The Kabbalah Unveiled
The first questions which the non-qabalistical reader will probably ask are: What is the Kabbalah? Who was its author? What are its sub-divisions? What are its general teachings? And why is a translation of it required at the present time?
I will answer the last question first. At the present time a powerful wave of occult thought is spreading through society; thinking men are beginning to awake to the fact that “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in their philosophy;” and, last but not least, it is now felt that the Bible, which has been probably more misconstrued than any other book ever written, contains numberless obscure and mysterious passages which are utterly unintelligible without some key wherewith to unlock their meaning. THAT KEY IS GIVEN IN THE QABALAH. Therefore this work should be of interest to every biblical and theological student. Let every Christian ask himself this question: “How can I think to understand the Old Testament if I be ignorant of the construction put upon it by that nation whose sacred book it formed; and if I know not the meaning of the Old Testament, how can I expect to understand the New?” Were the real and sublime philosophy of the Bible better known, there would be fewer fanatics and sectarians. And who can calculate the vastness of the harm done to impressionable and excitable persons by the bigoted enthusiasts who ever and anon come forward as teachers of the people? How many suicides are the result of religious mania and depression! What farragos of sacrilegious nonsense have not been promulgated as the true meanings of the hooks of the Prophets and the Apocalypse! Given a translation of the sacred Hebrew Book, in many instances incorrect, as the foundation, an inflamed and an ill-balanced mind as the worker thereon, what sort of edifice can be expected as the result? I say fearlessly to the fanatics and bigots of the present day: You have cast down the Sublime and Infinite One from His throne, and in His stead have placed the demon of unbalanced force; you have substituted a deity of disorder and of jealousy for a God of order and of love; you have perverted the teachings of the crucified One. Therefore at this present time an English translation of the Qabalah is almost a necessity, for the Zohar has never before been translated into the language of this country, nor, as far as I am aware, into any modern European vernacular.
The Qabalah may be defined as being the esoteric Jewish doctrine. It is called in Hebrew QBLH, Qabalah, which is derived from the root QBL, Qibel, meaning “to receive”. This appellation refers to the custom of handing down the esoteric tradition by oral transmission, and is nearly allied to “tradition”.
As in the present work a great number of Hebrew or Chaldee words have to he used in the text, and the number of scholars in the Shemitic languages is limited, I have thought it more advisable to print such words in ordinary Roman characters, carefully retaining the exact orthography. I therefore append a table showing at a glance the ordinary Hebrew and Chaldee alphabet (which is common to both languages), the Roman characters by which I have expressed its letters in this work; also their names, powers, and numerical values. There are no separate numeral characters in Hebrew and Chaldee; therefore, as is also the case in Greek, each letter has its own peculiar numerical value, and from this circumstance results the important fact that every word is a number, and every number is a word. This is alluded to in Revelations, where “the number of the beast” is mentioned, and on this correspondence between words and numbers the science of Gematria (the first division of the so-called literal Qabalah) is based. I shall refer to this subject again. I have selected the Roman letter Q to represent the Hebrew Qoph or Koph, a precedent for the use of which without a following u may be found in Max Müller’s “Sacred Books of the East.” The reader must remember that the Hebrew is almost entirely a consonantal alphabet, the vowels being for the most part supplied by small points and marks usually placed below the letters. Another difficulty of the Hebrew alphabet consists in the great similarity between the forms of certain letters–e.g., V, Z, and final N.
With regard to the author and origin of the Qabalah, I cannot do better than give the following extract from Dr. Christian Ginsburg’s “Essay on the Kaballah,” first premising that this word has been spelt in a great variety of ways–Cabala, Kabalah, Kabbala, etc. I have adopted the form Qabalah, as being more consonant with the Hebrew writing of the word.
