge was the theodicy of Leibniz who argued the tenet that in any case God has created the best world from all possible worlds. The explanation of evil as the consequence of the human free will and freedom of choice was also rather popular. But it could not explain the necessity of the choice itself: how there appeared the very possibility of evil if the source of the world (that is, God) was absolutely good.

Some theosophically oriented thinkers were ready to explain evil by postulating, in the very substance of God, the presence of some dark, or ethically indifferent foundation. The Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev developed this idea, proclaiming that before God there was a dark foundation which was also the source and root of God Himself, and which had potencies to explicate itself equally as good and evil. He called this pre-Divine substance ‘meonic freedom’ (‘nonexistent freedom,’ or ‘non-being-less freedom’). In this he followed Schelling who insisted that the sentence ‘God has his foundation in Himself’ means that this foundation is something really (not only formally and logically) different from God, existing nevertheless inside God and before God.

Kabbalah has always been extremely attentive to the problem of evil. Kabbalistic gnostics and theosophists as a rule followed the same course of thinking (or the same pattern) as the successors of Boehme and Schelling. It can even be ventured that Kabbalists were the real predecessors of this pattern of thought in Christian mysticism; but the question of the historical influence of Kabbalah on Boehme or Schelling is still open. Nevertheless, Kabbalistic theosophy suggested very original varieties of this pattern, sometimes even avoiding the dangers of dualism as well as those of pure illusionism.

In the very brief outline of the Kabbalistic approach to evil suggested below I will limit myself to the approach of Lurianic Kabbalah, mainly because of its role in the history of the Kabbalistic movement and the predominant importance of the doctrine of evil in its gnostic-theosophical system. I will add some brief references to the Sabbatean Kabbalah of Nathan of Gaza, which is directly derived from Lurianic Kabbalah as its source and paradigm.

The Lurianic Kabbalah, as explicated by R. Hayyim Vital, teaches that the hidden transcendent Absolute, Deus Absconditus (En Sof, Unlimited, or ‘Or En Sof � Unlimited Light) had to contract Itself to produce the place for the creation. If En Sof is everything, if It is unlimited and endless, there is no ‘space’ for the created universe. Therefore, En Sof, or Unlimited Light, contracted from the center outwards to ’empty’ a place within itself for the world to be created.

The technical term for this contraction is ‘zimzum‘ (tzimtzum). Throughout the ages, different interpretations of zimzum were suggested, from the literal and mytho-poetic to the philosophical. For instance, some Kabbalists interpreted zimzum as God’s self-limitation for the benefit of creation.

It is noteworthy in this regard that Nathan of Gaza, in his ‘Book on Creation‘ (Sefer ha-Beriy’a), taught the existence of some duality or even contradiction in the Divine Will: a wish to contract and to create (i.e., ‘thought-some lights’), and a wish to be in an eternal state of the hidden mystery without any contraction or creation (i.e., ‘thought-less lights’).

What was the cause of this divine contraction? Lurianic Kabbalah proposes that the nature of the Divine Will itself eternally strove to the unfolding of the hidden mystery of En Sof. But another source has been pointed out for the initiating of the cosmogonic process. It was the wish of En Sof to liberate Itself from the roots of evil potentially present in Its nature, understood as the roots of the power of Stern Judgement (din).

These roots had to be objectified, to be manifested so that it became possible for En Sof to emancipate itself from them. The Absolute had to become conscious of those roots in order to be liberated from them. Thus, the very process of creation as that of ordering, limitation and bordering is the process of the objectivization of the roots of the Stern Judgement.

Hence, It can be said that the moving force for the creation process (and for zimzum as its first stage) is the tendency within the Absolute (En Sof) to liberate itself from the potentially evil roots of Stern Judgement. But this process, by its very nature, is closely related to the explication of the roots of evil and their transition from potentiality to actuality. Only by giving existence to the powers of Stern Judgement, can the Absolute be liberated from them, or transform them into the principles of goodness and holiness.

This idea can be expressed as the immanence of the explication of the powers of Stern Judgement (and consequently, of evil) to initiate the process of creation: that is, the beginning of creation by necessity is contraction, zimzum. But every contraction, or limitation is a function of the powers of Stern Judgement. Thus, these powers are necessarily involved in the creation at its very foundation, and this involvement is pregnant with the appearance of the actual evil. Hence it is important for the aims of this paper to underline the following points:

  1. According to Lurianic Kabbalah the roots of evil (expressed as the power of din) are immanent to The Absolute (En Sof) itself and are contained in its depths.
  2. The process of creation explicates these potential roots of evil.
  3. This explication of din is the foundation of the very beginning of the creation through zimzum (contraction).
  4. The purpose of creation is the elimination of the element of din (and consequently of evil) through its explication and subsequent liquidation in the process of ‘divine catharsis.’ Keeping these points in mind we can now outline some Buddhist materials relevant to our topic.

