Randall Carlson is a guest in the upcoming Evolver Learning Lab course, "Sacred Geometry Explained: How the Hidden Order of the Universe Can Enhance Your Life."
Reality Sandwich's David Metcalfe hosts this 5-part live, interactive
video course that covers the full range of this ancient art. Explore the
geometry of the ancients, and revive integral theories and practices
that open you to a wider vision of reality. Joining Randall as guests
will be Robert Schoch, Paul Devereux, Richard Merrick, Dr. Scott Olsen,
and John Martineau. It all starts on April 21.
Suffice it to point out for now that in the conceptions of the Zohar the universe was created by an act of speech, through the utterance of the Word. Regarding this unknowable point described in the passage above, Kabbalistic scholar Gershom Scholem remarks:
"The primordial point . . . was taken to be the second sefirah or first departure from the divine nothing implied by the image of the point. It is the world seed, the supreme formative and male-paternal potency, which is sown in the primordial womb of the ‘supernal mother', who is the product but also the counterpart of the original point."6
The sefirah in Kabbalah are the "emanations" of force and form originating out of the Ain Soph Aur, the third veil of negative existence. The process of emanation of the sefirah corresponds to the unfolding of form, pattern and proportion through the process of Sacred Geometry, and results in the manifestation of the Tree of Life. How appropriate it is that the primordial point is conceived as the ‘world seed' paralleling the imagery invoked by the Grain of Mustard-seed, and likened here by Scholem to male potency. The seed metaphor is echoed in the Sanskrit Pratyabhijnahrdayam, a 10th century sacred text of the Advaita ?aiva Philosophy of Kashmir, a secret doctrine of Yoga descended from the ancient Indus civilization:
"As the great banyan tree lies only in the form of potency in the seed, even so the entire universe with all the mobile and immobile beings lies as a potency in the heart of the Supreme."-Par?trim?ik? 24
If the primordial point, the singularity, is the creative seed, what, might we ask, constitutes the womb of the ‘supernal mother'? Geometry provides the answer as we shall see. But whence comes the seed? In the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) by Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534 – 1572), a discourse on concepts found in the ancient Kabbalistic text, the Bahir, we find a description of the process of the self-constriction of God's light:
"Before all things were created. . . the Supernal Light was simple, and it filled allExistence. There was no empty space. . .
When His simple Will decided to create all universes . . . He constricted the Light to the sides . . . leaving a vacated space. . . . The space was perfectly round. . . .
After this constriction took place . . . there was a place in which all things could be created. . . . He then drew a single straight thread from the Infinite Light . . . and brought it into that vacated space. . . . It was through that line that the Infinite Light was brought down below. . . ."7
Modern Kabbalistic scholar Aryeh Kaplan gives a succinct explanation of this process in his introduction to the The Bahir Illumination:
"In its literal sense, the concept of Tzimtzum is straightforward. God first ‘withdrew' His Light, forming a vacated space, in which all creation would take place. In order for His creative power to be in that space, He drew into it a ‘thread' of His Light. It was through this thread that all creation took place." 8
Metaphysical author Elisabeth Haich, in her book Initiation, describes the same process from the standpoint of the Egyptian mystic:
"In order for a force to emerge from the dimensionless state and manifest itself, it needs a point of departure. A point is dimensionless, has not yet emerged from unity, but is necessary for manifestation… When the force whose first manifestation was a point emerges from the dimensionless state and is effective for a period of time, the point moves and forms a line." 9
"The point moves and forms a line." The line may be straight or curved, but in either case we have the transition from the dimensionless point into dimensionality. In the simplest preliminary act of geometric construction the point of the pencil is first brought into contact with the drawing surface and is then moved along the straight edge.
This first line drawn represents the ‘thread of light' manifesting in the void during the process of Zimzum. In the drawing of a circle one first establishes the central point, and then through the turning of the compass a circumference is generated. The radius of the circle, at this stage of the work, is implicit but invisible. It is the drawing of the radius from the center to any point on the circumference that represents the first expansion phase of Zimzum, the projection of a thread of light into the vacated space of the void. This diagram conveys the idea Zimzum, with the single thread of light reaching into the void, the zone of Nothingness.