“A system of religious philosophy, or, more properly, of theosophy, which has not only exercised for hundreds of years an extraordinary influence on the mental development of so shrewd a people as the Jews, but has captivated the minds of some of the greatest thinkers of Christendom in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, claims the greatest attention of both the philosopher and the theologian. When it is added that among its captives were Raymond Lully, the celebrated scholastic metaphysician and chemist (died 1315); John Reuchlin, the renowned scholar and reviver of Oriental literature in Europe (born 1455, died 1522); John Picus de Mirandola, the famous philosopher and classical scholar (1463-1494); Cornelius Henry Agrippa, the distinguished philosopher, divine, and physician (1486-1535); John Baptist von Helmont, a remarkable chemist and physician (1577-1644); as well as our own countrymen, Robert Fludd, the famous physician and philosopher (1574-1637); and Dr. Henry More (1614-1687); and that these men, after restlessly searching for a scientific system which should disclose to them ‘the deepest depths’ of the divine nature, and show them the real tie which binds all things together, found the cravings of their minds satisfied by this theosophy, the claims of the Qabalah on the attention of students in literature and philosophy will readily be admitted. The claims of the Kabbalah, however, are not restricted to the literary man and the philosopher; the poet too will find in it ample materials for the exercise of his lofty genius. How can it be otherwise with a theosophy which, we are assured, was born of God in Paradise, was nursed and reared by the choicest of the angelic hosts in heaven, and only held converse with the holiest of man’s children upon earth. Listen to the story of its birth, growth, and maturity, as told by its followers.
The Kabbalah Unveiled By God
“The Kabbalah was first taught by God himself to a select company of angels, who formed a theosophic school in Paradise. After the Fall the angels most graciously communicated this heavenly doctrine to the disobedient children of earth, to furnish the protoplasts with the means of returning to their pristine nobility and felicity. From Adam it passed over to Noah, and then to Abraham, the friend of God, who emigrated with it to Egypt, where the patriarch allowed a portion of this mysterious doctrine to ooze out. It was in this way that the Egyptians obtained some knowledge of it, and the other Eastern nations could introduce it into their philosophical systems. Moses, who was learned in all the wisdom of Egypt, was first initiated into the Qabalah in the land of his birth, but became most proficient in it during his wanderings in the wilderness, when he not only devoted to it the leisure hours of the whole forty years, but received lessons in it from one of the angels. By the aid of this mysterious science the law-giver was enabled to solve the difficulties which arose during his management of the Israelites, in spite of the pilgrimages, wars, and frequent miseries of the nation. He covertly laid down the principles of this secret doctrine in the first four books of the Pentateuch, but withheld them from Deuteronomy. Moses also initiated the seventy elders into the secrets of this doctrine, and they again transmitted them from hand to hand. Of all who formed the unbroken line of tradition, David and Solomon were the most deeply initiated into the Qabalah. No one, however, dared to write it down, till Schimeon Ben Jochai, who lived at the time of the destruction of the second templeAfter his death, his son, Rabbi Eleazar, and his secretary, Rabbi Abba, as well as his disciples, collated Rabbi Simon Ben Jochai’s treatises, and out of these composed the celebrated work called ZHR, Zohar, Splendour, which is the grand storehouse of Kabbalism.”
The Qabalah is usually classed under four heads:
(a) The practical Qabalah.
(b) The literal Qabalah.
(c) The unwritten Qabalah.
(d) The dogmatic Qabalah.
The practical Qabalah deals with talismanic and ceremonial magic, and does not come within the scope of this work..
The literal Qabalah is referred to in several places, and therefore a knowledge of its leading principles is necessary. It is divided into three parts: GMTRIA. Gematria; NVTRIQVN, Notariqon, and ThMVRH, Temura.
Gematria is a metathesis of the Greek work grammateia. It is based on the relative numerical values of words, as I have before remarked. Words of similar numerical values are considered to be explanatory of each other, and this theory is also extended to phrases. Thus the letter shin, Sh, is 300, and is equivalent to the number obtained by adding up the numerical values of the letters of the words RVCh ALHIM, Ruach Elohim, the spirit of the Elohim; and it is therefore a symbol of the spirit of the Elohim. For R=200, V=6, Ch=8, A=l, L=30, H=S, I=10, M=40; total=300. Similarly the words AChD, Achad, Unity, one, and AHBH, Ahebah, love, each=13; for A=1, Ch=8, D=4, total=13; and A=1, H=5, B=2, H=5, total=13. Again, the name of the angel MTTRVN, Metatron or Methraton, and the name of Deity, ShDI, Shaddai, each make 314; so the one is taken as symbolical of the other. The angel Metraton is said to have been the conductor of the children of Israel through the wilderness, of whom God says, “My Name is in him.” With regard to Gematria of phrases (Gen. xlix. 10), IBA ShILH, Yeba Shiloh, “Shiloh shall come” which equals 358, which is the numeration of the MShICh, Messiah. Thus also the passage, Gen. xviii. 2 VHNH ShLShH, Vehennna Shalisha, “And lo, three men,” equals in numerical value ALV MIKAL GBRIAL VRPAL, Elo Mikhael Gabriel VeRaphael, “These are Mikhael, Gabriel and Raphael;” for each phrase equals 701. I think these instances will suffice to make clear the nature of Gematria, especially as many others will be found in the course of the ensuing work.
