Into the Abyss:
A Qabalistic Approach to an Understanding of the Temple
Ad maiorem gloriam Dei
The Qabalah (1), as an example of Hebrew mystical mentation, is not a hard and fast system. A Qabalistic adage holds that there are as many Qabalahs as there are Qabalists. This implies that there is a plethora of approaches and understandings available, all of which claim to be rooted in the same ground. Now, the Qabalah is a varied and marvelous system, to be sure, but the intent of this presentation is not to add to the confusion that already exists, rather it is to use this system to assist the reader in dispelling his/her (2) uncertainty regarding the Temple and his/her role as one of its Chevaliers. It is certain that the Templars of old were familiar with the Qabalah through their years of interaction in the Holy Land. It would not be far-fetched to think that some of the Templar Tradition itself is expressed in Qabalistic terms. By viewing our status in relation to this ancient system of knowledge and wisdom, I believe we can better understand what lies before us in our activities in Service to the Temple. A task, I am sure, that will demand the utmost of our knowledge, talents, abilities, and faith.
The Qabalah is a system of great antiquity reaching back into our shadowy and mythical past. One account holds that the Qabalah was imparted to Adam by the Archangel Ratziel (Secrets of GOD) upon his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Over the generations, then, this system was passed on from mouth to. ear until it evolved to the form in which we know it today. Due to its sheer depth and complexity, a variety of tools were developed to assist the student in learning this system. One of these tools is the glyph known as the Tree of Life, or OTz ChIM (3), as is called in Hebrew. Although a rather late development in the evolution of Qabalistic mentation, it is a particularly poignant illustration that will help us visualize the ideas and concepts that will be dealt with in this paper. For this reason, I shall begin with a brief description of the Tree so that those among you who have not had the opportunity to explore this system will not be at a disadvantage relative to those who have. Of course, those among you who have studied Qabalah and the Tree to any extent will also benefit from the review. Once this general background has been provided, I will move on to examine those particular features of the Tree and its intra-relationships that shed light on our status of Chevalier and on what I believe are the consequences of attaining this position. For the moment, I must add that it is not an easy task that has been placed before us. But, the understanding that the Tree may provide can go far in easing our burden and ensuring our success.
The Tree of Life
Most simply stated, the Tree of Life is a comprehensive, complex glyph (or symbolic system) representing the structure and operations of both the Macrocosm, or Universe at Large, and the Microcosm, or Man. Everything we do, all our accomplishments, the phenomena of Nature, can all be described and understood using the Tree. Like the sacred Tree of Nordic mythology, Yggdrasil, the OTz ChIM has its roots in Heaven and its fruit on Earth. We encounter the Tree as a completed entity, and must climb it to reach its source, which is, of course, our source as well.
The accompanying diagram, Figure 1, shows one depiction of the Tree of Life. You will note that it is comprised of ten spheres, or Sephiroth as they are known in Qabalistic parlance, interconnected by twenty-two paths. The Sephiroth represent objective states of consciousness; the interconnecting paths represent subjective states. You will note that each Sephirah contains the number of the sphere on the Tree, its Hebrew name (in capital letters) and its English equivalent. On each connecting path there can be found a number and a Hebrew letter. The reason for this arrangement will become clearer as our discussion progresses.
The beginnings of Qabalistic mentation and the description of the ten Sephiroth is described by the oldest metaphysical treatise in the Hebrew tongue, the Sephir Yetzirah, or Book of Formation as it is also known (4). In this essay, the Tree per se is not described, rather reference is made to the “decade out of nothing” and to the “32 paths of wisdom.” This is mentioned for it is important to realize that it is from the Great Unmanifest, or the realm beyond the comprehension of man, that all comes forth into manifestation. When dealing with the Tree, one is dealing with the realm that can be experienced by man. The aspects represented by the half-circles drawn with broken lines lies not only beyond our comprehension, but beyond our ability to experience as well. Not much more can be said of this at this time. Yet, two important characteristics are emphasized. First, all emanates from One Source. Although unspecified and not pursued any further by the Qabalist, he is aware that all that is has its roots in just one source. There is not a diversity that gives rise to the diversity that we know, rather diversity arises out of Unity. This is the First Great Mystery of the Qabalah. However, we, as humans, need to make some sense out of things, even those that are beyond our ken. The attempts to explain in essence how this Mystery occurs is found in the second concept, the Doctrine of Emanations. Most simply stated, the bringing forth into manifestation of the Great Unmanifest is by virtue of the fact that it emanates from itself. Consequently, all that follows, the diversity that eventually arises, is connected in a very intimate way with the original source. It is not something separate (even though we experience it as separateness), but it is instead most intimately related to the primal source of All. The sequence of this emanation is reflected in our diagram by the NUMBER in the Sephiroth.
The Sephir Yetzirah points out that there are further roots to manifestation that should be explored, and these are the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. A well accepted depiction of the letters is presented in Figure 2 (see below). These 22 most special and sacred letters are collected into three primary groups. First there are the Mother Letters, Aleph, Mem, and Shin, which give rise to all the other letters and which represent the basic elements of Air, Water, and Fire. According to Qabalistic thinking, it is the interaction of these three mother letters that give rise to the fourth element Earth (which always represents the manifestation). There are in addition seven double letters (Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Peh, Resh, Tav) that are so called due to their hard and soft pronunciations. These pairs represent the seven oppositions of life, such as Life-Death, Love-Hate, War-Peace, and others. The remaining twelve letters are the so-called single letters and these relate, if you will, to the months in the year, the signs of the Zodiac, and various parts of the human anatomy. You will notice that each letter is associated with a number and these give insight into the meanings of not only the letters, but also of the words formed of these letters. This is the basis of the Qabalistic art of Gematria and for this reason alone, it is well worth the effort to study and master this system of symbolic representation.
The ten Sephiroth combined with the 22 letters give a total of 32 Paths of Wisdom by which the individual can come to know the meaning of the Universe and Self. These are the Paths, which we tread in search of enlightenment, and they are the Paths we must traverse, either mentally or physically in order to gain that experience which is necessary to achieve Reintegration with the Original Source. The Tree of Life is a pictorial representation of these Paths and their interrelationships with one another.
