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Discourse on the number 11
some reflections from the first grade, SRIA

© Bro. Jean-Michel David, PM (VII° SRIA)

Not long after the aspirant has been given the signs and password of a Zelator, he is placed in the N-E., and is told:

Among the secrets of nature, which it is now your duty to investigate, are the mysteries of the Kabbalists, which include the demonstration of the Eternal Essence of God, the key to the government of the universe, & the powers & properties of numbers.

Two keys which can be used to unravel the mysteries of the Kabalists are the Pentateuch, being the first five books of the Bible, and the glyph of the Tree of Life, depicted during the Zelator ritual by the flaming sword, or lightning bolt, passing through the 10 emanations — or sefirot.

The number next shown to the aspirant is 11, of which we are told

No 11 is called the evil number; it is an omen of Defeat or Death

Quite a brief and dramatic statement! Despite the sanctity with which I regard initiation ceremonies, I was tempted to there and then query why the number 11 is considered evil. Yet, upon reflection, the answer lies within the statement itself: No 11 is called  the evil number; it is an omen of defeat or death.

By whom it is so called, the ritual does not tell us. But why, that we are told: it is evil because, again, ‘it is an omen of defeat or death’.

In Genesis 2 we are told

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it

Yet what happens if one does? After Eve and then Adam partake of the fruit, and the Elohim find out, they say

Behold — the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil

Why would God, who has made man in his or, if spoken from the Elohim, their own image, not want people to partake of the fruit which is the first step required in achieving godhood?  — Part of the answer is given in the quote from ritual: Number eleven, knowledge, is an omen of possible defeat!

Some Kabalists refer to an eleventh — sometimes claimed hidden — sefirah — called Da'at, or Knowledge. We can safely assume both Da'at’s existence, and its non-sephirothic status. As the Sefer Yetzirah tells us, that there are only ten sephiroth, thus Da'at in not a sefirah.

Da'at is placed across the abyss which separates the three supernals from the seven lower emanations.

Da'at can therefore be seen as a bridge by which one crosses over to the supernal trinity. Yet, Da'at, as a Sefirah, is not there: the abyss is open.

Defeat is to fall into the abyss — a fall leading to the disintegration of the Self — to madness. To attempt to cross this abyss without Da'at is a sure way to fall. Yet to also remain in Da'at, and not use it as the bridge it is intended, is to remain within the confines of the abyss.

Da'at, Knowledge, is our great Gnostic temptress. How many times have we heard of those that have gained knowledge, yet have achieved neither true understanding (Binah) nor wisdom (Hockmah)? Within the Christian tradition, Da'at remains the pitfall in which the gnostic heresies occur: believing that one has attained the throne of God when one has only attained knowledge.

Though great an achievement that may be, without understanding, without wisdom, what is to be made of those gnostic visions, what is to be made of knowledge?

The trappings of Da'at are that one assumes that because one has achieved knowledge, one has arrived at the goal. Yet the goal is clear — it is Keter. One needs to understand & prudently — wisely — apply this knowledge before the true goal can be reached.

No 11 is called the evil number

Evil is seen by some, including some of the ancient Greek philosophers, to be a movement away from the centre, away from the Divine, away from Ain Sof, away from truth.

Using the Tree of Life, evil can be described as that which prevents us from walking the path of return — the path which leads to Keter. Any hindrance to that goal can thus be described as evil.

If we take No 11 to refer to Da'at, and evil to refer to this hindrance, then:
'No 11 is called the evil number' can be understood to mean that Knowledge may hinder one on the path of return. How? the abyss is ever present for the unwary. Da'at is forever the tempting trap.

To partake of knowledge, one risks madness if one assumes that one can or one already has reached God — reached the Elohim — crossed the abyss — without Da'at being sufficiently formed such that it will not crumble under our feet. Da'at must be sufficiently formed to enable the crossing, and our focus ever upwards to prevent the trappings.

Yet, how are we to make sure that this bridge will hold? Furthermore, if Da'at really is not a sephirah, as the Sefer Yetzirah clearly implies¹, how can Da'at be used as a bridge?

