لا اله الا الله
Amongst some of the pre-Zoharic schools of the Kabbalah the symbol of the Tree of Knowledge (etz ha-da’at) – i.e. the Tree from which in the Book of Genesis God forbad Adam and Eve to eat – and the Tree of Life (etz ha-chayyim) are held to be the same Tree and thus the same linked symbol looked at from differing perspectives. An anonymous Kabbalistic treatise probably written in the twelfth century, entitled the Secret of the Tree of Knowledge (sod etz ha-da’at), outright asserts that the two trees are “fundamentally one: they grow from a common root, in which masculine and feminine, the giving and the receiving, the creative and the reflective, are one” (G. Scholem “Sitra Ahra: Good and Evil in the Kabbalah” in On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead, New York, 1991, p. 70). Within the model of the sephirotic Tree of Life – i.e. the symbolic Kabbalistic representation of the universe – two divisions bifurcate the Tree into two pillars: the pillar of Mercy (chesed) on the right-hand side and the pillar of Severity (din) on the left-hand side. Similarly in mystical Islam this is held as the dual attributes of Beauty (jamal) and Majesty (jalal), which manifest as the divine attributes of Mercy (rahma) and Wrath (qahr).
Boldly disclosing a secret that other Kabbalists have only cryptically indicated, the author of the anonymous treatise then asserts that the Tree of Knowledge represents the Pillar of Severity, or the left-hand side of the Tree of Life, which by itself (when separated or divided from its other side) projects the satanic image of God. Now the Tree of Life is the model of the emanations, as well as the stages of the inner life, of the Godhead from Its station of total concealment, transcendence, hiddeness and unknowability into the stages of the creative manifestation of the world. When our anonymous Kabbalist author holds to the position he does, much like Mansur al-Hallaj in Islamic Sufism (as set-out in his Kitâb al-Tawâsîn), he is also simultaneously asserting the fundamental unity of God and the Devil. In other words, in this perspective, Satan is no more than a theophany (tajallî), or a specifically projected (or fragmented, maybe even broken) image, of the Divine Itself – nothing more.
That stated, the author goes on to say that so long as the two trees are connected as a single Tree, the Tree of Life (mercy) predominates over the power of severity (wrath), i.e. the Tree of Knowledge, which is the harsh and critical power within the Godhead, that the author conceives as the image of the Devil. Contraction (what the Sufis call ‘qabz’) is therefore complemented by expansion (‘bast’), both of which are the dual processes of the Godhead’s inhalation and exhalation of existence into being and then into destruction and annihilation. Now severity (din), as a restrictive quality, tends to seek independent existence. However, this tendency is constantly overwhelmed by the flow of divine life and divine grace, so that it remains a mere possibility – the great fire of the “Holy One blessed be He that only consumes when it is no longer confined within the framework of its original harmony” (ibid).
Satan’s independent being is thus, symbolically, a consequence of the decision of Adam who, by his improper contemplation of the Divine, caused a separation within the Godhead that had a baleful effect on all creation. In other words, it was Adam who created the Devil by his contemplation, not God. Looked at another way, the Serpent of the Tree of Knowledge only becomes the Serpent as Devil in the erroneous and fragmented contemplation of Adam himself. This is quite similar to a position held by the Sethian Gnostics in antiquity who held the Serpent of the Tree in the story of Genesis to actually be the True Divinity while Yahweh (whom they dubbed Ialdoboath), who expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden, the real villian. In this novel Kabbalistic re-interpretation of the Sethian Gnostic allegory the villian is actually created, or birthed, by the conception of Adam himself, and not by the Godhead in its elevated Unity.
We can also infer from the perspective of the Qur’an and suggest that the Iblis who refuses God’s command to bow down to Adam in pre-creation is in fact, cipherically speaking, a facet of Adam himself, or the concupiscent aspect of the human ego that witnesses the world through fragments, wilfully misperceives the Truth in its whole, and so refuses the Truth, as it were. Hallaj, on the other hand, also suggests that the Devil’s disobedience of God in pre-eternity was actually the act of the perfect lover refusing to love any other (or to even conceive of an ‘Other’) but the Beloved (mahbûb) even if the Beloved commands it so. Disobedience here thus becomes a symbol for initiatic passage and apotheosis with Hallaj that now suggests as a corrolary the role of the Devil as the gatekeeper par excellence to the Godhead’s Tawhid (unicity) through whom all the true gnostics (‘urafa) must eventually pass in order to attain perfect union with the Divine (wisâl).
Returning to the Kabbalah: Our anonymous Kabbalist goes on to say that when Adam plucked and ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, he allowed the power acting in the Tree of Knowledge (i.e. the principle of Severity) to operate upon it in isolation. This power was thereby removed from its position within the spheres of the Tree of Life and now gained control over Adam as the satanic principle of evil. The nature of evil is therefore the separation and isolation of those things that should be united – and, conversly, the separation of the false unities which should be isolated because they are in reality negation. As should be noted, the language, argumentation and symbolism here is thoroughly alchemical – and this in itself is instructive because it suggests the stages of the Great Work of alchemy as symbolic microcosmic instances of the greater creative Divine process itself.