One “works” the Tree, so to speak, by attaining the states of consciousness that the various Sephiroth and Paths represent. One begins, of course, at the bottom, in Malkuth, or Kingdom, and traverses the Tree in the pattern opposite that of its emanation. The Paths may be traversed once the objective states of consciousness that connect them have been mastered. As an example, once the lessons of Malkuth (10) and Yesod (9) have been mastered, one can further explore the Path of Tav (32). Then one progresses to Hod (8) and then, having mastered the objective state of consciousness represented by this Sephirah, one would return to master the Path of Shin (31) and the Path of Resh (30). This method is mentioned for those of you who may wish to pursue the matter further on your own. For the purposes of our presentation, however, it provides just an inkling of the intricacies described by the Tree.
It is worth noting that the Hebrew letters are also associated with the Major Arcana of the Tarot: one letter per card, and arranged on the Tree as indicated by the letters in Figure 1. Again, we will not be examining the details of this system of knowledge in this paper either, but the connection between the two systems, the OTz ChIM and Tarot should be noted. As is so often the case among writers on these subjects, there is no hard and fast correspondence between the letters and the various cards. Different authors have different approaches and different understandings of these systems, and each student of the Tarot and Tree are well advised to find those that seem to be most effective for himself or herself. No one can tell you absolutely that things are one way and no other. Each will find as he grows in wisdom and understanding that knowledge once firm and reliable suddenly pales and shifts in focus. This does not mean that old knowledge should be discarded, rather one finds that it can be put to new uses in new applications thereby radically increasing one’s ability to function in the world. Where germane to our discussion, I will point out the discrepancies, otherwise no more will be said of this subject.
This, in briefest and most fundamental terms, is the background of the Tree of Life as understood by the Qabalists. There are many other aspects of the Tree, such as the Four Oabalistic Worlds and the systems of correspondences and attributions which are well worth studying, but to present them here would go far beyond the scope of this paper. For the understanding we are trying to achieve we may ignore them for now. Those attributes and correspondences that are germane to the issues addressed here, however, will be delineated at the appropriate place in the discussion. With this in mind, allow me to make a brief digression to outline the path we must travel to reach the realm of the Temple, that is our primary focus of attention.
The Path to the Temple
As was stated before, one always begins one’s journey in Malkuth. You will note that we are situated at the point farthest away from the Crown (Kether) that we are striving to attain. Malkuth is generally considered feminine and is also known as the Shekinah, the (female) presence of GOD in the world. The lesson to be learned here is that of discrimination, or perhaps better stated, discernment. The ability to separate what is helpful from what is harmful is perhaps the most valuable tool one can ever obtain. This is especially important at the beginning of our journey, for the next Sephirah to be explored is Yesod, the sphere of illusion. The gateway between Malkuth and Yesod is the Threshold about which many volumes of esoteric literature have been written, but all of these are of no avail if you never confront this challenge yourself.
Once across the Threshold one lands in the realm of the mind, as we generally understand it: the objective consciousness (represented by Hod), the subjective consciousness (represented by Netzach) and the subconscious (Yesod). Yesod is the sphere of illusion, of delusion, and if one has not learned the lesson of Malkuth well before venturing into this labyrinth, one can get lost forever. At times we find respite, either in our intellect (Hod) or emotional demeanor (Netzach), but we can find ourselves rambling around this lower triangle of mind for quite some time if we fail to learn our lessons well. In fact, it takes quite a momentous struggle to break this particular cycle. And many a student on the path has not waged this struggle well, to his/her own, and often to others’, detriment. For you see, one must cross the great divide, the Gulf (5).
The mind can appear as a wilderness in which one could wander about unto death. If we never evolve any higher then we surely live in fear of being lost. The movement from Yesod to Hod to Netzach establishes a momentum that is difficult to overcome; it is quite easy to continue in this rotation thereby imprisoning ourselves in a lower world. To counteract this tendency takes a conscious act of will; we must turn around in our ways, so that we can evolve toward Tipareth.
Reversal is a key concept for anyone involved in mystical work, and we are reminded of this by the figure of John the Baptist in the New Testament. John prepared the way for the coming of the Christ. He wandered in the wilderness (by choice), living from locusts and honey preaching the coming of one whose sandals (a symbol of Yesod) he was not worthy to tie. “Turn around, turn around,” he would cry, “for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” (6). When we heed the Prophet, we can muster our strength, we can overcome our own momentum and raise ourselves to the sphere of Christ. By turning around and changing our ways, we can attain to the Heart of the Tree itself.
Tipareth! What a sphere of beauty and harmony! This is the sphere in which all traditional Orders, as have developed up until now, are situated. Tipareth is the Sephirah of all solar deities; and it is also the sphere of the sacrificed god. Symbols of Tipareth are the Calvary Cross, the Interlaced Triangles and the Rosy Cross. How much clearer must the statements be made? But, as was said, one does not achieve this level without effort. To reach it one must overcome both Death and the Devil. More importantly, for some time, this was the highest level that one could attain at all. Above Tipareth on the Tree is the second barrier known to the Qabalists as the Veil of Paroketh. Traditionally this was the curtain, which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Hebrew Temple (of Solomon). It is reported in the New Testament, however, that at the Crucifixion the veil of the temple was rent in two. Christ had truly overcome Death and was raised to life everlasting, but almost more importantly, he opened the way for others into the Inner Sanctum of the Temple. The way was now open to the higher Sephiroth on the Tree, but who was worthy of attaining these heights? Who would dare to emulate the Christ and love without limit, even his enemies? Who is willing to seek harmony where there is only strife? Who is willing to lose his life that he may gain it? Not many, I am sure. In light of what has just been revealed, though, we can realize what an awesome responsibility was placed upon those Orders which are represented at this position. But evolution moves on, regardless of whether the species is ready for the change or not.
