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  1. #1
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    Gematria and its Usefulness

    RAM asked me in another thread what I thought the usefulness of Gematria was, so I've decided to start a thread here to discuss it.

    I want to preface what I'm about to write with two things. The first is that I'm a Kabbalist, but not of any religious denomination. I consider myself to be of the religion of Man, I accept all faiths as the Word of God and the sages of all religions as Holy Men.

    I also understand that this is a primarily Christian forum, and am not here to impose my ideas on anyone.

    Gematria dates back to the Tannaic period, which is between 0-200CE. Knowing the pattern of Jewish tradition, we can assume that it was merely first recorded then (as it was, in the Mishnas), but practiced before that and passed long by word of mouth.

    Gematria is primarily concerned with revealing the hidden connections between ideas. These ideas have taken many shapes over the centuries. To give a brief overview its based mostly on what we know of today as Kabbalah. Prior to Kabbalah, the sages engaged in practices known as Merkavah, and the oldest known Jewish mystical text is the Sepher Yetzirah, which is said to have been authored by Abraham himself.

    The common thread between all of these, and the many forms they have all taken, is that of letter manipulation and permutations. Gematria is only one of many ways the letters are manipulated to reveal hidden meanings. It is believed that either the sages who authored the Torah, or God himself, probably both, encoded these meanings into the text to be revealed to those who diligently study the Torah.

    The ideas outlined in Kabbalah are primarily understood as applicable to the forces denoted on the Tree of Life. These forces describe our internal world, our external world, and the divine world simultaneously. Though the Tree of Life itself was a later development, the ideas pertaining to it have been around since the time of the Sepher Yetzirah (such as the ideas of the forces of the Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, Mercy, Judgment, Kingdom, et cetera...)

    So to answer RAM's question, I believe that the usefulness of Gematria is best understood in a Kabbalistic context. Otherwise he is entirely right to say that much of the time the connections it reveal seem meaningless.

    To reference that thread: http://www.biblewheel.com/forum/showthread.php?p=27277

    We were discussing AMTh. The Gematria I did on this revealed a connection to Adam. This appears to be meaningless, except that in Kabbalah ADM is attributed to Keter, and the archetype known as Arich Anpin.

    Arich Anpin is said to span all the worlds, and AMTh spans all the letters of the Hebrew alefbet. We could continue to make connections from here, but that in itself shows that there is an integrated idea between ADM and the Alefbet.

    Also, God gives ADM the language of God in the Garden, which he uses to name all the creatures and things in the Garden. Again, this is significant, tradition states this language was Hebrew, or one that was extremely close to the Hebrew we have today.

    Of course, what practical application does this have for anyone? It merely expounds upon what we already know, right? Not really, what it points to is that in order to reach our original state, one way to do that would be through the use and meditation upon the letters themselves, thereby perfecting and purifying the spiritual forces within us and achieving our "inner Adam" through the work of correction. This was at least the belief of the Jewish mystics, and is the belief of Kabbalists today.

    What relevance this has to a Christian interpretation of the bible I cannot say. Though there is a Christian Kabbalah, usually spelled with a C, and I personally believe all forms of Kabbalah have merit and are worth study and consideration.

  2. #2
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    Very interesting topic! I am glad you brought it up. I have been planning on discussing the Kabbalah since it played a central role in my conversion to Christianity.

    I think it is a wonderful sentiment to "accept all faiths as the Word of God and the sages of all religions as Holy Men." Indeed, there was a time when I held that belief myself, but now I'm not sure that it is a logical possibility. It certainly would require a hermeneutic effort of herculean proportions to invent "explanations" for all the contradictory data. It seems much more likely that all religions contain fragments of the truth and that none of them, or at best only one of them, could be called the "Word of God" in the fullest sense. This approach seemed very promising to me in the past because I recognized that every religion contained elements of truth but believed that the Bible was the only true "Word of God." But now everything is "on the table." I am reevaluating all my beliefs. I have found it impossible to maintain belief in an anthropomorphic "Zeus-style" God which is supposed to be an agent (like a person) but who is most famous for failing to interact with his creation in an intelligible fashion.

