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) Church of St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip
Church of St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip

In the Western world, a strong belief in the objective truths of religion, which are viewed as incontrovertible, demonstrable facts, is regarded as essential to the life of faith. When asking if somebody is religious, peo- ple often inquire: “Does he or she believe?” as though accepting certain credal propositions was the prime religious activity. Indeed, faith is equated with belief, but this equation is of recent provenance. Origi- nally the meaning of the word faith was akin to trust, as when we say that we have faith in a friend or an ideal. Faith was not an intellectual position but a virtue: it was the careful cultivation, by means of the ritu- als and myths of religion, of the conviction that, despite all the dispirit- ing evidence to the contrary, life had some ultimate meaning and value. The Latin word credo (translated now as “I believe”) seems to have de- rived from the phrase cor dare: to give one’s heart. The Middle English word beleven meant to love. When Christians proclaimed: credo in unum Deum , they were not so much affirming their belief in the existence of a single deity as committing their lives to God. When St. Anselm of Can- terbury prayed in the eleventh century: credo ut intellagam (“I have faith in order that I may understand”), he was not blindly submitting to the doctrines of religion in the hope that one day these incredible asser- tions would make sense today, if he abdicated his critical intelligence. His prayer should really be translated: “I commit myself in order that I may understand.” The meaning of dogma would only be revealed when he lived a fully Christian life, embracing its mythology and rituals whole- heartedly. This attitude is foreign to modernity. Today people feel that before they live a religious life, they must first satisfy themselves intel- lectually of its metaphysical claims. This is sound scientific practice: first you must establish a principle before you can apply it. But it is not the way that religion has traditionally worked.
Karen ARmstrong (Faith an Modernity)

God, the word evokes such a lot. In Buddhism however we find that God is as you say, transcendant, but if we dig deeper God is also immanent.

We see this clearly in:


The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.


This is the ineffible, unknowable reality above reality, beyond reality, something outside of words, outside of concepts…

This is the “God” of the Kabbalist, (Ain Sof: endless light)
This is the God of the mystic (christian and otherwise) such as Meister Eckhart

“To be full of things is to be empty of God. To be empty of things is to be full of God.”

The Kabbalist (Jewish Mystic, for sake of argument) states ideas such as:

The Nature of God

(from “God is a Verb” by David A. Cooper)


“What is God? In a way, there is no God. Our perception of God usually leads to a misunderstanding that seriously undermines our spiritual development.
God is not wht we think It is. God is not a thing, a being, a noun. It does not exist, as existence is defined, for It takes up0 no space and is not bound by time. Jewish mystics often refer to It as Ein Sof, which means Endlessness.


Ein Sof should never be conceptualized in any way. It should not be called Creator, Almighty, Father, Mother, Infinite, the One, Brahma, Buddhamind, Allah, Adonay, Elohim, El, or Shaddai, and It should never, never be called He. It is none of these names, and It has no gender.


When we call It God, what are we talking about? If we say that It is compassionate, full of lovingkindness, the source of love, we may be talking about our image of what we think the divine nature ought to be, but we are not talking about Ein Sof. In the same way, if we say that the God portrayed in the Bible is vindictive, jealous, angry, cruel, uncaring, or punitive, we cannot be referring to Ein Sof. Ein Sof includes every attribute but cannot be definite by any of them individually or all of them combined…..


The idea of Ein Sof was first described by the twelfth-century Kabbalist, Isaac the Blind. He taught that Ein Sof precedes thought (machshavah), and it even precedes the Nothingness (ayin) out of which thought is born. Nothingness is viewed as a level of awareness that is the result of the ‘annihilation of thought.’


The idea of the annihilation of thought, of course, is paradoxical. Can we imagine a void without beginning or end? Can we, limited by minds that are finite, imagine infinity? The answer is no, we cannot think of Nothing. Anything that we can imagine has some kind of boundary—Kabbalists call it garment or vessel—and boundaries are containers. All thoughts, including all imagination, are garments or vessels.


By definition, a boundary sets limits. We may be able to put a name to infinity, we can draw a symbol of a figure eight on its side and say that this represents infinity, but no matter how much we may believe that our imagination is limitless, we remain confined by the boundaries of our own reality. If it can be imagined, it is not infinite.


As infinity is beyond the imagination, what about that which transcends infinity—that which created it? Ein Sof is not ‘restricted’ by infinity. Indeed, we have suddenly run out of words because the idea of ‘trans-infinite’ is a logical absurdity. What can go beyond infinity? Moreover, what can go beyond the Nothingness that surrounds infinity? This is Ein Sof.


Although we are informed that Ein Sof is inaccessible through any intellectual endeavor, we may still ask if there is a ‘knowing’ that surpasses the intellect. Did Isaac the Blind have access to a level of awareness through which he could sense, somehow, the imperceivable?


The answer is yes. Jewish mysticism teaches that we can know Ein Sof in ways that transcend thought. This aspect of developing a relationship with Endlessness, the source of creation, is the key to all Kabbalah and the lifeblood of all Jewish practice. The secret teaching in developing this relationship with the Unknowable is hidden in the mystical foundation of the nature of relationship itself.


The word ‘God,’ and each of Its various names in Judaism, such as El, Elohim, Adonoy, Shaddai, and so forth, represent aspects of Ein Sof. The exploration of these aspects gives us insight into the nature of Ein Sof . Thus, whenever God is discussed…..we are not talking about a thing in itself, but a representation of a far deeper mystery…..


We can relate to God as an interactive verb. It is God-ing…..Many names of God are included in Ein Sof; God-ing is one name—a name that happens to be a verb rather than a noun…..What would we be without the awesomeness of the unknowable God?
There is no answer to this question; we cannot prove anything about Ein Sof. Rahter, it is a self-reflecting inquiry. Yet when viewed from the perspective of our dynamic relationship with the Divine, it is a self-fulfilling question, for paradoxically the source of the question is the answer it seeks. ‘What would I be without God?’
Consider this question from your inner awareness. Not you the noun, the person you may think you are, but you the verb, the process of being in full relationship, continuously, with its creator. When a question arises wthin you, who is asking the question, and to whom is the question addressed? Assume that there is no ‘me’ to ask the question, and there is no God out there to answer it. The question is part of the process of David-ing and God-ing in a mutual unfolding.


Try to do this in a way that melts all barriers or separation. No subject and no obuect. Simply an ever-opening process. No past, no future; only the Now. Each moment is a fresh opening. Each breath we draw, each move we make, is only Now. This is my dance with God-ing. It is an awesome experience…..


