The Kabbalah Unveiled explores three important books of the Zohar or "Splendor": "The Book of Concealed Mystery," the book of equilibrium or balance, concerning the central point, at which rest succeeds motion; "The Greater Holy Assembly"; and "The Lesser Holy Assembly." Together, these three books examine the gradual development of the creative deity, and of creation itself.
Author S. L. MacGregor Mathers, a founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, presents his exegesis in a clear and scholarly style. Three fold-out charts enhance this volume's value as a tool for understanding the Kabbalah and enjoying the benefits of its teachings.
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The Kabbalah Unveiled
By S. L. MAC GREGOR MATHERS, Knorr Von Rosenroth
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
I. Tradition.—"The Book of Concealed Mystery" is the book of the equilibrium of balance.
[The word "Dtzenioutha" is difficult to translate, but I think its meaning is best expressed by the words "Concealed Mystery." I have explained in the Introduction the qabalistical meaning of the words "equilibrium." and "balance," § 29.]
2. Tradition.—For before there was equilibrium, countenance beheld not countenance.
[By the two countenances are meant Macroprosopus and Microprosopus. See Introduction, §§ 42, 47, 64, 65, 67, 73, and 77.]
3. And the kings of ancient time were dead, and their crowns were found no more; and the earth was desolate.
[The "kings of ancient time" mean the same thing as the "Edomite Kings;" that is, they symbolize worlds of "unbalanced force," which, according to the Zohar, preceded the formation of this universe. I have explained this also in the Introduction, §§ 41 and 56. This and the immediately following sections are supposed to trace the gradual development of the Deity from negative into positive existence; the text is here describing the time when the Deity was just commencing His manifestation from His primal negative form. Therefore, according to the qabalistical ideas, the universe is the garment as it were of the Deity; He not only contains all, but is Himself all, and exists in all.]
4. Until that head (which is incomprehensible) desired by all desires (proceeding from AIN SVP, Ain Soph, the infinite and limitless one), appeared and communicated the vestments of honour.
[This Head, which is here described as proceeding from the infinite and limitless One, the Ain Soph, is the first Sephira, the Crown Kether, otherwise called Arikh Anpin, or Macroprosopus, the Vast Countenance. From this first Sephira the other nine emanations are produced. I have explained all this in the Introduction, §§ 38-57, in treating of the Sephiroth.]
5. This equilibrium hangeth in that region which is negatively existent in the Ancient One.
[By the expression "This equilibrium hangeth in that region which is negatively existent in the Ancient One," is meant that the other nine Sephiroth (which are equilibrated by their formation in trinities) are as yet not developed in the first Sephira, but exist within it as the tree exists in the seed from which it springs. By "the Ancient One" is intended the first Sephira, the Crown Kether, one of whose appellations is Autheqa, the Ancient One. From this Sephira, as I have before remarked, the idea of negative existence depends back towards the AIN.]
6. Thus were those powers equiponderated which were not yet in perceptible existence.
[These powers are the other nine Sephiroth, which are, as it were, powers of the first Sephira; as soon as they are equated they become positively existent through correlation of force. The next two sections explain the manner of their equilibration while yet negative entities, or rather ideas.]
7. In His form (in the form of the Ancient One) existeth the equilibrium: it is incomprehensible, it is unseen.
[But the first idea of equilibrium is the Ancient One (the first. Sephira, or Crown Kether), because it is the first potential limitation of the boundless light which proceeds from the Limitless One. That is, the central point of Kether is the equilibrium, because the balance does not yet exist, the two opposite poles which form the balance not being yet developed. We must not confuse these two terms, equilibrium and balance. The balance consists of two scales (opposing forces), the equilibrium is the central point of the beam.]
8. Therein have they ascended, and therein do they ascend—they who are not, who are, and who shall be.
[Therein (in the equilibrium of Kether) have they ascended (developed when they became positively existent), and therein (in the equilibrium) do they ascend (have their first existence), they (the Sephiroth) who are not (exist negatively), who are (then become positive), and who shall be (exist permanently, because they are counterbalanced powers). This triple expression "are not, are, and shall be," also refers to the triple trinity of the Sephiroth.] (See Introduction, §§ 52, 64, 65 and 66.)
9. The head which is incomprehensible is secret in secret.
[This head is Macroprosopus, the Vast Countenance, and is the same as the Ancient One, or Crown Kether. It is secret, for therein are hidden the other potentialities.]
10. But it hath been formed and prepared in the likeness of a cranium, and is filled with the crystalline dew.
[The crystalline dew is the creative lux or Aur, AVR, proceeding from the Limitless One. The Mantuan Codex calls the skull or cranium the first, and the crystalline dew the second conformation of Macroprosopus.]
11. His skin is of ether, clear and congealed.
12. (His hair is as) most fine wool, floating through the balanced equilibrium.