    As for the Sepher Yetzirah, it played an important role in my discovery of the Bible Wheel (link). It contains the famous description of the 22 Letters in a circle (galgal/wheel) in section 2:2 -
    Twenty-two Foundation letters: He engraved them, He carved them, He permuted them, He weighed them, He transformed them, and with them He depicted all that was formed and all that would be formed.

    Twenty-two Foundation letters: He placed them in a circle like a wall with 231 gates. The Circle oscillates back and forth. A sign for this is: There is nothing in good higher than Delight; There is nothing in evil lower than Plague.
    I was studying the symbolic meaning of the letters and was inspired to put them in a circle and to fill in the spokes corresponding to each letter with the associated concepts. E.g. I put the Ten Commandments in the first ten spokes, and the Seven Days in the first seven spokes, and so forth. Then I noticed that the books could also be aligned with the spokes, and with three cycles, we have the Bible Wheel. And I thought it was pretty cool that galgal = 66 = the number of books in the Wheel.



    Now getting back to gematria, you had asked what significance it might have. The Kabbalistic answer, which I don't believe you mentioned, would be that this reveals the way to redeem the fallen sparks trapped in matter (the qliphoth). In other words, the Kabbalah is supposed to be a gnostic path back to God. And this might be true ... I look forward to discussing it more.

    All the very best,

    Richard

    PS: Let me say again how happy I am that I have someone knowledgeable in the Kabbalah to talk to!
    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by RAM View Post
    I think it is a wonderful sentiment to "accept all faiths as the Word of God and the sages of all religions as Holy Men." Indeed, there was a time when I held that belief myself, but now I'm not sure that it is a logical possibility. It certainly would require a hermeneutic effort of herculean proportions to invent "explanations" for all the contradictory data. It seems much more likely that all religions contain fragments of the truth and that none of them, or at best only one of them, could be called the "Word of God" in the fullest sense.
    I agree, this is the sense in which I meant it. I see them all as fragments, but still fragments of Gods Word, like light refracting through a prism. Together they paint a more whole picture of the Truth than any one taken in itself at the exclusion of all others.

    As for Holy Men, I mean that a Boddhisattva is a Tzaddik, I mean that people who have achieved spiritual states have achieved those states regardless of how they got there, its written on and in them. At a certain point how a person arrives there is moot because as its often said, all roads lead to Rome.

    Quote Originally Posted by RAM View Post
    This approach seemed very promising to me in the past because I recognized that every religion contained elements of truth but believed that the Bible was the only true "Word of God." But now everything is "on the table." I am reevaluating all my beliefs. I have found it impossible to maintain belief in an anthropomorphic "Zeus-style" God which is supposed to be an agent (like a person) but who is most famous for failing to interact with his creation in an intelligible fashion.
    Kabbalah reconciles most of this. The premise is that while that which is above Keter is perfect, from Keter down the Creation is "flawed" insofar as it is in a world of duality and not absolute unity (The Infinite Light). Thus YHVH appears to have a split personality, but these are the Chesedic and Gevuric sides of God interacting with each other and with man.

    The problem is in assuming that the God of the bible is Ain Soph Aur (Atika Qadisha, the Ancient Holy One), this is not the case. While that certainly emanated everything, its ALHYM, attributed to the Left/Restrictive side of God who creates, and YHVH, the Right/Expansive side of God who does most of the talking. We encounter AHYH with Moses in the burning bush, attributed to Keter, but mostly its YHVH.

    The world of Atzilut is of course considered to be spiritually perfect since it has no Kelipot, but it is still not ONE. The Kelipot appear in Briah downwards.