Perhaps you will take a few moments to close your eyes and allow yourself to sink into this idea. Meditate on this thought: The teaching of the mystery of Ein Sof is that the center of our being, out of which awe arises, is that about which we are awed. It is It! When we contemplate our continuous process of opening, right here, right now, we realize that God-ing is always with us…..


The Unknowable can be discerned. Beginning at an indefinable point as sharp as a needle. It radiates in various ways which can be perceived—only in the context of process and interaction. We are not an audience watching the God-ing process onstage. We are onstage, ourselves. We mysteriously begin to get a glimmer of God-ing when we succeed in merging with the continuous process of unfolding creation…..


The intrinsic definition of Limitlessness is that It lacks nothing and can receive nothing, for It is everything. As It is everything, theoretically It is the potential to be an infinite source of giving.


The question arises, however, that there is nothing for It to give to because It is everything. It would have to give to Itself. This has been a major conundrum in philosophy and theology for thousands of years.


Kabbalah suggests one way of dealing with this issue. It says that as long as the infinite source of giving has no ‘will’ to give, nothing happens. However, the instant It has the will to give, this will initiates a ‘thought.’ Kabbalah says, ‘Will, which is [primordial] thought, is the beginning of all things, and the expression [of this thought] is the completion.’


That is, the entire creation is nothing more than a thought in the ‘mind’ of Ein Sof, so to speak. Another way to express this idea is that the will to give instantly creates a will to receive…..”


Here we can see that God is NOT God

If we return to Buddhism the Heart Sutra states:

Body is nothing more than emptiness,
emptiness is nothing more than body.
The body is exactly empty,
and emptiness is exactly body.

The other four aspects of human existence —
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness —
are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
and emptiness nothing more than they.

All things are empty:
Nothing is born, nothing dies,
nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
nothing increases and nothing decreases. So, in emptiness, there is no body,
no feeling, no thought,
no will, no consciousness.
There are no eyes, no ears,
no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind.

There is no seeing, no hearing,
no smelling, no tasting,
no touching, no imagining.

There is nothing seen, nor heard,
nor smelled, nor tasted,
nor touched, nor imagined.

There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now. +

All the Buddhas,
past, present, and future,
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and live in full enlightenment.
The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra.
It is the clearest mantra,
the highest mantra,
the mantra that removes all suffering.

Here we see the Heart Sutra telling us that God is transcendent and immanent, that God is not God

If we return to christianity again:

Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.’

-John 6:12

“But if by “God“ we mean a reality far surpassing our own fullness of being we must envisage the divine as total realization, abundance of life and actuality, energy unfailing, of which our mode of being is a pale reflection, and at best a symbol. Yet people persist in asking whether or not God exists. As Dostoyevsky pointed out, their question never finds an answer, because it is wrongly put. Its proper context is the experience of active loving, but it is confined within the narrow limits of a notion of existence which is as irrelevant to life as it is unreal and reductionist. The concept of God as a remote entity which does nothing served as a postulate for some philosophers of the eighteenth century, but it is foreign to all the great religious traditions of humankind. For these the question-and it is a burning question-is not of God‘s existence but of his presence, and this implies his power or energy. Yet even today deism is not dead. The reductionist notion of God, which was formerly the preserve of academics, is uncritically accepted by ordinary people in our society, who on the whole do not reject belief that God exists but have little sense of the divine presence and of communion with him. This reductionist point of view is in direct opposition to the religious instinct and mystical impulse, which suffers widespread atrophy in our times.
In spite of all this, the human heart senses that “God” is not a mono­syllabic blob but the Ever-present One. How are we to understand, and live, this sense? Christianity is sometimes seen as nothing but a collec­tion of moral duties and soothing reassurances about salvation, rather than as a summons to the deification of the human person.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, a pillar of orthodoxy during the fourth century, insisted upon the divine being’s exuberance. The divine being, ineffably more alive that we are, cannot be self-contained and barren but has to be Father, forever bringing forth his son from the womb of his own substance. This continual begetting is a movement of being which is essentially fruitful. Our human experience of parenting is only an analogy for the perfect generation in the divine being, where there is no before and after, no differentiation into male and female, and where the one brought forth is not inferior to the parent. This vision of God continually pouring forth his very being would inspire Meister Eckhart a millennium later to speak of God in terms of molten metal which is always boiling over. The son‘s coming forth from the Father is a non-stop act of both begetting and giving birth.
Thus for the Christian tradition the divine reality is essentially per­sonal. The three are not merely aspects of some impersonal substrate, nor are they separate individuals. The doctrine of the Trinity states that ultimate reality is a communion of persons, each dwelling in the others. Here relationship is of the essence. And this communion of persons is the truth and exemplar of all being. In particular it is the hope to which we human beings aspire. We come alive when our eyes meet those of the one who loves us, for we then find our center outside ourselves in the other, and in so doing we touch the mystery of transcendence.

By falling in love we leave behind our own isolation and break away from our old, limited way of life, which is now revealed as loneliness and incompletion. And, even more, in the unromantic daily struggle of active loving, in relationship, we find out who we really are. That is the context in which we can ask about God for it is then that we most resemble God. The Trinity goes beyond both solitude and the mutual opposition of Dual­ism, for God, as St. John says, is love.”

–father symeon burholt


And finally we get a clear idea if we turn to Gnosticism, and the Gospel of Philip (note that of course many Gnostics were highly influenced by Buddhism, in fact one branch even boasts that their leader was the reincarnation of Lao Tzu)

Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.

Names given to the worldly are very deceptive, for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who hears the word “God” does not perceive what is correct, but perceives what is incorrect. So also with “the Father” and “the Son” and “the Holy Spirit” and “life” and “light” and “resurrection” and “the Church (Ekklesia)” and all the rest – people do not perceive what is correct but they perceive what is incorrect, unless they have come to know what is correct. The names which are heard are in the world […] deceive. If they were in the Aeon (eternal realm), they would at no time be used as names in the world. Nor were they set among worldly things. They have an end in the Aeon.

One single name is not uttered in the world, the name which the Father gave to the Son; it is the name above all things: the name of the Father. For the Son would not become Father unless he wore the name of the Father. Those who have this name know it, but they do not speak it. But those who do not have it do not know it.

We see things as we are
Not as they are

–Kahlil Gibran

There are no mundane things outside of Buddhism,
and there is no Buddhism outside of mundane things.


