Before The Beginning
The following is a version of the creation cosmology of Kabbalah, which I have compiled from several different Judaic mystical sources. It is an exploration of one level of the hidden mystical story buried under the traditional biblical story of creation. In creating this piece I endeavored to create a general summary of Kabbalistic creation cosmology and an overview of the elements of Kabbalah and their relationship to each other and the related surface story elements found in the Genesis story. These elements will be explored in more depth in upcoming KabbalahBlog entries.
Before the Beginning, there was, is, and always will be EIN SOF, the Divine field of eternal formlessness. (1)
Within the EIN SOF, a yearning arose, a yearning for 'Face to gaze upon Face;' EIN SOF wished to behold itself, so it withdrew itself (Zimzum) from one place. A void appeared "...in which the mirror of existence could be manifested." (2)
EIN SOF OR, Eternal Light, surrounded the void and emanated into it, manifesting ten distinct qualities or energies (the Ten Sefirot), in seven phases (the Seven Days of Creation), through the vibration of ten utterances (the Ten Sayings of Creation), along twenty-two paths of resonance (the Twenty-two Letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet). (3)
During the sixth phase of emanation (the Sixth Day of Creation), the Divine emanation unfolded into the Four Worlds of Emanation (Azilut), Creation (Beriah), Formation (Yetzirah), and Manifestation (Assiyah), with the ten energies (Sefirot) unfolding in each world, creating the cosmic Tree of Life, the pathway of Divine emanation through all the worlds. (4)
A Living Being (Human Being) was created and formed in the image of the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life lived within the Being and mirrored the Tree of Life in all The Four Worlds; with the ten energies (Sefirot) of Intention (Keter), Wisdom (Chokhmah), Understanding (Binah), Compassion (Chesed), Strength (Gevurah), Beauty (Tiferet), Endurance (Netzakh), Glory (Hod), Creativity (Yesod), and Nobility (Malkut), unfolding in four levels of being: Spirit, Mind, Emotion, and Matter. (5)
Within the Human Being, the ten energies (Sefirot) emanated around the Three Pillars of Energy, Balance, and Containment. (6)
The Human Being entered a state of unconsciousness and the two outermost pillars of energy and containment differentiated into masculine and feminine energies. Thus the Human Being entered a realm of duality and began its journey of experiential learning and growth through the world of love and fear, and toward the return pathways back up the Tree of Life, where one day, the Human Being would return to it's source, the EIN SOF, and look upon it, Beloved to Beloved, Oneness to Oneness, and finally, Face will gaze upon Face. (7)
(1) EIN SOF is also transliterated as AYIN SOF and can be translated as: Without End; Absolute All. It is the title of the Divine that is formless and eternal, beyond space and time.
(2) Halevi, 1979; Zinzum is also translated as contraction.
(3) It is also said that when the Eternal Light penetrated the void, it filled it to the point of shattering its boundaries, fragmenting the light into a sea of endless sparks, which then gave birth to all matter and form (This is the Kabbalah version of the Big Bang!). It is said that every act of kindness returns one of those sparks to the Source, and hence is an act of repairing the world (Tikkun Olam); the Ten Sayings of Creation are the ten Divine utterances found in the first chapter of Genesis, beginning with “Let there be Light.”
(4) The arrangement of the 10 Sefirot and the Four Worlds varies among different schools of Kabbalah, and is depicted as either a single tree of ten Sefirot whose elements are divided into four levels or worlds, or a tree of ten Sefirot existing for each of the four worlds, or a combination of the two. This version uses the combination theory, holding that the four worlds exist within each of the four World Trees (Halevi, 1979).
(5) Each of the Ten Sefirot holds many layers of meaning and has been translated various ways by different schools of Kabbalah. The mystical cosmology depicted in this text uses the idea that the meaning of each Sefirah shifts as they enter each of the Four Worlds; the Sefirot depicted in this section represent the Divine attributes that manifest within us. The traditional translation of the ten Sefirot corresponds to the Tree of Life within the first world of Azilut (Emanation): Crown (Keter), Wisdom (Chokhmah), Understanding (Binah), Mercy (Chesed), Justice (Gevurah), Beauty (Tiferet), Victory (Netzakh), Glory (Hod), Foundation (Yesod), and Kingdom (Malkut) or Divine Presence (Shekhinah).
(6) The pattern of the Tree of Life can be seen as a lightening flash zigzagging down, and back and forth between three pillars or energetic principles. These energetic principles can be seen as the interplay between the energies of expansion, balance and contraction. The ten Seferot are laid out as intersection points between emanating Divine energies and these three principles or vertical pillars. In descending order, Keter, Tiferet, Yesod, and Malkut exist on the central pillar of balance, and the Sefirot pairs of Chokhmah and Binah, Chesed and Gevurah, and Netzakh and Hod exist within the side pillars of expansion and contraction. (More detail will be given in the upcoming entry on the Sefirot.
(7) The journey through the world of duality, represented by the Tree of Knowledge of Love and Fear in the creation story, is a necessary learning process to enable us to return to the EIN SOF, our source, and become a mirror for its eternal light and love.
Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi (Warren Kenton). Kabbalah: Tradition of Hidden Knowledge. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1979.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Meditation and Kabbalah. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1982.
Daniel C. Matt. The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1995.
*Image: Kabbalistic Cosmological Map/Mandala of the process of creation.
*Originally published on KabbalahBlog hosted by Enlightenment.com