Translated from the Hebrew by Wm. Wynn Westcott

(First published in 1887,
this version based on the third ed. 1913 )




The "Sepher Yetzirah," or "Book of Formation," is perhaps the oldest Rabbinical treatise of Kabalistic philosophy which is still extant. The great interest which has been evinced of 1ate years in the Hebrew Kabalah, and the modes of thought and doctrine allied to it, has induced me to translate this tractate from the original Hebrew texts, and to collate with them the Latin versions of mediaeval authorities; and I have also published An Introduction to the Kabalah which may be found useful to students.

Three important books of the "Zohar," or "Book of Splendour," which is a great storehouse of Kabalistic teaching, have been translated into English by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, and the "Sepher Yetzirah" in an English translation is almost a necessary companion to these abstruse disquisitions: the two books indeed mutually explain each other.

The "Sepher Yetzirah," although this name means "The Book of Formation," is not in any sense a narrative of Creation, or a substitute Genesis, but is an ancient and instructive philosophical treatise upon one aspect of the origin of the universe and mankind; an aspect at once archaic and essentially Hebrew. The grouping of the processes of origin into an arrangement, at once alphabetic and numeral, is one only to be found in Semitic authors.

Attention must be called to the essential peculiarity of the Hebrew language, the inextricable and necessary association of numbers and letters; every letter suggesting a number, and every group of letters having a numerical signification, as vital as its literal meaning.

The Kabalistic principles involved in the reversal of Hebrew letters, and their substitution by others, on definite schemes, should also be studied and borne in mind.

It is exactly on these principles that the "ground-work idea" 'of this disquisition rests; and these principles may be traced throughout the Kabalistic tractates which have succeeded it in point of time and development, many of which are associated together in one volume known as the "Zohar," which is in the main concerned with the essential dignities of the Godhead, with the Emanations which have sprung therefrom, with the doctrine of the Sephiroth, the ideals of Macroprosopus and Microprosopus, and the doctrine of Re-incarnation.

The "Sepher Yetzirah," on the other hand, is mainly concerned with our universe and with the Microcosm. The opinions of Hebrew Kabalistic Rabbis and of modern mystics may be fitly introduced here.

The following interesting quotation is from Rabbi Moses Botarel, who wrote his famous Commentary in 1409: "It was Abraham our Father—blessed be he—who wrote this book to condemn the doctrine of the sages of his time, who were incredulous of the supreme dogma of the Unity. At least, this was the opinion of Rabbi Saadiah—blessed be he—as written in the first chapter of his book The Philosopher's Stone. These are his words: The sages of Babylon attacked Abraham on account of his faith; for they were all against him although themselves separable into three sects. The First thought that the Universe was subject to the control of two opposing forces, the one existing but to destroy the other, this is dualism; they held that there was nothing in common between the author of evil and the author of good. The Second sect admitted Three great Powers; two of them as in the first case, and a third Power whose function was to decide between the two others, a supreme arbitrator. The Third sect recognised no god beside the Sun, in which it recognised the sole principle of existence."

Rabbi Judah Ha Lιvi (who flourished about 1120), in his critical description of this treatise, wrote: "The Sepher Yetzirah teaches us the existence of a Single Divine Power by shewing us that in the bosom of variety and multiplicity there is a Unity and Harmony, and that such universal concord could only arise from the rule of a Supreme Unity."

According to Isaac Myer, in his Quabbalah (p. 159), the "Sepher Yetzirah" was referred to in the writings of Ibn Gebirol of Cordova, commonly called Avicebron, who died in A.D. 1070.

Eliphas Levi, the famous French Occultist, thus wrote of the "Sepher Yetzirah," in his Histoire de la Magie, p. 54: "The Zohar is a Genesis of illumination, the Sepher Jezirah is a ladder formed of truths. Therein are explained the thirty-two absolute signs of sounds, numbers and letters: each letter reproduces a number, an idea and a form; so that mathematics are capable of application to ideas and to forms not less rigorously than to numbers, by exact proportion and perfect correspondence. By the science of the Sepher Jezirah the human spirit is fixed to truth, and in reason, and is able to take account of the possible development of intelligence by the evolutions of numbers. The Zohar represents absolute truth, and the Sepher Jezirah provides the means by which we may seize, appropriate and make use of it."

Upon another page Eliphas Lιvi writes: "The Sepher Jezirah and the Apocalypse are the masterpieces of Occultism; they contain more wisdom than words; their expression is as figurative as poetry, and at the same time it is as exact as mathematics."

In the volume entitled La Kabbale by the eminent French scholar, Adolphe Franck, there is a chapter on the "Sepher Yetzirah." He writes as follows:

"The Book of Formation contains, I will not say system of physics, but of cosmology such as could be conceived at an age and in a country where the habit of explaining all phenomena by the immediate action of the First Cause, tended to check the spirit of observation, and where in consequence certain general and superficial relations perceived in the natural world passed for the science of Nature."…"Its form is simple and grave; there is nothing like a demonstration nor an argument; but it consists rather of a series of aphorisms, regularly grouped, and which have all the conciseness of the most ancient oracles."

In his analysis of the "Sepher Yetzirah," he adds: "The Book of Formation, even if it be not very voluminous, and if it do not altogether raise us to very elevated regions of thought, yet offers us at least a composition which is very homogeneous and of a rare originality. The clouds which the imagination of commentators have gathered around it, will be dissipated, if we look for, in it, not mysteries of ineffable wisdom, but an attempt at a reasonable doctrine, made when reason arose, an effort to grasp the plan of the universe, and to secure the link which binds to one common principle, all the elements which are around us."

"The last word of this system is the substitution of the absolute divine Unity for every idea of Dualism, for that pagan philosophy which saw in matter an eternal substance whose laws were not in accord with Divine Will; and for the Biblical doctrine, which by its idea of Creation, postulates two things, the Universe and God, as two substances absolutely distinct one from the other.

"In fact, in the 'Sepher Yetzirah,' God considered as the Infinite and consequently the indefinable Being, extended throughout all things by his power and existence, is while above, yet not outside of numbers, sounds and letters—the principles and general laws which we recognise."

"Every element has its source from a higher form, and all things have their common origin from the Word (Logos), the Holy Spirit…. So God is at once, in the highest sense, both the matter and the form of the universe. Yet He is not only that form; for nothing can or does exist outside of Himself; His substance is the foundation of all, and all things bear His imprint and are symbols of His intelligence."

Hebrew tradition assigns the doctrines of the oldest portions of the "Zohar" to a date antecedent to the building of the Second Temple, but Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai, who lived in the reign of the Emperor Titus, A.D. 70-80, is considered to have been the first to commit these to writing, and Rabbi Moses de Leon, of Guadalaxara, in Spain, who died in 1305, certainly reproduced and published the "Zohar."

Ginsburg, speaking of the Zoharic doctrines of the Ain Suph, says that they were unknown until the thirteenth century, but he does not deny the great antiquity of the "Sepher Yetzirah," in which it will be noticed the "Ain Suph Aur" and "Ain Suph" are not mentioned. I suggest, however, that this omission is no proof that the doctrines of "Ain Suph Aur" and "Ain Suph" did not then exist, because it is a reasonable supposition that the "Sepher Yetzirah" was the volume assigned to the Yetziratic World, the third of the four Kabalistic Worlds of Emanation, while the "Asch Metzareph" is concerned with the Assiatic, fourth, or lowest World of Shells, and is on the face of it an alchemical treatise; and again the "Siphra Dtzenioutha" may be fittingly considered to be an Aziluthic work, treating of the Emanations of Deity alone; and there was doubtless a fourth work assigned to the World of Briah—the second type, but I have not been able to identify this treatise. Both the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmuds refer to the "Sepher Yetzirah." Their treatise, named "Sanhedrin," certainly mentions the "Book of Formation," and another similar work; and Rashi in his commentary on the treatise "Erubin," considers this a reliable historical notice.Other historical notices are those of Saadya Gaon, who died A.D. 940, and Judah Ha Levi, A.D. 1150; both these Hebrew classics speak of it as a very ancient work. Some modern critics have attributed the authorship to the Rabbi Akiba, who lived in the time of the Emperor Hadrian, A.D. 120, and lost his life in supporting the claims of Barchocheba, a false messiah: others suggest it was first written about A.D. 200.

Graetz however assigns it to early Gnostic times, third or fourth century, and Zunz speaks of it as post Talmudical, and belonging to the Geonim period 700-800 A.D.; Rubinsohn, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, speaks of this latter idea as having no real basis.

The Talmuds were first collected into a concrete whole, and printed in Venice, 1520 A.D.

The "Zohar" was first printed in Mantua in 1558; again in Cremona, 1560; and at Lublin, 1623; and a fourth edition by Knorr von Rosenroth, at Sulzbach in 1684. Some parts are not very ancient, because the Crusades are mentioned in one chapter. Six extant Hebrew editions of the "Sepher Yetzirah" were collected and printed at Lemberg in 1680. The oldest of these six recensions was that of Saadjah Gaon (by some critics called spurious).There are still extant three Latin versions, viz., that of Gulielmus Postellus; one by Johann Pistorius; and a third by Joannes Stephanus Rittangelius; this latter gives both Hebrew and Latin versions, and also "The Thirty-Two Paths" as a supplement.

There is a German translation, by Johann Friedrich von Meyer, dated 1830; a version by Isidor Kalisch, in which he has reproduced many of the valuable annotations of Meyer; an edition in French by Papus, 1888; an edition in French by Mayer Lambert, 1891, with the Arabic Commentary of Saadya Gaon; and an English edition by Peter Davidson, 1896, to which are added "The Fifty Gates of Intelligence" and "The Thirty-Two Ways of Wisdom." The edition which I now offer is fundamentally that of the ancient Hebrew codices translated into English, and collated with the Latin versions of Pistorius, Postellus, and Rittangelius, following the latter, rather than the former commentators. As to the authenticity of "The Sepher Yetzirah," students may refer to the Bibliotheca magna Rabbinica of Bartoloccio de Cellerio, Rome, 1678-1692; to Basnage, History of the Jews, 1708; and to The Doctrine and Literature of the Kabalah, by A. B. Waite, 1902.The following copies of the "Sepher Yetzirah" in Hebrew, I have also examined, but only in a superficial manner:

  1. A Version by Saadiah, Ab. ben David, and three others, Mantua, 1562, 4to.

  2. A Version with the commentary of Rabbi Abraham F. Dior, Amsterdam, 1642, 4to.

  3. A Version with preface by M. ben J. Chagiz, Amsterdam, 1713, 16mo.

  4. A Version, Constantinople, 1719, 8vo.

  5.  " " Zolkiew, 1745, 4to.

  6.  " " by Moses ben Jacob, Zozec, 1779, 4to.

  7.  " " Grodno, 1806, 4to.

  8.  " " Dyhernfurth, 1812, 8vo.

  9.  " " Salonica, 1831, 8vo.

  10. A MS. copy dated 1719, in the British Museum.

I add here the full titles of the three Latin versions; they are all to be found in the British Museum Library.

"Abrahami Patriarchae Liber Jezirah sive Formationis Mundi, Patribus quidem Abrahami tempora praecedentibus revelatus, sed ab ipso etiam Abrahamo expositus Isaaco, et per pro prophetarum manus posteritati conservatus, ipsis autem 72 Mosis auditoribus in secundo divinae veritatis loco, hoc est in ratione, quoe est posterior authoritate, habitus." Parisiis, 1552. Gulielmus Postellus."Id est Liber Jezirah, qui Abrahamo, Patriarchae adscribitur, una cum Commentario Rabbi Abraham F.D. super 32 semitis Sapientiae, a quibus Liber Jezirah incipit: Translatus et notis illustratus a Joanne Stephano Rittangelio, Ling. Orient. in Elect. Acad. Regiomontana Prof. Extraord," Amstelodami, 1642. In Tomas Primus of "Artis Cabalisticae hoc est reconditae theologiae et philosophiae scriptorum." Basileae 1587, is found "Liber de Creatione Cabalistinis, Hebraice Sepher Jezira; Authore Abrahamo. Successive filiis ore traditus. Hinc jam rebus Israel inclinatis ne deficeret per sapientes Hierusalem arcanis et profundissimis sensibus literis commendatus." Johannes Pistorius.