Notariqon is derived from the Latin word notarius, a short-hand writer. Of Notariqon there are two forms. In the first every letter of a word is taken for the initial or abbreviation of another word, so that from the letters of a word a sentence may be formed. Thus every letter of the word BRAShITh, Berashith, the first word in Genesis, is made the initial of a word, and we obtain from it BRAShITh RAH ALHIM ShIQBLV IShRAL ThVRH, Berashith Rahi Elohim Sheyequebelo Israel Torah: “In the beginning the Elohim saw that Israel would accept the law.” In this connection I may give six very interesting specimens of Notariqon formed from this same word BRAShITh by Solomon Meir Ben Moses, a Jewish Qabalist, who embraced the Christian faith in 1665, and took the name of Prosper Rugers. These have all a Christian tendency, and by their means Prosper converted another Jew, who had previously been bitterly opposed to Christianity. The first is BN RVCh AB ShLVShThM IChD ThMIM, Ben, Ruach, Ab, Shaloshethem Yechad Themim:- “The Son, the Spirit, the Father, Their Trinity, Perfect Unity.” The second is, BN RVCh AB ShLVShThM IChD ThOBVDV, Ben, Ruach, Ab, Shaloshethem Yechad Thaubodo: “The Son, the Spirit, the Father, ye shall equally worship Their Trinity.” The third is, BKVRI RAShVNI AShR ShMV IShVO ThOBVDV, Bekori Rashuni Asher Shamo Yeshuah Thaubodo: “Ye shall worship My first-born, My first, Whose Name is Jesus.” The fourth is, BBVA RBN AShR ShMV IShVO ThOBVDV, Beboa Rabban Asher Shamo Yesuah Thaubado: “When the Master shall come Whose Name is Jesus ye shall worship.” The fifth is, BThVLH RAVIH ABChR ShThLD IShVO ThAShRVH, Bethulah Raviah Abachar Shethaled Yeshuah Thrashroah: “I will choose a virgin worthy to bring forth Jesus, and ye shall call her blessed.” The sixth is, BOVGTh RTzPIM ASThThR ShGVPI IShVO ThAKLV, Beaugoth Ratzephim Assattar Shegopi Yeshuah Thakelo: “I will hide myself in cake (baked with) coals, for ye shall eat Jesus, My Body.” The Qabalistical importance of these sentences as bearing upon the doctrines of Christianity can hardly be overrated.
The second form of Notariqon is that exact reverse of the first. By this the initials or finals, or both or the medials, of a sentence, are taken to form a word or words. Thus the Qabalah is called ChKMh NSThRH, Chokhmah Nesthorah, “the secret wisdom;” and if we take the initials of these two words Ch and N, we form by the second kind of Notariqon the word ChN, Chen, “grace.” Similarly, from the initials and finals of the words MI IOLH LNV HShMIMH, Mi Iaulah Leno Ha-Shamayimah, “Who shall go up for us to heaven?” (Deut. xxx. 12), are formed MILH, Milah “circumcision,” and IHVH, the Tetragrammaton, implying that God hath ordained circumcision as the way to heaven.
