Basic Practices toward Sephirot Actualization in the Book of Formation

by A. C. George

With the posts surrounding the ten sephirot we aim to examine and describe themas they are presented in the Earliest Recoverable Text of the Sepher Yetsira (Manual of Shaping). Our perspective addresses the sephirot as ten practices, with the verses leading up to them involving their prerequisites practices. Their persistent application is meant to lead the aspirant to a state of mastery (wisdom).

In previous installments we diverged into the biblical story of Eden- the fall from grace therein and the role of the two trees, of life and of knowledge of tov and raa. The Tree mapped in QBLH, is a map of both microcosm and macrocosm. This is likely the truth regarding the two Trees of Eden as well. The other tree can be seen as a different mode of the Tree of Life. It represents the same awareness of the micro and micro cosmos’ from a dualistic perspective; the perspective of material world embodiment. This information will serve us as we collect the specifics of our ten accounts and ultimately integrate the practices outlined.

In our exploration of the text, we come to the third and fourth verses. The first two verses opened us to the concepts of the Covenant and the significance of the number ten in this work- as opposed to nine and eleven. To this point we are not given specific practices. We are told the conditions of practice, that the accounts are paired, and that the work involved is with the power of the word. We are also told that the practices are of a revived esoteric tradition involving a master, which means the wisdom is probably far older. In this installment we briefly examine the next two verses, which also provide preliminary information regarding the nature of our work:

III. Ten reckonings of restraining: Restrained is your mouth faced with speech. Restrained is your heart-mind faced with fantasy. And if [ever] it ran, your heart-mind returned to the standing place it pacified. It is said: “[it is] run and [so] return [it]”. And regarding this matter the Covenant was established.

IV. Ten reckonings of restraining: Rooted is their end in their beginning and their beginning in their end, like a flame in a burning coal, which is the framing of each one, and AIN is second to it [the framing]. And before one/each, what are you reckoning?

The third verse justifies the label given to our ten accounts. They are reckonings and listings of practices involving restraint. The idea is clarified in the verse at the onset. Restraint is a part of contemplation practices exemplifying most every spiritual tradition on Earth, specifically corresponding to concentration practice- dharāṇa– in yoga traditions. Focus requires restrained speech, ditto with imagination and verbal thought. The third verse also manages to describe a fundamental tenet of esoteric cultivation in a few words: run and return. Basically, if you fall off the horse of maintaining concentration, just get back on.

The author of the verse could not emphasize the importance of the tenet enough. The Covenant could not be established without it, because the Covenant is an alignment that demands mystical states of awareness and higher consciousness. Simply put, without a strong focus, there can be no alignment. In yoga, contemplation/meditation and hence illumination and spiritual liberation, are out of reach without the ability to focus. If meditation were just about focusing awareness, however, any predator on the hunt would be a sage, and any talented sniper a spiritual giant. Focusing awareness is a prerequisite, and not the only one.

We are informed the reckonings are phrases with two parts, something confirmed if we examine the phrases. In some reckonings the first part involves an extraction of one state- or energy- of awareness from a preexisting one. These can be symbolized by elements, such as air, water and fire, and extracting one from another is likely a practice of focus in itself. This is an example of the beginning of a particular account. The second part describes what is to be done with that state. The reckonings, all of a similar format, don’t work unless we get what verse four is telling us.

So for each account we identify the two parts, and know that to activate the particular step, we need to take the first as the power source- flame of a burning coal- of the second.

That is how each account is framed, and AIN is second to that, which means it comes after we take care of that requisite. We have already discussed the meaning of AIN here. The conclusion was that AIN, in the context of cultivation, is a state of awareness that comes after consistent and deep contemplative practice. Practice aims at that state, which prevails when there is no more need for restraint, as it is described in the previous verse at least.

The final piece of information we are given here is in the form of a question. Before (each) one, what do you reckon- what have you figured out? In other words, how are you prepared in the face of each, or any, of the SPIRVTh BLIMH? The author is giving us a head’s up that prerequisite information is being supplied.

In decoding these verses we note the condensed and specific nature of the instructions given. One can only imagine how condensed an even earlier version of the SY was in content, which to me supports the idea that the work was done for teachers as fundamental notes in a time when the oral tradition was threatened. It happens when those in the know are put to death.

In the next installment, our process goes even deeper. The next two verses to be examined are the last before the text dives straight into the accounts themselves. As we will see in the next installment, these are more specific in the instructions they offer. We will examine these instructions, and do a review of the cultivation material offered in the six verses before the SPIRVTh are directly addressed in the context of that wisdom.