In Kabbalah we learn that the Universe in all its aspects is represented by the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, but more than that, we learn that the letters not only represent forces and energies but are themselves actual signatures of elemental energies, and the combination of these letters into words and names is equivalent to the interplay of forces that brought about all of Creation. The letter Yod, the tenth letter, is considered the seed letter of the Hebrew alphabet. All other letters can be seen as combinations and permutations of the basic Yod, and the Yod begins with the appearance of its' uppermost point, from which the remainder of the body of the letter flows forth. This point is the Singularity and the Yod itself represents the motion of that point through the first infinitesimally short increment of time and space.
The 10th and smallest letter or "seed" of the Hebrew Alphabet
19th century French occultist M. Encausse, writing under the pseudonym of Papus, authored a number of books on Kabbalah, Tarot, and kindred subjects of the Western esoteric tradition. In his book ‘The Tarot of the Bohemians'he describes the role of the Yod in the development of the kabbalistic language.
"The Yod, shaped like a comma or a dot, represents the principle or origin of all things. The other letters of the Hebrew alphabet are all produced by different combinations of the letter Yod. The synthetic study of nature had led the ancients to conclude that one law only existed and ruled all natural productions. This law, the basis of analogy, placed the Unity-principle at the origin of all things, and regarded them as the reflections at various degrees of the Unity-principle. Thus, the Yod, which alone forms all the other letters, and therefore all the words and all the phrases of the alphabet, was justly used as the image and representation of this Unity-principle, of which the profane had no knowledge.
Thus also the law which presided over the creation of the Hebrew language is the same law that presided over the creation of the Universe, and to know the one is to know the other, unreservedly."10
At this stage of commentary it would be valuable to mention that, prior to the advent of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system, in ancient Semitic alphabets such as Hebrew and Arabic, and in the Greek alphabet, each of the letters served a dual purpose, in that they were both letters of the literal alphabet, representing phonetic values, while at the same time representing numerical symbols.
The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and their final values, were arrayed according to a denary system. The first nine letters Aleph through Teth, stood for the numbers 1 through 9, counting by ones. The second nine letters, Yod through Tzaddi stood for the numbers 10 through 90, counting by tens. The numbers 100 through 900, counting by hundreds, were achieved by ascribing final values to 5 of the 22 basic letters, thus giving a total of 27 values. In this manner all words, names and phrases comprising Hebrew sacred writings automatically had numerical values that could be derived simply by summing the values of the individual letters. The process of determining the numerical value of Hebrew words formed an important branch of Kabbalistic studies called gematria.
In this system is to be found the association between language and geometry. Through the agency of gematria, words, names and phrases of the sacred writings can be expressed as numbers and those numbers linked with geometric form.
Words expressing key concepts or names could be expressed as numerical values and those values related to one another proportionally and thereby reveal corresponding geometric relationships. The system of gematria opens the door to a truly astonishing system of analogy between literary images and geometrical pattern and demonstrates that lying beneath the outer, literal forms of the sacred writings, beneath the stories, the parables, the moral teachings, resides another dimension altogether, one of pure geometry and mathematics.
It could be said that the literary expression of the ancient, sacred writings serves as the vehicle or means of conveyance for the real teaching, which is another dimension of knowledge expressed through the Sacred Geometry that emerges from a numerical reading of Scripture. The hidden geometry of ancient sacred writings represents an amazing and profound dimension in the application of Sacred Geometry which is beyond the scope of this article but which I explore in depth in my advanced classes and will address in future articles.
It should be noted that there is a Kabbalah of the Greek sacred writings as well, for example, the New Testament was originally written in Greek and displays the same principles of underlying geometric meaning as can be found in the Hebrew of the Old Testament.
