This paper was chosen to receive the Companion of Christian Rosenkreutz Award in 2016, given to the best papers presented to the society globally within each year.
It can also be found in the book Companions of Christian Rosenkreutz: Collected Papers 2008-2016 available now from Lewis Masonic.
by Alexi Petrou, 2016
The object of my paper is to try and give an interpretation around an area of Christian symbology which features prevalently in its mysticism and theology. I have heavily focused on Kabbalistic, Hermetic and Christian symbolism to analyse an aspect of the divinity; which from first appearance is seemingly beyond human comprehension.
I must confess that I am an amateur with respect to Kabbalism and Hermeticism and what I have written in this paper I do not advertise as truth, or as originating from any particular lineage. The contents of my essay are merely my analysis and interpretation on a challenging aspect of spirituality.
This paper is in some respects my meditations on what is God; why would God wish to create; how God would go about doing so and how would one go about reconciling the concept of an absolute and seemingly separated God, with belief that God is somehow present in our imperfect/limited universe. This paper is therefore a snapshot of a monumental task, a life’s work, and is only meant to be taken by its readers and listeners as a stimulus for their own further study.
Although references are made to certain materials and teachings, I have as far as possible attempted to refrain from making this an academic paper. I have, however, given a list of the reference material I have used should anyone wish to further their own researches.
My paper may seem somewhat odd, in the sense that I shall begin with my conclusion and attempt to demonstrate how this concept exists within certain mystical and esoteric traditions. I especially believe that this concept is also heavily involved in the Kabbalah and is somewhat important in decoding its precepts, especially in relation to numbers and letters.
My conclusion is simple: it is that God, a seemingly distant infinite being, is actually a lot closer than we perceive and that we as human beings replicate the moment of creation every moment of the day, thus fulfilling the proverb spoken by Christ: I have made ye gods.
In a nutshell, I believe the Logos is an analogy of demonstrating how this creating principle occurs: i.e. through the interaction of Sophia, Nous and Logos (perceive, intellectualise and create). I will now attempt to demonstrate the use of the analogy.
God as Mind
When we begin to investigate how humans attempt to understand their surroundings and develop knowledge generally, we observe that humans often begin with self analysis. In theosophy and philosophy it is generally recognised that there exists three types of knowledge, a priori knowledge (that which comes from within and simply is); a posteriori knowledge (that which comes from without the person); and a priori synthetic (a combination of the two as described by Immanuel Kant in his critique of pure reason). It can therefore be observed that it is entirely possible that when humans begin to analyse or comprehend God, they do so from an analysis of themselves. Consequently, what better way to begin an analysis of God then by attempting to draw parallels between that most elusive part of our existence—consciousness—for as it was expressed at the entrance to the sacred mysteries, ‘know thyself and you shall know the universe and God’.
Consciousness and the development of knowledge has always been an anomaly, not just for empiricists but for most human beings. It is quite perplexing in the sense that our existence is self verifiable. Unlike the state of our existence, the accuracy of which can be verified by others, or when measured against external stimuli (e.g. our height measured against another’s etc.), our actual conscious existence is dependent only upon self verification. There is therefore weight to Rene Descartes’ proposition ‘I think therefore I am’, in the sense that this knowledge is only of itself. Our conscious existence can therefore only be at its core a priori knowledge. For example it would be a contradiction for another to verify that you do not exist, as that would require recognition and communication of that recognition.
Likewise we also find in Kabbalah and Hermeticism references to God, as with consciousness, as simply being. One of the most famous examples of this occurs in the Old Testament when Moses perceives God through the angel in the burning bush. Moses has a dialogue with God about how he should describe him to his people. God simply states, Eheheih esher Eheheih, or I am that I am, I was and will be.
In essence God is relating itself to that part of the human being which is equally unexplainable, man’s mind or consciousness. Therefore God, like man, is self verifying and also by extension must exist. I believe the explanation of this aspect of God equates to the source of the individual’s consciousness, it is one and the same; it is a state of being. It is not influenced or affected by the external but rather, through introspection, is that foundation upon which our individual conscious vehicle is built. Therefore, if the I aspect of ourselves is literally or by analogy similar to the I aspect of God, the processes of our own consciousness may also be a useful analogy of the way God creates, thereby fulfilling the maxim ‘as above, so below’. For example, from self study it is quite readily ascertainable that the processes of the human mind are not limited to simply a state of being.
So if God is mind, how within this analogy would one explain how God creates? It is simple really, because as I have mentioned in my introduction we, as conscious beings, do so on a daily basis. Plato described this process as Sophia, Nous and Logos and in essence I believe it is a way of explaining the manifestation/exercise of the will, or in this respect the will of God.
Reflect on, for example, what occurs when one thinks of communicating a word. First one would have to manifest within one’s consciousness the concept; this requires some understanding of what that concept is. The mind then draws from the state of being the concept and attempts to intellectualise it by translating the idea or understanding of that thing ready to be communicated or manifested. This would naturally involve transmuting and limiting the idea through the rules of the individual’s chosen language. The final stage would be creating that word by speaking it. This in turn is received by the recipient who is then influenced by the meaning of the word (e.g. understands or reacts to the word).
As can therefore be seen, this process demonstrates the individual’s ability to manifest something which at first was un-manifested; thereby effecting their will and intention. In much the same way, I believe God creates by first drawing the concept from its state of being (Sophia); limiting, or defining the concept through form (a process of intellectualising); or processing it in a somewhat more linear fashion than before (Nous); then manifesting it by creating that concept (Logos).