The "Sepher Yetzirah" consists of six chapters, having 33 paragraphs distributed among them, in this manner: the first has 12, then follow 5, 5, 4, 3, and 4.

Yet in some versions the paragraphs and subject-matter are found in a different arrangement. The oldest title has, as an addition, the words, "The Letters of our Father Abraham" or "ascribed to the patriarch Abraham," and it is spoken of as such by many mediaeval authorities: but this origin is doubtless fabulous, although perhaps not more improbable than the supposed authorship of the "Book of Enoch," mentioned by St. Jude, of which two MSS. copies in the Ethiopic language were rescued from the wilds of Abyssinia in 1773 by the great traveller James Bruce. In essence this work was, doubtless, the crystallisation of centuries of tradition, by one writer, and it has been added to from time to time, by later authors, who have also revised it. Some of the additions, which were rejected even by mediaeval students, I have not incorporated with the text at all, and I present in this volume only the undoubted kernel of this occult nut, upon which many great authorities, Hebrew, German, Jesuit and others, have written long Commentaries, and yet have failed to explain satisfactorily. I find Kalisch, speaking of these Commentaries, says, "they contain nothing but a medley of arbitrary explanations, and sophistical distortions of scriptural verses, astrological notions, Oriental superstitions, a metaphysical jargon, a poor knowledge of physics, and not a correct elucidation of this ancient book." Kalisch, however, was not an occultist; these commentaries are, however, so extensive as to demand years of study, and I feel no hesitation in confessing that my researches into them have been but superficial. For convenience of study I have placed the Notes in a separate form at the end of the work, and I have made a short definition of the subject-matter of each chapter. The substance of this little volume was read as Lecture before "The Hermetic Society of London," in the summer of 1886, Dr. Anna Kingsford, President, in the chair. Some of the Notes were the explanations given verbally, and subsequently in writing, to members of the Society who asked for information upon abstruse points in the "Sepher," and for collateral doctrines; others, of later date, are answers which have been given to students of Theosophy and Hermetic philosophy, and to my pupils of the Study Groups of the Rosicrucian Society of England.


The Tree of Life with basic attributtions


The Book of Formation


Section 1. In thirty-two1 mysterious Paths of Wisdom did Jah,2 the Jehovah of hosts,3 the God of Israel,4 the Living Elohim,5 the King of ages, the merciful and gracious God,6 the Exalted One, the Dweller in eternity, most high and holy—engrave his name by the three Sepharim7—Numbers, Letters, and Sounds.8

2. Ten are the ineffable Sephiroth.9 Twenty-two are the Letters, the Foundation of all things; there are Three Mothers, Seven Double and Twelve10 Simple letters.

3. The ineffable Sephiroth are Ten, as are the Numbers; and as there are in man five fingers over against five, so over them is established a covenant of strength, by word of mouth, and by the circumcision of the flesh.11

4. Ten is the number of the ineffable Sephiroth, ten and not nine, ten and not eleven. Understand this wisdom, and be wise by the perception. Search out concerning it, restore the Word to its creator, and replace Him who formed it upon his throne.12

5. The Ten ineffable Sephiroth have ten vast regions bound unto them; boundless in origin and having no ending; an abyss13 of good and of ill; measureless height and depth; boundless to the East and the West; boundless to the North and South;14 and the Lord the only God,15 the Faithful King rules all these from his holy seat,16 for ever and ever.

6. The Ten ineffable Sephiroth have the appearance of the Lightning flash,17 their origin is unseen and no end is perceived. The Word is in them as they rush forth and as they return, they speak as from the whirl-wind, and returning fall prostrate in adoration before the Throne.

7. The Ten ineffable Sephiroth, whose ending is even as their origin, are like as a flame arising from a burning coal. For God18 is superlative in his Unity, there is none equal unto Him: what number canst thou place before One.

8. Ten are the ineffable Sephiroth; seal up thy lips lest thou speak of them, and guard thy heart as thou considerest them; and if thy mind escape from thee bring it back to thy control; even as it was said, "running and returning" (the living creatures ran and returned)19 and hence was the Covenant made.

9. The ineffable Sephiroth give forth the Ten numbers. First; the Spirit of the God of the living;20 Blessed and more than blessed be the Living God21 of ages. The Voice, the Spirit, and the Word,22 these are the Holy Spirit.

10. Second; from the Spirit He produced Air, and formed in it twenty-two sounds--the letters; three are mothers, seven are double, and twelve are simple; but the Spirit is first and above these. Third; from the Air He formed the Waters, and from the formless and void23 made mire and clay, and designed surfaces upon them, and hewed recesses in them, and formed the strong material foundation. Fourth; from the Water He formed Fire24 and made for Himself a Throne of Glory with Auphanim, Seraphim and Kerubim,25 as his ministering angels; and with these three26 he completed his dwelling, as it is written, "Who maketh his angels spirits and his ministers a flaming fire."27

11. He selected three letters from among the simple ones and sealed them and formed them into a Great Name, I H V,28 and with this He sealed the universe in six directions.

Fifth; He looked above, and sealed the Height with I H V.
Sixth; He looked below, and sealed the Depth with I V H.
Seventh; He looked forward, and sealed the East with H I V.
Eighth; He looked backward, and sealed the West with H V I.
Ninth; He looked to the right, and sealed the South with V I H.
Tenth; He looked to the left, and sealed the North with V H I.
12. Behold! From the Ten ineffable Sephiroth do, proceed—the One Spirit of the Gods of the living, Air, Water, Fire; and also Height, Depth, East, West, South and North.29



Section 1. The twenty-two sounds and letters are the Foundation of all things. Three mothers, seven doubles and twelve simples. The Three Mothers are Aleph, Mem and Shin, they are Air, Water and Fire. Water is silent, Fire is sibilant, and Air derived from the Spirit is as the tongue of a balance standing between these contraries which are in equilibrium, reconciling and mediating between them.30

2. He hath formed, weighed, and composed with these twenty-two letters every created thing, and the form of everything which shall hereafter be.

3. These twenty-two sounds or letters are formed by the voice, impressed on the air, and audibly modified in five places; in the throat, in the mouth, by the tongue, through the teeth, and by the lips.31

4. These twenty-two letters, which are the foundation of all things, He arranged as upon a sphere with two hundred and thirty-one gates, and the sphere may be rotated forward or backward, whether for good or for evil; from the good comes true pleasure, from evil nought but torment.

5. For He shewed the combination of these letters, each with the other; Aleph with all, and all with Aleph; Beth with all, and all with Beth. Thus in combining all together in pairs are produced the two hundred and thirty-one gates of knowledge.32

6. And from the non-existent33 He made Something; and all forms of speech and everything that has been produced; from the empty void He made the material world, and from the inert earth He brought forth everything that hath life. He hewed, as it were, vast columns out of the intangible air, and by the power of His Name made every creature and everything that is; and the production of all things from the twenty-two letters is the proof that they are all but parts of one living body.34



Section 1. The Foundation of all the other sounds and letters is provided by the Three Mothers, Aleph, Mem and Shin; they resemble a Balance, on the one hand the guilty, on the other hand the purified, and Aleph the Air is like the Tongue of a Balance standing between them.35

2. The Three Mothers, Aleph, Mem and Shin, are a great Mystery, very admirable and most recondite, and sealed as with six rings; and from them proceed Air, Fire, and Water, which divide into active and passive forces. The Three Mothers, Aleph, Mem and Shin, are the Foundation, from them spring three Fathers, and from these have proceeded all things that are in the world.

3. The Three Mothers in the world are Aleph, Mem and Shin: the heavens36 were produced37 from Fire; the earth from the Water; and the Air from the Spirit is as a reconciler between the Fire and the Water.

4. The Three Mothers, Aleph, Mem and Shin, Fire, Water and Air, are shown in the Year: from the fire came heat, from the waters came cold, and from the air was produced the temperate state, again a mediator between them. The Three Mothers, Aleph, Mem and Shin, Fire, Water and Air, are found in Man: from the fire was formed the head; from the water the belly; and from the air was formed the chest, again placed as a mediator between the others.

5. These Three Mothers did He produce and design, and combined them; and He sealed them as the three mothers in the Universe, in the Year and in Man—both male and female. He caused the letter Aleph to reign in Air and crowned it, and combining it with the others He sealed it, as Air in the World, as the temperate (climate) of the Year, and as the breath in the chest (the lungs for breathing air) in Man: the male with Aleph, Mem, Shin, the female with Shin, Mem, Aleph. He caused the letter Mem to reign in Water, crowned it, and combining it with the others formed the earth in the world, cold in the year, and the belly in man, male and female, the former with Mem, Aleph, Shin, the latter with Mem, Shin, Aleph. He caused Shin to reign in Fire, and crowned it, and combining it with the others sealed with it the heavens in the universe, heat in the year and the head in man, male and female.38



Section 1. The Seven double letters, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Peh, Resh, and Tau have each two sounds associated with them. They are referred to Life, Peace, Wisdom, Riches, Grace, Fertility and Power. The two sounds of each letter are the hard and the soft—the aspirated and the softened. They are called Double, because each letter presents a contrast or permutation; thus Life and Death; Peace and War; Wisdom and Folly; Riches and Poverty; Grace and Indignation; Fertility and Solitude; Power and Servitude.

2. These Seven Double Letters point out seven localities; Above, Below, East, West, North, South, and the Palace of Holiness in the midst of them sustaining all things.

3. These Seven Double Letters He designed, produced, and combined, and formed with them the Planets of this World, the Days of the Week, and the Gates of the soul (the orifices of perception) in Man. From these Seven He bath produced the Seven Heavens, the Seven Earths, the Seven Sabbaths: for this cause He has loved and blessed the number Seven more than all things under Heaven (His Throne).

4. Two Letters produce two houses; three form six; four form twenty-four; five form one hundred and twenty; six form seven hundred and twenty;39 seven form five thousand and forty; and beyond this their numbers increase so that the mouth can hardly utter them, nor the ear hear the number of them. So now, behold the Stars of our World, the Planets which are Seven; the Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars.40 The Seven are also the Seven Days of Creation; and the Seven Gateways of the Soul of Man—the two eyes, the two ears, the mouth and the two nostrils. So with the Seven are formed the seven heavens,41 the seven earths, and the seven periods of time; and so has He preferred the number Seven above all things under His Heaven.42


Supplement to Chapter IV

NOTE.—This is one of several modern illustrations of the allotment of the Seven Letters; it is not found in the ancient copies of the "Sepher Yetzirah."

He produced Beth, and referred it to Wisdom; He crowned it, combined and formed with it the Moon in the Universe, the first day of the week, and the right eye of man.

He produced Gimel, and referred it to Health; He crowned it, combined and joined with it Mars in the Universe, the second day of the week, and the right ear of man.

He produced Daleth, and referred it to Fertility; He crowned it, combined and formed with it the Sun in the Universe, the third day of the week, and the right nostril of man.

He produced Kaph, and referred it to Life; He crowned it, combined and formed with it Venus in the Universe, the fourth day of the week, and the left eye of man.

He produced Peh, and referred it to Power; He crowned it, combined and formed with it Mercury in the Universe, the fifth day of the week, and the left ear of man.

He produced Resh, and referred it to Peace; He crowned it, combined and formed with it Saturn in the Universe, the sixth day of the week, and the left nostril of man.

He produced Tau, and referred it to Beauty; He crowned it, combined and formed with it Jupiter in the Universe, the Seventh Day of the week, and the mouth of man.

