The Year of Jubilee
Preparing a Way
“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Isaiah 40:4-5
Among the sacred traditions of mankind, none is as universal and persistent as the coming of the “Aeon”, the ultimate event of Time, which both consummates and transcends it. We do not propose in this writing to prove that such an event is either imminent or foreseeable in terms of what we call the “real world” of everyday experience. Instead, we proceed from the premise (which we will justify and develop as we progress in our argument) that the “normal” experience of contemporary Man is incomplete. This incompleteness is the ultimate source of Man’s chronic unhappiness and self-destructive compulsions.
It has been said that Man is a rational animal, and that his intelligence sets him apart from the lower creatures. Yet, if Man has any claim at all to a special status in the order of Creation, it is not solely because he thinks. A beast can do as much, and a machine (such as the one into which I am now typing these words) can do so more efficiently. No, we are not the paragon of animals because we think. Rather it is because we — alone of any creature in the manifest Universe — are aware of our thinking, aware of ourselves. Indeed, if modern-day healers of the psyche agree on little else, virtually all acknowledge that our happiness increases in proportion to our Self-awareness.
All of which calls attention to what is certainly the most spectacular failure of the prevailing rationalism of our times. For all the gadgets it has placed at our fingertips, for all the appetites it has appeased, for the great mountains of information it has compiled and classified, the cult of Reason has not made Man happy. Not at all! In fact, there has perhaps never been an era of more intense human misery than our own. Evidently, Man is now less aware of himself than at any previous time in his history, and his loss of Self-knowledge explains his increasing wretchedness, even in the midst of unprecedented material plenty.
As we become estranged from entire areas of our own Soul, our being is diminished, progressively less complete, progressively more mutilated and disfigured. Some of us — a dwindling breed — still cherish within our hearts the memory of an anointed Man, in whom we can again become whole and perfect, as He is. We may call him Messiah or Christ, the God-Man or the Son of Man, but, above all, we must understand that we are not talking about someone external to ourselves. While the Son of Man towers above our petty egos (which we amnesiacs regard as the entire domain of our sentience), He is ever-present as our true and greater Self, our one and eternal Body.
When we speak of the coming of the Messiah, therefore, we must not anticipate an event such as one might view on the evening news report, but rather a phenomenon that unfolds within the “Inner Space” which all humans share. But how does the God-Man come to us from the Sanctuary within us, if we have forgotten where that Sanctuary is ... forgotten, in fact, that It even exists as part of ourselves? It is simply not enough to await His arrival passively: we must, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “prepare a way for the Lord”.
Crying in the Wilderness
In light of what we have just been saying, it strikes us as quite natural that John the Baptist would have defined his own mission in the prophetic words of Isaiah,
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
We know that, in the symbolic landscape of the Old Testament, the “wilderness” is the archetypal place of purification. We also know that Baptism is a ritual of purification, as attested by the descent of the Dove when John baptized his cousin Jesus. Shortly we will speak further about the meaning of the Dove, but for now let us explore more deeply the “wilderness” whence the prophetic voice beckons us.
the book of Exodus we read of
Accordingly, when we read in Exodus that God’s people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, we should recognize that Moses was composing sacred writ, not mundane history. It follows that we are to look to the metaphysical import of the number 40. In the Hebrew alphabet, the character that represents the number 40 is Mem מ. Not surprisingly, we find that Mem is one of the three most important letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the three so-called “Mothers”: Aleph א, Mem מ, and Shin ש. These three letters are styled “Mothers” because they contain the mystical formula of Understanding, after the Proverb: “You shall call Understanding your Mother”. “Understanding”, therefore, would seem to hold the key to the first stage of our wilderness initiation.
As used in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for Understanding, Binah, represents the Female aspect of the Godhead. Since God created humans in “His” image, it follows that God is not androgynous, but rather “He” encompasses both the Male and the Female principles. Indeed, in Genesis we find the Creator described by the title Elohim, which is a feminine plural noun, suggesting that it is the collective Female principle — God as the Supernal Mother — who gives birth to the Universe. This obviously connects with the feminine imagery of the Dove who broods upon the face of the formless Waters during the Six Days of Creation and takes Her Sabbath rest on the Seventh Day. The Dove’s symbolic association with the element Water also runs through the story of Noah and the Deluge of 40 days and nights. Here again, we see the number 40 standing for the Hebrew letter Mem, which signifies Water.
a manner of speaking, then, we begin our journey into the metaphysical
wilderness by following the Dove — the same Dove of Understanding that led
Christ into the desolate hinterland of the
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vultures eye hath not seen: The lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it. ... But where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?
