Skip to main content

Stan Tenen: The Alphabet that Changed the World: How Genesis Preserves a Science of Consciousness in Geometry and Gesture (Edited by Charles Stein. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2011; 364+xvii pp., with 223 illustrations, Editor's Preface, Author's Preface, Author's Note, 14 Appendices, Glossary, Bibliography, and Index)

This may be one of the most insightful, if not profound, books you ever read ... if you are willing to engage it honestly and openly. Tenen has taken his time bringing his findings to the public, primarily because he wanted to be sure that what he was saying has substance. Some things are simply easy to misunderstand or misinterpret, but what he has to say in this book deserves serious consideration. By his own admission his (and all of the already identified, related) research is far from complete, there is enough certainty that he is on to something, something of great significance. At any rate, now that this first, book-length, introductory text is available, it can be hoped that a continuing discussion will ensure that will shed new light on a very old subject.

The premise of the book is rather simple: the Jews have long claimed that their alphabet is sacred, and it appears that this may in fact be the case. Though simply stated, it is difficult to understand, on many levels. What is sacred? What makes something sacred? What does it mean for other things if something is sacred? The list of questions goes on and on.

The fundamental statement of the book is rather simple as well: there is a letter-level, self-referential coding in the text  of the Torah that by all appearances has been placed there deliberately. How it got there and why it was put there are questions that the book cannot and does not attempt to answer, but the fact that it is there substantiates and provides support for a number of claims about the Hebrew alphabet and the most famous text it has generated. It is here that the flood of hey-wait-a-minutes starts flowing.

Tenen takes the time to move the reader step-by-step through his process of discovery and the conclusions that he has drawn so that one can follow precisely the development of the thoughts. Everything that is stated has been checked, verified, and examined by any number of relevant subject-matter experts who agree that what he is saying is well supported. The support does not come from anyone who might have a vested interest in what he is saying being true, rather scientific, mathematic, geometric experts who would often no doubt prefer that what he is saying weren't being said.

It is, nevertheless, not a light read, by any stretch of the imagination. It takes both time and effort to grasp what is being said, and to avoid the temptation to lose oneself in where the consequences of those statements may lead. If what Tenen is saying is correct, there may be a good number of textbooks that need to be rewritten, and this in a number of fields, not the least of which are linguistics, physics, psychology, philosophy, and theology. But, much more work has to be done before we get there. This is not a story of someone trying to say, "Hey, look at me and what I found!", but rather "Hey, I found this, what do you think of it?"  For that very reason, it is well worth every minute you might spend struggling with it.

Originally posted to achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 12:11 AM PDT.

Also republished by Elders of Zion and Street Prophets .

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenox, Powered Grace, Laura Wnderer

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    by achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 12:11:11 AM PDT

  •  Tantalyzing (2+ / 0-)

    I would appreciate it if you could expand on this a little bit:

    there is a letter-level, self-referential coding in the text  of the Torah that by all appearances has been placed there deliberately.
    As written it's a bit vague for me to feel inspired about purchasing the book to follow up on your introduction.

    Thanks.

    Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies have nothing to lose but their chains -Marx (-8.75,-8.36)

    by alain2112 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 12:39:22 AM PDT

    •  Unfortunately it is vague, because (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Free Jazz at High Noon, zenox

      it is a very complex subject. My main hope is to pique interest so that you (or others like you) will perhaps look into the matter more deeply.

      In answer to your question, however, it appears that the text is laid out in such a way that if a letter is missing, say, it is possible to reconstruct which letter it should be. In other words, the text "determines" how the text is to be written. I say "deliberately" because the statistical analysis of the appearance of this phenomenon is far beyond chance. In his exploration, Tenen came across unexpected results, but when he asked the mathematicians, "What are the chances of this happening?" the answer was always, "Well, certainly not randomly."

      For more background and additional details, please visit the Meru Foundation website.

      Hope this helps.

      None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      by achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 12:57:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Formation of Meaning (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        achronon

        The Meru foundation has a wealth of information, as does the North Atlantic publishing company.

        But I must wonder: this filling in of letters that have been lost, is it different from the interpolation of vowels that is a common practice in semitic languages?  Studies have show that there is tremendous redundancy in natural languages.

        As always, against people who are quibbling over details, there is Truth.  I join you in striking the proper balance.

        Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies have nothing to lose but their chains -Marx (-8.75,-8.36)

        by alain2112 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:47:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks, (0+ / 0-)

          but no, this is not the interpolation of vowels, rather the determination of the missing letter (consonant) in the text string.

          We should remember that the original text was written as a single string of letters: no spaces, no punctuation, and no diacritical markings for the vowels.

          I, for one, have found there's a lot here to think about.

          None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

          by achronon on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:17:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Diacritics are Different (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            achronon

            My initial understanding was wrong, and for that I apologize.

            Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies have nothing to lose but their chains -Marx (-8.75,-8.36)

            by alain2112 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:18:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No problem. (0+ / 0-)

              The matter of redundancy in natural languages remains as language, as generally understood, appears to be a weak communication medium. It takes a lot of work to get it precise and almost impossible to get it unambiguous.