In early Buddhism and in Theravada (Sthaviravada) tradition the problem of evil has been decided in a very simple way. Evil was understood as ‘suffering,’ duhkha which was thought to be one of the most fundamental qualities of being as such (together with anitya – non eternity, non constancy and anatma – essencelessness, or devoidedness of essence/’ego’). Briefly speaking, early Buddhism only demonstrated the fact of evil as a principal attribute of every existence as such. It also analyzed the cause of suffering and involvement of the sentient beings into the cyclic existence of the world of births-and-deaths (samsara), and this cause of this involvement was ignorant affectivity and desires, or defilements (klesa). Moreover, in the Abhidharmic texts (e.g., Vasubandhu’s famous ‘Compendium of Abhidharma,’ Abhidharma kosa, chapter 3, Loka nirdesa, ‘Exposition of the World‘) even the Triple Cosmos (traya lokya) itself was thought to be the objectivization (‘materialization’) of the summarized sequences of the affects of the living beings of the preceding cosmic cycle (kalpa). Nothing else but klesas (affects and desires in their latent, or subtle form) produce the material foundation of the universe at the beginning of every cosmic cycle. And this universe is only an expression of the beginningless desires and lusts which lead every being to the painful samsaric existence according to the Law of Interdependent Origination (pratitya samutpada). And this ‘evil’ character of samsara is confirmed by the doctrinal essentials of Buddhism, that is, the Four Noble Truths:

  1. every existence is painful/unsatisfactory,
  2. desires and attachments are the cause of pain,
  3. there is a state free from pain (nirvana), and
  4. there is a path toward liberation from samsara and attainment of nirvana (Eightfold Noble Path).

But the question of the origins of ignorant volitions and affects did not arise at all. Moreover it was thought to be an incorrect one because of the beginningless character of the cyclic existence of samsara. This position was tightly connected with the empirical treatment of the problem of consciousness: early Buddhism was interested only in analyses of the given contents of the psychic without an attempt to examine the question of the root, or source of consciousness (vijnana) and its contents.

In Mahayana (Great Vehicle Buddhism) the situation has been radically changed. Mahayanistic schools of Buddhism (first of all, Yogacara, or Vijnaptimatra) tried to find the source root of consciousness as well as the root of all samsaric existence. The Yogacarins proclaimed a famous tenet that all three worlds of samsara are but consciousness (vijnana, citta) and its states (vijnapti, caita). If samsara is but consciousness, it means that the roots of consciousness are the roots of samsara as well. The Yogacarins introduced a notion of alaya vijnana (store consciousness) as a source of all samsaric experiences. It is important to note that in the classical Yogacara this store consciousness was not understood as substance, or even substratum of the experiential world. The Yogacarins often used the image of the stream of water to depict alaya vijnana: it is a pure continuity of impermanent, or even momentary nature. The Tibetan word for ‘alaya vijnana‘ is sems kun gzhi, that is ‘consciousness which is the all-root.’

The concept of alaya vijnana was sufficient to explain the nature of samsara but it mostly failed to explain the nature of the final liberation, nirvana and Enlightenment, or more exactly, Awakening (bodhi) as attainment of the exalted state of Buddhahood.

This drawback was corrected by the doctrine of Tathagatagarbha the examination of which is essential for this study. Tathagata (Thus Coming One) is one of the most frequently used titles of the Buddha. The Sanskrit word garbha has double meaning. The first one is embryo, or foetus. The second one is a container of a foetus, that is the womb. In the first case Tathagatagarbha is the embryo of Buddhahood (state of the Buddha) not only immanent to our own original nature (as well as to the true nature of every sentient being) but it even composes this nature (every being is a potential Buddha, Buddha-to-be). In the second case Tathagatagarbha is One Mind, the Absolute Mind (eka citta) embracing all existence being the substratum of both � samsara and nirvana.

This Absolute Mind has four noble qualities which are contrary to the qualities of samsara: if samsara is unconstant (anitya), full of sufferings (duhkha), devoid of essence (anatma) and dirty (asubha), then Tathagatagarbha is constant (nitya), blissful (sukha), it has Essence, or Self (atma) and it is pure (subha). This Absolute Buddha-Mind is also the nature of every state of consciousness like water is the nature of every wave.