It should also be noted that the method of numerical substitution leading to mathematical and geometric insight into hidden dimensions of meaning is not by any means confined to the Bible, but can be found in various kabbalistic works such as the Sepher Yetsirah and the Zohar, in Gnostic writings, such as the Pistis Sophia, the Clementine Homilies and others. Sufism incorporates a parallel method of numerical substitution, called the Cipher of Abjad, in the interpretation of sacred works composed in Arabic. See the works of Idries Shah for an elaboration on this tradition, most especially see The Sufis (1964). Papus goes on to elucidate further significance of the letter Yod.
"The numerical value of the yod leads to other considerations. The Unity-principle, according to the doctrine of the Kabbalists, is also the Unity-end of being and of things, so that eternity, from this point of view, is only an eternal present. The ancients used a dot in the center of a circle as the symbol of this idea, the representation of the Unity-principle (the dot) in the center of eternity (the circle, a line without beginning or end.)" 11
Multi-Valent Symbol of the Sun, Action/Rest and Unity of Opposites
The dot within the center of a circle is now generally considered a symbol for the Sun, but certainly also represents the fundamental act of geometry, the simple drawing of the circle with the compass. Again, the numerical value of the Yod is 10. In this number we have the symbol for Unity, the All, represented by the number 1, paired with the symbol for Nothing, the zero, but also implying Eternity, for the circle has no beginning and no end.
Here we have simple ideograms expressing the the All and the Nothing, the ultimate duality, conjoined symbolically by the numerical value of 10, signified by the Yod, or seed from which all manifested existence springs, including all the words comprising the sacred writings of the ancient Hebrew seers. The fundamental duality represented by the All and the Nothing is recapitulated in the act of geometry, for in every turn of the compasses there is a stationary fixed limb and an active moving limb, displaying the dynamic factor necessary for Creation to take place.
This is also the same duality symbolized in the I Ching by the contrasting pairs of fixed and moving lines forming each of the 64 hexagrams. In astronomical terms the fixed limb corresponds to the axis of any rotating spherical body, such as a moon, a planet, a star or a galaxy while the moving limb corresponds to any point rotating on the equatorial circle. Albert Pike, in his Masonic tome Morals and Dogma, explains the significance of the Yod from the perspective of Freemasonry:
"In the East of the Lodge, over the Master, inclosed in a triangle, is the Hebrew letter YOD. In the English and American Lodges the Letter G is substituted for this . . . YOD is, in the Kabalah, the symbol of Unity, of the Supreme Deity, the first letter of the Holy Name; and also a symbol of the Great Kabbalistic Triads. To understand its mystic meanings, you must open the pages of the Zohar and Siphra de Zeniutha, and other kabbalistic books, and ponder deeply on their meaning. It must suffice to say, that it is the Creative Energy of the Deity, is represented as a point, and that point in the centre of the Circle of immensity. It is to us in this Degree, the symbol of that unmanifested Deity, the Absolute, who has no name."12
The Holy Name to which Pike alludes is the name of the Old Testament deity, commonly known as Jehovah, but originally considered to be the unpronounceable name of God, represented by the 4 letters Yod, He, Vau, and final He, yielding a formula known as the Tetragrammaton. A future article will delve into the significance of this name from the standpoint of Pythagorean Sacred Geometry.
Note also that Pike discloses the fact that in certain Masonic lodges the Yod is enclosed in a triangle, in this case an equilateral triangle, the simplest of the polygons and the first to emerge from the circle through the process of geometric construction. In Masonic lodges the symbol of the point within the circle is usually depicted with two parallel lines lying tangent to and on opposite sides of the circle. When represented this way the symbolism invokes not only geometric significance but geographic and astronomic as well. Pike elaborates on further depths of meaning in the Yod:
"Yod is termed in the Kabalah the opifex, workman of the Deity. It is, says the Porta Cælorum, single and primal, like one, which is the first among numbers; and like a point, the first before all bodies. Moved lengthwise, it produces a line, which is Vau, and this moved sidewise produces a superficies, which is Daleth. Thus Vau becomes Daleth; for movement tends from right to left; and all communication is from above to below . . . Yod is the most occult of all the letters; for he is the beginning and end of all things. The Supernal Wisdom is Yod; and all things are included in Yod, who is therefore called Father of Fathers, or the Generator of the Universal. The Principle of all things is called the House of all things: wherefore Yod is the beginning and end of all things; as it is written: "Thou hast made all things in Wisdom."13
The other two Hebrew letters to which Pike refers, the Vau and the Daleth, when added to the Yod, represents the spelling out of the letter, because, in the Hebrew alphabet each letter is a name which is actually spelled out in full.