By these Seven letters were also made seven worlds, seven heavens, seven earths, seven seas, seven rivers, seven deserts, seven days, seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost, and every seventh year a Jubilee.

Mayer Lambert gives:—Beth to Saturn and the Hebrew Sabbath—that is Saturday; Gimel to Jupiter and Sunday; Daleth to Mars and Monday; Kaph to the Sun and Tuesday; Peh to Venus and Wednesday; Resh to Mercury and Thursday; and Tau to the Moon and Friday.



1. The Twelve Simple Letters are Hιh, Vau, Zain, Cheth, Teth, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samech, Oin, Tzaddi and Qoph;43 they are the foundations of these twelve properties: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Speech, Taste, Sexual Love, Work, Movement, Anger, Mirth, Imagination,44 and Sleep. These Twelve are also allotted to the directions in space: North-east, South-east, the East above, the East below, the North above, the North below, the South-west, the Northwest, the West above, the West below, the South above, and the South below; these diverge to infinity, and are as the arms of the Universe.

2. These Twelve Simple Letters He designed, and combined, and formed with them the Twelve celestial constellations of the Zodiac, whose signs are Teth, Shin, Tau, Samech, Aleph, Beth, Mem, Oin, Qoph, Gimel, Daleth, and Daleth.45 The Twelve are also the Months of the Year: Nisan,46 Yiar, Sivan, Tamuz, Ab, Elul, Tishri, Hesvan, Kislev, Tebet, Sabat and Adar. The Twelve are also the Twelve organs of living creatures:47 the two hands, the two feet, the two kidneys, the spleen, the liver, the gall, private parts, stomach and intestines.

He made these, as it were provinces, and arranged them as in order of battle for warfare. And also the Elohim48 made one from the region of the other.

Three Mothers and Three Fathers; and thence issue Fire, Air and Water. Three Mothers, Seven Doubles and Twelve Simple letters and sounds.

3. Behold now these are the Twenty and Two Letters from which Jah, Jehovah Tzabaoth, the Living Elohim, the God of Israel, exalted and sublime, the Dweller in eternity, formed and established all things; High and Holy is His Name.


Supplement to Chapter V

NOTE.—This is a modern illustration of the allotment of the Twelve Letters; it is not found in the ancient copies of the "Sepher Yetzirah."

1. God produced predominant in Speech, crowned it, combined and formed with it Aries in the Universe, Nisan in the Year, and the right foot of Man.

2. He produced Vau, predominant in mind, crowned it, combined and formed with it Taurus in the Universe, Aiar in the Year, and the right kidney of Man.

3. He produced Zain, predominant in Movement crowned it, combined and formed it with Gemini in the Universe, Sivan in the Year, and the left foot of Man.

4. He produced Cheth, predominant in Sight, crowned it, combined and formed it with Cancer in the Universe, Tammuz in the year, and the right hand of Man.

5. He produced Teth, predominant in Hearing, crowned it, combined and formed with it Leo in the Universe, Ab in the Year, and the left kidney in Man.

6. He produced Yod, predominant in Work, crowned it, combined and formed with it Virgo in the Universe, Elul in the Year, and the left hand of Man.

7. He produced Lamed, predominant in Sexual desire, crowned it, combined and formed with it Libra in the Universe, Tishri in the Year, and the private parts of Man. (Kalisch gives "gall.")

8. He produced Nun, predominant in Smell, crowned it, combined and formed with it Scorpio in the Universe, Heshvan in the Year, and the intestines of Man.

9. He produced Samech, predominant in Sleep, crowned it, combined and formed with it Sagittarius in the Universe, Kislev in the Year, and the stomach of Man.

10. He produced Oin, predominant in Anger, crowned it, combined and formed with it Capricornus in the Universe, Tebet in the Year, and the liver of Man.

11. He produced Tzaddi, predominant in Taste, crowned it, combined and formed with it Aquarius in the Year, and the gullet in Man).

12. He produced Qoph, predominant in Mirth, crowned it, combined and formed with it Pisces in the Universe, Adar in the Year, and the spleen of Man.

NOTE.—Mediaeval authorities and modern editors give very different allocations to the twelve simple letters.



Section 1. Three Fathers and their generations, Seven conquerors and their armies, and Twelve bounds of the Universe. See now, of these words, the faithful witnesses are the Universe, the Year and Man. The dodecad, the heptad, and the triad with their provinces; above is the Celestial Dragon, T L I,49 and below is the World, and lastly the heart of Man. The Three are Water, Air and Fire; Fire above, Water below, and Air conciliating between them; and the sign of these things is that the Fire sustains (volatilises) the waters; Mem is mute, Shin is sibilant, and Aleph is the Mediator and as it were a friend placed between them.

2. The Celestial Dragon, T L I, is placed over the universe like a king upon the throne; the revolution of the year is as a king over his dominion; the heart of man is as a king in warfare. Moreover, He made all things one from the other; and the Elohim set good over against evil, and made good things from good, and evil things from evil: with the good tested He the evil, and with the evil did He try the good. Happiness50 is reserved for the good, and misery51 is kept for the wicked.

3. The Three are One, and that One stands above. The Seven are divided; three are over against three, and one stands between the triads. The Twelve stand as in warfare; three are friends, three are enemies; three are life givers; three are destroyers. The three friends are the heart, the ears, and the mouth; the three enemies are the liver, the gall, and the tongue;52 while God53 the faithful king rules over all. One above Three, Three above Seven, and Seven above Twelve: and all are connected the one with the other.

4. And after that our father Abraham had perceived and understood, and had taken down and engraved all these things, the Lord most high55 revealed Himself, and called him His beloved, and made a Covenant with him and his seed; and Abraham believed on Him56 and it was imputed unto him for righteousness. And He made this Covenant as between the ten toes of the feet--this is that of circumcision; and as between the ten fingers of the hands and this is that of the tongue.57 And He formed the twenty-two letters into speech58 and shewed him all the mysteries of them.59 He drew them through the Waters; He burned them in the Fire; He vibrated them in the Air; Seven planets in the heavens, and Twelve celestial constellations of the stars of the Zodiac.

The End of The Book of Formation



Attached to some editions of the "Sepher Yetzirah" is found this scheme of Kabalistic classification of knowledge emanating from the Second Sephira Binah, Understanding, and descending by stages through the angels, heavens, humanity, animal and vegetable and mineral kingdoms to Hyle and the chaos. The Kabalists said that one must enter and pass up through the Gates to attain to the Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom; and that even Moses only passed through the forty-ninth Gate, and never entered the fiftieth. See the Oedipus Aegyptiacus of Athanasius Kircher, vol. ii. p. 319.

First Order: Elementary.

  1. Chaos, Hyle, The first matter.

  2. Formless, void, lifeless.

  3. The Abyss.

  4. Origin of the Elements.

  5. Earth (no seed germs).

  6. Water.

  7. Air.

  8. Fire.

  9. Differentiation of qualities.

  10. Mixture and combination.

Second Order: Decad of Evolution.

  1. 11. Minerals differentiate.

  2. Vegetable principles appear.

  3. Seeds germinate in moisture.

  4. Herbs and Trees.

  5. Fructification in vegetable life.

  6. Origin of low forms of animal life.

  7. Insects and Reptiles appear.

  8. Fishes, vertebrate life in the waters.

  9. Birds, vertebrate life in the air.

  10. Quadrupeds, vertebrate earth animals.

Third Order: Decad of Humanity.

  1. Appearance of Man.
  2. Material human body.
  3. Human Soul conferred.
  4. Mystery of Adam and Eve.
  5. Complete Man as the Microcosm.
  6. Gift of five human faces acting exteriorly.
  7. Gift of five powers to the soul.
  8. Adam Kadmon, the Heavenly Man.
  9. Angelic beings.
  10. Man in the image of God.

Fourth Order: World of Spheres.

  1. The Moon.
  2. Mercury.
  3. Venus.
  4. Sol.
  5. Mars.
  6. Jupiter.
  7. Saturn.
  8. The Firmament.
  9. The Primum Mobile.
  10. The Empyrean Heaven.

Fifth Order: The Angelic World.

  1. Ishim—Sons of Fire.
  2. Auphanim—Cherubim.
  3. Aralim—Thrones.
  4. Chashmalim—Dominions.
  5. Seraphim—Virtues.
  6. Malakim—Powers.
  7. Elohim—Principalities.
  8. Beni Elohim—Angels.
  9. Cherubim—Arch-angels.

Sixth Order: The Archetype.

50. God. Ain Suph. He Whom no mortal eye bath seen, and Who has been known to Jesus the Messiah alone.

NOTE.—The Angels of the Fifth or Angelic World are arranged in very different order by various Kabalistic Rabbis.


The Tree of Life symbol demonstrating the correspondences of the 32 paths and 10 Sephiroth
based on the Gold Dawn system


Translated from the Hebrew Text of Joannes Stephanus Rittangelius, 1642:
which is also to be found in the "Oedipus Aegyptiacus" of Athanasius Kircher, 1653.

(These paragraphs are very obscure in meaning, and the Hebrew text is probably very corrupt.)

The First Path is called the Admirable or the Hidden Intelligence (the Highest Crown): for it is the Light giving the power of comprehension of that First Principle which has no beginning; and it is the Primal Glory, for no created being can attain to its essence.

The Second Path is that of the Illuminating Intelligence: it is the Crown of Creation, the Splendour of the Unity, equalling it, and it is exalted above every head, and named by the Kabalists the Second Glory.

The Third Path is the Sanctifying Intelligence, and is the foundation of Primordial wisdom, which is called the Creator of Faith, and its roots are AMN; and it is the parent of Faith, from which doth Faith emanate.

The Fourth Path is named the Cohesive or Receptacular Intelligence; and is so called because it contains all the holy powers, and from it emanate all the spiritual virtues with the most exalted essences: they emanate one from the other by the power of the Primordial Emanation. The Highest Crown (the 1st sephira).

The Fifth Path is called the Radical Intelligence, because it resembles the Unity, uniting itself to the Binah (the 2nd sephira), or Intelligence which emanates from the Primordial depths of Wisdom or Chokmah (the 3rd sephirah).

The Sixth Path is called the Mediating Intelligence, because in it are multiplied the influxes of the emanations, for it causes that influence to flow into all the reservoirs of the Blessings, with which these themselves are united.

The Seventh Path is the Occult Intelligence, because it is the Refulgent Splendour of all the Intellectual virtues which are perceived by the eyes of intellect, and by the contemplation of faith.

The Eighth Path is called the Absolute or Perfect Intelligence, because it is the means of the primordial, which has no root by which it can cleave, nor rest, except in the hidden places of Gedulah, (the 4th sephira ) Magnificence, from which emanates its own proper essence.

The Ninth Path is the Pure Intelligence, so called because it purifies the Numerations, it proves and corrects the designing of their representation, and disposes their unity with which they are combined without diminution or division.

The Tenth Path is the Resplendent Intelligence, because it is exalted above every head, and sits on the throne of Binah (the Intelligence spoken of in the Third Path). It illuminates the splendour of all the lights, and causes an influence to emanate from the Prince of countenances.

The Eleventh Path is the Scintillating Intelligence, because it is the essence of that curtain which is placed close to the order of the disposition, and this is a special dignity given to it that it may be able to stand before the Face of the Cause of Causes.

The Twelfth Path is the Intelligence of Transparency, because it is that species of Magnificence called Chazchazit, (the 6th sephira) the place whence issues the vision of those seeing in apparitions. (That is the prophecies by seers in a vision.)

The Thirteenth Path is named the Uniting Intelligence, and is so called because it is itself the Essence of Glory. It is the Consummation of the Truth of individual spiritual things.

The Fourteenth Path is the Illuminating Intelligence and is so called because it is that Chashmal (the 7th sephira) which is the founder of the concealed and fundamental ideas of holiness and of their stages of preparation.