It is I who am you, and it is you who are me. And wherever you are, I am there.

And I am sown in all; and you collect me from wherever you wish.

And when you collect me, it is your own self that you collect.

–Attributed to Christ, found in the Gospel of Eve

> I think that the True Man can be more accurately described as the

> Jesus-Man through which the Christ can become manifest.


> As for the mirror/reflection analogy … I think of the Biblical

> phrase that we were created in the “image” of God. The word “mirror”

> can be found in the definition of “image” … not that we are/were

> “The” God, but were created in the likeness of God … a reflection of

> the divine.


> Regards,




these are important questions


“I think that the True Man can be more accurately described as the

> Jesus-Man through which the Christ can become manifest.”


The power of God is with you at all times; through the activities of mind,



senses, breathing, and emotions; and is constantly doing all the work


using you as a mere instrument.”


 –The Gita



So is Jesus the vessel and christ wine that is poured into the vessel?


Or is Jesus the vessel and the wine as is the Christ?


One day as Manjusri stood outside the gate,


the Buddha called to him,


“Manjusri, Manjusri, why do you not enter?”


Manjusri replied,


“I do not see myself as outside. Why enter?”




> As for the mirror/reflection analogy … I think of the Biblical

> phrase that we were created in the “image” of God. The word “mirror”

> can be found in the definition of “image” … not that we are/were

> “The” God, but were created in the likeness of God … a reflection of

> the divine.


Where does God end and man begin?



“When my Beloved appears,With what eye do I see Him?


With His eye, not with mine,


For none sees Him except Himself.”


–Ibn Arabi




Two points as opposites when stretched for infinity will bend in upon themselves and meet. Thus mnaking the end in the begining, or perhaps that there is no end or beginning; see college level math and chapter one of the Sefer yetzirah in theory and practice, A. Kaplan translation.


if we are alike God, but not God… is this not duality?


If I am not God, does this mean that there exists God and not God?




“He who sees himself only on the outside,


not within, becomes small himself and makes others small.”


–Mani (turfan fragment M 801)




Ain Sof in the Kabbalah of Azriel of Gerona


 (from “Origins of the Kabbalah” by Gershom Scholem)




 ”If…..there was at first a great deal of uncertainty about the use of the term ‘en-sof, no such ambiguity exists any longer in the mystical vocabulary of the school of Gerona [13th century]. ‘En-sof there is a technical, indeed artificial, term detached from all adverbial associations and serving as a noun designating God in all his inconceivability. Here it is well to remember that the determination of God as the Infinite served for for the thinkers of antiquity and the Neoplatonists…..precisely as a symbol of his inconceivability, and not as an attribute that can be grasped by reason (such as it became with the Scholastics). Among the kabbalists, God is regarded as Infinitude no less than as the Infinite One. The inconceivability of the hidden God and the impossibility of determining him, which, occasionally seem to point to a neutral stratum of the divine nature, are nevertheless those of the infinite person on the whole, the latter being the theistic reinterpretation of the Neoplatonic ‘One.’ Azriel himself introduces him as such at the beginning of his questions and answers on the sefiroth, for he identifies ‘en-sof—a word he employs often and without hesitation—with the leader of the world and the master of creation…..


        Azriel’s…..spoke of ‘en-sof as the God whom the philosophers had in mind, and whose sefiroth were but aspects of his revelation and of his activity, the ‘categories of the order of all reality.’ Precisely the most hidden element in God, that which the mystics had in mind when they spoke of ‘en-sof, he transformed into the most public. In doing so he already prepared the personalization of the term ‘en-sof, wich from the designation of an abstract concept begins to appear here as a proper name. Whereas in general, and even in Azriel’s own writings, ‘en-sof still has much of the deus absconditus, which attains anapprehensible existence in the theosophic notion of God and in the doctrine of the sefiroth only, the commentary on the ten sefiroth already presents the ‘en-sof as the ruler of the world, which certainly suggests an image of the government of the world that is very different from that of the theosophy of the Infinite and its sefiroth. For Azriel the highest sefirah is evidently the unfathomable or unknowable and especially the divine will, which in this circle is elevated above the primordial idea. In the abstract the latter could be distinguished from ‘en-sof, but in the concrete it constitutes a real unity with it. The hidden God acts by means of this will, clothes himself in it, as it were, and is one with it. In order to express this, the kabbalists of Gerona readily speak of the ‘will up to the Infinite,’ the ‘height up to the Infinite,’ the ‘unknowable up to the Infinite,’ by which they evidently mean the unity in which the supreme sefirah, represented in each case by the corresponding symbol, extends up to the ‘en-sof and forms with it a unity of action…..


        Azriel is fond of referring Job 11:7 : ‘Can you find out the depth of God?’ to this primordial depth of God, which can signify both the fathomable as well as precisely that in the will that is unfathomable and beyond the grasp of all thought. From this primordial depth flwow all the paths of wisdom and it is this primordial depth that in the ‘Chapter on the kawwanah‘ is literally called ‘the perfection of the depth that is one with ‘en-sof,’ a phrase that can also be translated equally literally as ‘that unites itself with ‘en-sof,’ that is, that extends up to its infinity. Thus the terminology of cheqer, the primordial depth, at which all contemplation of the divine is aimed, changes at the same time into that of the ‘undepth’ (Hebrew: ‘en-cheqer), this primordial depth proving to be precisely the unfathomable, and thereby a perfect analogy, in its linguistic form as well, to the Infinite, ‘en-sof.


        The will as primordial depth thus becomes the source of all being, and the deity, insofar as it can be envisioned from the point of view of the creature, is conceived entirely as creative will…..The fact that this creative will is then understood by Azriel, in the context of the ideas analyzed in the foregoing, as the Nought, is by no means an isolated instance in the history of mistical terminology. Jacob Böhme, whose Ungrund is reminiscent of Azriel’s formulations, considers the will that eternally emerges from this Ungrund as the Nought. It is therefore no wonder that in these writings the will never appears as something emanated, but rather as that which emanates…..


        A state in which ‘en-sof would be without the will accompanying it is thus inconceivable. This again raises the problem of the necessity of the emanation versus the freedom of ‘en-sof in the primordial act of the creation…..


        It can be said of ‘en-sof as well as of the Will that nothing exists outside it.




‘All beings come from the incomprehensible primordial ether, and their existence [yeshuth] comes from the pure Nought. However, this primordial ether is not divisible in any direction, and it is One in a simplicity that does not admit of any composition. All acts of the will were in its unity, and it is the will that preceded everything…..And that is the meaning of (Job 23:13): “He is One”—He is the unity of the will, outside of which nothing exists’ [Perush Aggadot, 107)…..