We have covered the ground that has been known, experientially, up until now, but oddly we have found nothing distinctively Templar. We would have recognized this on the colors, symbols or other characteristics of the Paths and Sephiroth, but such were just not there. We found a cross, but not the Templar cross. We found no sword, no knightly regalia to associate with the Warrior-Monks of the Middle Ages. This lack of evidence leads to two primary possibilities: (1) there is no evidence to be found for the Temple at all, in which case our efforts thus far have been for naught; or (2) this evidence is yet to come, and as we shall see, it this possibility that manifests. In fact, not only do we find indications of the Temple and the Templars, there is substantial evidence supporting this claim. So let us journey onward and pass through the Veil where much knowledge shall be revealed to us.
The Tree and the TempleEven at this point with only this most rudimentary introduction to the Tree and its meanings, we should realize that the “level” being spoken of here is not simply a part of everyday life. There are demands to be made and obligations are incurred every step along the way. The higher on the Tree one goes, the greater these become. Given the state of the Veil we may now traverse, it can be seen that once one dares go beyond Tipareth, one is exploring new ground, for few are they who have attained these heights. Few are they who have had to, up until now. The thrust of evolution, however, will ensure that there are travelers here, whether they feel comfortable there or not. Mankind must evolve and there are some who must move ahead and break new ground, who must cut new roads into the wilderness. And since this is new ground, we must proceed more slowly now. A new feeling fills the air, a new sense of anticipation animates us. Once past Tipareth and through the Veil of Paroketh, we arrive at the sphere of Geburah, or Severity, as it is commonly known. But, why should this Sephirah have meaning for us as Templars? Let us examine some of its correspondences and see what insights they reveal. As we gaze around, the first thing we notice about Geburah is its color: scarlet red. The color of arterial blood, yes, but also the color of our Templar cross. Perhaps a coincidental association and no more. I do not think so, for does not the Sixth Hermetic Axiom, the Principle of Cause and Effect, tell us that coincidence, or chance, is simply a name for Law not recognized? This is the fifth Sephriah on the Tree, so the number five now gains in significance. To Pythagoras, five is the number of man; it is also the number of health. The great 18th century mystic Louis Claude de Saint Martin, considered five an evil number, for it was the turning point between degeneration and regeneration. In modern numerology, however, the idea of change plays a more important role. Five is the number of constructive freedom; that is, freedom that liberates, not freedom that makes us a slave to our senses. The downside of modern thought on this number indicates that it is the number of physicality, and it appears often in conjunction with overindulgence and addiction. We can change for the better, we can change for the worse, yet the power to do so is in our five-fingered hands. The strong binding of the physical in conjunction with the number five brings a number of images to mind. Addiction, for example, is a form of power: the power of the drug over the body and will. The ability to change is a form of power: the acceptance of responsibility and the will to make it different. We should not be surprised then to learn that the vision of Geburah is the Vision of Power. Strangely enough, one of Geburah’s symbols hammers home this idea: the Pentagon. We in the United States in particular should seriously rethink the implications of this insight. Geburah is also associated with the planet Mars, the Fiery Initiator and Roman god of war. We begin to see the double-edged nature of this Sephirah; double-edged, like a sword, our Templar sword, a further symbol of this sphere. And, one last symbol that should be mentioned in this regard is the chain. Chains may bind us in prison, as we were at the suppression of our Order, but they also free us to bind together in harmony, cooperation and shared purpose. All the indications are before us, if we can only see and recognize them. Is there more this Sephirah can tell us about the Temple? Most certainly. Geburah is the sphere of the Warrior: positively, the one who conquers fear, negativity, the one who is cruel and destructive. The image of Geburah, a warrior in his chariot, tells us that our activity can go either way. Our orientation is upward; it is courage we must muster. Sure, we have known fear before: how else would we have survived the Terror of the Threshold, how could we have overcome the Devil and Death? But it flashes upon our mind that these are only representations of fear. Now, we must confront Fear itself – no mediation, no intermediaries, just Fear in its fullest essence. It is at this point that many feel that too much has been asked of them. “Why me?” is a question often heard. The challenges that arise in one’s life are demanding, and we find we must discard much of what we once considered to be things we could not live without. But again, it is this Sephirah that lends its name to the pillar formed by the three Sephiroth on the right side of the Tree: the Pillar of Severity. And severe it is. To sever and cut away all that is not necessary, the surgical solution, is associated with this sphere, it is the act that saves the patient, not the one that destroys him. But Geburah is also the right arm in man, the sword arm, and appropriately, we must learn to cut through the dilemmas and paradoxes confronting us. It was with the sword that Alexander the Great resolved the Gordian Knot. All this lets us suspect that there is another side to Geburah, one we should not ignore. All this action can give one the impression that activity is the keyword of this sphere, and it is, in a way, but the real power of this Sephirah is the power of negative activity. This is not the destruction that we too easily associate with the cutting away of the unneeded, rather it is a radical allowing-to-happen. Anyone who has children knows that there comes a time when you, as a parent, can no longer protect them from experiencing on their own. We must allow others to fail so that they may succeed later. Precluding failure in the short term is to doom another to failure in the long term. And it is in this sense – of allowing to happen – that negative activity takes shape. There is a radicality that is associated with Geburah, and this is not surprising when we learn that the Qabalists assign the Radical Intelligence to this Sephirah. Radical has gathered a good deal of negative connotation in our language over the years, but we should remember that etymologically it comes from the Latin word, radix, meaning root. Radical actually means going to the root of things. To rid our lawn of weeds, we must root them out. To eliminate what is unnecessary or undesirable, we must destroy the root. But it is our roots that give us a sense of permanence; just witness the increasing interest in our society in genealogy. We have come to a point in our evolution when our roots are important yet simultaneously a radical change is required. Physically our planet, for example, is faced with a crisis. Hard decisions must be made if we are to find our way out of this dilemma. It is our modem day Gordian Knot; Geburian solutions are required. Such is the first position in the Temple. Here we encounter the root from which all else will grow: the first point of the triangle. Courage, the conquering of fear; activity, but to know when not to intervene; power, the proper application to liberate, not enslave; in other words, the Warrior in his most positive characterization