Here, the problem of Enlightenment/Awakening has been solved: it is the realization of our own inner nature which is but Buddha Nature. But the question of the origin of samsara with its unending chains of sufferings and frustrations obtained new actuality. If the nature of every existence (of all dharmas in the Buddhist terminology) is absolutely perfect, translucent and enlightened how is it possible for samsara to come into being (even conditioned and relative) at all? What is the source of samsaric existence with all its evils? Briefly speaking, the Buddhist Mahayana thinkers became trapped by the problem of theodicy.

The most detailed and distinct exposition of the Buddhist doctrine of the origin of evil (and samsara) as well can be found in Mahayana sraddhotpada sastra (Chin.: Da sheng qi xin lun), or the ‘Awakening of Faith in Mahayana‘. This text, now existing only in Chinese is a pseudoepigraph of the Indian author of the 1st century C.E., Asvaghosa. In reality it appeared in China in the 6th century. According to the Buddhist tradition it was translated into Chinese from Sanskrit in 550 by the famous Indian Buddhist monk and translator, Paramartha (499-569) but there are strong suspicions that it was written in Chinese by Paramartha himself or by one of his Chinese disciples, though the text artificially imitates the form and style of the Indian theoretical treatises. Additional strength to these suspicions are strengthened by the fact that there are no quotations from this work in any known Indian-Buddhist texts, as well as that there is no Tibetan translation of it. The famous Chinese pilgrim of the 7th century C.E., Xuanzang, was so struck by the fact that the Indian scholars he encountered were ignorant of such an important text that he even translated it from Chinese into Sanskrit.

The Awakening of Faith in Mahayana (henceforth: Awakening) became one of the most important texts of the Buddhist tradition of
Eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam); it exerted an extremely powerful influence on the process of formatting the Far Eastern Buddhist schools (such as Tiantai, Huayan and Chan/Zen) and their doctrinal teachings.

From the theoretical side, it represents the highest point of the development of the Tathagatagarbha theory contaminated with some Yogacara doctrines, the most important of which was the doctrine of alaya vijnana, store conscious. Thus, the Awakening combined to form strong sides of both doctrines: the Yogacara theory of the origins of samsara, and the Tathagatagarbian teaching about Enlightenment and the Buddha-nature. Here we will try to examine the character of this doctrinal synthesis and its contents.

It is important to note that the Awakening declares the primeval existence of the only reality (tathata, or Suchness) which is but One Mind (ekacitta, yi xin). This Absolute is empty of our thinking being a kind of transcendent reality but not empty in itself, being the pleroma, or fullness of innumerable good qualities. Nevertheless, just this Suchness is a source of samsara with all its sufferings as well as nirvana with its bliss. The Awakening proclaims:

‘From the very beginning, Suchness in its nature is fully provided with all excellent qualities; namely, it is endowed with the light of great wisdom, [the qualities of] illuminating the entire universe, of true cognition and mind pure in its self-nature; of eternity, bliss, Self, and purity; of refreshing coolness, immutability, and freedom. It is endowed with this [excellent qualities] which outnumbered the sands of the Ganges, which are not independent of, disjointed from, or different from [the essence of Suchness], and which are supra-rational [attributes of] Buddhahood. Since it is endowed completely with all these, and is not lacking anything, it is called the Tathagata-garbha [when latent] and also the Dharmakaya of the Tathagata‘.

The text declares that the Absolute Mind (Suchness) has two aspects: the aspect of Enlightenment and that of non-enlightenment.

Original Enlightenment (Original Awakening, ben jue, literally, ‘root Awakening’) is a substance of Mind devoid of conceptual differentiating thinking. It is like unlimited empty space which pervades everything, and it is ‘One without second’ as the absolute body of the Buddha (dharmakaya, fa shen).

Non-enlightenment (bu jue) is also grounded in the original Enlightenment being of secondary and non-substantial nature. Nevertheless, because of its empirical existence there appeared the necessity for living beings (human beings) to cultivate mind by contemplative practices to realize their substantially enlightened nature. This kind of Enlightenment obtained empirically through psychological practices of the Buddhist yoga is called here ‘Enlightenment which has its beginning’ (shi jue).

Original Enlightenment is intrinsic, but non-enlightenment is accidental. The latter is a non-actualized state of the same original enlightenment. That is to say, man is originally enlightened or saved, but suffers because he does not realize that he is enlightened or saved and continues on as a blind or faithless man, groping for enlightenment or salvation elsewhere. The premise is that if man is not enlightened or saved originally, there is no possibility of his attaining enlightenment or salvation at all.