Temura is permutation. According to certain rules, one letter is substituted for another letter preceding or following it in the alphabet, and thus from one word another word of totally different orthography may be formed. Thus the alphabet is bent exactly in half, in the middle, and one half is put over the other; and then by changing alternately the first letter or the first two letters at the beginning of the second line, twenty two commutations are produced. These are called the “Table of the Combinations of TzIRVP,” Tziruph. For example’s sake, I will give the method called ALBTh, Albath. thus:
11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 K I T Ch Z V H D G B A M N S O P Tz Q R Sh Th L
Each method takes its name from the two pairs composing it, the system of pairs of letters being the groundwork of the whole, as either letter in a pair is substituted for the other letter. Thus, by Albath, from RVCh, Ruach, is formed DTzO, Detzau. The names of the other twenty-one methods are: ABGTh, AHDTh, ADBG, AHBD, AVBH, AZBV, AchBZ, ATBCh, AIBT, AKBI, ALBK, AMBL, ANBM, ASBN, AOBS, APBO, ATzBP, AQBTz, ARBQ, AShBR, AThBS. To these must be added the modes ABGD and ALBM. Then comes the “Rational Table of Tziruph,” another set of twenty-two combinations. There are also three “Tables of the Commutations,” known respectively as the Right, the Averse, and the Irregular. To make any of these, a square, containing 484 squares, should be made, and the letters written in. For the “Right Table” write the alphabet across from right to left; in the second row of squares do the same, but begin with B and end with A; in the third begin with G and end with B; and so on. For the “Averse Table” write the alphabet from right to left backwards, beginning with Th and ending with A; in the second row begin with Sh and end with Th, &c. The “Irregular Table” would take too long to describe. Besides all these, there is the method called ThShRQ, Thashraq, which is simply writing a word backwards. There is one more very important form, called the “Qabalah of the Nine Chambers,” or AIQ BKR, Aiq Bekar. It is thus formed:
300, 30, 3 200, 20, 2 100, 10, 1
Sh, L, G R, K, B Q, I, A
600, 60, 6 500, 50, 5 400, 40, 4
M (f), S, V K(f), N, H Th, M, D
900, 90, 9 800, 80, 8 700, 70, 7
Tz (f), Tz, P (f), P, N (f), O, Z T Ch
I have put the numeration of each letter above to show the affinity between the letters in each chamber. Sometimes this is used as a cipher, by taking the portions of the figure to show the letters they contain, putting one point for the first letter, two for the second, &c. Thus the right angle, containing AIQ, will answer for the letter Q if it has three dots or points within it. Again, a square will answer for H, N, or K final, according to whether it has one, two, or three points respectively placed within it. So also with regard to the other letters. But there are many other ways of employing the Qabalah of the Nine Chambers, which I have not space to describe. I will merely mention, as an example, that by the mode of Temura called AThBSh, Athbash, it is found that in Jeremiah xxv. 26, the word ShShk, Sheshakh, symbolizes BBL, Babel. 15. Besides all these rules, there are certain meanings hidden in the shape of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; in the form of a particular letter at the end of a word being different from that which it generally bears when it is a final letter, or in a letter being written in the middle of a word in a character generally used only at the end; in any letter or letters being written in a size smaller or larger than the rest of the manuscript, or in a letter being written upside down; in the variations found in the spelling of certain words, which have a letter more in some places than they have in others; in peculiarities observed in the position of any of the points or accents, and in certain expressions supposed to be elliptic or redundant.
For example, the shape of the Hebrew letter Aleph, A, is said to symbolize a Vau, V, between a Yod, I, and a Daleth, D; and thus the letter itself represents the word IVD, Yod. Similarly the shape of the letter He, H, represents the word Daleth, D, with a Yod, I, written at the lower left-hand corner, &c.
In Isaiah ix. 6, 7, the word LMRBH, Lemarbah, for multiplying, is written with the character for M final in the middle of the word, instead of with the ordinary initial and medial M. The consequence of this is that the total numerical value of the word, instead of being 30+40+200+ 2+5=277, is 30+600+200+2+5=837=by Gematria ThTh ZL, Tat Zal, the profuse Giver. Thus, by writing the M final instead of the ordinary character, the word is made to bear a different qabalistical meaning.
In Deuteronomy vi. 4, &c., is the prayer known as the Shema Yisrael. It begins, “ShMO IShRAL IHVH ALHINV IHVH AChD, Shemaa Yisrael, Tetragrammaton Elohino Tetragrammaton Achad: “Hear, O Israel, Tetragrammaton our God is Tetragrammaton Unity.” In this verse the terminal letter O in ShMO, and the D in AChD are written much larger than the other letters of the text. The qabalistical symbology contained in this circumstance is explained as follows. The letter O, being of the value of 70, shows that the law may be explained in seventy different ways, and the D=4=the four cardinal points and the letters of the Holy Name. The first word, ShMO, has the numerical value of 410, the number of years of the duration of the first temple, &c. &c. There are many other points worthy of consideration in this prayer, but time will not permit me to dwell on them.