The Fifteenth Path is the Constituting Intelligence, so called because it constitutes the substance of creation in pure darkness, and men have spoken of these contemplations; it is that darkness spoken of in Scripture, Job xxxviii. 9, "and thick darkness a swaddling band for it."

The Sixteenth Path is the Triumphal or Eternal Intelligence, so called because it is the pleasure of the Glory, beyond which is no other Glory like to it, and it is called also the Paradise prepared for the Righteous.

The Seventeenth Path is the Disposing Intelligence, which provides Faith to the Righteous, and they are clothed with the Holy Spirit by it, and it is called the Foundation of Excellence in the state of higher things.

The Eighteenth Path is called the Intelligence or House of Influence (by the greatness of whose abundance the influx of good things upon created beings is increased), and from its midst the arcana and hidden senses are drawn forth, which dwell in its shade and which cling to it, from the Cause of all causes.

The Nineteenth Path is the Intelligence of the Secret of all the activities of the spiritual beings, and is so called because of the influence diffused by it from the most high and exalted sublime glory.

The Twentieth Path is the Intelligence of Will, and is so called because it is the means of preparation of all and each created being, and by this intelligence the existence of the Primordial Wisdom becomes known.

The Twenty-first Path is the Intelligence of Conciliation and Reward, and is so called because it receives the divine influence which flows into it from its benediction upon all and each existence.

The Twenty-second Path is the Faithful Intelligence, and is so called because by it spiritual virtues are increased, and all dwellers on earth are nearly under its shadow.

The Twenty-third Path is the Stable Intelligence, and it is so called because it has the virtue of consistency among all numerations.

The Twenty-fourth Path is the Imaginative Intelligence, and it is so called because it gives a likeness to all the similitudes which are created in like manner similar to its harmonious elegancies.

The Twenty-fifth Path is the Intelligence of Probation, or Temptation, and is so called because it is the primary temptation, by which the Creator trieth all righteous persons.

The Twenty-sixth Path is called the Renewing Intelligence, because the Holy God renews by it all the changing things which are renewed by the creation of the world.

The Twenty-seventh Path is the Active or Exciting Intelligence, and it is so called because through it every existent being receives its spirit and motion.

The Twenty-eighth Path is called the Natural Intelligence; by it is completed and perfected the nature of all that exists beneath the Sun.—

(This Path is omitted by Rittangelius: I presume by inadvertence.)

The Twenty-ninth Path is the Corporeal Intelligence, so called because it forms every body which is formed in all the worlds, and the reproduction of them.

The Thirtieth Path is the Collective Intelligence, and Astrologers deduce from it the judgment of the Stars and celestial signs, and perfect their science, according to the rules of the motions of the stars.

The Thirty-first Path is the Perpetual Intelligence; but why is it so called? Because it regulates the motions of the Sun and Moon in their proper order, each in an orbit convenient for it.

The Thirty-second Path is the Administrative Intelligence, and it is so called because it directs and associates the motions of the seven planets, directing all of them in their own proper courses.



It is of considerable importance to a clear understanding of this Occult treatise that the whole work be read through before comment is made, so that the general idea of the several chapters may become in the mind one concrete whole. A separate consideration of the several parts should follow this general grasp of the subject, else much confusion may result.

This book may be considered to be an Allegorical Parallel between the Idealism of Numbers and Letters and the various parts of the Universe, and it sheds much light on many mystic forms and ceremonies yet extant, notably upon Freemasonry, the Tarot, and the later Kabalah, and is a great aid to the comprehension of the Astro-Theosophic schemes of the Rosicrucians. To obtain the full value of this Treatise, it should he studied hand in hand with Hermetic attributions, the "Isiac Tablet," and with a complete set of the designs, symbols and allocation of the Trump cards of the Tarot pack, for which see my translation of The Sanctum Regnum of the Tarot, by Eliphas Levi.

Note that the oldest MSS. copies of the "Sepher Yetzirah" have no vowel points: the latest editions have them. The system of points in writing Hebrew was not perfected until the seventh century, and even then was not in constant use. Ginsburg asserts that the system of vowel pointing was invented by a Rabbi Mocha in Palestine about A.D. 570, who designed it to assist his pupils. But Isaac Myer states that there are undoubted traces of pointing in Hebrew MSS. of the second century. According to A. E. Waite there is no extant Hebrew MSS. with the vowel points older than the tenth century.

The words "Sepher Yetzirah" are written in Hebrew from right to left, SPR YTzYRH, Samech Peh Resh, Yod Tzaddi Yod Resh Heh; modes of transliteration vary with different authors. Yod is variously written in English letters as I, Y, or J, or sometimes Ie. Tzaddi is property Tz; but some write Z only, which is misleading because the Hebrew has also a true Z, Zain.



The twelve sections of this chapter introduce this philosophic disquisition upon the Formation and Development of the Universe. Having specified the subdivision of the letters into three classes, the Triad, the Heptad, and the Dodecad, these are put aside for the time; and the Decad mainly considered as specially associated with the idea of Number, and as obviously composed of the Tetrad and the Hexad.

1. Thirty-two. This is the number of the Paths or Ways of Wisdom, which are added as a supplement. 32 is written in Hebrew by LB, Lamed and Beth, and these are the last and first letters of the Pentateuch. The number 32 is obtained thus—2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2=32. Laib, LB as a Hebrew word, means the Heart of Man.

Paths. The word here is NTIBUT, netibuth; NTIB meant primarily a pathway, or foot-made track; but is here used symbolically in the same sense as the Christian uses the word, way—the way of life: other meanings are—stage, power, form, effect; and later, a doctrinal formula, in Kabalistic writings.

2. Jah. This divine name is found in Psalm lxviii. 4; it is translated into Greek as kurios, and into Latin as dominus, and commonly into the English word, Lord: it is really the first half of the word IHVH or Jehovah, or the Yahveh of modern scholars.

3. Jehovah Tzabaoth. This divine name is printed in English Bibles as Jehovah Sabaoth, or as "Lord of hosts" as in Psalm xxiv. 10. TzBA is an army.

4. God of Israel. Here the word God is ALHI, which in unpointed Hebrew might be God, or Gods, or My God.

5. The Elohim of the Living. The words are ALHIM ChIIM. Alhim, often written in English letters as Elohim, or by Godfrey Higgins as Aleim, seems to be a masculine plural of the feminine form Eloah, ALH, of the divine masculine name EL, AL; this is commonly translated God, and means strong, mighty, supreme. Chiim is the plural of Chi—living, or life. ChIH is a living animal, and so is ChIVA. ChII is also life. Frey in his dictionary gives ChIIM as the plural word lives, or vitae. The true adjective for living is ChIA. Elohim Chiim, then, apart from Jewish or Christian preconception, is "the living Gods," or "the Gods of the lives, i.e., living ones." Rittangelius gives Dii viventes, "The living Gods," both words in the plural. Pistorius omits both words. Postellus, the orthodox, gives Deus Vivus. The Elohim are the Seven Forces, proceeding from the One Divine, which control the "terra viventium," the manifested world of life.

6. God. In this case we have the simple form AL, EL.

7. Sepharim. SPRIM, the plural masculine of SPR, commonly translated book or letter: the meaning here is plainly "forms of expression."

8. Numbers, Letters and Sounds. The three Hebrew words here given are, in unpointed Hebrew, SPR, SPR and SIPUR. Some late editors, to cover the difficulty of this passage, have given SPR, SPUR, SIPR, pointing them to read Separ, Seepur, Saypar.

The sense of the whole volume appears to need their translation as Numbers, Letters and Sounds. Pistorius gave "Scriptis, numeratis, pronunciatis." Postellus gave "Numerans, numerus, numeratus," thus losing the contrasted meanings; and so did Rittangelius, who gave "Numero, numerante, numerato."

9. The Ineffable Sephiroth. The words are SPIRUT BLIMH, Sephiruth Belimah. The simplest translation is "the voices from nothing." The Ten Sephiruth of the Kabalah are the "Ten Primary Emanations from the Divine Source," which are the primal forces leading to all manifestation upon every plane in succession. Buxtorf gives for Sephiruth—predicationes logicae. The word seems to me clearly allied to the Latin spiritus—spirit, soul, wind; and is used by Quintilian as a sound, or noise. The meaning of Belimah is more doubtful. Rittangelius always gives "praeter illud ineffabile." Pistorius gives "praeter ineffabile." Postellus evades the difficulty and simply puts the word Belimah into his Latin translation. In Frey's Hebrew Dictionary BLIMH is translated as nothing, without any other suggestion; BLI is "not," MR is "anything." In Kabalistic writings the Sephiruth, the Divine Voices and Powers, are called "ineffbilis," not to be spoken of, from their sacred nature.

10. The classification of the Hebrew letters into a Triad, Heptad and Dodecad, runs through the whole philosophy of the Kabalah. Many ancient authors added intentional blinds, suds as forming the Triad of A.M.T., Ameth, truth; and of AMN, Amen.

11. The Two Covenants, by the Word or Spirit, and by the Flesh, made by Jehovah with Abraham, Genesis xvii. The Covenant of Circumcision was to be an outward and visible sign of the Divine promise made to Ahraham and his offspring. The Hebrew word for circumcision is Mulah, MULH: note that MLH is also synonymous with DBR, dabar—verbum or word.

12. Rittangelius gives "replace the formative power upon his throne." Postellus gives "restore the device to its place."

13. Abyss; the word is OUMQ for OMQ, a depth, vastness, or valley.

14. My Hermetic rituals explained this Yetziratic attribution.

15. The Lord the only God. The words are ADUN IChID AL, or "Adonai (as commonly written) the only El."

16. Seat. The word is MOUN, dwelling, habitation, or throne.

17. Lightning flash. In the early edition the words "like scintillating flame" are used: the Hebrew word is BRQ. Many Kabalists have shown how the Ten Sephiroth are symbolised by the zigzag lightning flash.

18. God; the Divine name here is Jehovah.

19. The text gives only RTzUAV ShUB—"currendo et redeundo," but the commentators have generally considered this to be a quotation from Ezekiel i. 14, referred to H ChIVT, the living creatures, kerubic forms.

20. The Spirit of the Gods of the Living. RUCh ALHIM ChIIIM; or as R. gives it, "spiritus Deorum Viventium." Orthodoxy would translate these words "The spirit of the living God."

21. AL ChI H OULMIM; "the Living God of Ages"; here the word God really is in the singular.

22. The Voice, Spirit and Word are QUL, RUCh, DBR. A very notable Hebrew expression of Divinatory intuition was BATh QUL, the Daughter of the Voice.

23. Formless and Void. THU and BHU; these two words occur in Genesis i. 2, and are translated "waste and void."

24. Note the order in which the primordial elements were produced. First, Spirit (query Akasa, Ether); then Air, Vayu; then Water, Apas, which condenses into solid elementary Earth, Prithivi; and lastly from the Water He formed Fire.

25. The first name is often written Ophanim, the letters are AUPNIM; in the vision of Ezekiel i. 16, the word occurs and is translated "Wheels." ShRPIM are the mysterious beings of Isaiah vi. 2; the word otherwise is translated Serpent, and in Numbers xxi. 6, as "fiery serpents": also in verse 8 as "fiery serpent" when Jehovah said "Make thee a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole." Kerubim. The Hebrew words arc ChIVTh H QDSh, holy animals: I have ventured to put Kerubim, as the title of the other Biblical form of Holy mysterious animal, as given in 1 Kings vi. 23 and Exodus xxv. 18, and indeed Genesis iii. 24. Bible dictionaries generally give the word as Cherubim, but in Hebrew the initial letter is always K and not Ch.

26. Three. In the first edition I overlooked this word three; and putting and for as, made four classes of serving beings.