This obtained Enlightenment in its complete and perfect form is but the original Enlightenment by its essence and substance. Forms and types of the practice (bhavana) of the bodhisattva who will to attain Buddhahood and the stages of this practice have been described in details in the text of Awakening.

The unenlightened aspect expresses its nature in not realizing oneness with the True Nature of Suchness and illusory independence from it. This ignorance gives rise to the differentiating thoughts and then to subject-and-object dichotomy, passions and last and, finally, to all qualities of the miseries of the samsaric existence. Nevertheless, those ignorant thoughts have no substantiality of their own. Therefore, ‘they are not independent of the original enlightenment’. And commentators of the Awakening as well as the Buddhist thinkers who were connected in their philosophies with the doctrine of this work often graphically depicted this aspect of Absolute as the black dot in the center of the white circle of original Enlightenment (as it was done by Zongmi, 780-841, in his famous ‘Chan Preface‘ ).

The text also is attentive to the problem of the relationships between Enlightenment and non-enlightenment. It examined two kinds of such relationships: identity and nonidentity.

Because all phenomena in their foundations have no substance different from their Suchness, just as all kinds of pottery are of the same nature being made of clay. Therefore even magic-like appearances (maya; huan) in their root substantiality have the basic intrinsic nature of the Absolute Mind and its Suchness. Here the author of the Awakening refers to the canonical text of the unidentified sutra:

‘…all sentient beings intrinsically abide in eternity and are entered nirvana. The state of enlightenment is not something that is to be acquired by practice or to be created. In the end, it is unobtainable [for it is given from the beginning].’

The aspect of nonidentity has an accidental nature, just as different kinds of pottery have different images and forms. Therefore, empirically, illusions of samsara have their existence. The differences between the reality of Suchness and the illusory phenomena of samsara exist in accordance with the defiled consciousness of the sentient beings and their effective ignorance of the nature of Reality.

And, rather curiously, it can be said that the ignorant consciousness of the sentient beings has its relative non-substantial existence due to the non-enlightened aspect of One Mind which in its turn exists only for the deluded consciousness of the sentient beings having no existence of its own (svabhava; zi xing).

Let us see now, what is the way of the explication of samsara produced by the operation of the non-enlightened aspect of One Mind.

The Awakening describes three stages of the origination of samsara:

  1. Because of the existence of the non-enlightened aspect of Mind it becomes agitated, and this agitation is the activity of ignorance. The result of this activity is suffering (complete frustration, or anxiety � duhkha).
  2. Agitation destroys the unity of Suchness. As a result, the empirically perceiving subject appears to be existent.
  3. The world of empirical objects obtains its illusion-like existence because of the perceiving subject. The objects have their being only with their relation to subject. Without perceiving subjects there can not be the perceived objects. The subject as well as objects are devoid of their intrinsic nature. Their being is only relative to the unsubstantial non-enlightened aspect of Suchness and is completely conditioned by its erroneous nature. Mind, as such, by its true nature is calm and transcendent to the subject-object dichotomy.

On the third stage the mind became conditioned by the character of the objects. In this state it produces the following six aspects:

  1. Depending on the erroneously perceived world of objects the subject obtains the intellect discriminating between liking and disliking.
  2. Then the consciousness produces the awareness of pleasure and pain regarding the world of the objects. This awareness becomes uninterruptedly continuous.The consciousness superimposes its deluded thoughts on the world of objects and becomes attached to what it likes.
  3. The discriminations and mental constructing (vikalpa, fen bie). The consciousness attached to the objects produces analytical ability related to the words and concepts which are devoid of the true meaning. The words and concepts become substitutes of the true reality for the deluded consciousness.
  4. The attachment to the mentally constructed signs of word-and-concepts creates all manifold kinds of evil karma (ye); the consciousness becomes a subject of the cyclic existence of births-and-deaths.
  5. The consciousness suffered from the fruits of karma and is not free any longer. Thus, all the defiled states of consciousness are produced from ignorance, and ignorance has its illusion-like existence due to the aspect of nonenlightenment which is the relative and provisional aspect of Suchness.

Describing the beginning of the process of the emergence of samsara, the Awakening uses the word vasana (xun xi) which is the Yogacara technical term. Here it means the influence or actions which have abilities to permeate something. In the case of the origin of samsara it can be said that the nonenlightenment, having its ground in the original Enlightenment of Suchness, produces ignorance which is the primary cause of the defiled state that permeates into the substance of Suchness itself. And this permeation (vasana) is the cause of the appearance of the deluded consciousness. While the principle of Suchness has not been yet realized in the ‘Enlightenment which has its beginning’, the deluded consciousness continues to predicate the erroneously conceived objects of senses and mind. These objects, in their turn, permeate the deluded consciousness ‘and cause the deluded mind to attach itself to its thoughts, to create various… karma, and to undergo all kinds of physical and mental suffering’. An end can be put to this process only by Enlightenment which, being empirically a result of psycho-practical mind cultivation, is substantially the same as the original Enlightenment, just as the nature of Reality is such.