Job speaks here of Wisdom, Chochmah in Hebrew, as something distinct from Understanding. Likewise, that prototypical wise man of Jewish Scripture, King Solomon, describes Understanding as the way that leads to Wisdom:
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding ... I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was ... When he prepared the heavens, I was there ... Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight ... Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates ... For whoso findeth me findeth life ... But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul ...
this we learn that the feminine Binah,
who is Understanding, is (and has been from the Beginning) the “delight” — that
is, the Beloved — of the masculine Chochmah,
who is Wisdom. It follows that the Male
and the Female are inseparably and eternally joined on High. This Union, in turn, forms the divine pattern
for the cleansing of the
we were the complete beings which God created in
we can look around us and see that
we descendants of Adam have turned our back on Grace, She has remained
nonetheless faithful to us and has followed us into our Exile from
Uninformed by Wisdom and unguided by Understanding, our Consciousness becomes increasingly fragmented and divisive, and we descend into the condition of spiritual chaos which preceded Creation. As we proceed in our inquiry, we shall delve at some length into the legacy of that primeval Universe of Chaos and the inferior reality in which its malign remnants yet subsist. The part of that legacy which bears mentioning at this juncture, however, involves the state of “captivity”. Inexorably, the Fall from Grace entails not only our separation from God, but our captivity in a spiritual condition of forgetfulness of God — a spiritual condition which we describe as Sin.
Up from Slavery
we’ve been saying so far is that our relationship with God unavoidably
determines our completeness of Mind and Soul.
To the extent that we break away from God, pieces of ourselves also
begin to break away from each other, even to clash with one another, so that
our own Selfhood becomes a “house divided against itself”. Indeed, this is the central lesson we are
meant to derive from the Scriptural histories of God’s people, the children of
How does this captivity come to pass? Actually, it unfolds on two levels: individual and social. Let us deal with the individual first. In our fallen condition, each of us sees him/herself as an island, surrounded by an “ocean” of exterior objects and beings. We are each aware, to a greater or lesser degree, of an Interior world of our own thoughts, dreams, and fantasies, but we seldom, if ever, establish contact with the Interior lives of others. Even when we think we are “in love” with another person, we often discover (quite painfully for both parties) that what we really “love” is an illusion, the projection of an image we have formed within our own Mind, and not the inner being of our supposed beloved.
illusions arise because our multiple centers of Self-awareness, our manifold
“gates” of Understanding, have been stripped away, until all we have left of
our Self is its lowest denominator, the “selfish” ego. In place of the divine Will, which is the
Crown (Keter in Hebrew) of the
What of the parts of our Self about which we have forgotten? Since all Consciousness ultimately derives from God, it partakes of His Eternity — which is to say that it can never be annihilated. Therefore, what we have excluded from the cognition of our ego is preserved in that part of our Self which is said to be “unconscious”. For example, the entire domain of what we have been calling Wisdom lies within the Unconscious, i.e. in that area of the psyche which the ego regards as alien to itself. Wisdom is the repository of the collective experience of mankind, and so, in its enormous breadth, it cannot be grasped by the narrow pincers of our “one-dimensional” individual thinking. As we shall presently discuss, to access Wisdom we must break out of the ego’s constricted ambit of thought through the “50 Gates of Understanding”.
But, alas, Understanding is another portion of our Self that is excluded from the ego. In fact, the ego enshrines the absolute dominance of the atomized Male principle that it represents. The ultimate effect is to relegate our entire Female nature to the darkness of the Unconscious. Consequently, the Female principle dominates the Unconscious, the total contents of which takes on a feminine character. This explains why we typically personify this forgotten portion of our Self as a Woman (or apply to it distinctly feminine symbols, such as the Sea or the Moon). The more isolated our ego becomes from our other centers of Consciousness, the more threatening and dangerous does this Woman appear to us. Instead of the Mother-Bride-Sister, who she is in union with the divine Male, the archetypal Female undergoes a hideous metamorphosis into the Witch-Harlot-Crone, the Medusa whose baleful eye petrifies her beholder.
being our Goddess of
Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they might keep thee from the strange woman, ... Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: ... Her house is the way to hell, going down into the chambers of death.
same motif of the “dangerous woman”, the goddess of Death, is repeated
countless times in the myths of the pagan world. In her many avatars, this dread goddess
presides over the kingdom of the Dead, or what we would call Hell. In the Christian rendering of the same theme,
Jesus confronts Hell’s dark ruler during his 40-day fast in the wilderness of
When Dante wrote his visionary tale of the Inferno, he described many of its denizens in terms of Greco-Roman mythology — not because he was himself a pagan, but rather because mythology is the symbolic language of our “unconscious” Self. From the perspective of ancient religion, these symbols are viewed as gods and goddesses because they represent parts of our Self which have broken away from our diminished will and appear to our ego as external, autonomous beings. The modern science of the psyche has coined the term “projection” to describe this type of delusion, in which aspects of the Mind’s inner workings are perceived as extrinsic personalities or circumstances.
