Sepher Yetsira Verse One: An Occult Thesis Statement in Two Versions

by A. C. George

The first verse of the SY (Hayman’s “Earliest Recoverable Text”) is a stand-alone thesis statement that links the ten SPIRVTh with the Hebrew AVTh-YVTh, the letters of the alphabet (properly known as “abjad”). Given, there no vowel diacritics and interpretation is dependent on context, and given the potential ambiguity regarding the spacing between letters in ancient non-canonical Hebrew writings, it is worth looking at more than one translation option. The verse below is transliterated directly from the (given) original. Its translation follows:


I. IH of IHVH TzBAVTh, engraved thirty-two advanced applications of Wisdom in a triad of missives: by count and writ and account (rehearsed).

In the name IHVH TzBAVTh the latter word is usually translated as hosts or armies. Generally, however, TzBAVTh refers to any mass of people or things; something like a system in modern lingo. The next step in our exploration is to look at the names in terms of their constituent letter glyphs. Yod-Heh, can be understood in that sense as “act of worship” or “the giving of joyful surrender” or “the branch of worship”. We may interpret the two-letter appellation even more literally within the verse as “the arm of worship engraved…]”. This is but a way of saying that a process of worship, divine surrender or a “living work” resulted in the concrete establishment (engraving) of thirty two pioneered paths of applied human potential (ChKMH).

It is no secret regarding the existence of traditions where seers and mystics reached states of inspired awareness. Through ritual, worship and esoteric focus, they were known to channel works of magic and mystical adoration. It is also no secret that where mystical states are concerned, the acts of worship and contemplation and their objects are a single experience. Thus, we may take YH to be a Divine Name, but in an occult context it is also an experience of mystic import, meaning divine communion from which the revelation was a natural outcome.

The aforementioned context extends beyond a single religion or culture when we consider mystic/esoteric revelation as part of the perennial human condition. At the same time, each culture holds its own unique expression, with different points of emphasis. We can speculate that the original text stretched the boundaries of religious canon, or even “borrowed” from a wider frame of esoteric knowledge beyond that of Torah-based culture. We can surmise that subsequent edits likely attempted to define it closer to that framework of understanding. It would be no stretch of logic, moreover, to conclude that the adaptation to religious canon was imposted at the expense of a wealth of esoteric wisdom held in the original- perhaps the earlier edits as well.

Such a discussion, however, is beyond the scope of this work, which is an experiment in exploring the context of esoteric cultivation for the “Earliest Recoverable Text”. I mention it to introduce the second rendition of the text. The transliteration alters as follows: We split the verse in two by adding a period at the end of IH. Then we arrange the letters of the divine name by changing the spaces according to our context. In this way, IHVH TzBAVTh is re-spaced as IHV HTzB AVTh. The resulting verse is:


I. IH (“An act of divine surrender”) engraved thirty-two advanced applications of mastery. IHV was the Sign-Bearer in a triad of missives: by count and writ and account (rehearsed).

As discussed, in the occult sense divine surrender and its object are one experience. This experience resulted in thirty-two beaten tracks or blazed trails of occult wisdom being carved (established). The words NThIBVTh PLAVTh are literally “hard to understand beaten paths”. They are innovations that mark new territory, extraordinary and sophisticated. In the context of esoteric cultivation I render this: advanced applications.

The second rendering supplies more comprehensive information regarding the text, something fitting for our chosen esoteric context of interpretation. The verse expresses concise economy of phrase the first version lacks. An instruction manual of alchemy or magic- or some form of contemplative cultivation- would likely contain cryptic allusions and turns of phrase. These would dissuade the uninitiated and draw the serious aspirant into deeper layers of understanding. Religious terms would then be included for reasons other than simple devotional propriety.

Just as the name IH may allude to divine communion, the three-letter name IHV has a specific role. It is the sign-carrier by expressions of counting, script and (rehearsed) description. I favor the translation involving IHV as the sign-carrier also due to the emphasis on seals, signatures and the power of the word in this work. The triple letter name IHV can be considered as a consonant substitution of vowels that are sacred and without written form in this tradition. The vowels of IHV are IAU, the primary vowel sounds of Semitic languages. Interestingly, IAU is almost identical with IAO (V- Vav- can substitute for an O or U sound), which is IAΩ in Greek gnostic tradition. Hence from this introductory verse we are exposed to the significance of practices that culminate in the next chapter. It is, moreover, no coincidence in this view that IHV in all its permutations is used to seal the directions of “Sanctified Space”, and hence hold the letters associated with those directions in place. Its mention here can easily be taken as a precursor to that important role.

Of interest are the “tree missives” or means of expression. The last one in particular refers to the “rehearsed account”. This translates SP(V)R, where the V in parenthesis may or may not belong to the oldest recoverable text. The first two missives reflect Hebrew letters as pictograms with number values. They also reflect the ten numberings that express processes of unfolding esoteric empowerment. Number and description go hand in hand throughout the text. The third missive refers to practicing with the power of the word, in a prescribed manner. The reference to the prescribed power of the word is emphasized throughout the text, and is of paramount importance in the path of the SY. Speech in this context can be mental, vocal or sub-vocal.

The paths, themselves pioneered, and thoroughly tried and true, are not just quantified by the word for thirty-two. We can analyze the Hebrew word ShLShIM VShThIM for its qualitative revelation as well. ShLShIM conveys an image of two pairs of breasts with a shepherd’s staff between them, followed by the masculine plural suffix IM, which represents plurality and life-giving abundance. The result is strength in multiplicity and increase, such as a shepherd and the bounty of his flock. ShThIM, depicts nourishment (or penetration) of a sign (or representation dynamic) of the same abundant flows. ShTh is a word for foundation, while the conjunction Vav can be seen as the first word fertilizing and stabilizing the second. To reiterate, the letters of the word for thirty-two describe a great nourishing abundance fertilizing a foundation or base of multiplicity.

Interpretations such as the one above are helpful to expand beyond the conventional text meaning. A number is both a quantity and a description of a process. The skill set of the ten accounts and the twenty two symbols is meant to foster abundance and affirmation of life. It is an enhancing dynamic and not one meant to escape the world for a transcendent reality. This is true whether we interpret the text in terms of religious or occult standards. The plurality in this case can involve individual signs or whole semantic groups. Our interpretation is also coherent with the biblical covenant; a contract that involved adherence to a specific divine will in exchange for abundance and welfare for the faithful. The Covenant is a conception we will see mentioned more than once in the Earliest Recoverable Text.

The next post will commence the discussion of the ten reckonings or tallies. In this system these are ten steps of esoteric cultivation and accomplishment, including the preliminary practices necessary to make them work. The discussion will veer from the format of this post, with less emphasis on the interpretation of word and more on the meaning of the content in terms of esoteric accomplishment. Some key terms will be, analyzed for greater comprehension. At least that’s the plan at this point.