[The ether is the clear and insupportable brilliance of his glory. The hair is white—i.e., spotless as wool—to denote the utter absence of matter and of shell. The Mantuan Codex calls the ether the third conformation, and the hair the fourth, which latter it refers to the Sephira Netzach, victory.]
13. (His forehead is) the benevolence of those benevolences which are manifested through the prayers of the inferior powers.
[The supernal benignity which transmits their qualities, powers and offices, to the lower Sephiroth (the inferior powers). It must be remembered that each Sephira receives from that which immediately precedes it, and transmits to that which next follows it. Thus, each Sephira is said to be feminine or passive as regards its predecessor, and masculine or active in respect to its successor. (See Introduction, §§ 43 and 51.) The Mantuan Codex calls this the fifth conformation, and refers it to the idea of the ninth Sephira, Yesod, foundation.]
14. His eye is ever open and sleepeth not, for it continually keepeth watch. And the appearance of the lower is according to the aspect of the higher light.
[Were the eye to close (the directing thought Divine to be abstracted from the Sephiroth), the whole universe would give way, for its mainspring would be withdrawn. Because the appearance (development) of the lower (nine Sephiroth) is according to (dependent on) the aspect (ruling thought) of the higher light (Kether, the first Sephira). The Mantuan Codex terms this the sixth conformation of Macroprosopus, and refers it, as in the case of the fourth conformation, to the primal idea of the Sephira Netzach, victory.]
15. Therein are His two nostrils like mighty galleries, whence His spirit rushes forth over all. (The Mantuan Codex adds that this is the seventh conformation, which refers to MLKVTH, Malkuth, or "the kingdom," the tenth emanation or Sephira of the Deity.)
[The creative spirit, or the "breath of life."]
16. (When, therefore, the Divine law beginneth) BRASHITH BRA ALHIM ATH HSHMIM VATH HARTz, Berashith Bera Elohim Ath Hashamaim Vaath Haaretz: "In the beginning the Elohim created the substance of the heavens and the substance of the earth." (The sense is: Six members were created, which are the six numerations of Microprosopus—viz., benignity as His right arm; severity as His left arm; beauty as His body; victory as His right leg; glory as His left leg; and the foundation as reproductive.) For instead of BRASHITH, Berashith, "in the beginning," it may be read, BRA SHITH, Bera Shith, "He created the six." Upon these depend all things which are below (principally the Queen, who is the lowest path, or the bride of Microprosopus, and all the three inferior worlds.)
[The view which the Siphra Dtzenioutha here follows out is that the beginning of Genesis describes not only the creation of the world, but the development of God, for it considers the universe as the outward and material expression of the power of the thought Divine. Microprosopus is as it were the reflection of Macroprosopus, for as Macroprosopus has six principal titles, so is Microprosopus composed of six of the Sephiroth. (See Introduction, §§ 42, 47 and 77.) SHITH, Shith, is the Chaldee form of the Hebrew SHSH, Shash, six. The queen is Malkuth, the tenth Sephira. The three inferior worlds are Briah, Yetzirah, and Asiah. See Introduction, §§ 57-60.]
17. And the dignity of dignity hangeth from the seven conformations of the cranium. (This is the beard of the venerable and Ancient One, which is divided into thirteen portions).
[The Ancient One is the first Sephira, Macroprosopus, as I have before remarked. The beard, in continuation of the symbolic representation of the head, is divided into thirteen portions, which answer by Gematria (see Introduction, § 11) to the idea of unity. For ACHD, Achad, unity, yields the number 13 by numerical value.]
18. And the second earth came not into the computation. (That is, the kingdom of the restored world, which elsewhere is called the Bride of Microprosopus, came not into the computation when the six members were said to be created. Or otherwise, when in Genesis iv. 2 it is said in another way, "And the earth," that earth is not to be understood of which mention hath been first made; since by the first is to be understood the kingdom of the restored world, and by the second the kingdom of the destroyed world), and this is elsewhere said.
[The kingdom of the destroyed world is that of unbalanced force. (See Introduction, §§ 41 and 56, and also note Section 3, foregoing.) This refers to a period prior to the development of the Sephiroth, and must therefore be referable to the Edomite kings.]
19. And it hath proceeded out of that which hath undergone the curse, as it is written in Genesis v. 29, "From the earth which the Lord hath cursed." (The meaning is: That the kingdom of the restored world was formed from the kingdom of the destroyed world, wherein seven kings had died and their possessions had been broken up. Or, the explanation of the world, of which mention is made elsewhere, proceedeth from the kingdom of the destroyed world.)
[These seven kings are the Edomite kings before mentioned in Section 3.]
20. It was formless and void, and darkness upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Elohim vibrating upon the face of the waters. Thirteen (these words, from "it was formless" down to "of the waters," are thirteen in the Hebrew text of Genesis) depend from the thirteen (forms) of the dignity of dignity (that is, the beard of the Macroprosopus, or first formed head).