A major consequence of this “inverted” take on reality is the captivity of the will, the loss of true freedom of action. As more elements of our Inner world slip out of the ego’s grasp and become “unconscious”, they appear to act with increasing independence of our volition. Indeed, in proportion to the degree of their exclusion from cognition, these psychic elements become actively hostile to our will, actually seeking to thwart the designs of our “conscious” mind. Like a neglected child, this part of us seeks to draw attention to itself by engaging in wanton, spiteful behavior. Which of us had not had the maddening experience of rushing out the door late for an appointment, only to find that we have misplaced our car keys (or purse, glasses, etc.)? It is as if some intruder had slipped into our mind when we weren’t paying attention and had hidden the missing object somewhere it knew we’d be unlikely to look! To a greater or lesser extent, each of us is a “Siamese twin”, sharing the same body with an “anti-ego”, the antagonistic Shadow of what we perceive ourselves to be.
though the Shadow is part of our own psyche, we “project” its malicious actions
onto other people or “uncontrollable” events.
For example, we might blame the mislaid keys on our spouse, because
he/she had recently driven the car, or we might believe that the hand of “Fate”
had intervened to keep us from our appointment.
Ultimately, in the manner of our pagan ancestors, we carry our psychic
projection to its logical conclusion by shaping our Shadow into a malignant
deity — the “Devil” — who appears capable of overcoming our will. It is this false idol which enslaves us and
becomes the jailer of our Soul. Hence,
it is to his infernal domain that we must travel to reclaim our
Since that domain lies within the “unconscious” precinct of our Self, mythology employs feminine symbolism in describing the passage there as the crossing of a “sea” or “river”. Thus, Dante was ferried by Charon across the River Acheron into Hades, just as Odysseus sailed to the remotest reaches of the Ocean to visit the shades of the Dead in Tartarus. The name Tartarus derives from the Greek root Tar, which signifies the far West — associated with Death because it is the direction of the setting Sun.
Homer’s epic, we may recall that Odysseus visited Tartarus to ask the dead
prophet Teiresias what dangers lay ahead of him on his homeward voyage. The shade of the prophet urged him to control
the crew of his ship at their next landfall, lest they steal the sacred cattle
of the Sun. Despite this warning,
Odysseus did lose control of his famished men, who slaughtered several of the
sacred cows. Soon afterward, they paid
with their lives when the outraged gods raised a tempest in which their ship
foundered, drowning all aboard save Odysseus himself. Though he escaped drowning, the hero was
washed ashore on the far western
Kalypso, whose name means “hidden”, was a daughter of the Titan Atlas. She was one of the “Seven Sisters” collectively known as the Pleiades, or “Doves”. In her we readily recognize the mythic motif of the “dangerous woman”, the Female principle in exile from the shrunken consciousness of the ego. The condition of forcible separation between humanity’s Male and Female natures is metaphorically reflected in the burden of her father Atlas, who holds the masculine Sky apart from the feminine Earth. In this fallen state, the Dove of Understanding remains concealed from us, as Kalypso’s name implies, and instead we perceive the Female as a merciless captor whose embrace is Death.
As illustrated by the fate of Odysseus’ crew, the inversion of Consciousness that generates this false perception is portrayed in mythic terms as “drowning”. Since the hero is on an inner voyage, his “shipmates” are obviously elements of his own psyche — elements that have broken away from the control of his will and take on the semblance of autonomous beings. As long as these portions of our Self appear to be external to us, we cannot be submerged in the purifying Water of Wisdom without suffocating.
If, indeed, we are to “breathe” while immersed in the Sea of higher Consciousness, must we not become as the Fish, which is the mystical emblem of the Messiah? Just as Mem מ signifies “Water”, the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet, Nun נ, represents “Fish”. Thus, the Old Testament warrior who prefigures Jesus and shares his name — meaning “Savior” — is Joshua, the son of Nun. Like all other Hebrew letters, Nun has a numerical equivalent: 50, the number of the mystical “Gates of Understanding” and, as we shall soon see, the number of years in the Jubilee Cycle. It begins to appear, therefore, that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet “spell out” the path of Man’s redemption, a path strikingly similar to the one we have been following. This is the Way that leads from a purifying plunge into the Water of Mem ( the number 40), toward a veritable rebirth in the Fish of Nun (the number 50).
we find this same numerical “code” mirrored in the sequence of Christ’s
Resurrection, his Ascension 40 days later, and the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit
50 days after Easter. When challenged to
reveal a “sign” of his Messianic mission, Jesus likened his impending death and
descent into Hell to Jonah’s ordeal in the belly of the great Fish for three
days and nights. Jesus then denounced
the failure of “this generation” to respond to his call for repentance, just as
the men of
we go back now and compare Jonah’s story with the fabled shipwreck of Odysseus,
we see a number of startling parallels.
Both men embark on a voyage to a far-western land — the Land of the
Dead. Jonah’s destination, the
Phoenician colony of Tartessus in
But the drowning ceases for Jonah when he is eaten by the Fish, the symbol of the larger, complete Self into which his ego needs to merge. This sacramental meal prefigures the Eucharistic feast, in which the communicant partakes of him whose sign is the Fish — and in so doing is assimilated into his transcendent Body.