Neither is ‘en-sof nor in the will is there any differentiation; both are designated as the indistinct root of the opposites. For this indistinctness…..the ‘Iyyun circle and Azriel use the Hebrew hashwa’ah; unseparated and indifferent is there called shaweh, literally ‘equal,’ a word that is never used in this snese elsewhere in the Hebrew literature. ‘En-sof as well as the will are ‘indifferent with regard to the opposites.’ They do not conjoin the opposites…..but no distinctions are admitted at all; since the opposites in these supreme principles are ‘equal,’ that is, indistinct, they coincide in them. It is in this sense that mention is often made of the ‘indistinct unity’ or of the ‘indifference of unity’ in which apparent opposites coincide…..The oppoistes are abolished in the infinite…..




‘En-sof is the absolute indistinctness in the perfect unity, in which there is no change. And since it is without limits, nothing exists outisde of it; since it is above everything it is the principle in which everything hidden and visible meet; and since it is hidden, it is the [common] root of faith and unbelief, and the investigating sages [the philosophers] agree with those who say that our comprehension of it can take place only through the path of negation’ [Sha’ar ha-Sho’el].”



Gender in Gnosticism

If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this, Christ came to repair the separation, which was from the beginning, and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation, and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because it was not in the bridal chamber that she united with him.

–Gospel of Philip

God, the one true God, the source of being is seen as a force that transcends gender and ultimately God is beyond categories of gender. But at the same time gender is very formative of our human experience. So just like God in an absolute sense cannot be contained in words but we still have to approach God through language, right? Through myths and stories and theology and…which is all kind of creating analogies about God. Similarly we have to approach God, or approach God through gender. And traditionally of course there’s been this hyper masculinisation of God, in which God has been primarily confined to male attributes, the father, the son or you know, God as the old bearded guy of the Cisteen Chapel ceiling or God as Superman, shooting down fire from the sky and destroying people. What Gnosticism works to change this image, not to destroy the male imagery of the father, the son or the imagery of the brother, but rather to compliment it with female imagery as well. SO that we understand in some sense that our relationship to God is like a father and a mother, like a lover and the beloved, a brother and a sister; so it’s like a complimentary to the relationship.

So what I want to talk about tonight is the metaphysical nature of gender itself. I’m going to leave the question of God alone for this evening and talk about our own experiences of gender and what the spiritual significances of those might be. I think we begin from a Gnostic perspective that gender arises out of the cosmos, out of the material reality or the physical reality and like other dualities, good /evil, light/dark, right/left…these are seen as the constituents parts of material reality, its these dualities and divisions and separations that make the material what it is and create the limitations that we associate with physical reality. And of these limitations it is probably gender that Gnosticism sees as the most traumatic one of all, well except maybe the good/evil dichotomy. But the division of male/female gender, the division is very traumatic in a lot of ways, it’s been a sort of division of the wholeness of the spirit into two separate pieces and as a result can often lead to very self destructive behavior as all too often when we adhere to the gender identity that we are taught to display and see in ourselves and we don’t find a way to pursue the complimentary aspects of the spirit then we quickly descend into patterns of abuse and dependence and domination that are really devoid of the true spiritual connection.

So one of the goals of Gnosis is to transcend and heal these dualities and divisions in human experience. And thus the question of gender and the question of how we heal the brokenness that is sort of implicit in it is stressed in the Gospel of Thomas especially saying 22:

Jesus saw some infants nursing. He said to his disciples, “These nursing infants are like those who enter the (Father’s) kingdom.”

They said to him, “Then shall we enter the (Father’s) kingdom as babies?”

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, a likeness in place of a likeness, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

So when we look at this issue of what needs healing and the reconciliation, the issue, the problem, is that we’ve been taught and conditioned not just in our own lifetimes but over in generations of humanity to ascribe huge importance over what are really minor biological differences and not really seek to expand our consciousness in this area. To assume that we are locked in this duality and that there is no way to transcend it.

So what Gnosticism does, is to argue that each of us has a spiritual identity and it is the spiritual identity that can lead us back on a path to wholeness this is because even though we live in a very divided and sometimes painful existence in the physical world the spirit has what the Gnostic teacher Carpocrates would call a “deep spiritual memory.” These are the words he uses “the spiritual memory.” The most famous place where he talks about what this memory is when he makes his Christological statement about Jesus and says “That Jesus is a man like any other man, the son of Joseph; except that he was different from other people in that his mind, pure and clear could remember, could exercise memory of what it had seen in the realm of the ungenerated God.”

So if Jesus is a great model for what we can attain, then through Gnosis we can gain access to these spiritual memories of what was in the realm of the ungenerated God, to use Carpocrates’ term. And these memories are of wholeness, of a unity, indeed not a cessation of our individual existences, but rather as it were a completion of them. And part of this spiritual memory of wholeness beyond the divisions of gender is part of what makes up this spiritual memory, and it is in this sense that the Gospel of Thomas puts this question as central to the idea of what is going to bring us into what the Gospel calls the Kingdom. It is very important to make clear here that, the Gospel of Philip makes it clear that not only is this unity, the Pleroma, the fullness, it’s not only our destiny, but it’s also as spiritual beings, but also as in the words of the Gospel of Philip, our earliest origin, the earliest origin of things. So there is some way that this wholeness of the Pleroma is imprinted and on our spirits, this pneuma or the breath that gives us life, or rather makes us human, and we can access those memories that are imprinted on us. But it is something that takes time as we are held back by other things.

So when we begin to pursue through Gnosis a kind of healing and wholeness through the question of gender a number of things begin to happen in our lives and in the way we experience the world. First of all we begin to revolutionize the way in which we relate to others especially those of the other gender or to use the more common term, the opposite sex…and really what begins to happen is instead of seeing them quote “as the opposite sex” as something to be possessed or owned or intimidated or feared or dominated or dominated by in an unhealthy way, we can begin to construct relationships with those of other genders in a way that really engage in a true human level; and seek on those others how we can begin to complete our own spiritual existence. In this sense relationships between men and women are very important because they have so much to teach us about this completeness, this wholeness and what it might look like. We are in many ways, forces of revelation to each other. Allowing us to open up the mysteries of the hidden things concealed in those things visible, to use the words of the Gospel of Philip. Or to return to the Gospel of Thomas as Jesus says “The person of light, lights up the whole world.” Or in other words, we are each other’s light. These places of spiritual wholeness are sometimes shrouded in a kind of darkness and ignorance. Through the light provided by other people we can begin to see the contours of their meaning.

