Core Teachings of the Mystical Qabalah
The core teachings of any mystical tradition constitute the infrastructure of its worldview, and thereby form the basis and backdrop for its spiritual practices. All mystical worldviews are at once unique and yet identical. Since they are open ended, and provide a ladder for the finite human intellect to connect with an infinite Ground of Pure Being that is inherently unfathomable to that intellect, they are usually composed of allegories and allusions transmitted by messiahs, perfect masters, and great sages. Like a ladder that is used to climb up to the roof of a house and then as the means to come back down, a mystical worldview is intended to act as a vehicle for the awakening consciousness to ascend through the planes of existence to unite with the Divine Essence. The worldview becomes a frame of reference for the mind to come back into once the soul returns as an individuated being.
The elements of the qabalistic worldview are combined in the grand allusion of the Tree of Life. The Tree emanates from the Mysterious Unknown in its negatively existent roots, and descends through the planes of existence via a series of spheres connected by gates. All mystical traditions have ways for the human intellect to make a distinction between passive and active aspects of the Mysterious Unknown. In the Qabalah, they are respectively called “Vast Face” and “Small Face.” The relationship between the two Faces is portrayed in the Tree of Life. Like most other mystical traditions, the Qabalah has a variety of special Names for each of the two aspects, and a principal Name for the active aspect upon which the entire religious tradition usually centers. In the following sections of this chapter, the core teachings of the Mystical Qabalah that constitute its worldview are presented in detail.
THE AYN, VAST FACE, AND SMALL FACETHE AYN
The Mystical Qabalah describes the roots of the Tree of Life as an ultimate, negatively existent substratum of pure Being that is Self-conscious and all blissful. It is described as “negatively existent” in relation to the “positively-existent” four worlds of the Tree of Life. The three roots of the Tree are named:
- Ayn (]ya lit. Nothing; pronounced “ai-n” as in ‘nine’),
- Ayn Sof ([vc ]ya lit. Without End, or Endless;pronounced “sof” as in ‘sofa’), and
- Ayn Sof Or (rva [vc ]ya lit. Endless Light, or Light of the Endless; pronounced “or” as in ‘oar’).But these are only distinctions in human thought. The negatively existent Absolute Being, or shall we say “Mysterious Unknown at the Roots of All Things,” alludes to a depth of consciousness beyond Name and Form, and beyond the finite and supernal aspects of the Tree of Life. Individual consciousness cannot usually sustain this experience at length. In fact, most souls do not return from the experience in the roots. Their shells of embodied existence (qlifoth) dissolve completely, and they pass from their physical sheath (i.e. die). In Qabalah, the negatively existent Absolute Being is also called the “NOT” (al, pronounced “lo” as in “below”).The experience of the “NOT” finds Its counterpart in every mystical tradition. The Sufis refer to the experience as fana ‘l fana (fana means “extinction”). The Hindus call it nirvikalpa samadhi. The Buddhists call it nirvana, sunyata (emptiness),satori, and anuttara samyak sambodhi (full enlightenment). TheQur’an refers to the Mysterious Unknown by the same terms used in the Torah. In Arabic, the word for the NOT is “La”: this is written , which is virtually identical to the Ezra letter Ayin i. The shape of the Sinatic letter Ayin is also suggestive—it is a circle. Within qabalistic literature, the foundational concept of the negatively existent “NOT” (al) is most strongly and directly portrayed in the Sifra Detzniyutha (Book of THAT Which is Concealed).
CORE TEACHINGS OF THE MYSTICAL QABALAH 79
The main body of the text begins:
“The Book of THAT Which is Concealed is the book of the balancing in weight.
Until NOT (al, Lo) existed as weight, NOT (al) existed as seeing Face-to-Face.
And the Earth (/rah, HaAretz) was nullified,
And the Crowns of the Primordial Kings were found
as NOT (al).
Until the Head (sar, Rosh), desired by all desires,
Formed and communicated the Garments of Splendor.
That weight arises from the place which is NOT Him.
Those who exist as NOT (al) are weighed inYah hy.
In His body exists the weight.
NOT (al) unites, and NOT (al) begins.
In Yah hy have they ascended; who NOT (al) are, and are, and will be.”1
The first chapter of Lao Tze’s Tao-Te Ching opens with verses that address the Mysterious Unknown and Its two aspects:
“1.1 The Tao that can be trodden is NOT, the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is NOT, the enduring and unchanging name.
1.2 Conceived of as having no name, It is the originator of Heaven and Earth; conceived of as having a name, It is the Mother of all things.
1.4 Under these two aspects, It is really the same; but as development takes place, It receives the different names. Together we call them the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.”2