27. This is verse 4 of Psalm civ.

28. Here follow the permutations of the name IHV, which is the Tetragrammaton—Jehovah, without the second or final Heh: IHV is a Tri-grammaton, and is more suitable to the third or Yetziratic plane. HVI is the imperative form of the verb to be, meaning be thou; HIV is the infinitive; and VIH is future. In IHV note that Yod corresponds to the Father; Heh to Binah, the Supernal Mother; and Vau to the Microprosopus—Son.

29. Note the subdivision of the Decad into the Tetrad—four elements; and the Hexad—six dimensions of space.


This chapter consists of philosophic remarks on the twenty-two sounds and letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and hence connected with the air by speech, and it points out the uses of those letters to form words--the signs of ideas, and the symbols of material substances.

30. Soul; the word is NPSh, which is commonly translated soul, meaning the living personality of man, animal or existing thing: it corresponds almost to the Theosophic Prana plus the stimulus of Kama.

31. This is the modern classification of the letters into guttural, palatal, lingual, dental and labial sounds.

32. The 231 Gates. The number 242 is obtained by adding together all the numbers from 1 to 22. The Hebrew letters can he placed in pairs in 242 different positions: thus ab, ag, ad, up to at; then ba, bb, bg, bd, up to bt, and so on to ts, tt: this is in direct order only, without reversal. For the reason why eleven are deducted, and the number 231 specified, see the Table and Note 15 in the edition of Postellus.

33. Non-existent; the word is AIN, nothingness. Ain precedes Ain Suph, boundlessness; and Ain Suph Aur, Boundless Light.

34. Body; the word is GUP, usually applied to the animal material body, but here means "one whole."


This chapter is especially concerned with the essence of the Triad, as represented by the Three Mothers, Aleph, Mem, and Shin. Their development in three directions is pointed out, namely in the Macrocosm or Universe; in the Year or in Time; and in the Microcosm or Man.

35. The importance of equilibrium is constantly reiterated in the Kabalah. The "Siphra Dtzeniouta," or "Book of Mystery," opens with a reference to this Equilibrium as a fundamental necessity of stable existence.

36. Heavens. The Hebrew word Heshamaim HShMIM, has in it the element of Aesh, fire, and Mim, water; and also Shem, name; The Name is IHVH, attributed to the elements. ShMA is in Chaldee a name for the Trinity (Parkhurst). ShMSh is the Sun, and Light, and a type of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. Malachi iv. 2.

37. Were produced. The Hebrew word BRA, is the root. Three Hebrew words are used in the Bible to represent the idea of making, producing or creating.

BRIAH, Briah, giving shape, Genesis i. 1.
OShIH, Ashiah, completing, Genesis i. 31.
ITzIRH, Yetzirah, forming, Genesis ii. 7.

38. To these the Kabalists add the word ATzLH, with the meaning of "producing something manifest from the unmanifested."

Emanation. Shin.  Aleph. Mem.
Macrocosm.  Primal Fire.  Spirit.  Primal Water.
Universe.  Heavens.  Atmosphere. The Earth.
Elements. Terrestrial Fire.  Air.  Water.
Man. Head. Chest. Belly.
Year. Heat. Temperate.  Cold.


This is the special chapter of the Heptad, the powers and properties of the Seven. Here again we have the threefold attribution of the numbers and letters to the Universe, to the Year, and to Man. The supplemental paragraphs have been printed in modern form by Kalisch; they identify the several letters of the Heptad more definitely with the planets, days of the week, human attributes and organs of the senses.

39. These numbers have been a source of difference between the editors and copyists, hardly any two editors concurring. I have given the numbers arising from continual multiplication of the product by each succeeding unit from one to seven. 2x1=2, 2x3=6, 6x4=24, 24x5=120, 120x6=720, 720x7=5040.

40. In associating the particular letters to each planet the learned Jesuit Athanasius Kircher allots Beth to the Sun, Gimel to Venus, Daleth to Mercury, Kaph to Luna, Peh to Saturn, Resh to Jupiter, and Tau to Mars. Kalisch in the supplementary paragraphs gives a different attribution; both are wrong, according to clairvoyant investigation. Consult the Tarot symbolism given by Court de Gebelin, Eliphas Levi, and my notes to the Isiaic Tablet of Bembo. The true attribution is probably not anywhere printed. The planet names here given are Chaldee words.

41. The Seven Heavens and the Seven Earths are printed with errors, and I believe intentional mistakes, in many occult ancient books. Some Hermetic MSS. have the correct names and spelling.

42. On the further attribution of these Seven letters, note that Postellus gives: Vita—mors, Pax—afflictio, Sapientia—stultitia, Divitiae (Opus)—paupertas, Gratia—opprobrium, Proles--sterilitas, Imperium—servitus. Pistorius gives: Vita—mors, Pax--bellum, Scientia—ignorantia, Divitiae—paupertas, Gratia—abominatio, Semen (Proles)—sterilitas, Imperium (Dominatio)—servitus.


This chapter is specially concerned with the Dodecad; the number twelve is itself pointed out, and the characters of its component units, once more in the three zones of the universe, year and man; the last paragraph gives a recapitulation of the whole number of letters: the Supplement gives a form of allotment of the several letters.

43. It is necessary to avoid confusion between these letters; different authors translate them in different manners. Heh or not be confused with Cheth, or Heth, Ch. Teth, Th also must be kept distinct from the final letter Tau, T, which is one of the double letters; the semi-English pronunciation of these two letters is much confused, each is at times both t and th; Yod is either I, Y, or J; Samech is simple S, and must not be confused with Shin, Sh, one of the mother letters; Oin is often written in English Hebrew grammars as Ayin, and Sometimes as Gnain; Tzaddi must not be confused with Zain, Z; and lastly Qoph, Q, is very often replaced by K, which is hardly defensible as there is a true K in addition.

44. Postellus gives suspicion and Pistorius, mind.

45. These letters are the initials of the 12 Zodiacal signs in Hebrew nomenclature. They are:

Teth Telah Aries Mem Maznim Libra
Shin Shor Taurus Oin Oqereb Scorpio
Tau Thaumim Gemini Qoph Qesheth Sagittarius
Samech Sartan Cancer Gimel Gedi Capricornus
Aleph Aryeh Leo Daleth Dali Aquarius
Beth Bethuleh Virgo Daleth Dagim Pisces

46. The month Nisan begins about March 29th. Yiar is also written Iyar, and Aiar: the Hebrew letters are AIIR.

47. The list of organs varies. All agree in two hands, two feet, two kidneys, liver, gall and spleen. Postellus then gives, "intestina, vesica, arteriae," the intestines, bladder, and arteries; Rittangelius gives the same. Pistorius gives, "colon, coagulum (spleen) et ventriculus," colon—the large intestine, coagulum and stomach. The chief difficulty is with the Hebrew word MSS, which is allied to two different roots, one meaning private, concealed, hidden; and the other meaning liquefied.

48. The Elohim—Divine powers—not IHVH the Tetragrammaton.


This chapter is a resumι of the preceding five; it calls the universe and mankind to witness to the truth of the scheme of distribution of the powers of the numbers among created forms, and concludes with the narration that this philosophy was revealed by the Divine to Abraham, who received and faithfully accepted it, as a form of Wisdom under a Covenant.

49. The Dragon, TLI, Theli. The Hebrew letters amount in numeration to 440, that is 400, 30 and 10. The best opinion is that Tali or Theli refers to the 12 Zodiacal constellations along the great circle of the Ecliptic; where it ends there it begins again, and so the ancient occultists drew the Dragon with its tail in its mouth. Some have thought that Tali referred to the constellation Draco, which meanders across the Northern polar sky; others have referred it to the Milky Way; others to an imaginary line joining Caput to Cauda Draconis, the upper and lower nodes of the Moon. Adolphe Franck says that Theli is an Arabic word.

50. Happiness, or a good end, or simply good, TUBH.

51. Misery, or an evil end, or simply evil, ROH.

52. This Hebrew version omits the allotment of the remaining six. Mayer gives the paragraph thus: The triad of amity is the heart and the two ears; the triad of enmity is the liver, gall, and the tongue; the three life-givers are the two nostrils and the spleen; the three death-dealing ones are the mouth and the two lower openings of the body.

53. God. In this case the name is AL, EL.

54. This last paragraph is generally considered to be less ancient than the remainder of the treatise, and by another author.

55. The Lord most high. OLIU ADUN. Adun or Adon, or Adonai, ADNI, are commonly translated Lord; Eliun, OLIUN, is the more usual form of "the most high one."

56. Him. Rittangelius gives "credidit in Tetragrammaton," but this word is not in the Hebrew.

57. Tongue. The verbal covenant.

58. Speech. The Hebrew has "upon his tongue."

59. The Hebrew version of Rabbi Judah Ha Levi concludes with the phrase, "and said of him, Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee." Rabbi Luria gives the Hebrew version which I have translated. Postellus gives: "He drew him into the water, He rose up in spirit, He inflamed him in seven suitable forms with twelve signs." Mayer gives: "Er zog sie mit Wasser, zundet sie an mit Feuer; erregte sie mit Geist; verbannte sie mit sieben, goss sie aus mit den zwolf Gestirnen." "He drew them with water, He kindled them with fire, He moved them with spirit, distributed them with seven, and sent them forth with twelve."

Notes to the Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom

  1. The Highest Crown is Kether, the First Sephira, the first emanation from the Ain Suph Aur, the Limitless Light.

  2. Binah, or Understanding, is the Third Sephira.

  3. Chokmah, Wisdom, is the Second Sephira.

  4. Gedulah is a synonym of Chesed, Mercy, the Fourth Sephira.

  5. Metatron, the Intelligence of the First Sephira, and the reputed guide of Moses.

  6. This word is from ChZCh, a seer, seership. Chazuth is a vision.

  7. This word means "scintillating flame."

The "Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom" refer to the Ten Sephiroth and the Twenty-two letters, each supplying a type of divine power and attributes. In my Introduction to the Kabalah will be found a diagram showing how the Paths from Eleven to Thirty-two connect the several Sephiroth, and are deemed to transmit the divine influence. Some teachers of Occult Science also allot the Twenty-two Trumps of the Tarot Cards to the twenty-two Paths.

For a more better rendering by a modern adept see the alternative translation below:

The Sepher Yetzirah
The Book of Creation

Chapter One.

Section One

Yah, Jehovah of hosts, the living Elohim, King of the Universe, Omnipotent, All-King and Merciful, Supreme and Extolled, Who is Eternal, Sublime and Most-Holy, formed and created the Universe in thirty-two mysterious paths of wisdom by three Sepharim, namely: Sfor, Sippur and Sapher {Samekh-Peh-Resh, Samekh-Peh-Vau-Resh and Samekh-Peh-Resh: These angelic names mean: Numbers, Letters and Words} which are in Him one and the same. They consist of ten Sephiroth out of nothing and of twenty-two fundamental letters. He divided the twenty-two consonants into three divisions: Three Mothers, fundamental letters or first elements; Seven Double; and Twelve Simple consonants.

Section Two

The ten Sephiroth out of nothing is analogous to that of the ten fingers {and toes} of the human body, five parallel to five, and in the center of which is the covenant with the only One {between the hands this is the tongue. Between the feet this is the circumcised penis or the broken hymen} by the word of the tongue and the rite of Abraham.

Section Three

Ten are the Sephiroth {often translated as "numbers", this word has no English true equivalent} out of nothing, and not the number nine, ten and not eleven. Comprehend this great wisdom, understand {Chokmah and Binah in the text} this knowledge, inquire into it and ponder on it, render it evident and lead the Creator back to His throne again {In other words, descend the Tree of Life to learn Ma'aseh Berishit and ascend it to accomplish the goal of Ma'aseh Merkabah.}

Section Four

The Ten Sephiroth out of nothing are infinite in ten ways: The beginning infinite {Kether}; The end infinite {Chokmah}; The good infinite {Binah}; The evil infinite {Chesed}; The height infinite {Geburah}; The depth infinite {Tiphireth}; The East infinite {Netzach}; The West infinite {Hod}; The North infinite {Yesod}; The South infinite {Malkuth}—{These last four are given in a different order in some versions.}, and the only Lord God, the faithful King, rules over all from His holy habitation for ever and ever.