Contrast this with the Latin alphabet in use for modern English, the letter D, for example, is never spelled out as if it were a word, i.e. Dee. But in the Hebrew the letter Yod is actually spelled out Yod, Vau, Daleth, or Y, O, D. Rich symbolism can be drawn from this spelling, in that, as already mentioned, the value of the single letter Y is 10, but the value of the Vau is 6and the value of Daleth is 4. Therefore the total numerical value of the letter Yod when spelled out in full is 20, or 2 times the value of the individual letter, suggestive of the idea that a doubling of the potential is latent in the seed.
In the Tantric system the seed point of infinite potential is the ‘Bindu.' One of the indispensable works on Tantra for English readers is The Garland of Letters, by Sir John Woodruff, wherein he discusses the Bindu.
"This ‘Point' is one of the world's religious symbols and is set in the center of a Satkona or in a circular Mandala or sphere . . . Where does the Extended universe go at the Great Dissolution (Mahaprajaya)? It collapses so to speak into a Point. This point may be regarded as a mathematical point in so far as it is without any magnitude whatever, but as distinguished from it, in that it has in fact no position. For there is then no notion of space. It need hardly be said that this is a symbol, and a symbol borrowed from our present experience cannot adequately represent any state beyond it. We only conceive of it as a point, as something infinitesimally subtle, which is in contrast with the extended manifested universe which is withdrawn into it. This point is Bindu."14
The limitless potential within the Bindu is suggested by Vi?van?tha in his Commentary to the Satcakra:
"Within the Bindu is a space a hundred million Yojanas in expanse, and bright with the brightness of ten million suns." 15
(A Yojana is about 8 miles in length.) The duality inherent in the Bindu is described in The Serpent Power, also by Sir John Woodroffe:
"Where does the Universe go at dissolution? It is withdrawn into that ?akti which projected it. It collapses, so to speak, into a mathematical point without any magnitude whatever. This is the ?iva-Bindu, which again is withdrawn into the ?iva-?akti-Tattva which produced it.
It is conceived that round the ?iva-Bindu there is coiled ?akti, just as in the earth centre called M?l?dh?ra-Cakra in the human body a serpent clings round the self-produced Phallus. This coiled ?akti may be conceived as a mathematical line, also without magnitude, which, being everywhere in contact with the point round which it is coiled, is compressed together with it, and forms therefore also one and the same point.
There is one indivisible unity of dual aspect which is figured . . . in the Tantras as a grain of gram, which has two seeds so closely joined as to look as one surrounded by an outer sheath." 16
6 Scholem (1960) p. 103
7 Quoted in Kaplan, Aryeh (1979) The Bahir Illumination: Samuel Weiser. Attributed to RabbiNehuniah Ben Hakana, 1st century C. E., Translation by Kaplan, p. xiv
8 Kaplan (1979) p. xiv
9 Elisabeth Haich (1960) Initiation: Seed Center, translated from the German by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd, 1965 p. 229
10 Papus (89 ) The Tarot of the Bohemians: Translated by A. P. Morton. Republished by Wilshire Book Company, 1978. p. 19
11 Papus (89 ), p. 20
12 Pike, Albert (1871) Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, p. 15
13 Pike, Albert (1871) p. 792
14 Woodruff, Sir John (1922) The Garland of Letters: Ganesh & Co. (Madras) Private Ltd. 5th ed. 1969. pp. 144 – 145
15 Quoted in Woodroffe, Sir John (1918) The Serpent Power. Translated from the Sanskrit by the Author, Ganesh & Companry, Madras, India. p. 413
16 Woodroffe, Sir John (1918) pp. 34 – 35
Image by playfulgeometer, courtesy of Creative Commons license.