The letter Mem מ is associated with Chochmah, or Wisdom, because Wisdom has the nature of a fluid. Like a fluid, Wisdom transcends all boundaries, all categories and distinctions. It is pure, undifferentiated Consciousness, the matrix of all possibilities, the universal Mind in which all potentialities are realized without distinction. In Wisdom, there is no Time or Space, only the Infinite “here” and the Eternal “now”. While we might compare Wisdom to a holographic recording of all of human experience, this analogy would fall far short of the mark, because no record, howsoever sophisticated, can replicate the immediacy of Life. Instead, we must say that Wisdom is the living experience of Mankind — the living Water from which each of us may draw what is needed to complete her/his true Self.
Jesus speaks of this living Water in his famous dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well:
But whosover drinketh of the water that I give him shall never thirst; but the water that I give him shall be in him a well of water springing up to everlasting life.
Later, on the final day of the vintage Feast of Tabernacles, he identifies the source of the living Water:
If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth in me, ... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
Greek word rendered in the King James Bible translation as “belly” also means
“heart” or “womb”. It signifies a cavity
that gives form and origin to what is enclosed within it. Not surprisingly, Jewish mystical tradition
associates the “belly” with the “Mother” letter Mem מ . In this context it stands for the Covenant of
Circumcision, a Covenant intended to sanctify the act of sexual
intercourse. As we know, Mem also represents the number 40, with
its connotation of
book of Joshua, the son of Nun,
describes the first crossing of the
Hebrew word Gilgal has several layers
of meaning, all of which are relevant to our discussion of the source of “living
Water”. On the mundane level, Gilgal can signify a sphere or circle,
as in the case of the monument of twelve stones on the west bank of the
This is a radically different conception of Time from that which dominates the diminished consciousness of modern culture. For us, Time is not the not the sacred Cycle Gilgal, but a straight line stretching out indefinitely toward past and future. Although Einstein long ago proved that Space-Time closes back upon itself in spherical fashion, we remain fixated on the notion of “flat Time”, just as our ancestors once clung to the idea of a flat Earth. And here we begin to get into the social manifestations of our captivity, to which we alluded earlier.
Freedom is the opportunity to transcend one’s current state of affairs, to ascend to a higher level of being. Our society, on the other hand, defines “freedom” as a condition in which the individual can make a multitude of meaningless choices, all of which reinforce his/her dependency on the status quo. In effect, our culture denies the transcendent impetus of Time. Instead of a great Tree thrusting its branches upward toward the Heavens, we prefer a one-dimensional arrow into the future. But, alas, the vital forces of Gilgal are not so easily denied, and the blockage of genuine temporal renewal only engenders spasmodic, violent upheavals — revolution, war, and escalating social chaos.
Simply put, then, we do not have a choice in human history between the upward spiral toward fully integrated Consciousness and the plateau of spiritual complacency which our society seems to prefer. Our only alternative to the upward spiral is the downward spiral. All of us whose eyes are even partially open can see how far we have descended into the downward spiral already, and how quickly the pace of our decline is accelerating. Popular culture’s fascination with disaster themes, like the wreck of the Titanic, simply reflects the widespread feeling that we are all on a sinking ship without lifeboats.
there is an alternative to “going
down with the ship”, at least for those who are willing to listen and
understand. As the Hindus teach in their
tale of the goddess Kali, Time is the
frightful Destroyer of men only if we choose to live within the narrow confines
of our ego-selves. But if we are attuned
to the broader Selfhood that abides in the redeeming Cycle, we can experience
Time as endless bliss.
At this point, let’s pause and try to assemble some of these bits of insight into a coherent picture. Looking back over the metaphysical terrain we’ve covered, we can now perhaps discern, in the flat, featureless wasteland where we began, the similitude of linear Time — the Destroyer of all that lives. From this wilderness, we have voyaged “across the sea” to the realm of the Dead, where the Past is alive. Here we have found that, before we can reclaim the parts of our Soul held captive in the charnel house, we must find the source of the “living Water” in which we can breathe like Fish. And, finally, we’ve assembled some clues suggesting that this “source” is to be found in a redeemed paradigm of Time as a Cycle, as a “womb” rather than a “tomb”.
The Womb of Time
According to ancient Jewish commentaries on the books of Moses, Gilgal — aka the sacred Cycle of Time — is the “womb” from which Souls may pass from the material World to the spiritual plane of the Angels. Among the visions of the prophet Ezekiel, one of the most remarkable involves the four “living creatures”, each accompanied by a “wheel within a wheel”, which embodies the creature’s spirit. As he beholds the sparkling array of eyes surrounding each wheel, the prophet hears a voice calling them by the name Gilgal. Ezekiel describes the winged creatures themselves as having four faces: a human/angelic countenance in front, a bull’s face to the left, a lion’s to the right, and the visage of an eagle in back.
There would appear to be a connection between these “living creatures”, whose spirits emanate from the wheels called Gilgal, and the “living Water” that issues from the “womb” of Gilgal, the Cycle of Time. This nexus is made all the more emphatic by the creatures’ four faces, corresponding to the four cardinal points of the Zodiac: the spring and fall equinoxes, and the summer and winter solstices. Due to a phenomenon known as “precession”, the apparent location of the Sun at the equinoxes and solstices makes a circuit, over a period of about 26 millennia, through the twelve constellations which define the Zodiac. An astrological Age, or Aeon, is determined by the passage of the position where the Sun rises on the vernal equinox (the “vernal point”) from one end of a Zodiac constellation to the other. Since, for roughly the past 2000 years, the vernal point has been traversing the constellation of the Fish, the current Aeon is known as the Age of Pisces. Sometime within the next 100 years — there are differing opinions as to exactly when — the vernal point will cross over into the constellation of the Water Carrier, thus inaugurating the Age of Aquarius.