Section Five

The appearance of the Sephiroth out of nothing is like a flash of lightning, being without end, His word is in them, when they go and return; they run by His order like a whirlwind and humble themselves before His throne {The divine names of the lightning bolt are: Eheieh, Yah, Yahweh Elohim, El, Elohim Gibor, Jehovah Eloh Va-Da'at, Jehovah Tzabaoth, Elohim Tzabaoth, Shadi El Chi, Adoni Melekh Ha-Aretz.}

Section Six

The Sephiroth out of nothing has its end linked to its beginning and its beginning linked to its end, just as the flame is wedded to the live coal; because the Lord is one and there is not a second one, and before one what will you count {"count" has the suggestion meaning of "consider a Sephira."}?

Section Seven

Concerning the number ten of the Sephiroth out of nothing, keep your tongue from speaking and your mind from pondering it and if your mouth urges you to speak and your heart to think about it, return {from questioning the number ten of them}! as it reads: "And the living creatures ran and returned," {Ezekiel: 1:14} and upon this {Mystery} was the covenant made.

Section Eight

These are the ten Sephiroth out of nothing:

One; The Spirit of the living God {Ruach Elohim Chiim}, praised and glorified be the name {schem} of Him who lives to all eternity. The articulate word of creative power, the spirit and the word are what we call the holy spirit.

Two; Air emanated from the spirit by which He formed and established twenty-two consonants fundamentally. Three of them are truly fundamental letters, or mothers, seven are double and twelve are simple consonants; hence the spirit is the first one.

Three; Primitive water emanated from the air. He formed and established by it Bohu {the more substantial part of Chaos, or the waters below the upper waters of Genesis} mud and loam, made them like a bed, put them up like a wall, and surrounded them as with a rampart, put coldness upon them and they became dust, as it reads; "He says to the coldness {snow} be thou earth." {Job: 36:6}

Four; Fire or Aether emanated from the water. He established by it the throne of glory, the Seraphim and Opanim, the holy living creatures and the angels, and of these three He formed His habitation, as it reads "Who made His angels spirits, His ministers a flaming fire." {Psalm 104:4} He selected three consonants from the simple ones which are in the hidden secret of three mothers or first elements: Aleph—Air, Mem—Water, and Shin—Aether or Fire. He sealed them with spirit and fastened them to His great name {Schem, which can be spelled Shin-Aleph-Memfinal} and sealed with it six dimensions.

Five; He sealed the height and turned towards above. The seal was Yod-Heh-Vau {through Aleph}

Six; He sealed the depth, and turned toward below. The seal was Heh-Yod-Vau {through Aleph}

Seven; He sealed the East and turned forward. The seal was Vau-Yod-Heh {through Mem}

Eight; He sealed the West and turned backward. The seal was Vau-Heh-Yod {through Mem}

Nine; He sealed the {North} and turned to the {left}. The seal was Heh-Vau-Yod {through Shin}

Ten; He sealed the {South} and turned to the {right}. The seal was Yod-Vau-Heh {through Shin}

{Extended note: The letters of the six seals are in different order in different versions of the manuscripts. There is also confusion about the order of South and North, right and left. The latter problem may depend on the divinity having right and left sides opposite to the human right and left. The former problem follows from the latter. Also, the oral tradition that ascribes the passage of the seals through the three Mother letters depends on numbers 2 through 4 of this section.}

Section Nine

These are the ten spheres of existence out of nothing. From the spirit of the living God emanated air, from the air, water, from the water, fire or aether, from the aether, the height and the depth, the East and the West, the North and the South. {Extended Note: This is not a simple system of a single emanation. The Hindu theory of the three Gunas is closer to this than the Neoplatonic theory. Here we have a primary emanation from the three abstract qualities of numbers, letters and words (Sec. 1). The ten sephiroth are emanated in more than three spatial dimensions and interact with the letters via a complex relationship to the three Mother letters. Even the relationship of the three Mother letters to the other letters and to the ten sephiroth is not simple but compound. The higher form of the Mothers has the sequence Aleph then Mem then Shin. From Shin this sequence replicates in a lower form. As we will see in the next chapter, these three Mother letters then take a different order to produce yet a still lower form of the Tree of the Ten Sephiroth. The turning point is described in section eight through permutation of the letters of the name Yah—as foretold in the first section of this chapter. The order of the three Mother letters given in this chapter is that of the "Cube of Space". The order of these Mother letters given in the next chapter defines a different kind of universe, that of the "Schem" or G.'. D.'. Tree of Life. These two universes (and others hinted at in this first chapter) are considered to be "one above the other" in the sense of abstraction being above the concrete.}

Chapter Two

Section One

There are twenty-two letters fundamentally. Three of them are the first elements, true fundamentals or mothers, seven are double and twelve are simple consonants. The three fundamental letters Aleph-Mem-Shin have as their basis the balance. In one scale is the merit and in the other the fault, which are placed in equilibrium by the tongue {This is shown in the Egyptian Book of the Dead as the Weighing of the Soul of the Dead and the Testing of the Balance by Thoth, the god of letters}. The three fundamental letters, Aleph, Mem, Shin, signify, as Mem is mute like the water and Shin hissing like the fire, there is Aleph among them, a breath of air which reconciles them. {The sounds of these three letters resemble the characteristic sounds of their elements: Mem is like the rolling of waves, Shin is Like the hissing of flames and Aleph is like the blowing of the wind.}

Section Two

These are the twenty-two letters which form the foundation {Yod-Samekh-Vau-Dalet, the name later applied to the ninth Sephira, is the word used here in the text.}, after having been appointed and established. He combined, weighed {assigned values} and exchanged them, and formed by them all beings which are in existence, and all these which will be formed in all time to come.

Section Three

He established twenty-two letters fundamentally by the voice, formed by the breath of air and fixed them on five places in the human mouth, namely: One at the throat {guttural sounds}, Aleph, Hay, Chet, Ayin. Two at the palate {palatal sounds}, Gimel, Yod, Kaf, Qof. Three, at the tongue {lingual sounds}, Dalet, Tet, Lamed, Nun, Taw. Four, at the teeth {dental sounds}, Zain, Shin, Samekh, Resh, Tzaddi. Five, at the lips {labial sounds}, Bet, Vau, Mem, Peh.

Section Four

He fixed the twenty-two Letters of foundation on the sphere like a wall with 231 gates, and turned the spheres forward and backward. For an illustration may serve the three letters, Gemel, Nun, Ayin. There is nothing better than joy {spelled Ayin-Nun-Gemel in Hebrew} and nothing worse than sorrow or plague {spelled Nun-Gemel-Ayin, in Hebrew. Thus various combinations of the same letters in this language can produce opposite meanings. This is a part of the mysticism of the letters, and also a part of the nature of Hebrew root word formations}

{Here is one traditional way of presenting the 231:
            HV HZ HCh HT HY HK HL HM HN HS Ha'a HP HTz HQ HR HSh HTh
               VZ VCh VT VY VK VL VM VN VS Va'a VP VTz VQ VR VSh VTh
                  ZCh ZT ZY ZK ZL ZM ZN ZS Za'a ZP ZTz ZQ ZR ZSh ZTh
        ChT ChY ChK ChL ChM ChN ChS Cha'a ChP ChTz ChQ ChR ChSh ChTh
                         TY TK TL TM TN TS Ta'a TP TTz TQ TR TSh TTh
                            YK YL YM YN YS Ya'a YP YTz YQ YR YSh YTh
                               KL KM KN KS Ka'a KP KTz KQ KR KSh KTh
                                  LM LN LS La'a LP LTz LQ LR LSh LTh
                                     MN MS Ma'a MP MTz MQ MR MSh MTh
                                        NS Na'a NP NTz NQ NR NSh NTh
                                           Sa'a SP STz SQ SR SSh STh
                                    a'aP a'aTz a'aQ a'aR a'aSh a'aTh
                                                   PTz PQ PR PSh PTh
                                                   TzQ TzR TzSh TzTh
                                                          QR QSh QTh
                                                             RSh RTh

Section Five

But how was it done? He combined, weighed and exchanged: the Aleph with all the other letters in succession, and all the others again with Aleph; Bet with all, and all again with Bet; and so the whole series of Letters {was paired off in very possible way}. Hence it follows that there are 231 formations, and that every creature and every word emanated from one name.

Note: There are only 231 ways to combine the 22 Hebrew letters into different pairs. The one name is Schem, composed of the three Mother letters Shin, Aleph, and Mem, which provide the basis for all sounds. Schem is the Hebrew word for "Name" especially "Name of the divinity." Schem is usually spelled Shin-Mem, but Aleph can be added to the middle of the word without making a difference in its pronunciation.

Section Six

He created a reality out of nothing, called the non-existing into existence and shaped colossal pillars from intangible air. This has been shown by the example of combining the letter Aleph with all the other letters, and all the other letters with Aleph. {Of the three Mother Letters, Aleph is the most basic. It's number value is One; and Aleph is the breath of sound carrying air that is necessary to pronounce any and all of the other letters. Thus, the gates of Aleph, the combinations formed between Aleph and all the remaining 21 letters produce the actual sounds of the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. The pairs or gates with Aleph ARE the spoken Hebrew letters.} He predetermined, and by speaking created every creature and every word by one name. For a sign of this may serve the twenty-two elementary substances {Alphabet letters} by the primitive substance of Aleph.

Chapter Three

Section One

The three first elements, Aleph Mem Shin, are typified by a balance, in one scale the merit and in the other the fault, which are placed in equilibrium by the tongue. These three mothers, Aleph Mem Shin, are a great, wonderful and unknown mystery, and are sealed by six rings, or elementary circles, namely: air, water, and fire emanated from them, which gave birth again to some offspring {These rings are the ways of ordering three letters, as: Aleph-Mem-Shin, male; Shin-Mem-Aleph, female; Shin-Aleph-Mem, male; Mem-Aleph-Shin, female; Mem-Shin-Aleph, male; Aleph-Shin-Mem, female.}

Section Two

God appointed and established the three mothers; combined, weighed and exchanged them, and formed by them three mothers Mem Aleph Shin in the world {the six directions: Above, East and South are probably Male in this tradition. Below, West and North are probably Female in this tradition—this is the key to the seals of the directions.}, in the year {The six warm months are female two by two while the six cold months are male two by two} and in man, male and female {Here the first rings apply to childhood, the third and fourth to adulthood and the last rings to age}.

Section Three

The three mothers Aleph-Mem-Shin in the world are: air, water and fire. Heaven was created from fire or ether {"heaven" or "schemim" starts with the letter Shin in Hebrew}; the earth {comprising sea above land—"Mem" is both the name of Mem and the Hebrew word for sea} from the elementary water; and the atmospheric air from the elementary air, or spirit, which establishes the balance among them.

Section Four

The three mothers Aleph-Mem-Shin produce in the year heat, coldness and moistness. Heat was created from fire, coldness from water, and moistness from air which equalizes them {fire + water = steam or moist air: Shin + Mem = Aleph, in this particular mystical sense}.

Tree of Life based on the Golden Dawn symbolism

Section Five

The three mothers Aleph-Mem-Shin produce in man, male and female, breast, body and head. The head was created from fire {Shin, on the Tree of Life. The upper three Sephiroth are the three prongs of the letter Shin, while the base of the letter forms the Abyss, Aleph-Bet-Dalet-Heh.}, the (belly) from water {Mem, on the Tree of Life. The upper stroke of this letter is the Sephira Yesod—which is spelled with Yod as its first letter in Hebrew—and the body of this letter Mem is the Sephira Malkuth—the Hebrew word "Malkuth" starts with the letter "Mem". In other words, Mem forms the two lowest Sephiroth.}, and the (breast in man, male and female {Aleph, on the Tree of Life forms the middle five Sephiroth by its upper two points, its lower two points and the intersection in the middle of the letter Aleph})

Note: The text of Section Five is corrupt. It has here been "corrected" by comparison to sections six, seven and eight as well as an application of the "theory of cyclic permutation" from the modern mathematics of Group Theory.