[I have before remarked that the number thirteen expresses unity. The author of "The Book of Concealed Mystery" here argues that the very number and order of the words in the Hebrew text refer to certain forms of the Deity. The terms "face of the deep" and "face of the waters" bear a striking analogy to Macroprosopus and Microprosopus, the Vast and the Lesser Countenances. In this sense the "face of (from) the deep (abyss)" is the countenance formed from Ain Soph, the Limitless One; namely, the first Sephira, the Crown Kether.]
21. Six thousand years depend from the six first. This is what the wise have said, that the world shall last six thousand years, and it is understood from the six numbers of Microprosopus. But also the six following words give occasion to this idea: VIAMR ALHIM IHI AVR VIHI AVR, Veyomar Elohim Yehi Aur Vayehi Aur: "And the Elohim said, Let there be light, and there was light."
[By an exegetical rule of numbers, not so often employed as the others, simple numbers or units signify divine things; numbers of ten, celestial things; numbers of a hundred, terrestrial things; and thousands signify the future, what shall be in an after-age. Hence are the "six thousand years" deduced from the six first words, which also are said to refer to the six Sephiroth of whom Microprosopus is formed; the idea of six being extended into as many thousands, to symbolise that number on the plane of a future age.]
22. The seventh (the millennium, and the seventh space, namely, the Kingdom), above that One which alone is powerful—(i.e., when the six degrees of the members denote mercies and judgments, the seventh degree tendeth alone to judgment and rigour). And the whole is desolate (that is, the Kingdom, MLKVTH, Malkuth, in the higher powers, is the antitype of the sanctuary, and like as this is destroyed, so also the Schechinah, or Kingdom, is itself exiled) for twelve hours (for the Hebrews include all this time of their exile in the space of one day). Like as it is written: "It was formless and void, &c." (for. from the word "it was formless," down to "upon the faces of," are twelve words in the Hebrew text of Genesis.)
[By the same rule, the millennium is deduced from the seventh word. The seventh space here means Malkuth, the kingdom, or the queen, which together with the six of Microprosopus, makes up the seven lower Sephiroth. (See Introduction, § 77, further, for the idea of the balance of mercy and judgment.)]
23. The thirteenth (that is, "of the waters," HMIM, Hamim, which is the thirteenth word) raiseth up these (that is, as well the sanctuary which is above as that which is below) through mercy (since the water symbolizeth that measure of mercy through which judgment and punishments are mitigated), and they are renewed as before (for the six words follow afresh, as in the beginning the six members are enumerated). For all those six continue and stand fast (they are the members of the Microprosopus, and are not as his bride, and from them is the restitution), since it is written BRA, Bera, "created" (which hath a sense of permanence), and then it is written HITHH, Hayitha, "it was" (which also is a phrase of permanence and not of interpolation), for it is very truth (plainly, therefore, the kingdom perished not, although it might be formless and void, but it retaineth hitherto the essence).
[Mercy and judgment are opposites, and from the side of judgment comes the execution of judgment, which is destruction.]
24. And at the end of the Formless and the Void and the Darkness (that is, at the end of the exile this saying shall have place: Isa. ii. II). And the Tetragrammaton alone shall be exalted in that day (that is, in the time of Messiah).
[The Tetragrammaton (see Introduction, § 67) comprehends the whole ten Sephiroth, and consequently expresses their three trinities of balanced force also; consequently, when the Tetragrammaton appears, the formless and the void and the darkness disappear, and form, fulness, and light replace them.]
25. But there are excavations of excavations. (The excavation is the receptacle, like that which is hollowed out, or carved out, like a cave, or any other receptacle. Therefore all receptacles are inferior with respect to the superiors, among which the "shells" hold the last place, which here are described, which are) under the form of a vast serpent extending this way and that. (Concerning this serpent the author of the "Royal Valley " speaks thus in his "Treatise of the Shells." The fragments of the receptacles, which have fallen into the world of Creation, of Formation, and of Action, therein exist from the Outer; and judgments are more consonant to these, which are called profane, and have their habitation in the middle space between the Holy and the Unclean. And from the head is formed that great dragon which is in the sea, and is the sea-serpent, which is, however, not so harmful as the earthly one. And this dragon hath been castrated since his crest (or membrum genitale), together with his mate, have been repressed, and thence have been formed four hundred desirable worlds. And this dragon hath in his head a nostril (after the manner of whales) in order that he may receive influence, and in himself he containeth all other dragons, concerning which it is said: "Thou hast broken the heads of the dragons upon the waters" (Ps. lxxiv. 13). And here the idea or universal form of all the shells is understood, which encompasseth the seven inferior emanations of the queen after the manner of a serpent, as well from the right as from the left and from every side.)
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