It’s no coincidence that the word “Zodiac” derives from the Greek for “living creatures”. In particular, Aquarius represents a “living creature” in the form of a Cherub who is pouring forth an unending stream of water — perhaps “living Water”? We should also note that, when the vernal point enters Aquarius, the other three cardinal points (corresponding to summer solstice, autumn equinox, and winter solstice) will fall within the constellations Taurus, Leo and Scorpio, respectively. Taurus and Leo are the Bull and Lion, and the Eagle is an alternate symbol for Scorpio — giving us a perfect match with the four faces of Ezekiel’s “living creatures”. Consequently, it would appear that the great temporal Cycle of Gilgal begins and ends with the Heavens aligned to these four “Cherubic” constellations!
Based on Ezekiel’s description, moreover, it is clear that the “living creatures” inhabit a plane of reality higher than that of “ordinary” experience. How do we know this? Well, in our everyday lives, we perceive people and objects in three dimensions of Space and one dimension of Time. On occasion, though, it suits our purposes to reduce people and objects to two-dimensional graphic images, such as photographs. These images belong to an inferior order of reality, insofar as they lack one of the spatial dimensions and have no temporal component, being “frozen” in Time. In other words, in the transition from our reality to that of a photograph or a drawing, some information is lost.
We can restore this missing information, however, by generating multiple images. For example, when an architect creates plans from which a building is to be constructed, she/he draws three different views, which together determine the structure of the edifice. Similarly, when we wish to impart a temporal dimension to our images, we generate a sequence of them and “flash” them rapidly on and off, as we do with cinema and video.
Therefore, if we think again about Ezekiel’s “living creatures”, do they not fit this pattern of images projected from a higher to a lower order of reality? To capture all of the information on a human face in photographic form, we would have to produce three pictures: a front view and two profiles. This amounts to saying that, in a two-dimensional world, we would have not one face but three! It follows, therefore, that a creature having four spatial dimensions would appear in our World with four faces, just like the prophet’s Cherubim. Ezekiel also mentions that these creatures appeared and disappeared like flashes of lightening, exactly as would “cinematic” projections of beings subsisting in two dimensions of Time. In other words, the flashing, four-faced creatures envisioned by the prophet are actually images of six-dimensional beings, with four spatial and two temporal dimensions.
While some fevered minds have pictured Ezekiel’s “living creatures” as extraterrestrial aliens, they are actually the image of the complete Self, of which our ego-dominated persona is but a shard. In the rotundity of the wheels called Gilgal, we uncover the symbol of spiritual wholeness, without which we are not fit to be in the presence of God. This wholeness reveals itself in an additional dimension of Space, an Interior dimension that our fallen consciousness fails to perceive. Within this Inner Space, moreover, Time itself unfolds from the one-dimensional “arrow”, which we experience, into a full Circle extending in two dimensions. While the arrow of Time can only point toward Death, the Circle opens to us the transcendent dimension of Resurrection, which presents the opportunity for Redemption and the option of Grace. Implicit in the two axes that meet at the mystical Center of this Circle, moreover, is the Cross — the matrix through which the temporal is transformed into the Eternal.
is within this “womb”, which is the Interior of Space and the Rotundity of
Time, that we must begin our gestation to be reborn as “living creatures” into
the presence of God. In Ezekiel’s vision,
the four-faced Cherubim attend the glory of the Divine Presence as it departs
Symmetry and Equilibrium
Ezekiel’s vision of the “living creatures” is actually a spiritual exercise by which we may access the Gates of Understanding leading to Wisdom. If Wisdom is akin to Water (Mem מ), then it requires a “container” to give it form and expression. Actually, we may liken Wisdom to a word written with only consonants — until the vowels are inserted, it is unpronounceable. Understanding furnishes the “vowels” which give expression to Wisdom. It is the Urn in which Aquarius carries the celestial “living Water”, the vessel which holds the meaning of Wisdom.
Understanding performs its function as a metaphysical aqueduct by a process called “symmetry breaking”. This means that Understanding takes visions that are combined and indistinguishable in the realm of Wisdom and parses them into components that the Mind can assimilate. Accordingly, the four faces of Ezekiel’s Cherubim are actually one face, but that face can only be apprehended by the intellect after it has been broken down into four distinct “views”. We can go back to the analogy of the blueprint, which renders the structure of a building in separate front, side and plan perspectives. Unless one knows how the various perspectives depicted in a blueprint fit together, however, the drawings convey no concept of the three-dimensional edifice. In exactly the same way, the discrete “views” of the contents of Wisdom which Understanding presents to our senses are meaningless if we are unacquainted with the relationship among them, the scheme by which they fuse together into one image.