So I think there is an importance for anyone seeking the Gnostic path to obtain a certain degree of intimacy with people of the opposite sex. Now what I want to make clear is what I am talking about is not tied in any way to what is called sexuality. I’m certainly not saying that heterosexual sexuality is somehow necessary for Gnosis, although it can indeed be an important manifestation of this kind of intimacy. Or it can be a barrier to this kind of intimacy, as we know. Of course we know there are lots of people who are simply not heterosexual. They don’t share this sexual orientation, as part of their constituent identities; they have some kind of other sexual orientation; that they are drawn to other ways of living as sexual beings. Gnosticism of course is generally open to lots of different forms of sexual identity.

But ultimately what I am saying is, it is not that important about sexual contact, it’s about intimacy. The kind of inter gender intimacy that can be pursued in lots of ways. Through friendship, through intellectual exchange, through the kind of connection where you learn to build mutual networks of care…and exchange of thoughts and ideas, and spiritual growth. Men and women learn from each other in a mutual way when they begin to experience this intimacy. Which indeed, indeed, even when it does involve sexuality, when it does involve heterosexual contact is in fact something that transcends it. It is an intimacy that takes place on the spiritual level and transcends merely the physical level.

So this should make clear, as is important to state, that gender like other forms of division in the material world are not EVIL; it’s not as if gender is something bad and evil and something we want to run away from. These sources of division are indeed sources of limitation. U ironically or paradoxically, the very things that create these limitations can be the sources of the transcendent liberation, that can lift us up out of the world as defined by limitations and limits or rather live in that world in a way that helps set our spirits free.

The question of suffering, similarly suffering is something we see as to be transcended through Gnosis but at the same time, it offers us things. It offers us understanding and compassion toward others. Again it can make us bitter and angry people or it can make us much more open to other people. And I think gender is much the same way. It can be a very troubling phenomenon or it can be something we harness the force of to propel us along the spiritual journey in a way that incorporates healing and reconciliation. So ultimately I think though, the pursuit of gender wholeness, if that is what we want to call it, is probably more importantly something that happens within ourselves. Our intra-gender identities rather than our inter-gender relationships.

When we begin to search for that spiritual memory that Carpocrates talks about; that memory of spiritual wholeness. In the Pleroma, that was later divided through the shaping of the Demiurge. We are really searching to recover in our own beings a wholeness of gender that has been divided and separated in our own experience of life. It is important to remember that of course that, Demiurgic forces and Archonic forces and Pleromic forces are not so much beings but are forces operating within us. So we are looking for something in our own identities and what we want to do is move closer to wholeness. And it is this wholeness that is already deep within us. As I said, as Carpocrates said it is imprinted on the spiritual memory, that we all possess through the pneuma, through the spirit that is within us.

So we want to move closer to that wholeness that is both our ultimate destiny and is our earliest origins. To use the words of the Gospel of Philip, we want to gradually transform our lives, and our beings and our existences into that image of that spiritual memory at the heart of the pneuma, the spirit. Which is indeed what really makes us human.

The journey of Gnosis is predicated on the idea that even in the midst of this limited material existence we can begin to transform things and transform ourselves. Our bodies, our minds, in a way that infuses them with a new wholeness of the spirit. And as you see in that same verse, saying 22 of the Gospel of Thomas that we not only recreate the unity of gender, that it goes on to say that we, it goes on to say that we, you know, make the hand in the place of a hand and the foot in the place of a foot and likeness in the place of a likeness… One way to think of that is it is talking about a recreation of the self and the image of the spirit. Or as some have said, through our spirit we are created in the image of God. What we need to do through Gnosis is to recreate ourselves into the likeness of God. That is to transform the entirety of our being into a full realization of this image of God that is in our deepest human natures.

In a very real sense we have already in our spirits a sort of latent inner partnership between things we have called male and female in our experience of the material and intellectual world. Thus, in a very real sense each of us has within us, a sort of inner man and inner woman, what some mystics have spoken of as the Animus and Anima. We must pursue the kind of inner metaphysical partnership that will allow their mutual complimentarity that will shine forth in our lives and transform our consciousness.

Just as we want to revolutionize our relationships externally with regards to gender, and the opposite sex; so in parallel, we want to revolutionize our gender relationships internally within our own identities.

Now, if we look at Christ and Sophia, I want to discuss how they personify a Gnostic theory of gender both in terms of what we should do unto others and how we should persue that wholeness of gender within ourselves. We see in the stories of Christ and Sophia a great exchange, a great partnership, a sort of dialogue that is going on in these stories of “cosmic missions” and developments in time. These forces that represent in some sense the feminine and the masculine within the whole unity of the Pleroma.

If we look at the creation myth of the Valentinians, these were the Gnostics that followed Valentinus, the great preacher of the 2nd century, it is a little more different and complicated from what you may be used to. Just to give you a taste of what I mean, what happens to Sophia in this story is that… of course it starts off the same, she’s an Aeon, she’s in fact sometimes portrayed as the yuoungest of the Aeons, and she goes off by herself. Wanting to obtain more about her origins, thinking she can learn more by being alone and thinking alone. This of course brings about division and separation. What she produces, now in the Valentinian story is not the Demiurge immediately, but rather a realm of imperfection, the cosmos or chaos which is the stuff that the Demiurge will later create the cosmic world. What happens in the Valentinian story (again you’ll see how this is different to the simpler Gnostic story) is that this is so traumatic that Sophia literally gets split into two pieces. There ends up being a higher Sophia, who remains kind of connected fully in the Pleroma, but there also emerges a lower Sophia, part of Sophia’s identity becomes trapped in the imperfect realm. It becomes trapped in the cosmic chaos, and it tries and tries to get out, but it can’t. What happens is the Demiurge emerges out of the imperfect realm and begins to create all this stuff and eventually creates human beings. In the Valentinian story the Demiurge thinks its creating everything on its own for its own power. But in fact the lower Sophia (Echamoth) with the help of the Aeons, is influencing the Demiurge. They are subtly, sort of influencing what he does. In particularly, subtly pressing him into the creation of human beings.

