Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Occult Bible

Earlier I shared with you an example of finding occult meaning the Bible. What follows is another example that serves as the prooftext for one of the most common, if confusing, aspects of Jewish mysticism: Divine names of power. On another website devoted to the significance of the divine names, there is a disclaimer:

The name of the LORD [this refers to the Tetragramaton, the four letter name of God, YHVH] represents His power, actions, and reputation in the universe. Almighty God cannot be "conjured" or treated as an object...it is a chilul ha-Shem [a desecration of the divine reputation] to attempt to invoke the name of God for selfish or manipulative purposes (Exodus 20:7).

Everyone immersed in the various forms of Jewish esotericism agrees with the first sentence. It's regarding the second sentence that things become a little fuzzy. Fact is, the many names of God, whether exoteric or esoteric, have been used as emblems of power and passcodes to the Gevurah (the divine dynamis) of God. These names are incorporated into amulets, incantations, and prayers precisely because using them is believed to give one greater access to God. Properly applied, these names are "constructive," they allow you to do things. As the third line of the disclaimer seems to imply, the name can be used if the purpose is not "selfish" or "manipulative."

So where did this notion arise from? From the Bible itself, of course. The citation in Exodus cited above already cautions against using the Eternal's name "in vain," which invites the question, is there a non-"vain" use? The Exodus passage also invites speculation that the name is something more than just another noun, that it has a potential that must not be abused. But in what way?

Ps. 33:6 gives us the answer. There it says, Bid'var YHVH shamayim na'asu. Normally this translated as "By the word of YHVH the heavens were made." God creates via a "word-act," a kind of adjuration. Occult readers of the Bible, however, point out that an equally good translation is "By the word 'YHVH' the heavens were made." In other words, the name itself is the tool by which God creates things - indicating that it is the inclusion of the divine name that gives God's adjuration its creative power.

This reading gives the name of God a status separate from God. As a tool, it is subordinate to God, but like any tool, it presumably can be used by any artisan who understand how it works. Kabbalah maasit, "pragmatic kabbalah" is the discipline that attempts to make use of this tool. Again, we see throughout the Hebrew texts that document this practice the constant caution against using the divine name for purposes of witchcraft (variously termed mechashef, kosamim, or darkhei ha-Amori [Deut. 18:10-11]), yet still ascribing to the premise that the righteous, God-fearing adept is exempt from this prohibition.

Magicians and magical texts of antiquity even dispense with these Biblical scruples, regarding the Hebrew names of God to be yet another spiritual 'technology' and will use these names in combination with the names of pagan divinities and numinous beings, apparently on the principle that if one god is good, invoking all the 'brand name' deities is even better.

Magicians aside, a variety of divine names (many of them also occult in nature, in that they are secretly embedded in the Biblical text and also have to be 'revealed') have been used by Jews in their efforts to combat disease, fend off woe, or otherwise advance the cause of blessing for themselves, the Jewish people, and the world at large.

To learn more, look up the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism available at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050/sr=1-1/qid=1159997117/ref=sr_1_1/002-7116669-7231211?ie=UTF8&s=books

[Illustration: an example of a "Seal of Solomon" amulet incorporating two divine names: YHVH and Shaddai]


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