At this juncture, we are going to pause and define a pair of concepts that we’ll be referring to quite frequently in the course of this book. As my reader might be guessing, the two concepts which we are going to discuss fit into the general pattern of complementary principles that we’ve been sketching up to now, e.g. Male and Female, Wisdom and Understanding. Without knowing it, we’ve already encountered one end of our new tandem of ideas in the guise of Gilgal, the mystical Circle of Space-Time. The Circle (and its counterpart in three-dimensions, the Sphere) is the most symmetrical of all geometric figures. This is because one can approach a Circle or a Sphere from any direction, and it will present the same appearance. The Symmetry of a thing, therefore, has to do with the relationship of its parts to the whole — the same type of relationship that was at work in Ezekiel’s vision.
of the distinguishing qualities of Symmetry is proportion. Intriguingly, proportion is something we
humans relate to with a part of our Consciousness other than our cognitive
mind. When we see certain geometric
proportions, as in the shape of a
If we consider the “Lord God” of Genesis — Adonai Elohim in the original Hebrew — the key to Her/His “blueprint” of the Universe is Symmetry. This Symmetry may be observed factually and expressed mathematically, as in Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. But it may also be experienced directly and immediately, in its many manifestations, without the slightest thought on our part. When Symmetry manifests itself as harmony, it can stir our senses in the hues of a sunset or warm our hearts in the embrace of old friends. When it touches us as Grace, Symmetry arouses our soul like the kiss of morning dew on a blossom. Appearing as Beauty, whether in the face of an angel or in the nobility of a selfless gesture, Symmetry carries us on wings above the sordid pettiness of our daily lives.
The Hebrew letter which means “relationship”, and hence Symmetry, is Vau ו . Vau also signifies the number six — a reflection of the Six Days of Creation, in which supernal Symmetry was made manifest. Instinctively, we apply multiples of six to the Circle and the Sphere (dividing them into 360 degrees) and to the cyclical patterns of clock and calendar (in 60-minute hours, 24-hour days, and 12-month years). Thus, not surprisingly, Vau and six are also symbols of Gilgal, the great Womb of Time and Space. Out of this Womb comes the Incarnation of God in Man, the “living Water” of Life everlasting.
Now that we’ve defined Symmetry and seen how it corresponds to the number six, let’s look at the other principle with which it’s coupled. Just as Symmetry is the underlying source of Wisdom’s “living Water”, Equilibrium opens the channel for that Water to flow from the source to us. We’ve said that Symmetry is the overall “blueprint”, the universal relationship which fuses our ostensibly disparate perceptions into a single experience. Nevertheless, we may well ask: An experience of what? Symmetry involves envisioning all of the parts of our divine Selfhood “all at once”, for only then does our awareness cease to be fragmentary and incomplete. When we achieve Symmetry, we become the “living creatures” of Ezekiel’s vision — the undiminished beings who abide eternally in the Divine Presence.
It follows that the integral experience that Symmetry yields is that of the Presence of God. Because the whole Self is greater than the sum of its parts, this Presence cannot become palpable until all of the centers of Consciousness are fully activated and perfectly coordinated. In the symbolism of Scripture, this total coordination of conscious centers is represented by the “seven eyes”, which appear on Ezekiel’s wheels, on Zechariah’s stone, and on the apocalyptic Lamb of God.
Let’s give some thought for a moment to the imagery of the “seven eyes”. If we consider the way our own senses function, we realize that the perception of depth demands that our two eyes interact with one another in a precisely balanced manner. What we see is not the image produced by either eye alone, but the view from a virtual “third eye” — a synthetic vantage point from which the left and right images are superimposed.
The metaphor of the “seven eyes” takes us a long way toward appreciating the many layers of meaning implicit in Equilibrium. On a very basic level, we can think of it as “balance”, that is, a condition in which opposing forces are reconciled. We employ this principle when we weigh things using scales. The gravitational force on the left pan of the scales contends against the downward pull on the right side, until some point is reached where the motion ceases. This “balance point” is not pegged to either of the opposing pans, but to an index attached to the center of the beam that joins them. Exactly as the focal point of our vision floats somewhere in the gap between our two eyes, the “balance point” of our scales hovers invisibly somewhere in the Space between them. In other words, “balance” is not manifest on either side of the scales, but rather it is immanent in the interstitial void where they interact.
is the synthesis of discordant states that restores the state of repose. It’s the condition of Peace which
a parallel sense, the unmitigated Female is the La Belle Dame sans Merci, full of ruthless severity, while the
unmitigated Male is Narcissus,
totally absorbed in his one-dimensional self-image. Spiritual conjugation superimposes Male and
Female in the rapture of Incarnation, the “Jacob’s ladder” by which Spirit may enter
into Matter and render it divine. This,
by the way, should tell us that sexual intercourse after the way of the flesh
is neither bestial nor sinful, but rather is the earthly type of the sublime
Union of Lover and Beloved on High. Indeed, it is our one memento of the bliss
which was our Life in
the great Hebrew mystics, Equilibrium expressed itself in the three “Mother
Letters”, of which we spoke earlier.