Section Six

First Division. He let the letter Aleph predominate in primitive air, crowned it {made it the top letter of the column in the middle of the Tree of Life. Descending the Tree of Life, the order of the three letters is Aleph, Mem and Shin (male) in Kether, Tiphereth and Yesod. The female order, Shin, Mem and Aleph is encountered by rising up the middle pillar of the Tree and thereby reversing this order.}, combining one with the other and formed by them the air in the world, moistness in the year, and the breast in man, male and female: in male by Aleph-Mem-Shin and in female by Shin-Mem-Aleph {Text corrected by Group Theory—see note on Section Five. Note also that the breast is the place of the lungs.}

Section Seven

Second Division. He let the letter Mem predominate in primitive water, and crowned it, combined one with the other {made Mem the top letter of the column of Mercy on the right side of the Tree of Life. The order of the three letters is Mem, Shin and Aleph in the Sephiroth Chokmah, Chesed and Netzach {a male ring} going down, and the opposite order {female ring going up. This symbolically makes the pillar of Mercy Male as viewed from the bottom and female as viewed from the top—there is another way of considering it predominantly male—by application of the letters of the name Jehovah or Yahweh to the Tree.}, and formed by them the earth {with water over land} coldness in the year, and the belly in male and female; in male by Mem-Shin-Aleph, in female by Aleph-Mem-Shin. {Note that the belly in the human body holds most of the free water of the body.}

Section Eight

Third Division. He let the letter Shin predominate in primitive fire, crowned it, combined one with the other {made Shin the top of the column of severity on the Tree of Life. The order of these three letters is Shin, Aleph, Mem in the Sephiroth Binah, Geburah and Hod going down (Male ring) and Mem, Aleph, Shin going up (Female ring). This makes the pillar of Severity, the left column of the Tree of Life, Male when viewed from the top and Female when viewed from the bottom. By the method of placing Tetragrammaton on the Tree of Life this column is considered predominantly Female}, and formed by them, heaven in the world, heat in the year, and the head of male and female {As a Hebrew word, the name of the letter Shin means "tooth"; and of course the teeth are to be found in the head}.

Chapter Four

Section One

The seven double letters, Bet Gemel Dalet Koph Peh Resh Taw with a duplicity of pronunciation, aspirated {with a strong outward breath} and unaspirated {without a strong outward breath. These two modes of pronunciation are represented by the presence or absence of a dot in some forms of written and printed Hebrew, the dot or point being called Dagash and placed in the center of the letter} serve as a model of softness and hardness, strength and weakness {At the time of the writing of the "Sepher Yetzirah" these seven letters were pronounced each in two ways: with outrush of air or with inward sound. They are models for opposite qualities and for the seven planets with their benign and malignant effects. Modern scholars differ as to which of the Hebrew letters originally had this double quality of pronunciation, Mordell holds that a form of Hebrew much older than the writing of the "Yetzirah" had a different usage of this double pronunciation. He has accordingly attempted to reconstruct a "more ancient" version of the "Yetzirh". Modern Hebrew dialects retain a few of these double pronunciations and add new ones.}

Section Two

Seven double letters, Bet Gemel Dalet Koph Peh Resh Taw shall, as it were symbolize Life, Peace, Wisdom, Wealth, Beauty, Fruitfulness and Dominion {Note: this is the list according to the researches of the G.'. D.'.. The qualities are those listed in the "Sepher Yetzirah", but the order of the list is different. The same is true for associations to the seven planets—for a comparison of the several orderings for these seven Double Letters which are to be found in the different versions of the "Yetzirah", see the Stenring translation noted in the Bibliography}.

Section Three

Seven double letters serve to signify the antithesis to which human life is exposed. The antithesis of Life is Death; of Peace, Strife or War; of Wisdom, Folly; of Wealth, Poverty; of Beauty, Ugliness; of Fruitfulness, Sterility or Childlessness; and of Dominion, Dependence or Slavery.

Section Four

The seven double consonants are analogous to the six dimensions: height and depth {Bet for Above, Gemel for Below}, East and West {Dalet for East, Koph for West}, North and South {Peh for North, Resh for South} and the holy temple that stands in the center {Taw}, which carries them all.

Section Five

The double consonants are seven, Bet Gemel Dalet Koph Peh Resh Taw and not six, they are seven and not eight; reflect upon this fact, inquire about it, and make it so evident, that the Creator be acknowledged to be on His throne again {Although this particular statement is often taken as a slap against the speculations of the Gnostics, who were very much at the peak of their activity at the time in which the "Sepher Yetzirah" was written, there are other meanings. If the seven double letters are assigned to the lower seven Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, this may be an injunction to study the fifty gates of understanding; which are the meditations of each of the lower Sephiroth taken as containing divisions corresponding to all the lower seven Sephiroth—seven times seven or forty-nine plus one, the fiftieth, to refer to the throne of the three higher Sephiroth. Alternately, this may be an injunction to meditate on the spatial or other configurations of these letters as a means of attaining a vision of the letter Taw as the throne of the Creator.}.

Section Six

The seven double consonants, fundamentally, having been designed and established, combined, weighed, and changed by God, He formed by them: seven planets in the world, seven days in the year, seven gates, openings of the senses, in man male and female.

Section Seven

The seven planets in the world are: Saturn {Taw}, Jupiter {Koph}, Mars {Peh}, Sun {Resh}, Venus {Dalet}, Mercury {Bet}, Moon {Gemel}. Seven days in the year are the seven days of the week {Sunday, Resh; Monday Gemel; Tuesday, Peh; Wednesday, Bet; Thursday, Koph; Friday, Dalet; and Saturday, Taw}; seven gates in man, male and female are: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth {These applications of the planets to the double letters are the most highly corrupted matter in existing manuscripts of the "Sepher Yetzirah", as is noted further below. No definitive text exists in this matter. The attribution to the seven gates in man, male and female might be as follows: right eye, Bet; left eye, Gemel; right nostril, Peh; left nostril, Resh; right ear, Dalet; left ear, Koph; mouth, Taw. Although this seems reasonable, no certainty is claimed; the allocation suggested here to the human gates is merely plausible. The allocation to the planets is that used by the G.'. D.'. and by the older Thelemic Orders. This allocation to the gates is offered as one alternative to that below,

Section Eight

First Division. He let the letter Bet predominate in Life, crowned it, combined one with the other and formed by them: Mercury in the world, the Fourth day in the year, and the right eye in man, male and female {Contrary to the G.'. D.'. interpretation used here, the more reliable texts say: Moon, First Day and right eye}.

Section Nine

Second Division. He let the letter Gemel predominate in Peace, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: the Moon in the world, the Second day in the year and right ear in man, male and female. {There are various associations of the seven gates of the senses to different things. The whole matter is the subject of a tract in the "Sepher Zohar" "The Book of Concealed Mystery"—this tract may be found in Mather's "Kabbalah Unveiled" and in Luzzatto's "General Principles of the Kabbalah". Neither of these two books provide an exact solution to the allocation of the seven double letters, but they provide material from which the problem may be attacked. The more reliable texts here assign: Mars, Second day and right ear.}

Section Ten

Third Division. He let the letter Dalet predominate in Wisdom, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Venus in the world, the sixth day in the year, the right nostril in man, male and female. {The word translated there as "Man" is actually "Nepesh", the name of the "animal soul" or that which animates the body during life. This word is used in all statements like this one throughout the "Yetzirah" in the Hebrew text. Later mystical traditions ascribe the Nepesh soul to be the ghostly spirit that lingers after death in some cases while higher souls are said to ascend to better places. The more reliable texts here assign: Sun, Third day and right nostril.}

Section Eleven

Fourth Division. He let the letter Koph predominate in Wealth, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Jupiter in the world, the Fifth day in the year, and the left eye in man, male and female {The more reliable texts here assign: Venus, Fourth day, left eye}.

Section Twelve

Fifth Division. He let the letter Peh predominate in Beauty, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Mars in the world, the Third day in the year, and the left ear in man, male and female. {The more reliable texts say: Mercury, Fifth day, left ear}.

Section Thirteen

Sixth Division. He let the letter Resh predominate in Fruitfulness, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: The Sun in the world, the First day in the year, and the left nostril in man, male and female. {The more reliable texts say: Saturn, Sixth day and left nostril.}

Section Fourteen

Seventh Division. He let the letter Taw predominate in Dominion, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them Saturn in the world, the Seventh day in the year, and the mouth of man, male and female. {The more reliable texts say: Jupiter, Seventh day and mouth.}

Section Fifteen

By the seven double consonants, Bet-Gemel-Dalet-Koph-Peh-Resh-Taw were also designed seven worlds {The lower seven Sephiroth}, seven Heavens {Not the same as the lower seven Sephiroth. The seven Heavens combine certain Sephiroth. They are: Malkut-Yesod, Tipheret; Hod; Netzach; Geburah; Chesed; Da'at-Binah; Chokmah; Keter,—These are also not to be confused with the seven body centers or Chakras which are variously made to combine to the Sephiroth, most especially in this order: Malkut; Yesod; Hod-Netzach; Tipheret; Geburah-Chesed; Binah-Chokmah; Keter. This latter correspondence is an artificial one, for it breaks down at the Vishuddah, where a complex interaction involves several groups of Sephiroth, including Da'ath, in succession.} seven lands, seven seas, seven rivers, seven deserts, seven days in a week, seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost, there is a cycle, of seven years (widely used in Astrology under various names; e.g. the Saturn Return or Lunation Cycle about 28 years from birth. This country (U.S.A.) has laws based on the seven-fold cycle: legal age at 21, the President must be 35 or older}, the seventh is the release year {In the U.S.A. legal records and statuary limits on some crimes are retained for seven years}, and after seven release years is Jubilee {Fiftieth anniversary is still considered significant in our traditions}. Hence, God loves the number seven under the whole heaven {The theory of seven rays that is popular with Theosophists is based on this seven business. M. Blavatsky probably was greatly influenced by this source, as she was by the "Zohar" in her forgery of the "Seven Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan."}

Section Sixteen

Two stones build two houses {There are only two ways to combine two different letters}, three stones build six houses {the "six rings" of three different letters exhaust the possibilities for three different objects taken three at a time}, four build 24 houses, five build 120 houses, six build 720 houses and seven build 5,040. From thence further go and reckon what the mouth cannot express and the ear cannot hear. {This section outlines the power of combinations of magical powers of the letters and generally spaces out. The manuscripts here prove their corruption through various different errors in the numbers cited. The lost original probably had the combinatorial values correctly stated, as they are given in this edition).

Chapter Five

Section One

The twelve simple letters HB:Heh, Vau, Zain, Chet, Tet, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tzaddi & Qof symbolize, as it were, the organs of sight, hearing, smell, speech, digestion or swallowing, touch or coition, work, walking, anger, mirth, thinking or meditation, sleep* {The Golden Dawn changed these qualities around quite a bit in disregard of a relatively uniform version in the manuscripts of the SEPHER YETZIRAH. In the following sections, the Golden Dawn term will be given first and then a version from the Kalisch translation: e.g. "Golden Dawn term (Kalisch term)".}

Section Two

The twelve simple consonants HB:Heh, Vau, Zain, Chet, Tet, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tzaddi & Qof symbolize also twelve oblique points {The Order of the Golden Dawn says, in order: North East, HB:Heh; South East, HB:Vau; East Above, HB:Zain; East Below, HB:Chet; North Above, HB:Tet; North Below, HB:Yod; North West, HB:Lamed; South West, HB:Nun; West Above, HB:Samekh; West Below, HB:Ayin; South Above, HB:Tzaddi; and South Below, HB:Qof. The Kalish translation gives in the same order for the letters: East Height, North East, East Depth, South Height, South East, South Depth, West Height, South West, West Depth, North Height, North West, North Depth.}. They grew wider and wider to all eternity, and these are the boundaries of the world. {In the Golden Dawn theory, as developed by Paul Foster Case, the posthumous founder of B.O.T.A., these 12 directions are the locations of the twelve edges of the "Cube of Space" which has for faces the first six double letters. Some Qabalistic studies attempt to define a diamond shape in three dimensions. In any event, this section is possibly the origin of the Masonic Temple of Solomon, which fills the universe through its duplication—like three-dimensional tiles fitting together.)

