Introduction to the Ten Sephirot Belimah
by A. C. George
We have already examined the thesis statement of the SY, and have been introduced to the text in general. The twelve verses that follow are self-contained in their concise yet in-depth coverage that has laid the foundation of much of QBLH philosophy and modern Western occultism. The central theme of this portion of the SY is an esoteric process described by the first three words that begin seven of those verses: OShR SPIRVTh BLIMH. If we want to unravel the allegedly cryptic wisdom of this portion of the text, it is imperative we explore the meaning of the elusive entities known as SPIRVTh.
The advantage of using the Earliest Recoverable Text (ERT) is its liberation from layers of conception representing the crusty residues of centuries of editing. This streamlined version of the SY encourages exploration unburdened by the assumption that everything has to be coded in elaborate complication where ancient occultism is involved. Our own context of meaning- that of esoteric cultivation rather than religious exegesis- facilitates in validating this view. What appear, therefore, to be twilight languages and elaborate allegorical codes are simply descriptions of esoteric means and outcomes that are made clear when one has basic (even if only theoretical) knowledge in the subject matter. There is no need to complicate things with talk of “initiations” and “mysteries”. What we have in this particular text, in this aspirants view, is occult “trade talk”- not the encoded vocabulary of concealing knowledge from outsiders who would either persecute the holders of it or corrupt its principles.
In that sense, there is no need to concoct elaborate stories of creation and complex maps outlining the conceptions of this section to emphasize the religious element over that of inner alchemy. We can simply take the text at face value with but rudimentary theoretical knowledge of basics of contemplation and sensate visualization to come to our understanding. Namely, the ten sephirot belimah amount to steps or processes of esoteric cultivation; exercises where each builds on the previous to construct an elaborate subtle body from a core of established mystical communion, itself the result of extended practice in contemplation and inner focus.
Let us examine each of the three words of OShR SPIRVTh BLIMH, starting with the first term. At the basic level OShR is the word for the number ten. If we interpret it letter by letter, however, we get a sense of the qualitative tone of the word. The letter-signs describe a vision or well-spring; the glyph of Ayin being that of an eye or top-down view of a fountain. The other two letters denote authority (Shin.Resh), a person, divinity, or an awareness (head or mindset) that nourishes and sustains. Such a vision or eye or fountain can describe a revelation or some bestowed treasure, material or not.
The letter-by-letter interpretation may appear to contradict my statements about avoiding complications, but such an interpretation is neither cryptic nor does it complicate our understanding. On the contrary, it complements the immediate meaning and supports it. We will explore this in the next installment using a specific verse of the twelve as an example. Suffice it to say that the word for the number ten Shin as Sin, whereas the first pronunciation defines OShR in the sense of growing rich. Both versions give the sense of accumulation (ten fingers or generally of wealth). We use discretion when choosing to examine a term letter-by-letter. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, after all. Numbers and certain terms of esoteric import, however, demand a deeper level of examination. The words that follow OShR are often mystified in Cabalistic thought. can keep all this in mind as we examine the other two words.
The word SPIRVTh is the plural of SPIRH, itself a noun form of the verb SPR, which we encountered in the first verse as well as being the title of the work. SPR as a noun means scroll or document. As a verb, the lexicon ascribes a list of meanings to the latter root, such as to account, to count, to reckon, to recount, to relate and to rehearse. SPIRVTh are therefore accountings, reckonings, relatings etc. In other words, the word, which is never found in the singular in any version of the work, is simply a product of keeping an account or relating something. I prefer to the word reckoning, as it conveys a more deliberate intent than a simple description. So far things are rather straightforward, and there is no need to examine the letter-by-letter meaning of the word or its root. The latter simply conveys the transmission of knowledge as patterns of information. The next word should also be straightforward. Yet it has not been taken that way in the traditions that referenced the SY as source material.
Most commentators prefer the interpretation of BLIMH as the compound word BLI (without) and MH (what), interpreted as nothingness, or ineffable. Such a designation is likely at least one reason why the SPIRVTh have been mystified as worlds unto themselves rather than packets of knowledge (esoteric teachings). From the perspective of a concise text designed to convey advanced applications- as opposed to philosophical or religious abstractions- the paradoxical meaning is somewhat redundant despite the alluring Zen-like impression it conveys. The alternative interpretation of the word BLIMH parallels that of its preceding sister term. Namely, it is a noun form of the verb root BLM, meaning to restrain, to curb, to reign in. Literally, the term refers to muzzling. It is understandable that the former interpretation is preferred to the latter when mysterious Zen-like allusions are compared to a reference to some sort of bondage.
If we, however, look to the text itself- and this is obvious with the ERT- the fourth verse goes something like: “Ten Reckonings of Restraint: Restrain your mouth from speech; restrain your heart-mind from fantasy…” To those in the know, the reference is to the mental discipline necessary for successful contemplation. Certainly, a modern practitioner would think twice before associating meditation with muzzling the mouth and heart. The the necessity for at least a gentle curbing or reigning-in of the tendency to lose focus, on the other hand, is a necessity for anyone having attempted such a practice in any of its forms.
There is, moreover, the association between the concept of AIN and the ineffable. AIN is a term of indeterminate comprehension; one of those esoteric labels that asks for a deeper letter-by-letter analysis to its conventional meaning of negation. Interestingly BLIMH, AIN, and the standard expression LA are translated as terms of negation without much distinction between them. Something is lost in doing that, however, and that something is context. Rather than practicing simplicity we engage in a selective reductionism that ends up backfiring. Perhaps BLIMH does have a double meaning, emphasizing that the SPIRVTh are not things, even as it conveys some sort of reigning in. Regardless, in today’s QBLH we end up with circles forming a pattern that is either mapped on a human body like the cakras of Indian Yoga; or used to map anything and everything but what a straightforward interpretation would give: paths of wisdom as actual esoteric teachings.
In contrast, AIN is anything but a simple no or nothing. It represents a state of advanced contemplation, emerging from the practice of reigning in our common mental habits. This will be discussed in greater detail in subsequent installments regarding the twelve verses pertaining to the ten reckonings of restraining. Suffice it to say that of the aforementioned verses, the first six describe practices and fundamentals of contemplation that serve as a prerequisite for the actual ten steps or paths of advanced esoteric cultivation. This is where the text reference AIN, and where by rendering it as an esoteric term in itself instead of a simple negative, the meaning of the verses in the context of esoteric cultivation is much clearer.
To anyone familiar with such practices, it goes without saying that the intricate subtleties one must master for even the basic steps cannot be conveyed in a few lines, however concise or condensed. The “manual” that is the SY was more likely addressed to the teacher rather than the student; a kind of reference frame from which to elaborate for the special case of each individual. In addition, if a community of esoteric practice was under severe social stress- as in being under siege or some other form of acute and violent persecution- a few short verses may have been all that could be put into writing in the hopes that later generations could build upon that very basic foundation. This is mere speculation, of course, but not without some basis in the history of the period the original was thought to be compiled (the first or second century of the Common Era).
In the next installment we will organize the twelve verses of interest into three sections. This will facilitate the exploration of the particulars of the esoteric system our analysis will be revealing. The teachings are not limited to the ten accounts, and may constitute one of the earliest formal methods of internal alchemy on record for Western civilization. This wasn’t so much lost or repressed, but instead hidden in plain sight until the Earliest Recoverable Text extracted its core meaning from centuries of gloss.