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Masonic Encyclopedia

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I. the Dogmatic Cabala

The origin of the Cabala has been placed by some scholars at a period posterior to the advent of Christianity, but it is evident, from the traces of it which are found in the Book of Daniel, that it arose at a much earlier day. It has been supposed to be derived originally from the system of Zoroaster, but whether its inventors were the contemporaries or the successors of that philosopher and reformer it is impossible to say. The doctrine of emanation is, says King (Gnostics, page10), "the soul, the essential element of the Cabala; it is likewise the essential element of Zoroastrism. " But as we advance in the study of each we will find important differences, showing that, while the idea of the Cabalistic theosophy was borrowed from the Zendavesta, the sacred book of the Persian sage, it was not a copy, but a development of it.

The Cabalistic teaching of emanation is best understood by an examination of the doctrine of the Sephiroth. The Supreme Being, say the Cabalists, is an absolute and inscrutable unity, having nothing without him and everything within him. He is called, En Soph, meaning the Infinite one. In this infinitude he cannot be comprehended by the intellect, nor described in words intelligible by human minds, so as to make his existence perceptible. It was necessary, therefore, that, to render himself comprehensible, the En Soph should make himself active and creative. But he could not become the direct creator ; because, being infinite, he is without will, intention, thought, desire, or action, all of which are qualities of a finite being only. The En Soph, therefore, was compelled to create the world in an indirect manner, by ten emanations from the infinite light which he was and in which he dwelt.

These ten emanations are the ten Sephiroth, or Splendors of the Infinite One, and the way in which they were produced was thus: - At first the En Soph sent forth into space one spiritual emanation. This first Sephirah is called Kether, meaning the Crown, because it occupies the highest position. This first Sephirah contained within it the other nine, which sprang forth in the following order: At first a male, or active potency, proceeded from it, and this, the second Sephirah, is called Chocmah or Wisdom. This sent forth an opposite, female or passive potency, named Binah or Intelligence. These three Sephiroth constitute the first triad, and out of them proceeded the other seven.

From the junction of Wisdom and Intelligence came the fourth Sephirah, called Chesed or Mercy. This was a male potency, and from it emanated the fifth Sephirah, named Giburah or Justice.

The union of Mercy and Justice produced the sixth Sephirah, Tiphereth or Beauty; and these three constitute the second triad. From the sixth Sephirah came forth the seventh Sephirah, Nitzach or Firmness. This was a male potency, and produced the female potency named Hod or Splendor. From these two proceeded Isod or Foundation; and these three constituted the third triad of the Sephiroth. Lastly, from the Foundation came the tenth Sephirah, called Malcuth or Kingdom, which was at the foot of all, as the Crown was at the top.

This division of the ten Sephiroth into three triads was arranged into a form called by the Cabalists the Cabalistic Tree or the Tree of Life, as shown in the diagram.

In this diagram the vertical arrangement of the Sephiroth is called Pillars. Thus the four Sephiroth in the center are called the Middle Pillar; the three on the right, the Pillar of Mercy; and the three on the left, the Pillar of Justice.

They allude to these two qualities of God, of which the benignity of the one modifies the rigor of the other, so that the Divine Justice is always tempered by the Divine Mercy. C. W. King, in his Gnosties (page 12), refers the right-hand pillar to the pillar Jachin, and the left-hand pillar to the Pillar Boaz, which stood at the porch of the Temple; and "these two pillars", he says, "figure largely amongst all the secret societies of modem times, and naturally so for these Illuminati have borrowed, without understanding it, the phraseology of the Cabalists and the Valentinians." But an inspection of the arrangement of the Sephiroth will show, if he is correct in his general reference, that he has transposed the pillars. Firmness would more naturally symbolize Boaz or strength, as Splendor would Jachin or Establishment. These ten Sephiroth are collectively denominated the archetypal man, the Microcosm, as the Greek philosophers called it, and each of them refers to a particular part of the body.

Thus the Crown is the head; Wisdom, the brain; and Intelligence, the heart, which was deemed the seat of understanding. These three represent the intellectual; and the first triad is therefore called the Intellectual World. Mercy is the right arm, and Justice the left arm, and Beauty is the chest. These three represent moral qualities; and hence the second triad is called the Moral World. Firmness is the right leg, Splendor the left leg, and Foundation the privates. These three represent power and stability; and hence the third triad is called the Material World. Lastly, Kingdom is the feet, the basis on which all stand, and represents the harmony of the whole archetypal man. Again, each of these Sephiroth was represented by a Divine name and by an Angelic name, which may be thus tabulated:

Sephiroth ........ Divine Names ........ Angelic Names Crown ............. Eheyeh .................. Chajoth Wisdom .......... Jah ........................ Ophanim Intelligence ..... Jehova .................. Arelin Mercy ............. El .......................... Cashmalim Justice ............ Eloha .................... Seraphim Beauty ............ Elohim .................. Shinanim Firmness ......... Jehovah Sabaoth ... Tarshishim Splendor ......... Elohim Sabaoth .... Beni Elohim Foundation ..... El Chai ................. Ishim Kingdom ......... Adonai ................ Cherubim

These ten Sephiroth constitute in their totality the Atzilatic World or the World of Emanations, and from it proceeded three other worlds, each having also its ten Sephiroth, namely, the Briatic World or the World of Creation; the Jetziratic World or the World of Formation ; and the Ashiatic World or the World of Action: each inhabited by a different order of beings.

But to enter fully upon the nature of these various worlds would carry us too far into the obscure mysticism of the Cabala. The ten Sephiroth, represented in their order of ascent from the lowest to the highest, from the Foundation to the Crown, forcibly remind us of the system of Mystical Ladders which pervaded all the ancient as well as the modern initiations; the Brahmanical Ladder of the Indian mysteries; the Ladder of Mithras, used in the Persian mysteries; the Scandinavian Ladder of the Gothic mysteries, and in the Masonic mysteries the Ladder of Kadosh; and lastly, the Theological Ladder of the Symbolical Degrees

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