Kabbalistic Sefirot and World
About Sefirot -The doctrine of the Sefirot, is perhaps the most important doctrine of the Kabbalah. Notwithstanding its importance, it is presented very differently in different works. While some Kabbalists take the Sefirot to be identical, in their totality, with the Divine Being, each Sefirah representing only a different view of the infinite, which is comprehended in this way. Others look upon the Sefirot merely as tools of the Divine power, superior creatures, that are, however, totally different from the Primal Being. The following definition of the Sefirot, in agreement with Cordovero and Luria, may, however, be regarded as a logically correct one – God is immanent in the Sefirot, but He is Himself more than may be perceived in these forms of idea and being. Just as, according to Spinoza, the primal substance has infinite attributes, but manifests itself only in two of these—namely, extent and thought—so also is, according to the conception of the Kabbalah, the relation of the Sefirot to the Ein-Sof. The Sefirot themselves, in and through which all changes take place in the universe, are composite in so far as two natures may be distinguished in them; namely,
- That in and through which all change takes place, and
- That which is unchangeable, the light or the Divine power.
The Kabbalists call these two different natures of the Sefirot “Light” and “Vessels” . For, as vessels of different color reflect the light of the sun differently without producing any change in it, so the divine light manifested in the Sefirot is not changed by their seeming differences. The first Sefirah, Keter ( “crown,” or “exalted height”), is identical with the primal will of God, and is differentiated from the Ein-Sof, as explained above, only as being the first effect, while the Ein-Sof is the first cause. This first Sefirah contained within itself the plan of the universe in its entire infinity of time and space. Many Kabbalists, therefore, do not include the Keter among the Sefirot, as it is not an actual emanation of the Ein-Sof; but most of them place it at the head of the Sefirot. From this Keter, which is an absolute unity, differentiated from everything manifold and from every relative unity, proceed two parallel principles that are apparently opposed, but in reality are
The one masculine, active, called Hokhmah ( “wisdom”), the other feminine, passive, called Binah ( “intellect”). The union of Hokhmah and Binah produces Da’at ( “reason”); that is, the contrast between subjectivity and objectivity finds its solution in reason, by which cognition or knowledge becomes possible. Those Kabbalists, who do not include Keter among the Sefirot, take Da’at as the third Sefirah; but the majority considers it merely as a combination of Hokhmah and Binah and not as an independent Sefirah. These three trinities of the Sefirot are also designated as follows: The first three Sefirot form the intelligible world ( or calls it, corresponding to the world of thinking of the Neo-Platonists), representing, as we have seen, the absolute identity of being and thinking. The second triad of the Sefirot is moral in character; hence Azriel calls it the “soul-world,” and later Kabbalists “the sensible world”; while the third triad constitutes the natural world ( in the terminology of Spinoza “natura naturata”). The tenth Sefirah is Malkut ( “dominion”), that in which the will, the plan, and the active forces become manifest, the sum of the permanent and immanent activity of all Sefirot. The Sefirot on their first appearance are not yet the dynamic tools proper, as it were, constructing and regulating the world of phenomena, but merely the prototypes of them.
The Four Worlds – In there own realm, World of – “realm of emanation” called Atzilut, or sometimes Adam Kadmon, because the figure of man is employed insymbolic representation of the Sefirot. The Sefirot are conceived merely as conditions of the finite that is to be; for their activity only begins in the other so-called three worlds; namely,
- The world of creative ideas – Oalm ha-Briah
- The world of creative formations - Olam ha-Ytzirah , and
- The world of creative matter = Olam ha-Asiyyah
The earliest description of these four worlds is found in the “Masseket Atzilut.” The first Atzilutic world contains the Sefirot, and in the Beriatic world are the souls of the pious, the divine throne, and the divine halls. The Yetziratic world is the seat of the ten classes of angels with their chiefs, presided over by Metatron, who was changed into fire; and there are also the spirits of men. In the ‘Asiyyatic world are the ofanim, the angels that receive the prayers and control the actions of men, and wage war against evil or Samael. Although there is no doubt that these four worlds were originally conceived as real, thus occasioning the many fantastic descriptions of them in the early Kabbalah, they were subsequently interpreted as being purely idealistic. The later Kabbalah assumes three powers in nature, the mechanical, the organic, and the teleological, which are connected together as the result of a general, independent, purely spiritual, principal idea. They are symbolized by the four worlds. The corporeal world “Olam ha-’Asiyya” is perceived as a world subjected to mechanism. As this can not be derived from a body or corporeality, the Kabbalah attempts to find the basis for it in the non-corporeal; for even the ’Asiyyatic world has its Sefirot; i.e., non-corporeal powers that are closely related to the monads of Leibnitz . This assumption, however, explains only inorganic nature; while organic, formative, developing bodies must proceed from a power that operates from within and not from without. These inner powers that form the organism from within, represent the Yetziratic world, the realm of creation. As there is found in nature not activity merely, but also wise activity, the Kabbalists call this intelligence manifested in nature the realm of creative ideas. Since, however, the intelligent ideas which are manifested in nature proceed from eternal truths that are independent of existing nature, there must necessarily exist the realm of these eternal truths, the Atzilutic world. Hence the different worlds are essentially one, related to one another as prototype and copy. All that is contained in the lower world is found in higher archetypal form in the next higher world. Thus, the universe forms a large unified whole, a living, undivided being, that consists of three parts enveloping one another successively; and over them soars, as the highest archetypal seal, the world of Atzilut.