Other examples of deficient and redundant spelling, peculiarities of accent and pointing, &c., will be found in various places in the ensuing work.
It is to be further noted with regard to the first word in the Bible, BRAShITh, Berashith, that the first three letters, BRA, are the initial letters of the names of the three persons of the Trinity: BN, Ben, the Son; RVCh, Ruach, the Spirit ; and AB, Ab, the Father. Furthermore, the first letter of the Bible is B, which is the initial letter of BRKH, Barakhah, blessing; and not A, which is that of ARR, Arar, cursing. Again, the letters of Berashith, taking their numerical powers, express the number of years between the Creation and the birth of Christ, thus: B=2,000, R=200, A=1000, SH =300, I= 10, and TH = 400; total = 3910 years, being the time in round numbers. Picus de Mirandola gives the following working out of BRASHITH, Berashith:–By joining the third letter, A, to the first, B, AB Ab=Father, is obtained. If to the first letter B, doubled, the second letter, R, be added, it makes BBR, Bebar=in or through the Son. If all the letters be read except the first, it makes RASHITH, Rashith=the beginning. If with the fourth letter, Sh, the first B and the last Th be connected, it makes ShBTh, Skebeth=the end or rest. If the first three letters be taken, they make BRA, Bera=created. If, omitting the first, the three following be taken, they make RASh, Rash=head. If, omitting the two first, the next two be taken, they give ASh, Ash=fire. If the fourth and last be joined, they give ShTh, Sheth=foundation. Again, if the second letter be put before the first, it makes RB, Rab=great. If after the third be placed the fifth and fourth, it gives AISh, Aish=man. If to the two first be joined the two last, they give BRITh, Berith=covenant. And if the first be added to the last, it gives ThB, Theb, which is sometimes used for TVB, Thob=good.
Taking the whole of these mystical anagrams in proper order, Picus makes the following sentence out of this one word BRAShITh:–Pater in filio (aut per filiumum) principium et finem (sive quietum) creavit caput, ignem, et fundamentum magni hominis foedere bono: “Through the Son bath the Father created that Head which is the beginning and the end, the fire-life and the foundation of the supernal man (the Adam Qadmon) by His righteous covenant.” Which is a short epitome of the teachings of the “Book of Concealed Mystery.” This notice of the literal Qabalah has already extended beyond its proper limits. It was, however, necessary to be thus explicit, as much of the metaphysical reasoning of the ensuing work turns on its application.
The term “Unwritten Qabalah” is applied to certain knowledge which is never entrusted to writing, but communicated orally. I may say no more on this point, not even whether I myself have or have not received it. Of course, till the time of Rabbi Schimeon Ben Jochai none of the Qabalah was ever written.
The Dogmatic Qabalah contains the doctrinal portion. There are a large number of treatises of various dates and merits which go to make up the written Qabalah, but they may be reduced to four heads:
(a) The Sepher Yetzirah and its dependencies.
(b) The Zohar with its developments and commentaries.(c) The Sepher Sephiroth and its expansions.
(d) The Asch Metzareph and its symbolism.
The SPR ITzIRH, Sepher Yetzirah, or “Book of Formation,” is ascribed to the patriarch Abraham. It treats the cosmogony as symbolized by the ten numbers and the twenty-two letters of the alphabet, which it calls the “thirty-two paths.” On these latter Rabbi Abraham Ben Dior has written a mystical commentary. The term “path” is used throughout the Qabalah to signify a hieroglyphical idea, or rather the sphere of ideas, which may be attached to any glyph or symbol.
The ZHR, Zohar, or “Splendour,” besides many other treatises of less note, contains the following most important books.
(a) The SPRA DTzNIOVThA, Siphra Dtzenioutha, or “Book of Concealed Mystery,” which is the root and foundation of the Zohar.
(b) The ADRA RBA QDIShA, Idra Rabba Qadisha or “Greater Holy Assembly:” this is a development of the “Book of Concealed Mystery.”