is what Geburah tells us about the Temple. Yet, Geburah cannot be fully understood without considering its complement, Chesed. Across the Tree it lies, a reflection of the Sephirah we just reviewed. As its name states, this is the Sphere of Mercy. Again, we are struck by its color. The pure blue of Chesed reminds us of the Vault of Heaven, the sky on a warm, summer’s day, but more importantly, this is the color of water, cool, life-giving water; the antithesis of the fires of Geburah. Blue is also the color of Jupiter, the rain-giving god, who is associated with this Sephirah. This may lead us to think that there is something fluid, perhaps unstable about Chesed, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is not fluid insubstantiality that characterizes the Sephirah, quite the contrary. Chesed is a solid, stable sphere, for it is the fourth Sephirah on the Tree. The number four has always indicated solidity and stability. The orb and sphere as symbols indicate these characteristics, but even more-so, the tetrahedron, the simplest and most symmetrical of the solid figures, that is also a symbol of Chesed. Even in modern numerological terms, four stands for order, service and responsibility. These are positive, enabling characteristics for the one who possesses them. We know that the Universe exhibits an impeccable order; chaos is not tolerated and quickly dissolved. In Service we reach our true Selves. It is Service to others that allows us to grow in stature to become enduring souls. Responsibility: what more be said? This is the key word for our age; this is the challenge with which we are all confronted. Not a day passes that the news and events of our world do not remind us that we must individually and collectively accept the responsibility for ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our nation, and the world. Unpleasant it may be, but there is no way around, it. Having conquered Fear in Geburah, however, strengthens our resolve to take on this challenge Chesed is a reflection of its counterpart across the Tree. Not the strenuous, dividing, cutting, severing action we just experienced, but rather compassionate, enduring, persevering action characterizes Chesed, for this is the sphere of positive activity. Not the king on his war horse in the midst of battle, but a king on his throne administering justice is the image of Chesed. But, the demands go beyond kingship. The lesson to be learned here is just as difficult, if not more so than that of Geburah: it is Love. “Love your enemies,” the Christ admonished us, and we realize that the ability to do this is a highly evolved one indeed. We may recognize the need to do so at any time, but to partake of the essence of Chesed is to be obligated to do so. It is not the warrior who accomplishes this feat of love, it is the holy man, and truly Chesed is the realm of the Chasidim (the wise ones). Finally, other symbols associated with this sphere reflect these ideas very well. We have the scepter, indicative of kingly authority; the wand, representing the will alignment of the magician; the (shepherd’s) crook, that brings to mind the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….” And more significantly, the equal-armed cross. This particular form of the cross indicates balance and stability, so its association with Chesed is obvious. In balanced activity we find mercy and compassion. And like its counterpart, Chesed is the Sephirah that lends its name to the pillar on this side of the Tree, the Pillar of Mercy. Mercy is that which balances severity. Severity provides a counterbalance to mercy. However, we can only practice mercy when we “have all our stuff together”, to use the modem phraseology. We must be cohesive within our own natures, but also in that we follow a will that is higher than our own. Consequently, Chesed is associated with the Cohesive or Receptive Intelligence, for it is not my will, but Thy will that shall be done, on Earth (me) as it is in Heaven (Chesed). Obedience to this will is the virtue of this sphere, which brings us to its power, namely positive activity. Not the allowing to happen of Geburah, but the conscious, decisive, act is demanded here. In Chesed, we are called to action; we can no longer contemplate, reflect and observe. Our presence is required; our energy must be set in motion. We obey a higher Law. Such is the second position in the Temple. Here we encounter the sustenance for the growth begun in Geburah: we have reached the second point of the triangle. Love, of our friends, but also of our enemies; obedience, to a will and authority higher than our own; activity, the call to action; in other words, the Monk in his most positive characterization is what Chesed tells us of the Temple. When we consider these two important Sephiroth in relation to one another, how quickly we realize that it is the marrying of these two spheres, Geburah and Chesed, that yields the Templars’ most outward sign: the red equal-armed cross. Our first gift has been revealed. Later, we received our second, our sword, emblematic of Geburah and the initiation of action. But not just any activity will do. We have seen that both positive and negative activity are required. The balancing of severity and mercy in the active participation in life is the idea conveyed to us. The chain and tetrahedron may be outer reminders of this fact; but, we also have the inner ones, namely courage and obedience in Service to our love of humanity. At this level on the Tree, we should realize that we have transcended the realm of individuality. It is not the single entity that is so important any longer, although each individual must be as developed and strong as possible. But in passing Tipareth, this individuality is sacrificed; the ego is given up so that a higher purpose, a higher will may make itself manifest in our actions. We have the tools, the information, and the knowledge, but it remains for us to implement them. Geburah represents the warrior, Chesed the holy man, or monk. The union of these two Sephiroth, then, gives us the most classic characterization of the Templars of old: the warrior-monk. The Tree confirms what the mundane world only suspects (7). What enables the Templar to carry out this tremendous task presented to him? What provides the connecting element between these two seemingly oppositional aspects of his nature? In reference to the Tree, of course, it would be the path that connects these two Sephiroth, so it is there that we shall look for our answers. And immediately forthcoming they are. The path connecting Geburah and Chesed is, significantly enough, the 19th Path on the Tree. Its color is yellow, the third primary color. It is represented by the Tarot card, Strength, which indicates how the balancing of the Sephiroth is to be gained. On this card we find a young woman crowned by infinity taming a lion. The woman represents compassion and gentleness; the symbol of infinity above her head tells us that time does not bind our actions as we most often feel. In other words, patience, endurance, and perseverance are what contribute to our inner strength. In depicting a woman, the card tells us that passivity and receptivity are the essential qualities in this endeavor. On the Tree these qualities are strategically placed between the two spheres of activity as a balancing element. Through inner receptivity we can temper our outward actions and best fulfill our mission in life. The lion she is taming, of course, represents our passions and our ego. That part of us that will be king. Noble, proud, and though at times rightfully so, this part of our makeup cannot be allowed to dominate our Selves. In controlling and directing, through gentle patience and in listening to the still, small voice, we can have dominion over even the most ferocious beast. The Nineteenth Path is known by Qabalists as the Intelligence of the Secret of all Spiritual Activity. How