The Foundation of the Sephirot and The Covenant at their Core

by A. C. George

In the last installment we introduced the twelve verses describing the ten sephirot belimah. We briefly outlined the thesis of our context regarding that particular portion of the Earliest Recoverable Text (ERT) of the Sepher Yetsira. We also offered a perspective as to what these ineffable sephirot might be in the context of a manual of esoteric alchemy and the magic of the word.

For the purposes of our analysis, we take the SPIRVTh BLIMH and the AVTh-YVTh as two autonomous esoteric teachings, where the former can still be approached as a prerequisite path for immersion in the latter. Both the ten and the twenty-two path groupings, moreover, constitute advanced practices that are best undertaken after an extended period of dedicated preparation. This appears to be the view of the author(s) of the SY, who liken progress to conflict and struggle in the last chapter of the ERT.

This exposition on the SY as a manual of esoteric cultivation more or less restricts itself to the ten sephirot as constituting a path of internal alchemy and occult empowerment. In this one can be transformed- in the sense of maturation- by its revelation. While application as magical practice is not directly specified, the creative aspirant is free to explore if that the system can be worked for direct results beyond the context of the Hebrew adjad.

The more one practices and gains proficiency, therefore, the more one establishes a hands-on understanding of the system, where cultivation is the first and ubiquitous step. The text is brief, but the path it outlines is anything but easy. Thus, any progress can and should be tested as a way to round out the material, something the SY affirms for working with the letters, but not in this ten step summary. Because this path covers many bases of internal potential, we can creatively extend its wisdom to other modes of esoteric mapping, such as the Tarot, the art of spirit conjuring, land magic and using thej power of the word with other languages and writing systems.

For purposes of clarification we divide our twelve verses into three subsections. The first with two verses introduces the system and its basic structure and origin. We are given a fundamental key here, without which the system falls flat. This is the Covenant. The second subsection- with four verses- describes some preliminary practices, fundamental for the mastery of the reckonings. These are laid out in the six verses of the third subsection.

Our examination of the first two verses of the aforementioned twelve, omits  transliteration to get straight to the point, given the translation itself is fairly straight-forward. The verses are:

I. Ten reckonings of restraining from a count of ten fingers, five opposite five and a sole Covenant in the center comes out of a working with annunciation and [both] tongue and mouth [pronunciation].

II. Ten reckonings of restraining: Ten and not nine; ten and not eleven. The initiate was with wisdom, and learned in knowledge extracted from them and tested by them. And he declared the standing place [teaching] on behalf of his heirs [disciples], and restored Shaping according to its foundation.

The first verse tells us the ten accounts- of cultivation- can be counted on the fingers of each hand. Like the fingers they are paired, with one juxtaposed to the other. This will be explained more thoroughly in subsequent verses. More importantly, this verse introduces us to the principle that balances each pair and forms the common ground of all of them. This is the core of the teachings, a Singular Covenant, viewed figuratively as a mystic alignment at the very center of the system of stages. The working or empowerment of the center is described as accomplished via the power of the word (vocalized, sub-vocal or mental), with emphasis on pronunciation (tongue and mouth).

There is no indication that this is one of the Covenants with Deity mentioned in the Torah. A covenant is an agreement, which in esoteric terms this amounts to an alignment between two parties, one human and one divine. This Covenant is singular because it is distinct, unique and autonomous as well as exclusive to the sephirot system. It is noteworthy that we do not find mention of this Covenant in the verses involving the Hebrew letters. Instead we are given the principle referred as a Central Temple, which serves a different function- specified toward the arrangement of the letter powers themselves. There is only one Covenant, and there is only one Central Temple in this work. The two are independent, but also form a synthesis, just as the thirty two paths themselves form a synthesis in the SY.

Our Singular Covenant– in the context of cultivation- refers to a state of being that constitutes the true prerequisite for the ten teachings to work. The first verse- prior to the twelve of our current discussion- supports the latter assertion. YH in our prior analysis was the one who laid down all thirty two paths, including the ten teachings discussed here. Further support associating the covenant with a state of divine communion or alignment- a state of esoteric illumination- is that it results from working with the power of the word- its power (annunciation) and structure (pronunciation).

In spite of our claims of a straightforward translation the second verse is more ambiguous in terms of how it can be rendered, specifically in the second part. The first part is straightforward in that sense, taken literally as emphasizing the quantity of reckonings being fixed and unalterable. That portion, however, can be examined more deeply as we have done with the number thirty-two. Given the extent of the subject matter, however, we will save that particular analysis for a soon to be published installment dedicated to the three numbers. We will also offer an alternative qualitative analysis for the number ten, which advocates of the Tree of Life model of the SPIRVTh might find interesting.

It makes sense that working with the power of the word, along with basic contemplative practice can result in states of esoteric illumination. These two verses, however, both emphasize the need for preparation. In the first verse the Covenant is introduced, and in the second there is a hint, embedded in the interpretation of the number names, that the teachings are based on a revelation that transcends both the mind and any kind of idolatrous worship.

In the second part of the verse we are introduced to a master who studied these teachings. This is apparently not the founder of the system, but someone who was responsible for its revival. He established the teaching in a way that clarified it so that the wisdom of Creative Shaping- synonymous with magical practice- could once again be built on a proper foundation. That foundation is the Covenant.

The alternative translation of the latter part of the second verse is worth mentioning. It introduces concepts that complement our introductory information of the ten reckonings. Namely the phrase “… he declared the standing place on behalf of his heirs…” can also be rendered “…the standing place of the matter was exalted by his moisture, (wetness or saturation)…” Here we are told that the teachings became exalted because of the master’s a state of awareness- inferred as moisture or saturation. The latter imagery is also used in a verse describing the activation of the letter Aleph, one of the three known as mothers.

The point in presenting this alternative is not to choose between them, but to notice that they actually complement each other and expand the meaning of the text. This may not even be deliberate, but a byproduct of the nature of the written language itself. Whatever the case may be, the master still came to restore the principles of the system to their proper foundation.

The picture we get from this is that the teachings themselves were already known. They must have either become corrupted or lost their edge. To reiterate, it is my view that this proper foundation is a reference to the Covenant. What this covenant is will be somewhat revealed in the next verse which initiates the four that provide us with the foundation to embark on the esoteric adventure that is the accomplishment of the Ten Reckonings of Restraint.

Once the theory is comprehended, the ten basic practices or SPIRVTh can be undertaken in earnest, provided the foundation is respected. This is important to consider because it classifies the work as advanced. To properly undertake it, in other words, one must master advanced states of esoteric practice that already amount to mystic and occult mastery in and of themselves. To make the covenant on an individual basis- as opposed to the context of a human collective- one must be in communion with the other party, attaining it through their own efforts, but quite likely with the requisite grace if the right attitude and heart-set is sustained. Then one can begin to benefit from the fruits of practice.