How does the Awakening describe the liberated enlightened mind? Here the text uses the rather popular metaphors in Buddhist works of waves and water. Here follows two rather important quotations from the text:

  1. All modes (laksana) of mind and consciousness [under the state of nonenlightenment] are [the products of] ignorance. Ignorance does not exist apart from enlightenment; therefore, it cannot be destroyed [because one cannot destroy something which does not really exist], and yet it cannot not be destroyed [in so far as it remains]. This is like the relationship that exists between the water of the ocean [i.e., enlightenment] and its waves [i.e. modes of mind] stirred by the wind [i.e., ignorance]. Water and wind are inseparable; but water is not mobile by nature, and if the wind stops the movement ceases. But the wet nature remains undestroyed. Likewise, man’s Mind, pure in its own nature, is stirred by the wind of ignorance. Both Mind and ignorance have no particular forms of their own and they are inseparable. Yet Mind is not mobile by nature, and if ignorance ceases, then the continuity [of deluded activities] ceases. But the essential nature of wisdom [i.e., the essence of Mind, like the wet nature of the water remains undestroyed.
  2. Question: If the mind ceases to be, what will become of its continuity? If there is no continuity of mind, how can you explain its final cessation?
    Answer: What we speak of as ‘cessation’ is the cessation of the marks of [the deluded] mind only and not the cessation of its essence. It is like the case of the wind which, following the surface of the water, leaves the marks of its movement. If the water should cease to be, then the marks of the wind would be nullified and the wind would have no support [on which to display its movement]. But since the water does not cease to be, the marks of the wind nay continue. Because only the wind ceases, the marks of its movement cease accordingly. This is not the cessation of the water. So it is with ignorance; on the ground of the essence of Mind there is movement. If the essence of Mind were to cease, then people would be nullified and they have no support. But since the essence does not cease to be, the mind may continue. Because only stupidity ceases to be, the marks of the [stupidity of the] mind cease accordingly. It is not that the wisdom [i.e., the essence] of Mind ceases.

Therefore, it can be said that Enlightenment stops the winds of ignorance from blowing under the surface of calm by its intrinsic nature of water. Water (which is an image of the self-nature of the Absolute Mind) does not change, its nature remains just the same, and only the accidental and substantially unreal waves (cyclic existence of samsara), produced by the wind of ignorance (avidya, bu jue) rooted in the depths of One Mind itself, cease to appear. It means literally that for the Enlightened mind all spheres of objects cease to be. And for this perfectly Enlightened Mind the ‘black dot’ of the aspect of non-enlightenment does no longer exists. This is a ‘correction’, or ‘catharsis’ of Suchness. It becomes what it really is from the very beginning: non-dual, self luminescent, absolute One Mind possessing innumerable good and excellent qualities of the Buddha as Dharmakaya. This is presented in the Awakening as follows:

In fact, there are no corporeal objects, because all objects are original from the mind. And as long as there are no corporeal objects at all, ’empty place’ can not be maintained. All objects are of the mind alone; but when illusions arise, [objects which are regarded as real] appear. When the mind is free from its deluded activities, then all objects [imagined as real] vanish of themselves. [What is real,] the one and true Mind, pervades everywhere. This is the final meaning of the Tathagata’s great and comprehensive wisdom.

Examining in brief all the most important teachings of the Awakening related to the roots of samsaric evil and the liberation from them, we can now to analyze and compare the typologies of the Mahayanistic and Kabbalistic approaches to these subjects.

In the attitude of the Awakening towards the problem of evil we can find a number of features which are comparable to the attitudes expressed in Lurianic Kabbalah.