Here lies a sacred mystery — for Da'at is created anew by each full emanation, by each created being, each potential Adept, by each of us.

Da'at is not a sephirah, an emanation, of the Divine, it is an emanation of the creation, of us.

To live is to partake of the Tree of Life. To live is to be an emanation of the Divine. Yet to live, to be, and hence have a questing mind, one cannot but also taste of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and hence generate the swirlings which may, in time, become Da'at.

During the 1750s, an occidental document was brought back from the east. In it, we read:

How shalt thou arrive at the knowledge  of truth?
How shalt thou ascend  to the footstep of her throne?

Is the throne not another name given to Binah, the third sefirah, which the successful crosser of the abyss first reaches?

I continue to quote:

If thou woudst mount up into her throne, first bow thyself at her footstool; If thou woudst arrive at the knowledge of her, first inform thyself of thine own ignorance

Or, as the inscription at the famous Delphic portal informed the Aspirant: Gnothi Seauton - Know Thy Self

I continue:

Naturally doth man desire the truth; yet when it is before him he will not apprehend it, & if it force itself upon him, is he not offended at it?

The fault is not in truth, for that is amiable, but the weakness of man beareth not its splendour.

The fault is in the weakness of the individual that cannot bear the splendour of truth! — Yet, if truth be aspired to, knowledge²Da'at — needs to be sufficiently developed in order that the abyss be bridged.

How is one to know if one is able to bear the splendour?

Through the willingness to give of oneself fully, through death.

The other disjunct of the omen of the number eleven.

Number eleven is called the evil number. It is an omen of defeat or death.

To cross the abyss is to die.

And the first Ancient said: Harken, O Aspirant, Death is the gate of life; fear not to enter therein, for in dust are sown the seeds of immortality

To be truly immortal, one must cross the abyss, for that is the only way that the whole Tree of Life can be partaken, and whole partaken it must be.

After Eve and Adam had partaken of the tree of knowledge

The Lord God said, Behold, the man is become one of us, to know good and evil, and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life, and live forever

God drove Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden,

and he placed at the East of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the Tree of Life

Although Adam and Eve were cast out, the way of the Tree of Life was kept by the flaming sword, and guarded at the east by the Cherubim. We are not told that they are forbidden to re-enter!

No — with number eleven, with Knowledge — with Da'at — the Cherubim will let pass those who escape the confines of Da'at, who escape the trappings of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

As long as one follows the way which the flaming sword keeps, one may reach, put forth one's hand, and partake, of the Tree of Life — of Life eternal.

Whosoever’s spirit succeeds in reaching such lofty heights will have life eternal — and have it more abundantly — and from such blessings shall be revealed their source through Ain Sof’s first emanation — Keter.

Number eleven is called the Evil number. It is an omen of defeat or death

It is evil, for knowledge may lead away from truth. It is evil, for those who have partaken of the tree of knowledge need to be weariless, as the path is fraught with perils. Hence, it portends either defeat, if one succumbs to the perils, or death —  the gate of life.

Jean-Michel David, VII (Francis Bacon College, SRIA, Melbourne)

Bibliography:

(1st ed. October 1992, revised January 1993 after critical feedback from Fr Philip Grier, V, of the Aurora Australis College, SRIS, Sydney, and Fr Neville Anderson, V, of Francis Bacon College. Minor revisions for written version made December 1995).

Kalisch, Rev. Dr I. (trans.) Sepher Yezirah: a Book on Creation; or, the Jewish Metaphysics of Remote Antiquity, LH Frank & Co, New York, 1877, republished by AMORC, San Jose, 1981.

Sri Ramatherio (ed) Unto Thee I Grant, 32nd ed, AMORC, San Jose, 1979.

SRIA Zelator Grade ritual booklet, 1985.


[return to text] 1 - ‘Ten are the numbers out of nothing, and not […] nine, ten and not eleven’

[return to text] 2 - Note that knowledge necessitates truth. As modern philosophy analyses it, for someone to know a Proposition (P), P must be true.

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