revealing for us as Templars! The great secret hidden here is that of the combination of the elements of Fire and Water. The secret is the resolution of the apparent paradox alluded to above. According to Qabalistic doctrine, the original Adam, archetypal Adam was created prior to the forming of the physical universe. As a result, human consciousness was therefore created prior to human beings, being brought forth in manifestation. This indicates that consciousness was formed so that it could then find expression in the physical. This should clue you into the role that the physical should play in our evolution. Not the rejection and debasing of matter is our charge, but its use in the expression of our most fundamental spirituality. We must truly be in this world, but not of it. This Tarot card of Strength is associated with the Hebrew letter Teth. This is a significant feature as well. This letter is the archetype of the primeval female energy that draws its life from Cheth and builds it gradually into structures. Can you see the significance of this letter for our mutual endeavor? Its number is nine, the number of completion (of which perfection is the ideal form) as well as of selfless humanitarianism. The letter itself represents the serpent, or Wisdom with which it is traditionally associated. Our strength, then, comes from wisdom, the other kind of knowing that enables us to act in the best manner for the most appropriate results. In ancient, or Sinatic, Hebrew, this letter was written as depicted below in Figure 3. Actually, this incorporates two other Sinatic Hebrew letters. The circle comprising the outer border of the letter is Ayin, the eye (represented in Tarot by the Devil). The cross in the center is Tav, the cross, the mark of Cain (represented in the Tarot deck by the World). Contradictory information seems to be presented here, but it is only apparently so. When we have insight into the ways of the world, we know what inhibits our growth and what contributes to it. We know that any decision we make will be opposed in some way so that through the fire of resistance our resolve may be tested and tempered, that is made stronger in the end. We know we are protected, as was Cain, by a stern, yet benevolent Father, who will ensure that we acquire the experience necessary to grow and evolve. What wisdom is embodied in this simple letter! For it is Wisdom itself that enables us to do all these things. Knowing right from wrong; learning from our mistakes; acquiring experience as necessary to function even better in the world; having the insight necessary to distinguish the real from the illusory; all these are the basis of Wisdom, which imbues us with the Strength to act upon our responsibilities and tame our lower passions, so that we may marry the seeming oppositional aspects of our nature, hence we become the Warrior-Monk, the Templar. The foundation of the Temple has been laid. But we have arrived at a pivotal point once more, a crossroads, so to speak, in-keeping with the imagery of Teth. Having risen to the Sephirah of Chesed via Tipareth and Geburah, the same momentum has been established as in our movement from Yesod to Hod to Netzach before. The motion is the same; the level is now a higher one. If we simply follow the pattern thus established, we will return to Tipareth to begin the cycle again. This is tempting, to be sure, for the beauty and harmony, light and warmth of this sphere call to us offering respite from our labors. How secure and nurtured we felt there, how borne and protected. But we cannot go back; that is not our place. The Sephirah and its Orders should remain – for others – beacons of light and warmth for those who come after us. They are not our rewards. These Orders have a function and they serve it well, but it is not our function. At this point in our “evolution,.” we can afford no regression, regardless of how attractive it is. As a Templar, a certain loneliness overcomes us for we know that although together with our Brothers and Sisters, it is each of us, alone, for others, that must take the next step. But to where? When we “turn around,” as we did on the lower level, we are not greeted by the light and warmth across the great divide. No, darkness is there – an unfathomable Abyss, a veritable ocean of darkness. Into the Abyss we must go, but does that not mean certain death? Which way do we step? Where do we place our foot? How far must we go? How are we to negotiate our way in the darkness? Why are we the ones who must overcome this challenge? We are not saints, we are merely honest laborers. Why should we have to go through this anyway? Again, the Tree provides a map if we but only look. Let us consider what lies across this great Abyss and see if it is even worth striving for to begin with. After all, if nothing is there, perhaps we really do not have anything to do after all. Across the Abyss lie the three uppermost Sephiroth that constitute the Supernal Triad, or the realm of Absolute Creation. This area is normally beyond the access of mortal human beings, that is it cannot be attained, it is said, while still in physical form. Our earthly bodies, as we develop throughout our lives, are not of the right stuff to function in this upper realm. But we are still in physical form. How can we be expected to even survive the crossing? Have we transmuted our physical bodies into Garments of Light that we may survive in this realm? Doubt and uncertainty engulf us. But it is across the Abyss that our aspiration drives us. How are we to understand this? The next Sephirah on our journey would be Binah, so let us consider this more closely for a moment. Sephirah 3, Binah, or as it is known in English, Understanding, is worth more than just a moment’s reflection (cf. Figure 1, above). Understanding is not to be confused with comprehension. This latter ability is associated with Hod (8), or Splendor, the objective intellect, or as often stated today, the “left brain”. Inasmuch as Hod is in the same column as Understanding, it can be understood to be of the same essence but on a lower level. This is truly the relationship between Understanding and Comprehension. It will be noted, however, that Understanding is set somewhat apart from the lower portion of the Tree and this fact is of significance as well. The position of Understanding within the Supernal Triad is indicative of its lofty and spiritual nature. It is not a function of our brains, it is not a function of our physical natures at all, rather, it is a spiritual faculty that can be developed only after long and arduous study and application. Sephiroth that are sequentially close to one another have aspects that relate them. Hence, the connection between 3 and 4 exists by virtue of the fact that they follow one another in the sequence of emanation described earlier. If a close relation had been established between Geburah (5) and Chesed (4) before, why should not an analogous relationship exist here? To grasp what Understanding really is, we will need to examine the further characteristics of this Sephirah. In the highest of Qabalistic Worlds, in Atziluth, each Sephirah is associated with a God-Name. The name corresponding to Binah, Understanding, is Elohim (ALHIM). It will be remembered that in the Story of Creation as related in Chapter 1 of Genesis, it is Elohim who creates the Heaven and the Earth, who issues the Fiat Lux. Could this then be the beginning of all that is, of the physical earth as we know it? Further substantiation is added to this idea when we consider that the seven Sephiroth following Binah are often referred to as the Seven Days of Creation. The color of Binah is deep indigo or black. What a sorrowful color, most often associated with death and mourning. In fact, another name for Binah is the Sorrowful Mother, a name which brings out a further important fact. Binah is generally considered to be a feminine Sephirah. Through the