The lower Sophia realizes the only way she can free herself and the rest of the spirit that is trapped in the cosmic world is if there can emerge some kind of beings that will have some kind of amalgamated identities. That is, they will be, part of the cosmic world and part of the spirit world. Part cosmos and part Pleroma. This she sees in human beings. So there is a sort of subversion of what the Demiurge wants to do. He wants to create automatons to worship him, but Sophia wants to create autonamus beings that can achieve liberation. So it is the lower Sophia, in this Valentinian story that comes into the form of the serpent. The lower Sophia says, “Alright, I have to get in contact with the human beings.” And so she says “What I’ll do is that I will go into the most humblest and the most simple of physical things. This animal that simply slithers along the ground, the serpent.” The Demiurge is so overwhelmed with his own arrogance and his own power that he’s not going to notice something as humble as the serpent. It is going to be completely off his radar screen.

So the lower Sophia, enters the serpent and comes to the people and then has the dialogue in which she begins to tell them the truth about things which is as she says, the Demiurge is not the one true God. That in fact human beings have this divine core within them and that if they would have the courage to eat the fruit of moral truth, if they have the courage to face the realities of the universe or rather not the universe but of all existence. Then they too can be transformed into God.

So you can see that is a little more complicated than other stories. I wouldn’t say it contradicts “on the origin of the World” more that it compliments it. What we see is the relationship between Christ and Sophia becomes more explicit. When Christ comes down to earth and manifests in the human being Jesus, Valentinian Gnostics would say “Why?” you know, why? This is a problem, why does Christ come into the world? I mean what is the point? They would say it is to help liberate Sophia. It is because Sophia is so important, so fundamental to him in the Pleroma, that he sees the lower Sophia and the rest of the spirit in the cosmic realm. He wants to enter that world; he wants to be willing to empty himself into a human existence so that he can help bring about the liberation of the lower Sophia and the reunification of the two parts of Sophia. Because there is a great pain involved in the separation for every being in the Pleroma because their wholeness has been ripped apart. So there is very much a sense that Christ and all the other beings or Aeons and God, even God, is deeply moved by compassion. It is compassion that moves all of these forces to try to help us. It is compassion and it is suffering. As Origen, an early Christian theologian said something interesting, he said, he was talking about Jesus Christ and he said “Christ suffered before he died on the cross.” And that “Actually Christ suffered before he was even born.” He goes on to say that “If Christ did not suffer, he would have never have come down to Earth.” That is his explanation of why Christ enters the world. That you can see is tied into this very interesting relationship between Christ and Sophia.

Brother Matthew Ouroboro


Sophia: Means “Wisdom.” Like the Logos this is considered a primal form. While the Logos is personified as male, Sophia is female. Logos has a direct and intellectual basis for guidance, Sophia is inspirational (sometimes even sensual). The basic idea is comparable to wisdom being Sophia (sofia) or “Holy
Spirit” in the form of pure wisdom. Pistis, means faith, hylic, or Prunikus Sophia refers to the imperfect or earthly state of the living, or earthly form from Pleromic origins. ”As appropriated by Sethianism and the Gnostics in general, Sophia is a hypostatized form of Hokmah, (i.e., the divine Wisdom of Proverbs 8, Job 28, Sirach 24).” ( See; Turner.)

Carpocrates: (100?-150 CE); Formed a sect in Alexandria known as Carpocrations. Possible successor to Samaritan Simon Magus. He taught reincarnation in his Gnostic philosophy. An individual had to live many lives and adsorb a full range of experiences before being able to return to God. They practiced free sexuality. They believed that Jesus was the son of Joseph. They questioned the docetic aspects attributed to Jesus. (See; “Stromata,” Bk 3.)

Pleroma: The word means “fullness,” and the ‘All.’ It refers to ”all existence
beyond matter. Refers to the world of the Aeons, the heavens or spiritual
universe, which represents being out of the state of matter. According to the
“Gospel of Truth” “….all the emanations from the Father are Pleromas.” see
Tractates 3, 2, Codices, I, and XII, Nag Hammadi Lib. Pleroma can have other
connotations according to the Gnostic school of thought, some differences in
Sethian and Valentinian (other) schools can be noted. Pleroma, is different than
Logos. (See; Logos, See also; Gaffney, p. 246.)

Pneumatic: One who identifies with the spirit (pneuma), beyond that of the
physical (hylic) world and the intellect alone (psychic). The pneuma, described
in the ”Gospel of Phillip,” as ‘breath,’ refers to bonding with the internal
spark (spinther) that came from and is drawn to reunite with the Father in some
Gnostic schema. One who awakens it (the spinther) within the self does it
through the process of gnosis. (See; Gregory of Nicea (Basil), who used the term
in his mystical teachings, and is a later term which connotes Gnostic. See;
Early Christian Mystics,” McGinn, Crossroads, 2003.)

the “Pneumatics”, correspond with “Pneuma”, the spiritual
“breath”, the spiritual order.  These are the Gnostic Initiates,
those who go beyond mentality/consciousness, and all modes related to
the individuality.  That which concerns Pneumatics, is as different
from the psychics, and the psychics from the hylics.

Aeon: These are characterized as emanations from the ‘first cause,’ the Father in some Gnostic schema. The word not only refers to the “worlds” of emanation, but to the personalities as well. Sophia, Logos, and the other high principles are aeons. ”A link or level of the great chain of being, the sum total which is the ‘All’ or Pleroma…Can also mean a world age.” (See; Gaffney) ”According to other Gnostics, for example Valentinus, the first principle is also called Aeon or the unfathomable, the primeval depth, the absolute abyss, bythos, in which everything is sublimated…” translated by Scott J. Thompson from G.W.F.
Hegel’s ”Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie ii ,” (Theorie Werkausgabe, Bd. 19), Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977, 426-430] ( See also; Pleroma.) The first ten aeons in the Valentinian schema are, Bythios (Profound) and Mixis (Mixture), Ageratos (Never old) and Henosis (Union), Autophyes (Essential nature) and Hedone (Pleasure), Acinetos (Immoveable) and Syncrasis (Commixture,) Monogenes (Only-begotten) and Macaria (Happiness).

Demiurge: Meaning ‘Creator’ in Greek. Thought to be the “Craftsman” or creator of the material world. (Heracleon) In Orthodox thought this is a supernatural entity or force, such as the appearance of God to Moses. In the Gnostic schema the Word refers to an order, and it may be a natural sort of intelligent design, related to wisdom, the earthly or kenomic state of the higher wisdom, or form from the Pleroma. The material state is considered less than the Pleromic, and highly flawed. Archons seem to be emanations from the Demiurge process, much like other emanations from the Pleroma. (See; Pleroma, Kenoma, Archon.)