    Furthermore YHVH is a fourfold name to remind us of this. There are 10 Sefirot, 22 paths, four worlds, five parts of the soul- it all speaks of division and disunity.

    Quote Originally Posted by RAM View Post
    As for the Sepher Yetzirah, it played an important role in my discovery of the Bible Wheel (link). It contains the famous description of the 22 Letters in a circle (galgal/wheel) in section 2:2 -[INDENT]Twenty-two Foundation letters: He engraved them, He carved them, He permuted them, He weighed them, He transformed them, and with them He depicted all that was formed and all that would be formed.
    I think the Bible Wheel is a fascinating discovery. I have not ventured out far beyond the Old Testament myself, partially because I don't know Greek really at all and my focus has been on Hebrew Gematria, but I've played with the Greek a little.

    Quote Originally Posted by RAM View Post
    Now getting back to gematria, you had asked what significance it might have. The Kabbalistic answer, which I don't believe you mentioned, would be that this reveals the way to redeem the fallen sparks trapped in matter (the qliphoth). In other words, the Kabbalah is supposed to be a gnostic path back to God. And this might be true ... I look forward to discussing it more.
    Ya I just said it in a different way:

    "thereby perfecting and purifying the spiritual forces within us and achieving our "inner Adam" through the work of correction."

    The Work of Correction is the Zoharic term for Tikkun, of which there are three forms:

    Restoration of the Soul (Tikkun haNefesh)
    Restoration of the World (Tikkun haOlam)
    Restoration of God (Tikkun haPanim)

    In the east they perform practices which are almost identical to that of the Sefer Yetzirah. They have mandalas with huge arrays of letters and letter combination's which they chant and visualize to reach higher states of consciousness.

    Glad to find that Kabbalah is actually a desired focus of conversation, I was concerned that it might be entirely or mostly off topic!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gematria View Post
    Ya I just said it in a different way:

    "thereby perfecting and purifying the spiritual forces within us and achieving our "inner Adam" through the work of correction."

    The Work of Correction is the Zoharic term for Tikkun, of which there are three forms:

    Restoration of the Soul (Tikkun haNefesh)
    Restoration of the World (Tikkun haOlam)
    Restoration of God (Tikkun haPanim)
    Well that's pretty obvious now that you mention it!

    I love the concept of "Tikkun." It could correspond to the New Testament concept of the "restoration of all things."

    The "restoration of the soul" is effected by faith in Christianity, which results in good works.

    The "restoration of the world" is seen by most Christians as a future event, but it can also be understood as a perpetual ongoing process.

    Of course, the NT doesn't have a "restoration of God" concept. But since it is Tikkun Panim it makes me think its really the restoration of the "image of God."

    A map of similar concepts between Kabbalah and the Bible would be interesting. I'm particularly curious how the NT links, since the Kabbalah was developed from the Hebrew Tanakh.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gematria View Post
    In the east they perform practices which are almost identical to that of the Sefer Yetzirah. They have mandalas with huge arrays of letters and letter combination's which they chant and visualize to reach higher states of consciousness.
    I've never seen those mandalas. Can you post a pic? That would be very interesting. I usually get the impression it is important for the student to form the images in the mind. "Place the letters in a circle like a wall with 231 gate" is taken as directions for what the student should visualize.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gematria View Post
    Glad to find that Kabbalah is actually a desired focus of conversation, I was concerned that it might be entirely or mostly off topic!
    There are varieties of Kabbalah I would not be interested in discussing, such as that popularized by the OTO. But the serious tradition transmitted by the Jews is certainly a topic of great interest.

    All the best,

    Richard
    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

    Check out my blog site

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    Quote Originally Posted by RAM View Post
    I've never seen those mandalas. Can you post a pic? That would be very interesting. I usually get the impression it is important for the student to form the images in the mind. "Place the letters in a circle like a wall with 231 gate" is taken as directions for what the student should visualize.
    The pics are hard to find online. Heres one of them though, from Google images:

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=...w=1366&bih=575

    The smaller images people usually think of as the "pictures" of the Chakras are miniature representations which leave out all the details. Each Chakra has a set of letters ascribed to it which represent the forces of that level of spiritual reality.