Doctrine of Emanations we learn that each Sephirah contains within itself a dual nature. Each Sephirah expresses two polarities. To the Sephiroth which are higher than any particular one in the hierarchy, a Sephirah is considered female, or negative. To those below it in the hierarchy, it is considered male, or positive. Sephirah 1, Kether (Crown) is often considered neither. Chokmah (2) is the first male; consequently, Binah (3) is the great female. It is said that Chokmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding) are the parents of the Sun (Son) in Tipareth (Beauty). A relationship also worthy of our contemplation. Binah, then, becomes, the Great Dark Mother, the Great Sea from which all life issues. Binah is the giver of form, of life, but by the same token she is the giver of death, for all that is born into earthly form must die. The associations of sea, water, ocean and giver of life combined with the darkness and black color are important ones for us as Templars. The name Mary derives from the Latin word mare, which means “sea” or “ocean”. Our modern day words marine, maritime and similar constructions remind us of this fact. Mary is the mother of the Master Jesus. It was also a Mary (Magdalene) who found the empty tomb at Easter. It was Mary, not the band of disciples who witnessed the Crucifixion. At birth and at death, and yes, at the resurrection, we find the same person present. The Eternal and Infinite Mother, the Dark Mother, The Black Virgin. Is this not the same Our Lady (Notre Dame) revered by the Church, but are the Church Fathers aware of what actually is involved here? This is a most auspicious and significant realization. The Black Virgin plays an extremely important role in the Templar Tradition. The cathedrals of Notre Dame that are spread across the French countryside in a pattern, which correlates to the constellation of Virgo in the heavens, are all dedicated to Black Madonnas. The role of these Madonnas in the subsequent trials of the Templars should be recalled. The enigmatic nature of this figure should be well considered. It is not simply a matter of Christian knights heretically worshiping at the feet of some primitive earth goddess. No, my brothers and sisters, the Madonna as recognized in the Templar Tradition is an exalted and magnificent personage. Our early Templar brethren recognized her for what she truly is, the Mother of Our Savior, the Mother of us all. It is at this point that we can anchor our understanding of who we are as Chevalier. A symbol of some importance in relation to Binah, however, is the Vesica Piscis, or the pointed oval often seen in mystical illustrations. The Vesica Piscis is formed by the conjunction of two congruent circles whose circumferences pass through the middle points of one another. Figure 4 illustrates this construction. Study well this figure. Do you notice the fish symbol that is so often seen in today’s world. Did not the Christ come as a “Fisher of Men”? Was not the Christ the Great Teacher of the Piscean Age just passed? What is more, does not this figure remind one of the handwritten letter “I” in the English language. Again, we are being told much with such little effort. The Vesica Piscis is actually the bladder of the fish, literally translated, but its very shape is reminiscent of the womb, the organ of birth in man. In fact, it is in this capacity that we see it most often, for anything placed within the Vesica Piscis should be considered as issuing forth from the womb. One of the most profound and impressive of all the carvings to be found on the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Chartres is on the outer wall in the West. There, above the portal to the Cathedral, we find the Christ, seated on His throne and holding a book in his left hand, His right raised in benediction. He who has ears to hear let him hear, and who has eyes to see, let him see. But this is not all. Another symbol is associated with Binah that is of especial interest to us in our studies here. This is the Chalice, the Grail. (Oh, the very whispering of the word sends a shiver up my spine.) The association with Templarism is most obvious. Is it not the Grail towards which we strive? Is it not the Sacred Vessel, which eludes us most in our earthly lives? Is it not said that no one can attain to the Grail while in earthly form, the form given of the Great Mother? What more can be said of this most wondrous and glorious symbol? We know where the Grail lies, however, across the Abyss. Is it really out of reach for us mortals? We shall see directly. One fact remains, however, and it should be impressed upon the mind of every reader. That toward which we strive lies across the Abyss. One false step and we plunge to our annihilation. One hesitant movement could mean instant destruction. We have no bridge as yet. We must make the Leap of Faith that has been so often described, so often portrayed, even though we know of no one who has made this leap and can tell us about it. Are we to despair after coming this far? Are we to give up now that our goal is in sight? I do not think so. I believe we have been given the keys to succeed, if we can only apply them in the proper manner. Such is the third position in the Temple. Here we encounter the Life Force that ensures our mission its success: we have reached the third point of the triangle. Faith, in knowledge of what lies out there in the dark ocean of life; Hope, that we may be worthy of a new birth into glory; Charity, in the knowledge that when we succeed it will be for the benefit of all the generations that follow; in other words, we have erected a true Temple in which we may Serve the Most High. This is what Binah tells us of the Temple. Our triangle has been formed; the manifestation is there. Is that all we know? Geometry has always played a significant role in Qabalistic mentation. The layout and design of the Tree is based on exacting, as well as symbolic, geometries. In our present age when scientific knowledge utilizes such fundamental ideas as the Theory of Relativity and the Uncertainty Principle, we are well-served to remember the stability provided by geometric relationships. If we look at the Tree, at the Sephiroth we have just considered, a simple relationship strikes our consciousness: the numbers of the Sephiroth: Three, Four, Five. What faint stirrings are those in our mind? What message is hidden in these numbers? We have looked at each and know they are significant each in its own way, but together? What could it be? But, of course, the 3-4-5 triangle, the famous 47th Proposition of Euclid (8). This is truly a special geometric figure. Figure 5 shows this in its formal form. According to the lore of Freemasonry, when Pythagoras grasped the meaning of this triangle, he shouted “Eureka”, which in Greek numerates to 534, the unit values of the triangle itself (9). What is so special about this triangle? It is said that this triangle summarizes the Great Work, according to the Hermetic philosopher Thomas Vaughn. Speaking of First Matter, he wrote in his Coelum Terra, “Some few (but such as know her very well) have written that she is not only one and three, but withal four and five, and this truth is essential.” Except for the Great Pyramid, no other symbol corresponds to this description. This description is rather obscure, to say the least, so let us examine this triangle more carefully to see what it may reveal to us. Inasmuch as alchemy is said to be an operation of the sun and moon, it seems that deities related to these heavenly bodies would find correspondence here. In fact, Osiris the Father and Horus the Son were both considered to be solar deities. Isis the Mother was a moon goddess. What is more, Isis is the mother of nature as well, and as such rules over the four elements of which this nature is composed, Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. These elements play an important role in