Echmoth: (Echamoth) Meaning a form of wisdom; “Echamoth is one thing and Echmoth, another. Echamoth is Wisdom simply, but (e) Echmoth is the Wisdom of death, which is the one who knows death, which is called “the little Wisdom”. (”Gospel of Phillip, NHL.)

But creatures remain untouchable, inviolable. If God wants you to suffer a little, He allows you to learn just how inviolable they are. As soon as you try to possess their goodness for its own sake, all that is sweet in them becomes bitter to you, all that is beautiful, ugly. Everything you love sickens you. And at the same time your need to love something, somebody, increases a hundred times over. And God, Who is the only one who can be loved for His own sake alone, remains invisible and imaginable and untouchable, beyond everything else that exists.”


Thomas Merton



The Kingdom of Heaven is within you –the immortal words of Christ do not pertain exclusively to the patristic formulae of salvation through sacrament, nor do they point only to the mystical body itself as unitive and unifying salvation. Rather, the observation is most profound or religious truths, akin to the shahadatyn themselves, the depth of micrcosmic reality, the height of human possibility. Above the kataphatic lies the apophatic, and This is unapproachable, impenetrable. But the kataphatic is a Reality humanity mirrors, when cleansed of unnecessary and delimiting contingency.


–Ahson Azmat (Extract from: Between Kaf and Nun: Rings, Gardens, Cosmos and Imago Terrae: Towards an explanation of Sacred Tome and Space, found in Sophia vol 12, no1)


It is for this reason that the highest form of Gnostic spiritual writing, the highest and most challenging and most frustrating in many ways for the reader, is the apophatic/kataphatic contestation, of which the finest and purest example is found in Thunder Perfect Mind.

For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
Give heed to me.
I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.

It is only slightly, I would say, trailed behind by the Gospel of Philip itself. It holds the famous statement of Gnostic apophatic declaration:

Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers and sisters of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.

Names given to the worldly are very deceptive, for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who hears the word “God” does not perceive what is correct, but perceives what is incorrect. So also with “the Father” and “the Son” and “the Holy Spirit” and “life” and “light” and “resurrection” and “the Church (Ekklesia)” and all the rest – people do not perceive what is correct but they perceive what is incorrect, unless they have come to know what is correct. The names which are heard are in the world […] deceive. If they were in the spiritual realm, they would at no time be used as names in the world. Nor were they set among worldly things. They have an end in the spiritual realm.

What could be a better description of this philosophy than to say it is a prefiguring, written in the mythological and spiritualizing language of the first centuries of the Gnostic era, of the postmodern philosophy of Baudrillard’s simulacrum? I think it is also relevant for us to consider the warning of Max Horkheimer, the
Frankfurt School philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, that we as a society are advancing far faster technologically than we are in terms of our actual substantive enlightenment as human beings. There is a difference between the substance of reason in the sense of “reasonableness”, and the process of “rationalization” — but unfortunately we collapse the two into the concept of the “ratio.” Of course, Gnosticism has never allowed for such a collapse, because of its healthy skepticism about the ability of the ratio per se to provide the salvation of either the human person or of humanity as a whole. It is important for us to hold onto that skepticism. It is a skepticism that is not anti-scientific and anti-rationalistic per se. We are not talking about the kind of anti-scientistic frenzy that has taken hold of conservative Protestantism with its bizarre hatred of genuine scientific endeavor and progress. But we are talking about a recognition that our science and our technology is sometimes advancing well beyond our moral capacity to deal with that advancing process. This is why we face issues like cloning and stem-cell research on which human society seems to be incapable of engaging in real dialogue beyond shouting and screaming matches that actually jettison any kind of reasonable debate in favor of competing fundamentalisms. We can see that is a typical problem in many parts of human life today. We actually have competing fundamentalisms. One fundamentalism of the left, one of the right; one of the Christians, one of the anti-Christians; one of the sexually repressed, one of those who seem to have no sense of the need for any kind of sexual morality based on human diversity and respect for the individual’s sexual identity.

–Brother Matthew Oroborous (From Basilides to Baudrillard… )




“The four elements stem from a single source element. This is alluded to in the verse, ‘and a river flows from Eden to water the Garden; from there it divides and becomes four major rivers.’ That is, there is a single source which divides into four — the four elements….. This source element is called the yesod hapashut, the ‘simple element,’ in that, at the source, everything is united as one, without differentiation.


Everything in the world is composed of four basic elements. Each element contains traces of all the others, even if only in microscopic proportion. Thus, domem (mineral) has ‘earth’ as its main component, but one can find traces of ‘water,’ ‘air’ and ‘fire’ within. The continued existence of the world is based upon the proper combination and interaction of these elements.


Each element is radically different in makeup from the others, yet God in His infinite wisdom created them in such a way that they could coexist and sustain life in an almost endless array of combinations — as long as that which they are sustaining is alive. When its ‘life’ ends, the elements disperse — creating a situation, conceptually, of the ‘World of Separation.’ Thus it is the life force that binds the disparate elements together so that man can exist…..


Although every person is made up of all four elements, there are four main roots, corresponding to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH). Each individual is rooted in his particular letter more than all the others. Correspondingly, he is also rooted in the specific element and character trait that derives from that letter. This is what accounts for the tremendous differences we find in people’s temparents. Some temperaments are rooted in fire, some in air, some in earth, some in water. The main thing is to harmonize their differences, for when difference, rather than harmony, is stressed, strife becomes the norm and people resist and oppose each other. This strife reverberates into their root elements, causing disharmony Above. As a result, the world is visited with destruction and sickness.

The main controlling force which can harmonize these differences is found in the single source element, the Tzaddik, The Tzaddik knows how to establish a proper balance between the various elements in his domain. This brings harmony and peace to each individual and to humanity as a whole.”

— Nosson of Bratslav (Likutei Halachot)


Whoever is able to fulfill the first phase of the path, the phase of self-dissolution in the grace of the rose, and is able to break up the magnetic system of ordinary nature to which he is bound is immediately liberated. And although existentially still completely a nature being and so still in the world and within the system of the twelve aeons, such a person will no longer find any hindrance on account of this second sidereal birth. He has become a child of God. He has been freed of all ties forever.

The Gnostic Mysteries of Pistis Sophia (Lectorium Rosicrucianum) 


“O God, If I worship You for fear of Hell,

burn me in Hell without end.

And if I worship You in hope of Paradise,

Forbid it forever to me.