    Quote Originally Posted by RAM View Post
    There are varieties of Kabbalah I would not be interested in discussing, such as that popularized by the OTO. But the serious tradition transmitted by the Jews is certainly a topic of great interest.
    Ya, the OTO is messed up. Even the Golden Dawn hardly understands Kabbalah. As a whole, Hermetic Kabbalah is lacking in many ways. Hermeticism simply doesn't teach anyone anything about spiritual laws, only about spiritual power, which is why so many who practice it have gone astray. This is compounded by the fact that the Hermetic ideal has deteriorated over time, and Hermetics are no longer scholars and learned people who pray, have awe towards and belief in God. Instead they are often desperate, depressed, confused, unlearned and completely lacking discipline. More often than not it reflects a mental ward more than a group of people dedicated to spiritual advancement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gematria View Post
    The pics are hard to find online. Heres one of them though, from Google images:

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=...w=1366&bih=575

    The smaller images people usually think of as the "pictures" of the Chakras are miniature representations which leave out all the details. Each Chakra has a set of letters ascribed to it which represent the forces of that level of spiritual reality.
    The pic was in Hindi. I thought you were talking about meditation on the Hebrew letters. Did I miss something?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gematria View Post
    Ya, the OTO is messed up. Even the Golden Dawn hardly understands Kabbalah. As a whole, Hermetic Kabbalah is lacking in many ways. Hermeticism simply doesn't teach anyone anything about spiritual laws, only about spiritual power, which is why so many who practice it have gone astray. This is compounded by the fact that the Hermetic ideal has deteriorated over time, and Hermetics are no longer scholars and learned people who pray, have awe towards and belief in God. Instead they are often desperate, depressed, confused, unlearned and completely lacking discipline. More often than not it reflects a mental ward more than a group of people dedicated to spiritual advancement.
    Excellent description of the problems with the OTO. I'm glad we are in agreement on this.
    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

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  7. #7
    Hi Gematria,

    Do you believe Metatron's cube and the tree of life are interconnected?

    God bless
    Ed J

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed J View Post
    Hi Gematria,
    Do you believe Metatron's cube and the tree of life are interconnected?
    I certainly think to an extent they are. Its more connected to the Merkava literature though, as it is more symbolically a star tetrahedron, which is two interlocked, equally sized tetrahedrons.

    There is some interesting stuff about this here: http://www.workofthechariot.com/Text...-Merkabah.html

    Though as to how useful it is or how its precisely used, I have never worked with it before.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by RAM View Post
    The pic was in Hindi. I thought you were talking about meditation on the Hebrew letters. Did I miss something?
    Sorry that was stream-of-consciousness of me. I was continuing my train of thought that many religions have reflections of Truth in them, and was using the fact that the practices of the Sefer Yetzirah resemble practices done in the far East as an example. I should have included that thought further up in my post though.

    Though the Tree of Life is arguably a mandala of sorts. And Abulafia is said to have had a book full of grids of squares with letters in them used for chanting and meditation.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Gematria View Post
    I certainly think to an extent they are. Its more connected to the Merkava literature though, as it is more symbolically a star tetrahedron, which is two interlocked, equally sized tetrahedrons.

    There is some interesting stuff about this here: http://www.workofthechariot.com/Text...-Merkabah.html

    Though as to how useful it is or how its precisely used, I have never worked with it before.
    Hi Gematria,

    You should enjoy these videos as they connect to the topic.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCMI3...eature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g--P9...eature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1S0-u...eature=related

    Let me know what you think of the "Theology"; OK?


    God bless
    Ed J
    http://www.holycitybiblecode.org

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