Each of these letters — Aleph , Mem and Shin — embody one of the three Covenants. Shin represents the Covenant of the Tongue,
which is the source of Oral Tradition.
Aleph stands for the Covenant of the Heart, which is the written Torah, the source of the Law. Mem
signifies the Covenant of Circumcision, the source of the River of “living
Water” that flows out of
Consequently, we find in the Menorah an important numerical message: the Covenant of the Heart is the seventh which is, at the same time, the One. We are reminded of the seven eyes of the Spirit that animated Ezekiel’s wheels, and of the seven eyes of the Lamb of God in Revelation — emblems of that Conscious Equilibrium which abides in the Presence of God (aka Shechinah). Seven, then, is the number of Equilibrium, as six is the number of Symmetry. It follows that the seventh connotes completion and repose, which is, of course, why Adonai Elohim rested on the Seventh Day of Creation — the Sabbath Day.
Sabbath and Jubilee
Our forgetfulness of God has become so profound, my sisters and brothers, that we have even become oblivious to the true import of the Sabbath. Yet, proper observation of the Sabbath is the very first of the gates of Understanding through which we must pass on our way to the New Jerusalem. Most of us — and I do not exclude myself from this category — tend to view the Sabbath as merely a weekly holiday, a day on which we usually don’t have to work. Sadly, that’s not even close to what Isaiah tells us the Sabbath is all about:
If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits; If you delight in honoring the Sabbath; If you honor it by not following your own will, seeking your own interests, or speaking your own words —
Then you shall delight your Self in the presence of the LORD, and I will make you to ride upon the high places of the Earth;
The prophet’s choice of the expression “hold back you foot” is a revealing one. Our feet are the basis of our Equilibrium, and we have two of them. According to St. Bonaventure, Man’s two feet represent the two faculties of his Soul: Apprehension and Affection. Apprehension is our thinking intellect, and Affection is our feeling intellect. Let it be noted, by the way, that no one should regard the phrase “feeling intellect” as an oxymoron, because the Heart is the seat of Understanding. It is through our Affection that we appreciate Symmetry, which is the script of the Most High. Yet, more often than not, we exclude Affection from participation in our will. How often do we hear the dismissive remark, “You’re letting your emotions rule you”?
Granted, any person whose will is subject only to their Affection is in serious trouble — but the opposite proposition is equally true! Nonetheless, we 20th Century human beings pride ourselves on how much of our behavior is shaped by “reasoning” rather than “feeling”. In a manner of speaking, then, we walk with a “limp”, always stepping forward with the “right” foot of Apprehension and dragging the “left” foot of Affection behind us.
In Isaiah’s proscription for the Sabbath, he simply directs us to implement a bit of Equilibrium. For just one day of the week, God asks us to “hold back” our Apprehension, let go of our ego-centered plans and goals, and let our Affection guide us in His/Her works. The prophet even spells out for us what kind of works those would be: removing the yoke from those oppressed, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, comforting the widow and the orphan ... the work of compassion.
seems, however, that we’re all too busy and much too self-important to devote
one whole day of the week to easing the distress of God’s people in need. How utterly unthinkable is it for us, then,
to devote not one day, but an entire year
to God’s agenda instead of our own! Yet,
the written Law unequivocally dictates the dedication of every seventh year, in
its entirety. Leviticus chapter 25
ordains a “Sabbath for the Land” — a year in which no person is to plant,
cultivate or harvest their fields. If we
continue reading this passage of Scripture, we come upon another, even more
quixotic feature of this divine mandate.
The 50th year following every seventh Sabbath Year is to be
consecrated as the “Year of Jubilee”, a year during which we are commanded to
forgive our debtors, to release all prisoners, and restore to
This book avows, as its central premise, that the Law of the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee remains, to this day, effective and binding upon Jews and Christian Gentiles alike. Without reservation, we contend that the faithful celebration of the Sabbath and Jubilee Years, according to the Cycle (Gilgal) specified in the Books of Moses, is an absolute prerequisite for the Coming of the Son of Man. Indeed, we hope to demonstrate that the spiritual regimen of the 50-year Jubilee Cycle informs the path of our return to the Promised Land through the “50 Gates of Understanding”.
We began this introductory phase of our discussion by asking the question: How are we to “prepare a way for the Lord”? In search of an answer, we set out in the footsteps of Christ from his baptism in the Jordan River, to his temptation in the Dead Sea desert ... and now, finally, to the temple in Nazareth where he inaugurated his public ministry. Perhaps we can now imagine ourselves, sitting mesmerized in the synagogue that evening as he rose to read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
is so ironic that Rabbi Jesus chose to make the Jubilee — the “acceptable year
of the Lord” — the theme of his very first sermon. Yet, the Law of the Sabbath and Jubilee Years
goes totally unobserved by the religions supposedly based on his
teachings. Perhaps we find these
provisions of the Law anachronistic, appropriate for the pastoral society of
As long as we think this way, the gates of the New Jerusalem will remain firmly shut up against us. So ingrained has our ego-centered mode of living become, however, that it will take considerable discipline and collective effort to break this pattern and open our hearts to the Advent of the Lord. In the pages that follow, we will endeavor to formulate a practicable program — based upon the Sabbath/Jubilee Law — for the transition toward a Consciousness centered in God.