(c) The ADRA ZVTA QDIShA, Idra Zuta Qadisha, or ” Lesser Holy Assembly;” which is in the nature of a supplement to the “Idra Rabba.” These three books treat of the gradual development of the creative Deity, and with Him the Creation. The text of these works has been annotated by Knorr von Rosenroth (the author of the “Qabalah Denudata,”) from the Mantuan, Cremonensian, and Lublinensian Codices, which are corrected printed copies; of these the Mantuan and Cremonensian are the oldest. A species of commentary is also given, which is distinguished from the actual text by being written within parentheses.
(d) The pneumatical treatise called BITh ALHIM, Beth Elohim, or the “House of the Elohim,” edited by Rabbi Abraham Cohen Irira, from the doctrines of Rabbi Yitzchaq Loria. It treats of angels, demons, elemental spirits, and souls.
(e) The “Book of the Revolutions of Souls” is a peculiar and discursive treatise, and is an expansion of Rabbi Loria’s ideas.
The SPR SPIRVTh, Sepher Sephiroth, or “Book of the Emanations,” describes, so to speak, the gradual evolution of the Deity from negative into positive existence.
The ASh MTzRP, Asch Metzareph, or Purifying Fire, is hermetic and alchemical, and is known to few, and when known is understood by still fewer.
The principal doctrines of the Qabalah are designed to solve the following problems:–
(a) The Supreme Being, His nature and attributes.
(b) The Cosmogony.
(c) The creation of angels and man.
(d) The destiny of man and angels.
(e) The nature of the soul.
(f) The nature of angels, demons, and elementals.
(g) The import of the revealed law.
(h) The transcendental symbolism of numerals.
(i) The peculiar mysteries contained in the Hebrew letters.
(j) The equilibrium of contraries.
The “Book of Concealed Mystery” opens with these words: “The Book of Concealed Mystery is the book of the equilibrium of balance.” What is here meant by the terms “equilibrium of balance”? Equilibrium is that harmony which results from the analogy of contraries, it is the dead centre where, the opposition of opposing forces being equal in strength, rest succeeds motion. It is the central point. It is the “point within the circle” of ancient symbolism. It is the living synthesis of counterbalanced power. Thus form may be described as the equilibrium of light and shade; take away either factor, and form is viewless. The term balance is applied to the two opposite natures in each triad of the Sephiroth, their equilibrium forming the third Sephira in each ternary. I shall recur again to this subject in explaining the Sephiroth. This doctrine of equilibrium and balance is a fundamental qabalistical idea.
The “Book of Concealed Mystery” goes on to state that this “Equilibrium hangeth in that region which is negatively existent.” What is negative existence? What is positive existence? The distinction between these two is another fundamental idea. To define negative existence clearly is impossible, for when it is distinctly defined it ceases to be negative existence; it is then negative existence passing into static condition. Therefore wisely have the Qabalists shut out from mortal comprehension the primal AIN, Ain, the negatively existent One, and the AIN SVP, Ain Soph, the limitless Expansion; while of even the AIN SVP AVR, Ain Soph Aur, the illimitable Light, only a dim conception can be formed. Yet, if we think deeply, we shall see that such must be the primal forms of the unknowable and nameless One, whom we, in the most manifest form speak of as God. He is the Absolute. But how do we define the Absolute? Even as we define it, it slips from our grasp, for it ceases when defined to be the Absolute. Shall we then say that the Negative, the Limitless, the Absolute are, logically speaking, absurd, since they are ideas which our reason cannot define? No; for could we define them, we should make them, so to speak, contained by our reason, and therefore not superior to it; for a subject to be capable of definition it is requisite that certain limits should be assignable to it. How then can we limit the Illimitable?
The first principle and axiom of the Qabalah is the name of the Deity, translated in our version of the Bible, “I am that I am,” AHIH AShR AHIH, Eheieh Asher Eheieh. A better translation is, “Existence is existence, or I am He who is.”