alchemy. Also, we are aware that the alchemist recognizes three principles in addition to these elements, namely Salt, Sulfur and Mercury. And each of these interacts with, influences and is influenced by the various kingdoms, such as mineral, vegetable, animal, and man, to which we may add a fifth, super-man. These three, four and five items can be placed on the triangle as shown in Figure 6 (see below). The three Principles belong to the Father, the Sun, while the four Elements are associated with the Mother, the Moon. The crossing of these yields the offspring, Horus, the Son (note the sounding of this word in English). Osiris and Isis beget Horus, who thereby completes the figure. This side of the triangle is comprised of five units, and we generally only recognize four kingdoms in esoteric studies, but we must recall to mind the old Qabalistic aphorism that states, “First the stone, then the plant, then the animal, then the man, and after man — the god.” Horus is the cosmic Life Spirit that ascends the evolutionary ladder of form just described. He becomes the symbol and example for us all. One kingdom emerges from the other until the last step is reached, and the Kingdom of God is attained. Of this Kingdom, the Christ had much to say. Have we heard His teaching? Are we true Knights in His service? It is this fifth and final kingdom that ultimately completes the triangle and brings the proposition to perfection. Yet, it is not just the sides of this triangle that yield great information, we should look at the interior angles as well. The first which comes to our attention is the right angle of ninety degrees. In this conjunction we should recall the Theorem of Thales that demonstrates that any angle formed by connecting the ends of a diameter of a circle with any point on the circumference will yield an angle of 90°. This is illustrated in Figure 7. What this theorem illustrates so cogently is that every right angle binds us back to the center of the circle. GOD Himself has been described in various circle metaphors. In any true Temple the participants negotiate corners by always cutting sharp, right angles in their path. Can you not see that this seemingly insignificant act is a restatement of the fundamental maxim that all has but One Source? All religion, all knowledge, all esoteric teachings are attempts to raise this singular point into our waking consciousness. Pythagoras’ triangle, of course, could not be without such a significance. What is more, 90 is the number of the Hebrew letter mem, Water, which confirms the alchemical aphorism, “Our Sun and Moon are conjoined in our Water.” Need more be said? For all intents and purposes, the angle formed by the junction of the base and the hypotenuse, the Isis and Horus lines, is 37˚. This number is of particular importance in Christian secret doctrine. Many of the names and epithets attributed to the Christ in the New Testament are multiples of 37. According to Bond and Lea in their book Apostolic Gnosisthere are more than 500 examples of Greek gematria corresponding to 2368, the number of “Jesus Christ” in Greek, which is 37 x 64 (10) As Templars, we have a special relationship to Christ, of course, for we were knighted in His service. Moreover, the number 37 has more far-reaching meanings. In Greek, the name given to the Ark of Moses (11)as well as to the Ark of the Covenant, is he thibe. Both, like the Christ, are Saviors, in a sense. Moses was saved from death by his ark; the Israelites were saved by their Ark, which bore their sacred books. In Hebrew, 37 is the number of “Abel”, the younger son of Adam who was killed by his brother Cain. In many theological circles, Abel was held to he the prototype of Christ. The hypotenuse of this triangle formed of the angle of 37˚ reveals even further insight into the wisdom contained in this figure. This segment begins, as was said, at the junction of the Isis and Horus lines. As a representation of the evolutionary ladder, it makes sense that the first segment on this line represents the mineral kingdom. If an arc were to be drawn from this dividing point to the base line, it would intersect the base at the end of the Earth segment. Hence we see that inorganic life is composed primarily of the earth. The second segment represents the vegetable kingdom. The arc drawn from this dividing point intersects the base at the end of the Air segment. This shows us how the plants are rooted in the earth, but strive upward through the air, whose toxins they convert into oxygen. The third segment on the hypotenuse represents the animal kingdom. The arc drawn would intersect the base at the end of the Water segment. The main Element comprising the animal body is water, and the blood, the fluid aspect of our bodies, is considered in many schools of thought to be the bearer of the soul. The fourth segment on the hypotenuse, then, is man, the crown of creation. Man, as represented here, is the “natural man” referred to by Saint Paul, the genus homo sapiens of the biologist. Although evolved from the preceding kingdoms, we can depict his relation to nature as before by drawing an arc through the base of the triangle. Here we notice that this arc intersects with the point forming the right angle, namely the juncture of the moon and sun lines. This is at the end of the segment marked Fire, and it is man who is the only animal that has mastered the use of fire. What is more, he is the only creature who can understand the secret of generation represented by the union of Osiris and Isis. Man has the power to understand, to penetrate the mysteries of nature, life, and death. But not all men have evolved to this point. It is only in the upper portion of this segment that such individuals exist. So, where does that leave us, the Knights of the Temple? We still have not completed the last step to the apex of the triangle. To do so means evolving to the kingdom of the super man, it means the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth. The angles of 53˚, that corresponds to the angle of the apex of the Great Pyramid itself, exists for now only in potential, not in reality. It is completed, the triangle is brought to perfection, when the final step is made. This, my Brothers and Sisters, is the Leap of Faith mentioned earlier. If we overlay the triangle upon the Tree, we realize that our journey has brought us to the Sephirah of Chesed, the point of intersection of the base and hypotenuse. We are standing firmly rooted in the field of matter; we know, however, that a spiritualization must occur for us to take the final step and return to the Great Mother of our veneration. It is not a far off heaven and paradise after death. We are being told quite clearly that our obligation is to spiritualize matter such that this final step can be made. Someone must take the Leap of Faith so that a permanent bridge may be built for those who follow. At that time an order not of this world is open to us. It is us as Templars, my Brothers and Sisters, who have been chosen to build this bridge. We must show the way, so that others will take heart and take the leap for themselves. The Pythagorean Triangle, is the key to our mission. Christ gives us the direction; the ancient wisdom tells us the distance. We cannot fail to miss our mark, but we must act now. We have the knowledge, and knowledge obligates. This may have been known to our brethren of old, for it was they who used the twelve knotted rope (giving thirteen segments) to construct the cathedrals to the Virgin (Notre Dame), like their predecessors in ancient times, the Egyptians, who used it in the construction of the Pyramids, the other related symbol. We should not overlook the evidence. We should recognize the tools that we have been given. We should rejoice in our knowledge, even if we must still struggle to raise our faith to a commensurate level. The knowledge has been there all along; but now the time has come to act.