Given this, the point is made that so long as humanity absorbs this separation between severity and mercy, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life – this being here the meaning of the ‘eating of the fruit,’ which belongs to the fruits of the soul – it creates inauthentic, false systems of reality, productive of evil – i.e. that which is separated from the Divine. Both humanity’s experience of reality and its moral nature are thus damaged by this misguided contemplation. Only through the acts of righteousness and the acts of prophets and saints – even when such acts may appear to contravene standards and appear as their opposite – annul this separation of the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. And through such annulment a person can become reconnected to the original world of unity, which is authentically beyond mundane notions of good and evil, in which evil as evil will no longer be evil because it will have been restored to its proper station of holiness. Meaning, whatever the evil, once marshalled in the totality of its struggle to restore the pristine unity, thereby loses its exclusively satanic element and itself serves the good by being reabsorbed into the Good in its root. Among other reasons, this is why several readings of the Book of Job have Satan-Lucifer in the position of accuser standing on the right hand of God Himself, in fact as an Archangel. Suggestions as to the connection between the symbolism of Lucifer-Satan and the Chief Archangel Metatron are legion in the more radical interpretations of the Kabbalah.
In the related Kabbalistic doctrine of the Tikkunim Olam (the restoration of the world) it is held that acts of righteousness will restore the sparks of divinity trapped in matter from the beginning of creation and elevate them back to their spiritual realities. This doctrine is also connected to the doctrine of the coming of the Messiah and the final, complete Redemption of the World through Him. Note there are symbolic connections between Messiah, Metatron and Shekinah. Without getting into further details of messianic speculation, one interesting point that several Kabbalistic texts assert, including the Zohar, is that whereas at the beginning of creation Adam was unprepared to eat of the ‘fruit’, and his eating thereof became the cause of his banishment and separation from the Garden of Eden; in the End Times, on the other hand, Adam will have truly become ready to eat of the fruit of the Tree – and by rejoining the two trees as One Tree - thereby worthy of re-entry back into the Garden of Eden. In the Kabbalah and throughout much of the non-Christian gnostic and esoteric systems of the Abrahamic Tradition (especially in Mandaean Gnosis) the symbolism of Adam is often seen as a cipher linked to the symbol of the Messiah Himself - with all the prophets and saints being mere christophanies of Adam, as it were, with the final one of this universal cycle of hierophanies being Adam himself come as the Redeemer: i.e. the one fallen at the beginning being the savior rising at the end of time, i.e. the saved savior, the redeemed redeemer; descent is complemented by ascent!
And what of the meaning of the ‘fruit’, the ‘One Tree’ and the re-entry back into the Garden of Eden? All of these symbols denote the same thing from various loci of perception or waystations of realization, and that is, gnosis (‘irfân). But the key to this realization, the important element, as several more radical Kabbalists have repeatedly suggested, cryptically lies in the passage of Genesis 3:20 and the name of Eve (Hebrew cHava חוה, Arabic Hawâ’ حوأ) which is shorthand for “the Mother of All-Living” (em koll hayy חי כל אמ).
Etymologically, the name ‘Eve’ (חוה) and the Aramaic words ‘life’ (חיה) and ‘serpent’ (חויא) derive from the same root. But the title “the Mother of All-Living” is also as well held by some as a title of the Shekinah (the feminine presence of the Godhead) – i.e. the Arabic ‘Sakina’ that also means here the Divine ‘Dwelling’ (from the root s-k-n سكن). When now the symbolism of ‘Serpent’, ‘Tree’ and ‘Woman’ are juxtaposed we are through biblical myth and symbology actually deciphering an Abrahamic version of the symbolism of the Kundalini well known in Tantric Yoga. Put another way, and this is the explicit position of the Great Andalusian Sufi Master Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240), perhaps God manifests through woman in order for man to realize and unite with God – and vice versa. This is because the most sacred temple or mosque of divine worship is when sex - reclaimed both from the clutches of contemporary materialist degradation as well as fundamentalist religious narratives of shame - becomes the highest and truest of holy sacraments.
Let me now quote a passage from Siyyid ‘Alî Muhammad Shîrazî, the Bâb, from his very first extensive work, the Commentary on the Surah of the Cow (al-baqara),
“And a thing may not draw nigh to [anything] beyond its origin. So when Adam drew nigh to the Tree of Reality (shajarat’ul-haqîqa) shining forth from Fatima [i.e. the transfiguration of Eve] by means of the drawing nigh of existence, he disobeyed his Lord, because God commanded him not to approach it, except through ecstasy (al-wijdân). Because at the time of ecstasy the “thing drawn nigh unto” is the Tree and nothing other than it.”
(Trans. Todd Lawson, “The Authority of the Feminine and Fatima’s Place in an Early Work by the Bab,” 2001, p. 113).
Solvé et coagula!
١٤ شهر احد يوم وجود سنة ٤ نور
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