  1. Both teachings support the view that the roots of evil lie in the Absolute itself. According to Lurianic Kabbalah these roots are the potential force of din (Stern Judgement) which can find its overdevelopment and isolation from the power of Mercy as qelippoth, or ‘shells’. Therefore, the dark side of being is latently immanent to the Absolute. According to the Awakening, the cause of evil and of the samsaric cyclical existence with all its sufferings originates from the unenlightened aspect of Absolute (Suchness as luminous One Mind), which has a secondary and accidental nature but nevertheless is responsible for all defilements and attachments of the empirical consciousness of the sentient beings.
  2. The very process of creation is seen as an objectivization, or explication of the roots of evil. In Lurianic Kabbalah the first point of the creative activities of the Original Unlimited Light of Absolute (‘Or En Sof) is its contraction (zimzum) — that is, its limitation. And every limitation can be seen as the manifestation of the powers of din which are the root of evil as well. Therefore, the explication of evil is the primary characteristic of the process of creation as such. In Awakening the first point of the emergence of samsara is ignorance originated from the unenlightened aspect of the Absolute. This ignorance manifests itself in the discriminating thought which erroneously takes itself to be different from the substance of Suchness. The development of this process results with the mental constructing, or appearance, of subject-object oppositions and different kinds of attachments.
  3. The process of creation is not only the process of the explication of evil, but also a means for the liberation of the Absolute from the potential roots of evil, and can be understood as a kind of cathartic activity of the Absolute. In Lurianic Kabbalah this process of the Divine catharsis results in the tiqqun, or restoration of being. (In some kinds of Lurianic Kabbalah the powers of evil, qelippoth, devoid of the forces of the Light, must be eliminated as a ‘waste product’ from the essence of the Godhead, in others they must be transfigured into the powers of holiness worthy of restoration in the realm of the Divine Lights). In Awakening the samsaric beings, because of the influence of their substantial original Buddha nature, attain Enlightenment which leads to the complete elimination of the non-enlightened black dot inside the Absolute, and its complete Enlightenment. The text does not speak explicitly about the cathartic character of the emergence and empirical existence of samsara but it can be easily supposed because of the very structure of the process of the movement from the Original Enlightenment through unsubstantial nonenlightenment to the empirical Enlightenment resulting with the complete Enlightenment as the absolute elimination of the shadow of ignorance.

Nevertheless, there are also very important and theologically substantial differences between the understanding of the nature of evil and the ways of its elimination in these two kinds of the mystical theosophies. And they are also important for an understanding of the essential specific features of the soteriological attitudes of Lurianic Kabbalah, as rooted in the Biblical world-view, and those of Mahayanistic Buddhism which is closely related to the traditional Indian ways of thinking.

First of all, it must be noted that the end of the world-process in the Lurianic Kabbalah is tiqqun � that is, the restoration of the purified creation to its perfect and undefiled state, or even its inclusion into the sphere of the Divine pleroma. In the Awakening, Enlightenment is seen as the state of elimination of all subject-object relations and the extinction of the manifold world as such: mind returns to its own intrinsic nature, and the waves (i.e., the world) caused by the wind of ignorance cease to appear in the phenomena, revealing the true calm self-nature of the Mind as the plain surface of the Ocean of the Absolute. Therefore the Lurianic attitude toward the creation (manifold world produced from the depths of the Absolute) is ontologically optimistic, while that of the Awakening is pessimistic.

Secondly, the very evaluation of the creative process is rather different in both systems: the moving power of the unfolding of One Mind/Suchness in the world of phenomena is delusion, and only by complete Enlightenment are the effects of this delusion (the influence of the unenlightened aspect of Suchness) and the universe (three worlds of samsara), eliminated. On the other hand, the corresponding attitude in Lurianic Kabbalah is more complicated. There, the shadow of potential evil participates in the process of creation from the very beginning, but that creation is also a positively evaluated act of the Divine unfolding. Moshe Hayyim Luzzato had even suggested that the Absolute En Sof was obliged to give up His omniscience and omnipotence, in order to be able to create the space-and-time dependent world. The Absolute is by its nature static, as Aristotle had asserted; therefore, in order to achieve a dynamic state of creation, the Absolute had to give up being absolute.

Summarizing the above-mentioned differences, it would be rather convenient to use metaphorically Nathan of Gaza‘s images of the thought-some and thought-less Lights. (Thought-some lights express the Divine Will to create, while thought-less lights express its Will to remain in the primordial quietness of its hidden mystery, understanding the creation only as an explication of the powers of evil and even as a revolt against the Absolute itself.) Comparing this problem of creation in Lurianic Kabbalah and the Awakening, the former expresses mostly a position of the thought-some Lights, while the latter expresses that of the thought-less Lights.

And last but not least, these two systems use very different languages to express their ideas: that of the Lurianic and Sabbatean thinkers is the gnostic mytho-poetic language of a highly suggestive character, while the language of the Awakening is a philosophical and speculative one, relating this text to the traditional treatises of the learned Buddhist scholasticism.