If we are to find our true Center, our very first task must be to detach our awareness from its present moorings. The society in which we live worships a false idol called Progress, and like most idols, this one demands a form of ritual mutilation from us, its devotees. Whether we are working or engaged in recreation, it is above all imperative that we remain “focused” on what we are doing. Nowadays, we are bombarded with the message “stay focused” from nursery school to the grave. We hear it intoned by our parents, our teachers, our doctors, our friends, our priests, our counselors. It is a sacrosanct orthodoxy preached at us from every quarter.
Yet there is no mode of thought, no pattern of experience that is more unhealthy and alien to human beings than this “staying focused”. Our natural contentment of Mind and Body rests upon a delicate balance of action and repose, of radiance and reception. Therefore, prolonged periods of fixating our attention obsessively on the task at hand are bound to produce an appalling state of mental and visceral disequilibrium and vitiation. Denied Life’s spontaneous cycles of intensity and diffusion, most of us collapse at day’s end into a state of near catatonia, staring blankly into the flickering cathodic tube and listening to its “celebrities” remind us — lest we ever forget! — how essential it is to “remain focused”.
Our society deals with the pain and despondency that this lockstep mentality generates by “medicating” the masses on a mind-boggling scale. Which of us does not have several relatives and acquaintances who are absolutely dysfunctional without their daily fix of Prozac or the like? In our times, we are experiencing a pandemic of anxiety disorders which is bound to erupt, sooner or later, into a wave of mass hysteria that will make the Third Reich look like a stroll in the park.
Even more alarming than the highway to calamity we are traveling is the closure of the “exit ramps” by which we may avert it. As we focus monomaniacally on the goals of our individual will and those of the hierarchy of egos which controls our lives, we shut, in a manner of speaking, all the windows of our Soul. We are so intent on acting to further our own petty designs and those of our corporate masters that we never pause to receive the influx without which our Spirit withers and dies. Small wonder, then, that our lives seem monotonous, empty, even absurd, because we never “have the time” for truly spontaneous experience, which is the source of all novelty, all immediacy, all Life. Indeed, only by “letting go of the wheel” may we leave this highway of Death we are on and find the exit ramp that leads to the land of the Living.
All of which begs the question: How are we “let go of the wheel” without crashing into the guardrail and going up in flames? God does not ask us to do self-destructive things. She/He recognizes that we are creatures who have been culturally conditioned to organize every detail of our lives in accordance with the directives of our individual wills. In preparing Her/His Way, therefore, we must exercise prudence and caution. Modern life becomes so unbearable at times that all of us occasionally have the impulse to “just chuck it”. As we have discussed earlier, such impulses arise from the “Shadow” — the part of our unconscious Self which reflexively opposes all of the aims of our ego. The course of recent events in our world amply demonstrates that such nihilistic impulses are increasingly widespread and are being acted upon with escalating frequency. Indeed, we are witnessing before our eyes the gathering of a terrible vortex of denial and negation of all that exists. This violent vortex which will draw all of us down into its annihilating funnel unless we can hold fast to our spiritual anchor.
The requisite spiritual anchor is to be found in the redemptive Cycle of the Jubilee. But, before we can hope to attune ourselves to that Cycle, we must first comprehend its origins and its evolution in history of the people of God. Not surprisingly, such an inquiry takes us back to the very first verse of the Book of Genesis: “In the Beginning ... ”. Let this, then, be the stepping-off point of our first chapter.
. Isaiah 40:3; John 1:19-28
. Proverbs 2:3
. Job 28:7-12
. Proverbs 8:14-36
. Proverbs 7:4-27
. This situation of spiritual paralysis is depicted in the Tarot trump known as The Hanged Man or The Drowned Man, which shows a figure, hands bound, hanging inverted by the left foot from a branch. Significant in this symbolism is the fact that the Man=s “umbilicus” to the higher reality (represented by the branch) is through the Left C that is, the Female C side of his psyche.
. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which translates as “Yahweh saves”.
. Matthew 12:38-41
. John 7:14
. John 7:37-38
. Joshua 3-5
. Aryeh Kaplan, Sefir Yetzirah (Samuel Weiser, 1997), p. 240.
. Ezekiel 10:8-15. The word that is used in 10:14 is galgal, a variant spelling of gilgal.
. Ezekiel 1:10
. Ezekiel 1:14
. Ezekiel 10:12, Zechariah 3:9, Revelation 5:6
. In the same way, the Seal of Solomon (or Star of David) b also betokens Equilibrium, in the sense that it consists of the ideogram for Fire (identified with the Mother letter Shin) superimposed over the glyph for Water (associated with the Mother letter Mem).
. Isaiah 58:13-14