The Building of the Temple
When we take the Leap, the Temple will be built. It is an awesome responsibility that has been placed upon our shoulders, but if not upon ours, then who would bear it? We can accomplish our mission, for we have been told we have help. The Christ, our Way-show-er, has assured us that where two or three are gathered in His Name, there He will be also. We have been given more than enough information to plan our strategy; we have all the tools one could possibly hope for in such a difficult situation. All that remains is that we muster our faith and leap.
We may be thankful for all the help we receive along the way. We should be thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a wondrous event. The Temple will be built for the time has come to glorify GOD in all the world. By His Grace we are here to experience; so let us take heart and experience His Grace. There are many who depend on us – the homeless, the downtrodden, the poor, the ignorant, the unhappy and many, many others — let us not let them down. It is not just for our sake, but for theirs that we labor. It is not to our glory, but to the glory of Him who sent us, that we strive.
Non Nobis, Domine, Non Nobis sed Nomini Tuo da gloriam.
(1) The word Qabalah is derived from the Hebrew word QBL meaning “to receive”. This reflects the oral transmission of this discipline over the ages. In Hebrew, the spelling of the word is then QBLH and the English spelling used in this presentation has been chosen because it most closely reflects the Hebrew one. There are various theories regarding the various spellings of the word, such as Kabala, Kabbalah, Cabala, and so on, wherein the different spellings are said to represent different approaches. I personally do not hold to these theories and find that they more reflect the desires of their presenters than an actual meaningful relationship between subject and name.
(2) The word “his” should be regarded as encompassing both male and female readers. In the linguistic tradition of the English language, his was not restricted in its usage to men only. It should most properly be read as “one”. This latter application, however, is awkward and stilted and was avoided on this account. More importantly, though, we must realize that to be a Chevalier is to be an active, moving, searching, penetrating, and seeking individual. In this aspect of ourselves, we manifest what is most often understood as male energies, regardless of whether we are a man or a woman in this particular incarnation. In keeping with this sense of action and movement traditionally assigned to the male, the term his suits well the tone and tenor of this paper and should be understood in this sense.
(3) This transliteration of the Hebrew characters follows the standard convention, the original words being formed from the Hebrew letters Ayin-Tzaddi and Cheth-Yod-Mem (final). This system will be used throughout this presentation whenever Hebrew words are used so that it is not necessary to typeset the Hebrew characters.
(4) There are a number of translations of this book available. Some of the in re common are Sephir Yezirah: A book on creation translated by Isidor Kalisch (San Jose, CA: AMORC, 1981, originally published 1877); The book of formation, Knut Stenring (New York, NY: KTAV, 1968, reprint from 1923); Sepher Yetzirah edited by W. Wynn Westcott (New York, NY: Occult Research Press, n.d-). The Kalisch translation has the distinct advantage of being readily available and is printed with the English and Hebrew texts on facing pages.
(5) The three decades (the 60s, 70s, and 80s) should be reflected upon in light of what was just said, as should the three major world religions (all Western, by the way) who were represented in the crisis in the Middle East at the beginning of the 90s (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity). There is much to be learned here especially when we realize what it takes to cross the Gulf to Tipareth
(6) It is worth noting that the German translation of John’s saying is Kehr um, or literally “turn around,” and I have chosen to take this translation here. In English versions of the Bible, however, the word placed in John’s mouth is “repent”, a word that raises anything but physical images in our mind. But, if we explore the Latin background of this word, we find that it comes from the verb rependere, which means “to turn again, to turn around.” This is a fine example of how language evolves to the point that the current user is not aware of what he is actually saying since the meanings of those words have shifted so much over time. For this reason, I believe it is important that every student, not just the student of esoteric matter, be more familiar with language and its origins.
(7) It is interesting to note that one of the most significant features of the cathedral at Chartres, most certainly of Templar origin, is the red and blue glass used in the magnificent windows in this structure. Produced by an unknown alchemical process, the colors of this glass are unique in all the world. Why red and blue, we must ask ourselves. I believe the answer is obvious when we consider the Oabalistic definition of the Templar just provided.
(8) Wrongly attributed to Euclid, this is actually the 47th Proposition of Pythagoras, this is the Pythagorean Triangle.
(9) The description to follow is based upon that given by Paul Foster Case in his The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1985), pp. 47ff.
(10)The application of this number to Horus via the Christ is accomplished by remembering that sun divinities, such as Krishna, Christ, and Khoor (Horus in Egyptian) all share the common characteristic of sounding out the CR.
(11) It is interesting to note that Moses in Hebrew, Moshe, numerates to 345, too.