Moreover, it is important to note that the problem of examining Kabbalistic mysticism within the broad frames of intercultural researches is rather substantial, and this paper is only one of the first steps on this way. But an ancient Chinese sage said: ‘The way in ten thousand miles begins with one step’. And if this step has been done here, then the author can consider his task to be fulfilled.


On evil in Christian thought, see J.H. Hick Evil and the God of Love, New York 1977; G.R. Evans, Augustine on Evil, Cambridge Mass. 1983; S. Runciman, The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy, Cambridge, Mass. 1982.
For a review of Leibniz’s theodical system see S.C. Brown, Leibniz.
Minnesota 1985; L. E. Loemker, Struggle for Synthesis: The Seventeenth-Century Background of Leibniz’s Synthesis of Order and Freedom, Cambridge, Mass. 1972.
Explanations of this sort were suggested, for instance, by A. Schopenhauer who ardently denied not only Christian approaches to the problem of freedom of will but even this principle as such (at least on the phenomenal being of existence). For a critical review see B. Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer,
Oxford 1983.

Notable examples are J. Boehme, and Schelling who followed Boehme on this point. For review see R. F. Brown The Later Philosophy of Schelling: The Influence of Boehme on the works of 1809-1815, Bucknell University Press 1976 (Henceforth, Brown, The Later Philosophy of Schelling); M. Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom, Translated by Joan Stambaugh, Ohio University Press 1985.

For a review of Berdyaev’s position on evil see N. Berdyaev, The Destiny of Man, translated by N. Duddington. New York and London 1979; L. E. Allen Freedom in God: A Guide to the Thought of Nicholas Berdyaev, New York 1980; A. F. Zamaleyev Lektsii po istorii russkoi filosofii (Lectures on the History of Russian Philosophy), St. Petersburg 1995, pp. 232-233.

For a review of Schelling’s position on the dark foundation of Godhead see F. Schelling, Of Human Freedom, trans. J. Gutmann, New York 1985; R.F. Brown, The Later Philosophy of Schelling.

For a review of Kabbalistic influence on Boehme and Schelling see Secret F. Les Kabbalistes chr�tiens de la Renaissance, Paris 1964; W. A. Schultze, ‘Schelling und die Kabbala‘, Judaica 13 (1957).

However, see J. Dan, ‘Kabbalistic and Gnostic Dualism‘, Binah 3 (1994), pp. 19-33 [First printed in Hebrew in Da’at 19 (1987), pp. 5-16].

G. Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi. The Mystical Messiah 1626-1676, Princeton 1973, p. 28. (Henceforth, Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi.)

For the sources of the doctrine of Zimzum in Lurianic Kabbalah see M. Idel, ‘On the Concept of Zimzum in Kabbalah and its Research‘, Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, X (1992), pp. 59-112 [Hebrew]; B. Huss, ‘Genizat Ha-Or in Simeon Lavi’s Ketem Paz and the Lurianic Doctrine of Zimzum‘, Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 10 (1992), pp. 341-362 [Hebrew].

Scholem has asserted that philosophical approach to Zimzum was suggested first of all by Italian Kabbalist Israel Sarug. See G. Scholem, ‘Israel Sarug – a disciple of R. Yizhak Luria?Zion 5 (1940), pp. 214-243 [Hebrew]. Altmann, however, disagreed and asserted that Sarug’s interpretation was actually mythical. See A. Altmann, ‘Notes on the Development of Rabbi Menahem Azariah Fano’s Kabbalistic Doctrine‘, Studies in Jewish Mysticism Philosophy and Ethical Literature Presented to Isaiah Tishby on his Seventy-Fifth Birthday, Jerusalem 1986, pp. 241-268 [Hebrew]. For a philosophical analysis of Zimzum in the thought of Herrera, Sarug’s disciple, see N. Yosha, Myth and Metaphor: Abraham Cohen Herrera’s Philosophical Interpretation of Lurianic Kabbalah, Jerusalem 1994, pp. 188-210 [Hebrew].

The most notable example is Moshe Hayyim Luzzato

Ch. Wirszubski, Between the Lines: Kabbalah, Christian Kabbalah and Sabbatianism, ed. M. Idel, Jerusalem 1990, pp. 156-159 [Hebrew]. A. Elqayam, The Mystery of Faith in the Writings of Nathan of Gaza, Ph.D. Dissertation, The Hebrew University, 1993, [Hebrew]; [henceforth The Mystery].

I. Tishby, The Doctrine of Evil and the ‘Kelippah’ in Lurianic Kabbalah. Jerusalem 1984, [Hebrew]. Tishby’s interpretation was also taken up by Scholem in Sabbatai Sevi, p. 30.