Section Three

The twelve simple letters HB:Heh, Vau, Zain, Chet, Tet, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tzaddi & Qof fundamentally, having been designed, established, combined, weighed and exchanged by Him, He performed by them: twelve constellations in the world, twelve months in the year, and twelve organs in the human body, male and female.

Section Four

The twelve constellations in the world are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius Capricorn Aquarius and Pisces. The twelve {Hebrew} months of the year are: Nisan {the seventh month}, Ivar, Sivan, Tamus, Ab, Elul, Tishri, Mavcheshvan {also called Chesvan} Kislev, Tebet, Shebat and Adar. The twelve organs of the human body are: two hands two feet, two kidneys, gall, small intestines, liver, esophagus, stomach and milt (either the spleen or reproductive organs. Both systems have been often confused in Theosophical writings and ancient sources. The degree of absurdity involved in this relationship is incredible. This presumes a "rape" ethos in the culture, owing to the association of violence to the spleen and sex to the genitals.}

Section Five

First Division. God let the letter HB:Heh predominate in Sight {K.T. is Speech}, crowned it, combined one with the other and formed by them: Aries in the world, the month Nisan in the Year, and the right foot of the human body, male and female.

Section Six

Second Division. He let the letter HB:Vau predominate in Hearing {K.T. is Thinking}, crowned it combined one with the other, and formed by them: Taurus in the world, the month Iyar in the year and the right kidney of the human body, male and female.

Section Seven

Third Division. He let the letter HB:Zain predominate in Smell {K.T. is Walking}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Gemini in the world, the month Sivan in the year, and the left foot of the human body, male and female.

Section Eight

First Division. He let the letter HB:Chet predominate in Speech {K.T. gives Seeing}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Cancer in the world, the month Tamus in the year, and the right hand of the human body, male and female.

Section Nine

Second Division. He let the letter HB:Tet predominate in Digestion or Swallowing {K.T. gives Hearing}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Leo in the world, the month Ab in the year, and the left kidney of the human body, male and female.

Section Ten

Third Division. He let the letter HB:Yod predominate in Touch or Coition {K.T. gives Working}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them Virgo in the world, the month Elul in the year, and the left hand of the human body, male and female.

Section Eleven

First Division. He let the letter HB:Lamed predominate in Work {K.T. says Coition}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Libra in the world, the month Tishri in the year, and the gall of the human body, male and female.

Section Twelve

Second Division. He let the letter HB:Nun predominate in Motion or Walking {K.T. says Smelling}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Scorpio in the world, the month Marcheshvan in the year, and the small intestines of the human body, male and female.

Section Thirteen

Third Division. He let the letter HB:Samekh predominate in Anger {K.T. says Sleep}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Sagittarius in the world, the month Kislev in the year, and the stomach of the human body, male and female.

Section Fourteen

First Division. He let the letter HB:Ayin predominate in Laughter {K.T. assigns Anger}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Capricorn in the world, the month Tebes in the year, and the liver in the human body, male and female.

Section Fifteen

Second Division. He let the letter HB:Tzaddi predominate in Meditation or Thinking {K.T. assigns Swallowing}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Aquarius in the world, the month Schwat in the year, and the esophagus of the human body, male and female.

Section Sixteen

Third Division, He let the letter HB:Qof predominate in Sleep {K.T. assigns Laughing}, crowned it, combined one with the other, and formed by them: Pisces in the world, the month Adar in the year, and the milt of the human body, male and female. He made them as a conflict, drew them up like a wall; and set one against the other as in warfare. {This last point is explained by the observation that these twelve letters symbolize processes in human behavior that can interfere with each other. Some further points must now be made regarding the assignments of qualities and body parts to these twelve simple letters. In the Golden Dawn Tradition, many things are subordinated to the Astrological symbolism. This was true in the case of the Double letters, where one of several natural methods of assignment in the "Yetzirah" was passed over to provide a better match between the Double Letters and the planets to work with Tarot Trumps. The other methods do not work as well with the G.'. D.'. Tarot-Astrological system, and they are therefore excluded from "Liber 777". This should not make the student think that the primary method used there excludes the several systems proposed here. It is best to begin with a simple system. The serious student then must examine the other systems to determine the information contained in each of them. In the case of these Twelve Simple Letters, this is even more the case. The Golden Dawn-"Liber 777" system has shifted the twelve qualities of the simple letters to make them match the usual qualities of the Astrological signs. The "Yetzirah" has set up an entirely new parallel system through these qualities which deserves its own study. The same is true of the body organs mentioned here. In the Golden Dawn system, these associations are omitted entirely. The usual associations to the Zodiac signs are assumed in place of these associations in the "Yetzirah" to body organs. It is suggested that these associations have a particular meaning of their own, and that the serious student will in time find it useful to study that system. By all means, begin with the simpler approach given in "Liber 777" and in the various works derived from the Order of the Golden Dawn. When comfortable with that approach, consider these other systems. It is the work of the advanced student of the mysteries to make these apparently diverse systems function well together—even if the war of the simple letters is the only manner in which it may be done. Always remember that the ideas presented in the "Yetzirah" are like words in their effect. The object is to first learn the simple uses of these ideas, and then to discover the uses of these ideas that are like circumlocutions, figures of speech and allegories. By that means, one can obtain the conversation of the Angels.}

Chapter Six

Section One

These are the three mothers or the first elements Aleph, Mem, and Shin, from which emanated three progenitors: primitive air, water and fire, and from which emanated as their offspring three progenitors and their offspring, namely: the seven planets and their hosts, and the twelve oblique points. {The production of the double and single letters from the mother letters is like the interaction of the mother letters in the six rings: Example; Beth is like Aleph combined with Shin, HB:Gemel = HB:Aleph + HB:Mem, HB:Dalet = HB:Shin + HB:Mem, HB:Koph = HB:Bet + HB:Lamed, HB:Peh = HB:Bet + HB:Dalet, HB:Resh = HB:Dalet + HB:Gemel, HB:Taw = HB:Aleph + HB:Shin + HB:Mem = HB:Bet + HB:Gemel + HB:Dalet = HB:Koph + HB:Peh + HB:Resh, HB:Heh = HB:Aleph + HB:Koph, HB:Vau = HB:Aleph + HB:Peh, HB:Zain = HB:Aleph + HB:Resh, HB:Chet = HB:Aleph + HB:Taw, HB:Tet = HB:Shin + HB:Koph, HB:Yod = HB:Shin + HB:Peh, HB:Lamed = HB:Shin + HB:Resh, HB:Nun + HB:Shin + HB:Taw, HB:Samekh = HB:Mem + HB:Koph, HB:Ayin = HB:Mem + HB:Peh, HB:Tzaddi = HB:Mem + HB:Resh, HB:Qof = HB:Mem + HB:Taw -- this is obtained from the symbolic meaning of the letters and the dictionary meanings of the words they can be made to form. It is not simply related to the sounds of the letters or to their number values, although a complex relationship does exist through gematria.}

Section Two

To confirm this there are faithful witnesses; the world, year and man, the twelve, the Equipoise {Fire, Water and Air in balance}, the heptade {seven-fold nature of things}, which He regulates like the Dragon {Tali or the constellation Draco with its head and tail now taken in the simplified modern Astrology as the nodes of the Moon} sphere {the Hebrew word here is Galgal. It has the meaning of "machinery like turning wheels which drives the universe} and the heart {besides all this argument, it feels right}.

Section Three

The first elements Aleph, Mem and Shin are air, water and fire; the fire is above, the water below, and a breath of air establishes the balance among them. For an illustration may serve, that the fire carries the water, is the phonetic character of HB:Mem which is mute and HB:Shin is hissing like fire, there is HB:Aleph among them, a breath of air which places them in equilibrium.

Section Four

Dragon {Tali} is in the world like a king upon his throne, the sphere is in the year like a king in the empire, and the heart is in the human body like a king in war. {Thus the three mother letters are like Draco, the seven double letters are like the regular motions of the planets and the twelve single letters are like the easily upset functions of the body.)

Section Five

Elohim has also set the one over against the other; the good against the evil, and the evil against the good {here "good" is the Hebrew word "tob" which is the seal of creation used in Genesis and "evil" is "Ra" the name used by the Egyptians for the god of the sun—a competitor of Jehovah}; the good proceeds from the good, and the evil from the evil; the good purifies the bad, and the bad the good; the good is preserved for the good, and the evil for the bad ones {The Qabalistic ideas of good and evil are very different from those of modern society. Avoid a moral interpretation here. In simple terms, "good" = "our side" and "evil" = "anything against us." The Qabalistic ideas are more complex than that, and they involve concepts much like those met in law courts.}.

Section Six

There are three of which every one of them stands by itself; one is in the affirmative, the other in the negative and one equalizes them {The three mother letters are viewed as plaintiff, defendant and judge}.

Section Seven

There are seven of which three are against three and one places them in equilibrium. There are twelve which are all the time at war; three of them produce love, and three hatred, three are animators and three destroyers {Beth vs. Gimel, Dalet vs. Koph, Peh vs. Resh with Taw placing them in equilibrium. As for the twelve which are at war, that matter depends on association to body parts and directions—it is not clearly defined in the "Sepher Yetzirah", but needs more study.}

Section Eight

The three that produce love are the heart and the ears; the three that produce hatred are the liver, the gall and the tongue; the three animators are the two nostrils and the milt; and the three destroyers are the mouth and the two openings of the body; and God, the faithful King rules over all from His holy habitation to all eternity. He is one above three, three are above seven, seven are above twelve, and all are linked together. {If the text is not corrupt in Section Eight, we may understand that: Gimel, Peh and either Aleph, Taw or Vau produce love; Lamed, Ayin and perhaps Taw produce hatred; Dalet, Resh and Qof are the animators; Peh and two other Letters are the destroyers. The issue is not clear.}

Section Nine

There are twenty-two letters by which the I AM {HB:Aleph-Nun-Yod-Heh}, Yah {HB:Yod-Heh}, He of the Hosts {HB:Yod-Heh-Vau-Heh Tzaddi-Bet-Aleph-Vau-Taw}, God Almighty {HB:Aleph-Lamed Shin-Dalet-Yod}, He Who Creates the Eiohim {HB:Yod-Heh-Vau-Heh Aleph-Lamed-Heh-Yod-Memfinal}, designed, formed and created by three Sepharim, His whole world, and formed by them creatures and all those that will be formed in time to come.

Section Ten

When the Patriarch Abraham comprehended the great truism, revolved it in his mind, conceived it perfectly, made careful investigations and profound inquiries, pondered upon it and succeeded in contemplations, the Lord of the Universe appeared to him, called him his friend, made with him a covenant between the ten fingers of his hands, which is the covenant of the tongue, and the covenant between the ten toes of his feet, which is the covenant of circumcision, and said of him: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee." {Jer.l.5}

HB:Samekh-Peh-Resh Yod-Tzaddi-Yod-Resh-Heh

For other designs of the Tree of Life symbol, see the following page.




This page last updated: 14/09/2009