From my very amateur study of Kabbalistic philosophy, I believe this concept of using the logos (or word) as a symbol for manifesting the will of the divinity, is central to beginning to understand the system itself. Words themselves, especially names, are the central means of representing the divinity and planes of reality. This could be because the Hebrew tradition tended (at least in its later years) to avoid the use of idols or anything which could be considered to limit (at least in form) God. The use of words in the system (e.g. in gemetria and gemancia) is therefore extremely important, especially as methods of revealing divine truths. It is not surprising why oral traditions in Judaism refer to God manifesting reality by speaking a word. That God spoke and that particular thing came into being, e.g. God saying chair and the chair simply manifesting as a result.
This symbolic way of expressing the manifestation of the will also seems to be represented at least implicitly within the Tree of Life itself, and even in the foundation and source of the Tree. For example, if one analyses the Ain principle at the start of creating, one can begin to see similarities with the definition of the I principle of God. We learn from various Kabbalistic commentaries that God, the ultimate and total state of existence (or negative existence/no-thing-ness), began a process whereby it made space (or cleared a way for cause and effect), and then created that cause itself. This is in essence the movement from Ain to Ain Soph and Ain Soph Aur (focused through Kether). Moreover Ain, from its analysis, is quite similar to the principle of simply being; it is in a way the I aspect. From this one could also interpret the Ain Soph aspect as the beginning of intellectualising, or creating a vehicle for the manifestation of reality. The third aspect, Ain Soph Aur (Limitless Light), funnelled into Kether (the Crown), could therefore be considered the manifestation of what would have otherwise been dormant in God. Ain Soph Aur (Limitless Light) can be therefore be thought of as the first reference to the Logos aspect of divinity. Light and Logos might therefore be considered the same thing, Light symbolising manifest existence itself. This at first seems perplexing as we would consider words to be associated with sound; however from a further analysis one must deduce that all existence is light itself, simply manifesting at different rates.
What is also noticeable is that St. John may have also been aware of the concept that the Logos, proceeding forth from the mind of God is synonymous with light. For example in the first chapter of his gospel, St. John states:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and life was the Light of men.
And the Light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
The above passage is also strikingly similar to another passage contained in what is thought to be a contemporary of St. John’s gospel, the Corpus Hermeticum, where it states:
[Thereon] out of the light...a Holy Word (Logos) descended on that Nature. And upwards to the height from the Moist Nature leaped forth pure Fire; light was it, swift and active too...
That Light, He said, am I, thy God, Mind, prior to Moist Nature which appeared from Darkness; the Light-Word (Logos) [that appeared] from Mind is Son of God.
It is therefore apparent that Kabbalists would also have been aware of these concepts and may have incorporated the explanation in a more cryptic form in the Tree of Life. The importance of the Logos is also reaffirmed in the Sepher Yetzirah, which goes on to quote some detail regarding how God first created letters; these letters as with the Logos being the manifested will of God.
For example, in the opening chapter it states: He created this universe by three Sepharim, Number, writing and speech. Ten are the numbers, as are the Sephiroth, and twenty-two the letters, these are the foundations of all things. Of these letters, three are mothers, seven are double, and twelve are simple.
The Logos and the Tetragrammaton
Perhaps in the Kabbalah the most famous example of a word being used as an algorithm of creation or manifestation of the will of God, is the Tetragrammaton (the four lettered word). Much mystery and lore surrounds the use of the Tetragrammaton and it is said that by the congregation and significance of its letters one can ascertain truths about God and begin to have an insight into the rules governing the universe. In a way, the Tetragrammaton is used to symbolise the divine man (Adam Kadmon) and also all of the planes of reality which exist within the four worlds: Aziluth, Briah, Yetsirah and Assiah. Moreover, in its occult sense the word represents what the ancients considered the building blocks of life: primordial fire, air, water and earth (which is the synthesis of the preceding three elements). It also represents the four dimensions which the great God sealed our reality. It is in a way an outward symbol of the process which has been described above, the mind of God being reflected in reality. For this reason it is quite interesting that Christian mystics used the Tetragrammaton as a means of symbolising Christ, the Logos, as its completion (the Pentagrammaton). For example, by inserting the Hebrew character shin (which refers to the Shekinah, the spirit of God resting in creation), we are able to make out a name from an otherwise unpronounceable word: Yeheshuah.
In the Old Testament, the ancient Hebrews believed that the spirit of God or Shekinah resided on the Ark of the Covenant which rested in the heart of the temple. The ark representing not only the covenant between God and man, but a direct link between God and man. It was for that reason the priests had to symbolically purify themselves mentally, emotionally and physically before they entered the sanctum which represented the metaphysical. Now it is believed by some scholars that the temple itself was representative of the microcosm (Malkuth). Indeed this is one of the main myths which is promulgated by masonic ceremonies. In fact, Christ himself taught that his body and indeed the body of man is the temple of God.
So when we review the Pentagrammaton in this light, and with what has already been described above, the Tetragrammaton can also be viewed as an outward symbol of the temple and the microcosm. However, absent the shin (Shekinah), it is incomplete as a formula — it is creation un-animated. Add the shin (representing three higher trinities), or spirit, the word not only becomes pronounceable but now includes that element which animates the others and from which all the other derive. For the Christian mystic, without the addition of the shin, although the mind of God is creating, individual consciousness has not occurred; God has not impregnated itself in the reality which it has created. This is why the Pentagrammaton is important as a culmination of the Logos factor, it assists mankind to complete the anomaly of consciousness and assists them to understand that they are the temple of God and that they house the foundation of all the universe within them. That God has given them through their individuality and consciousness (through spirit), the ability to create and bring the Kingdom of Heaven ever closer to earth, by first realising that it is ever present within.
The Logos is therefore not only the outward manifestation of our ability to create, but also proof of our ever present connection and union with God. That the Logos resides inside us and we are in effect logoi — reflections of the higher Logos Christ to whom we must strive to become like.