In search of God’s faces – Part 1

How the wisdom of language can help us in our search

In search of God’s faces – Part 1

To write on the subject of the faces of God seems, on first reflection, a little presumptuous. Do we know and understand ourselves, as human beings and as mankind at all? And since everyone is so quick to mention the word God, it shows a considerable degree of wear and tear over time.

In the search for an answer – whether it’s about the concept of God or the relationship of man to God – one comes across the first Story of Creation in the Bible, where man is created in God’s image and likeness. There seems to be an essential link between “man” and “God”. However, if one looks at the man of today, with all his known facets, one may wonder whether “this man” is really meant.

And yet – something of the original man, as the scriptures suggest, is embedded in each of us, inconspicuous and still largely unconscious.

If we want to see our face, we need a counterpart who is able to describe us, or a mirror in which we can look at ourselves. Our body can also be a kind of mirror: it “turns towards us” what we are: our sensations, thoughts, pain and other things. This viewpoint is supported by the translation of the word “man”. In Greek, “man” is called anthropos, from anti and tropos, literally translated as: “the one counter-turned”

The mystical-theosophical secret doctrine of Judaism – the Kabbalah – offers a way to come closer to an understanding of our relationship to God and to ourselves.

The Kabbalah researcher Gershom Scholem writes: “Divinity in its actions appears as the dynamic unity of the Sefiroth, which form the “Sefiroth tree”, and as the mystical man – who is none other than the hidden figure of Divinity itself. I may briefly recapitulate here what the Kabbalists mean by Sefiroth. Originally, it is the ten primal numbers in which all that is factual is founded. […]

The Sefiroth are the powers which make up the active Divinity, in which – in the language of the Kabbalist – it gains a face. The hidden face of God – ‘anpin penima’in – is the moment of life in God that is turned towards us and, despite all concealment, takes on a shape.” Gershom Scholem, Von der mystischen Gestalt der Gottheit, Suhrkamp Verlag, S.32.

The translation of the term Kabbalah can also give us clues for our considerations. The word itself means “that which has been handed down”. So if one wants to receive what is handed down, one must have an organ that is able to carry out this task. And that’s where we usually get stuck. Because basically, a seeker feels that precisely this kind of organ is lacking. It is vital to have it, yet it either seems to be ailing or slumbering dully within the depths of our being. One could also say: we are “spiritually impoverished”. This does not refer to intelligence, which is so often praised and “sold” to us today. The missing link is something different, which is yet obscure.

Let’s return to the mirror. Every morning the mirror shows us what we still need to adjust, to “work on”, so that we can start the day in a satisfied manner. We get ourselves ready and then meet our fellow human beings in day-to-day life, we face each other. In doing this we are constantly asked to harmonize forces and energies.

We gain our experiences and if it is good, we grow from them. We experience fate within ourselves and others and continue to float in constant change upon the surface of life until … yes, until through the whole structure of seemingly unresolvable entanglements, a strange “radiance” permeates us, if perhaps only very briefly. Does it come from the missing organ which is slumbering within us? Now deeper questions arise as they are asked, for example, at the beginning of the Kabbalistic scripture Sohar (written in Castile, Spain at the end of the 13th century). Of top priority is the question: Who am I?

The translation of the Hebrew word Sohar is “radiant shine”. A light can indeed shine from the scripture into the reader. It seems to reflect a deeply familiar glow of the soul over which an amorphous mass has settled over time. However, the layers of this “mass” could also be seen as a valuable patina. After all, life has led us with it to the point where we feel something of this missing organ. We can feel there is something “that is handed down”, we are reminded of the “other one within us”.

A Jewish proverb says that the secret of redemption is called remembrance; here in the sense of the something lying within us that keeps pushing up again, like a buoy held under water whose sphere of action actually lies above the waterline, like light breaking through the darkness or a lotus flower rooted in the nutrient-rich swamp and growing upwards from invisible depths, to finally break through the surface and reach full bloom.Claudia Törpel, „Man denkt nur mit dem Herzen gut“, Perseus Verlag, Basel

In his dialogue Menon, Plato called every true aspect of awareness an anamnesis, that is, a recollection, a pure vision of ideas, in contrast to the memory as the rational act of a memoria, of a technique. The Latin translation of the word memory – recordatio – contains the Latin cor (heart). Here the word already points in the direction where the solution can be found.

The Hebrew language also points in this direction. The heart (lew, consisting of the signs lameth and beth, with the numerical values 30 and 2 = 32) knows 32 paths (the 22 Hebrew letters and the ten Sefiroth). These are the paths that lead from this world to the other, the divine world.

The heart pumps the blood everywhere around the body. The blood is the nefesh, the (bodily) soul, the “first light”. When the nefesh is threatened, the walking of the 32 paths to Kether, to the crown, to the origin is also threatened.

Kether is the highest Sefira from which everything emanates. It symbolises unity from which the two-ness of the two following Sefiroth is formed and all further Sefiroth originate. The last Sefira is called Malchuth, her name means kingdom. This Malchuth sefira represents our world. Man’s task is to ultimately return the kingdom to God, the Crown.

More precisely, the crown consists of the upper trinity of the Sefiroth. From it stems a seven-fold unit below. Altogether they constitute the Tree of Life. We humans experience the last Sefira, Malchuth (another name for her is Shechina).

Our world is the world of activity. When it is good, it is an activity that completes the connection, the union with the One, the Crown, the Sefira Kether. So the path goes through the 7 Sefiroth, the 7 “halls” or “palaces”, through the 7 times 7 heavens. On this path man discovers himself, his divine wholeness. He finally enters the 50th hall, the eighth day, paradise. There is his home, his longing has led him here.Literature by Friedrich Weinreb

(to be continued in part 2)


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Date: December 18, 2021
Author: Theo van der Ahe (Germany)
Photo: Marion Pellikaan

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