On the Yogacara philosophy see: L. de la Valle Poussin, Vijnaptimatra siddhi sastra (Le siddhi de Hsuan-tsang). T. 1-2, Paris 1928-1929; Th. E. Wood, Mind Only: A Philosophical Doctrinal Analysis of the Vijnanavada, Honolulu 1991; Th. A. Kochumuttom, Buddhist Doctrine of Experience, New Delhi 1982; Th. Stcherbatsky, Buddhist Logic, Leningrad 1930-1932.

The scriptural sources of the Tathagatagarbha doctrine are such canonical texts of Mahayana as Tathagatagarbha sutra, Maha parinirvana sutra and Srimaladevi simhanada sutra.

On the theory of Tathagatagarbha see: E.E. Obermiller, The Sublime Science of the Great Vehicle to Salvation. A translation of Uttaratantra of Bodhisattva Maitreya with the Commentary of Asanga, Acta Orientalia 9, 1931; Jikido Takasaki, Study on the Ratnagotravibhaga (Uttaratantra), Serie Orientale Roma 33,1966; D. S. Ruegg, La Theorie du Tathagatagarbha et du Gotra. Etudes sur la Soteriologie et la Gnoseologie du Bouddhisme, Paris 1969.

Peter N. Gregory, ‘The Problem of Theodicy in the Awakening of Faith‘, Religious Studies 22 pp.

All the citations from the Awakening will be given by the English translation of Yoshito S. Hakeda: The Awakening of Faith. Attributed to Asvaghosha. Translated with commentaries by Yoshito S. Hakeda, New York 1967 [henceforth: Hakeda]. The text was also translated from original Chinese into Russian by E. Torchinov: Traktat o probuzhdenii vey v Mahayanu (Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana), St. Petersburg 1997. The original text of the Awakening is included in the Chinese Tripitaka (Buddhist Canon). See: Taisho shinshu daizokye (Tripitaka Taisho – TT), vol. 32 (No. 1666), pp. 575-583.

Hakeda, p. 65. The tenet that ‘one and the same mind which is a source of samsara as well as nirvana is rather common to such radical trends of Mahayana Buddhism as the tradition of the mahasiddhas (Great Perfect Ones) of the Tantric Vajrayana, Tibetan rdzog-chen and Sino-Japanese Chan/Zen. It is interesting that the idea that mind and mental attitudes are responsible for samsaric bondage or nirvanic liberation obtained its expression in the form of a kind of ethical antnomianism (compare with the mystical antinomianism of the Sabbatians). Thus, Candamaharosana tantra says: ‘The same fearful deeds which lead living beings to terrible hells, without doubt lead to liberation when done in accordance with the method of release. It is the established opinion that the mind is forerunner of everything, evil as well as good; the distinctions regarding state of existence, place and so on are forms of imagination of the mind’. See Lal Mani Joshi, ‘Religious Change in Late Indian Buddhist History, Part III‘, Buddhist Studies Review 9 (1992), p. 159.

Hakeda, p. 37. The words ‘without any second’ have been added in brackets by the translator (Yoshito S. Hakeda) but the notion of advaya (bu er), non-duality is extremely important for the Mahayana thought.

Ibid., p. 38.

Hakeda, p. 43.

Chan Preface (or Preface to the Collection of Explanations of the Origins of the Chan Truths) is included in the Chinese Tripitaka (TT, 48, pp. 409-414) with the title: Chan yuan zhu quan ji du xu. English translation: Broughton J. Kuei-feng Tsung-mi: the convergence of Ch’an and the Teachings’. Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1975. Russian translation by K. Yu. Solonin: Zong-mi. Chanskie istiny (Chan Truths). St. Petersburg 1998, pp. 36-110 (diagrams and their explanations on pp. 102-103).
Hakeda, p. 46.

Hakeda, pp. 44-45.

Awakening, p. 57.

Awakening, p. 41.

Awakening, pp. 55-56. It is rather interesting that Nathan of Gaza also uses the image of water and waves regarding the relations between Absolute and the creation (personal communication with Prof. A. Elqayam).

Awakening, p. 75.

Professor A. Elqayam’s personal communication.

Elqayam A. The Mystery.

On the comparison of the Kabbalistic and Oriental mystical teachings see also: Torchinov E. Kabbala I Vostok (Kabbalah and the East), Vestnik evreiskogo universiteta v Moskve (Works of the Hebrew University in Moscow), 3 (16), Moscow-Jerusalem 1997/5758, pp. 96-128. Here I am very glad to express my profound and sincere gratitude to Prof. Avraham Elqayam for his invaluable assistance and consultations without which the aim of this article could not be attained.

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