Eliphas Levi Zahed, that great philosopher and Qabalist of the present century, says in his “Histoire de la Magie” (bk. i. ch. 7): “The Qabalists have a horror of everything that resembles idolatry; they, however ascribe the human form to God, but it is a purely hieroglyphical figure. They consider God as the intelligent, living, and loving Infinite One. He is for them neither the collection of other beings, nor the abstraction of existence, nor a philosophically definable being. He is in all, distinct from all, and greater than all. His very name is ineffable; and yet this name only expresses the human ideal of His Divinity. What God is in Himself it is not given to man to know. God is the absolute of faith; existence is the absolute of reason, existence exists by itself, and because it exists. The reason of the existence of existence is existence itself. We may ask, ‘Why does any particular thing exist?’ that is, ‘Why does such or such a thing exist?’ But we cannot ask, without its being absurd to do so, ‘Why does existence exist?’ For this would be to suppose existence prior to existence.” Again, the same author says (ibid. bk. iii. ch. 2): “To say, ‘I will believe when the truth of the dogma shall be scientifically proved to me,’ is the same as to say, ‘I will believe when I have nothing more to believe, and when the dogma shall be destroyed as dogma by becoming a scientific theorem.’ That is to say, in other words: ‘I will only admit the Infinite when it shall have been explained, determined, circumscribed, and defined for my benefit; in one word, when it has become finite. I will then believe in the Infinite when I am sure that the Infinite does not exist. I will believe in the vastness of the ocean when I shall have seen it put into bottles.’ But when a thing has been clearly proved and made comprehensible to you, you will no longer believe it you will know it.”
In the “Bhagavadgîtâ,” ch. ix., it is said, “I am Immortality and also death; and I, O Arguna! am that which is and that which is not.” [Or, “which exists negatively.”] And again (ch. ix.): “And, O descendant of Bharata! see wonders in numbers, unseen before. Within my body, O Gudâkesa! see today the whole universe, including everything moveable and immovable, all in one.” And again (ibid.) Arguna said: “O Infinite Lord of the Gods! O Thou who pervadest the universe! Thou art the Indestructible, that which is, that which is not, and what is beyond them. Thou art the Primal God, the Ancient One; Thou art the highest support of this universe. By Thee is this universe pervaded, O Thou of the infinite forms.Thou art of infinite power, of unmeasured glory; Thou pervadest all, and therefore, Thou art all!”
The idea of negative existence can then exist as an idea, but it will not bear definition, since the idea of definition is utterly incompatible with its nature. “But,” some of my readers will perhaps say, “your term negative existence is surely a misnomer; the state you describe would be better expressed by the title of negative subsistence.” Not so, I answer; for negative subsistence can never be anything but negative subsistence; it cannot vary, it cannot develop; for negative subsistence is literally and truly no thing. Therefore negative subsistence cannot be at all; it never has existed, it never does exist, it never will exist. But negative existence bears hidden in itself, positive life; for in the limitless depths of the abyss of its negativity lies hidden the power of standing forth from itself, the power of projecting the scintilla of the thought unto the outer, the power or re-involving the syntagma into the inner. Thus shrouded and veiled is the absorbed intensity in the centerless whirl of the vastness of expansion. Therefore have I employed the term “Ex-sto,” rather than “Sub-sto.”
But between two ideas so different as those of negative and positive existence a certain nexus, or connecting-link, is required, and hence we arrive at the form which is called potential existence, which while more nearly approaching positive existence, will still scarcely admit of clear definition. It is existence, in its possible form. For example, in a seed, the tree which may spring from it is hidden; it is in a condition of potential existence; is there; but it will not admit of definition. How much less, then, will those seeds which that tree in its turn may yield? But these latter are in a condition which, while it is somewhat analogous to potential existence, is in hardly so advanced a stage; that is, they are negatively existent.
But, on the other hand, positive existence is always capable of definition; it is dynamic; it has certain evident powers, and it is therefore the antithesis of negative existence, and still more so of negative subsistence. It is the tree, no longer hidden in the seed, but developed into the outer. But positive existence has a beginning and an end, and it therefore requires another form from which to depend, for without this other concealed negative ideal behind it, it is unstable and unsatisfactory.
Thus, then, have I faintly and with all reverence endeavoured to shadow forth to the minds of my readers the idea of the Illimitable One. And before that idea, and of the idea, I can only say, in the words of an ancient oracle: “In Him is an illimitable abyss of glory, and from it there goeth forth one little spark which maketh all the glory of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars. Mortal! behold how little I know of God; seek not to know more of Him, for this is far beyond thy comprehension, however wise thou art; as for us, who are His ministers, how small a part are we of Him!”
Authors Details: S. L. McGregor Mathers