Final Preliminary Practices to Activate the Ten Sephirot Progression
by A. C. George
This installment is a direct continuation of the Basic Practices post, which revolved around the previous two verses of the Earliest Recoverable Text of the SY. It also completes the discussion on preliminary practices, which began with the verses I have labeled as I and II. If you haven’t read those posts at least, I strongly suggest you do. Comprehension is a function of topic continuity where this information is concerned.
That being said, I would be remiss to the reader if I failed to provide a summary of the previous two discussions. First and foremost, the text in mention- the Book of Shaping or Sepher Yetsirah- can be taken as an instruction manual for the attainment of esoteric wisdom, something we point out in our analysis of the first verse of the text.
The work refers to a process of ten steps, organized in pairs and made coherent by a certain internal alignment with the requisite state of awareness to stimulate their activation. This state is the product of working with the power of the word, demanding a certain focus of vocalization (be it voiced, whispered or expressed mentally). The process appears similar to the use of mantras or spells of sorts, a practice not uncommon in esoteric practices be they of a mystical bent or involving the application of magic.
The practices are based on a genuine divine revelation. They are neither mental constructs nor are they powered autonomously (the product of some form of idolatry, for example). In other words, the work is defined as being mystical in nature, a kind of internal alchemy rather than a practice of magic. Their actualization, however, results in the embodiment of a wisdom that activates in the practitioner the potential to affect things magically- and specifically via the power of the word and the use of symbol. This is no different than the nature of esoteric systems of South and East Asia where prolonged mystical training results in occult powers known as siddhis (accomplishments).
These practices are also undertaken after a suitable preparation. This preparation and how it is undertaken is itself an alignment or covenant with the powers behind them. The system in mention is anything but arbitrary. It is likely the result of an occult revival of sorts where a dying oral tradition had been taken off the shelf, and re-worked by a capable adept who appears to have founded or represented an occult lineage or tradition through their work. The work, according to the perspective expounded here, is of an esoteric nature based on contemplation practice. Being consistent in one’s practice and undaunted in one’s persistence despite difficulties is part of the commitment that is phrased in terms of a covenant.
The ten steps are undertaken in a specific manner. Each step has two parts: the initial part of the account and the latter part. So each step is a dual dynamic of contemplative focused attention. The first part of the account is practiced until results are gained, and the second part is weaved into it so the revelations of the first are like the fuel that fires up the second portion. As contemplation practice progresses, one enters the requisite state of awareness identified with the void known as AIN. The state of AIN is considered to manifest one’s awareness after the aforementioned framing is brought to fruition. That completes our review. From here we will be elaborating on the meaning of the following two verses:
V. Ten reckonings of restraining. And out of their power of ten, where AIN is their end-point: Cause is Unfathomable and Effect is Unfathomable; Security is Unfathomable and the Foreign is Unfathomable; Elevation is Unfathomable and The Underneath [one’s Ground] is Unfathomable; East is Unfathomable and West is Unfathomable; North is Unfathomable and South is Unfathomable. And a sole Adept of El [Power] was a sovereign of their revelation. The ruling by all of them was from the refuge of his sanctuary and a testimony of adornments of perpetuity.
VI. Ten reckonings of restraining: Their vantage-point is like a mirror of the lightning-flash; and their AIN extremity is an end for them. And his work with them is according to “[it is] run and [you must] return [it]”. And for his promise, like a whirlwind they will be the pursued and before his throne they are from that [state] brought down.
Our current post continues the progression of textual information with specific practices of contemplation to be undertaken. Once that state is accessed, each stage involves contemplation on one of ten corresponding principles. The word used for each of these is not the subject of contemplation, however. Each term is a superficial label that acts as a mental handle for the deepening of awareness surrounding it. That would the depth or mystery of the term. In the translation I identify this process in terms of what each term is: unfathomable.
AIN is the state of awareness required to access this depth and experience a fusion with what is to the temporal mind unfathomable. I could not help but associate the above description with a process described in the yoga literature as saṁyama, itself a synthesis of three distinct processes: a) localized focus, b) delocalization of focus while maintaining the disciplined attention of part (a), and c) a state of union with one’s own field of consciousness as the true authority of ones being. The first process is known as concentration, and the second is known as contemplation. The latter state of attentiveness ideally leads to the cultivation of a state of consciousness denuded of concepts. The third process of saṁyama is known as samādhi, and describes a state where ones power of consciousness and subjective sense are completely at one with the field of one’s experience so that all is That.
The verse goes on to mention a notable adept, who may or may not be the reformer mentioned earlier. This adept mastered the preliminaries- as well as the ten main stages- and through them accessed a state or stance through which the beauty and value of the unfathomable was not only at their beck and call in terms of experiencing them, but was able to manipulate the power that resulted from that alignment.
The next and final verse describing- albeit in a cryptic and easy to gloss over manner- the preliminary specifics to the ten steps, expresses a very zen-like description of the state of awareness we seek to embody. It is reminiscent of the phrase: “Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment chop wood and carry water”. Similarly, our text tells us to continue our contemplative practice even after we have experienced the depths of contemplation and the state of AIN.
In that continuation our awareness is like a mirror in response to a violent lightning flash reflected in it. The reflection is picture-perfect, but the surface of the mirror remains unperturbed. In this way the chaos of all we embody in our contemplation practices becomes ordered. It, furthermore, structures itself around our centered position in sacred space- which is a point of focus in the last six unfathomable conceptions, to be elaborated in the ten procedures themselves. As such, we are now ready to engage in the latter…once the prerequisites are set, that is.
In the next installment, we will hone in on the unfathomable conceptions, rendered as depths in most translations. It might be useful to clarify these- although the third and fourth have already been discussed in length. We are dealing with references that propose an added dimension of meaning (depth) to what a single translated word might offer. An analysis of the Hebrew letter-equations might, therefore, provide further insight in terms of what we are actually exploring in the contemplation practices indicated.