But if I worship You for You,
do not hold back from me Your everlasting Beauty.”


–Rabi a al-Basri (8th Cent Sufi Saint’a )


رابعة العدوية القيسية) or simply Rabiʿa al-Basri (717–801 C.E.) was a female muslim Sufi saint.

Rābiʻa al-ʻAdawiyya al-Qaysiyya (Arabic: رابعة العدوية القيسية) or simply Rabiʿa al-Basri (717–801 C.E.) was a female muslim Sufi saint.



SHAHADATAIN: Bearing witness. In order to become a Muslim one must utter and believe in two Shahadas (Shahadatain): First Shahada: Ashhadu an la illa ill’allah. ( I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.) Second Shahada: Ashhadu anna Muhammadar rasoolullah. (I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.) The Shahadatain is the gateway to Islam and the gateway to the Garden. It is easy to say, but to act on it is a vast undertaking which has far-reaching consequenccs, in both inward awareness and outward action, in this world and in the next world.




Cataphatic theology describes God positively according to what He has revealed of Himself in Scripture and nature. It is usually discussed as the opposite of Apophatic (or negative) theology, which attempts to describe God only in terms of what He is not.

Negative theology, also known as Apophatic theology, is a theological approach that describes God by negation, speaking of God only in terms of what He is not (apophasis) rather than presuming to describe what God is.

In negative theology, it is maintained that we can never truly define God in words. In the end, the student must transcend words to understand the nature of the Divine. In this sense, negative theology is not a denial. Rather, it is an assertion that whatever the Divine may be, when we attempt to capture it in human words, we will inevitably fall short.

In contrast, making positive statements about the nature of God, which occurs in most other forms of Christian theology, is sometimes called cataphatic theology.

Negative theology played an important role early in the history of Christianity. Three theologians who emphasized the importance of negative theology to an orthodox understanding of God, were Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, and Basil the Great. It was employed by John of Damascus when he wrote that positive statements about God reveal “not the nature, but the things around the nature.” It continues to be prominent in Eastern Orthodoxy (see Gregory Palamas) where apophatic statements are crucial to much of their theology, and is used to balance cataphatic theology.

Save me, O God, by Thy name, and judge me by Thy strength.

Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.

For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul; they have not set God before them. Selah

Behold, God is mine helper; the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.

He shall reward evil unto mine enemies; cut them off in Thy truth.

I will freely sacrifice unto Thee; I will praise Thy name, O LORD, for it is good.

For He hath delivered me out of all trouble, and mine eye hath seen my desire upon mine enemies.

–Psalm 54

“If we are quite content to pray without paying attention to our prayer
or to God, it shows we have not much idea of who God is, and that we do
not really appreciate the grace and the privilege of being able to speak
to Him in prayer.  For prayer is a gift of God, a gift which is by no
means given to all men.  Perhaps it is given to few because so few
desire it, and of those who have received it so few have received it
with gratitude.”

Thomas Merton


In the Name of the Great Life! My good messenger of Light who travelleth to the house of its friends, come, direct my speech and open my mouth in praise that I may wholeheartedly praise the Living Gods.

In the Name of the Great Life! I worship Life and I praise my Lord Yeshu d-Hiya and that great Presence of Glory which emanated from itself.

The Gnostic Prayerbook

In Christ we die to the letter of the law so that our conscience can no
longer see things in the dead light of formalism and exterior
observance.  Our hearts refuse the dry husks of literal abstraction and
hunger for the living bread and the eternal waters of the spirit which
spring up to life everlasting

–Thomas Merton

“And these tow kinds of natures are mingled with each other in the course of rebirths, like wheat and chaff that are mixed with each other. Then the farmers separate those things from one another with the mighty power of the wind and the flail, and lay them and bring them.

Thus this man is also similar to that wheat, and my children are similar to the farmers…My mind and my true Word are similar to the wind, and the just Law is similar to the flail. And when the elect preach my Word, then those that come to paradise become manifest.”

–Iranian Manichaean parable

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent
because the massman will mock it right way.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten.
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with the darkness
and a desire for higher lovemaking
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you fare gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
this, to die and so to grow.
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

–Goethe (The Holy Longing)

“The theology of love must seek to deal realistically with the evil and
injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with them.  Such a
theology will have to take note of the ambiguous realities of politics,
without embracing the specious myth of a  ‘realism’ that merely
justifies force in the service of established power. Theology does not
exist merely to appease the already too untroubled conscience of the
powerful and the established.  A theology of love may also conceivably
turn out to be a theology of revolution.  In any case, it is a theology
of resistance, a refusal of the evil that reduces a brother to homicidal

–Thomas Merton

Don’t forget to vote.


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.

“Growth in experience implies a serious self-doubt and self-questioning
in which values previously held seem to be completely exploded and no
other tangible values come to take their place.  This may even take the
form of a crisis of religious faith in which our whole conception of God
and of our relationship to him may be tuned upside down.  There may seem
to be ‘no God’ at all, or else our relationship to him may seem so
desperate that we feel as though we are damned, in our moments of

–Thomas Merton

“To be a Buddhist
You must not be a Buddhist


When we search endlessly for something, a label often we never find. As you say, the “work” is there
and carries on being there regardless.

Labels are Labels…. it is too easy to follow vain pride and proclaim I am this, and thus I am not that.

“Religion is club, hence the beatings
Spirituality is a path, hence the journey”

–Sis. Artemisias

What is Sister Artemisias saying?

It is too easy to fit a round peg in a round hole. Some people approach their spiritual/religious journey that way. They run out, buy books, nice hats with fluffy bits on and a picture of a pink moose. Once the books are read, the nice fluffy hat can be worn; we can devote decades to saying mantra to the pink moose….

What have we achieved?

We have achieved a nice devotion to a path, a religion, a mantra, a pink moose.

The alternative is to be dynamic. To change…to BE…
To literally follow a journey, to GROW, to become
sure we can have a devotion to a path or a pink moose mantra along the way
but we need to not join clubs….we need to be on a journey. So once you have painted a wall with a brush you can learn to use a roller. it is too easy to get stuck saying magic words to pink moose and thinking that’s where its at….

So dont be afraid to feel you arent part of a club…
as in my opinion, that is a good thing…

I identify with the Holy Grail personally, as I grew up in the shadow of Glastonbury, England
However… as some say, I think LOVE is the only true universal religion….
Of course discerning what love IS…is another story….

“I gained nothing from supreme enlightenment
It is for that very reason it is called supreme enlightenment.”


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