              What fascinates me most about Tenen's work is that it points to associations beyond the generally expected that meaningful in a way not necessarily restricted to syntactics or semantics.

              None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

              by achronon on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:28:16 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  of course, anything that someone says is sacred (10+ / 0-)

    is sacred, be it an alphabet, a mountain, a timber wolf, a lake, or anything else in the world.

    As to the nature of alphabets, there are several systems which developed prior to the development of Semitic alphabets, which Classical Hebrew is an example of.  For that matter, there are even several variants of Hebrew alphabets.  If we assume that the Semitic alphabets arose roughly at the same time, and that whatever that proto-form was, it was probably similar to the Phoenician alphabet, then the question arises if all Semitic alphabets are sacred or if only Hebrew alphabets are sacred.  If only Hebrew alphabets are sacred, then was the proto-Hebraic alphabet also sacred or at what point did it become sanctified and by what process?

    This does not address the question if all the variants of the Hebrew alphabet were sacred or only one and if one, which one and how and when was it sanctified?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    •  My review only gives (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenox

      a general overview of the book itself, this is true.

      The Torah was orignially written in the 22-letter variation of the Hebrew alphabet that was expanded to 27 letters after the Babylonian Exile. According to Tenen's research, it is possible to account for or explain the variation and that the encoding principles involved remain valid.

      Tenen has only focused on the Hebrew, so how it is with other alphabets would have to be researched on their own. Who knows what is and what is possible?

      None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      by achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 03:52:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That Gooserock is here and recc'ing comments (2+ / 0-)

      while not offering any of his own is a pretty clear indication of how seriously kossacks should take this "research."  There's no one here who knows bible studies better than him...

      sounds a bit like more "Bible Code" nonsense /nt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gooserock, Rashaverak, litho
      Editor, Red and Black Publishers

      by Lenny Flank on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:11:51 AM EDT

      The efforts to repeal Obamacare are the GOP Abort Obamacare Act. lynneinfla

      by litho on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 05:36:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i did not know Gooserock was a bible scholar (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        achronon

        i will look for his comments on the subject in the future.

        as for bible Code nonsense, it is human nature to see patterns in numbers even if we have to find/manufacture them.

        Since each letter in the Hebrew alphabet also has a number designation, people have been manipulating those numbers to find hidden messages as long as scripture has been written down.

        if people receive comfort from numerology and whatnot, more power to them.  But I do not see much merit in it.

        Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
        Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

        by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:14:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  At first blush, (0+ / 0-)

      I would agree, but as this research is actually research, and beyond the nonsense, it only sounds like such.

      None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      by achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 05:47:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK, that confirms my initial reaction that it's (3+ / 0-)

        just more "Bible Code" nonsense.

        •  It's your good right to (0+ / 0-)

          leave it at your reaction, though just a tad more consideration than judging a book by its cover, in a manner of speaking, could have been expected from a person as generally thoughtful as yourself.

          There may be more here than initially meets the eye, for this is the first "Bible Code nonsense", as you put it, that does have some strong scientific evidence to back it up.

          In case you're interested, more information and other reviews -- that is, other than just mine -- can be found at the book's website.

          None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

          by achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 06:28:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  well with all due respect, when I see phrases like (6+ / 0-)
            if you are willing to engage it honestly and openly
            there is a letter-level, self-referential coding in the text  of the Torah that by all appearances has been placed there deliberately.
            How it got there and why it was put there are questions that the book cannot and does not attempt to answer
            Everything that is stated has been checked, verified, and examined by any number of relevant subject-matter experts who agree that what he is saying is well supported. The support does not come from anyone who might have a vested interest in what he is saying being true, rather scientific, mathematic, geometric experts who would often no doubt prefer that what he is saying weren't being said.
            If what Tenen is saying is correct, there may be a good number of textbooks that need to be rewritten, and this in a number of fields, not the least of which are linguistics, physics, psychology, philosophy, and theology
            it sets my Bullshit Detector flashing all sorts of lights and alarm bells. Every one of those statements reeks of pseudoscience--the same tired ole "my ideas overturn the whole world if you are open-minded and don't listen to the close-minded science conspiracy to hide my profound truth !!!" that I heard from the "Bible Code" kooks before.

            (yawn)

            •  No sarcasm, irony or (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Amber6541

              knowing better was intended. Sorry you read it that way.

              I, of course, accept all responsibility for what I have written, and while I don't see it as you read it, that's fine. I'll take the hit, but I do think Tenen's work deserves a fair look, that's all.

              None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

              by achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:50:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  in a Catholic Christian (that is, Roman, Anglican, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    achronon, TrueBlueMajority

    Eastern Orthodox and in many ways Lutheran sense) we hold things to be "sacred" through their use. Use by people, not God, though they are often dedicated to the use in the worship of God.

    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 06:09:02 AM PDT

  •  Er... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, asym, Meteor Blades

    While admitting that I haven't read the book, my first instinct is to agree with comments noting the "Bible Code" nonsense and agree with entlord's comments re the interpretive problems posed by the development of proto-alphabetic and alphabetic Semitic scripts.

    My second instinct is to note 1) that the author (Tenen) has no actual training in linguistics and 2)  the MERU advisory board appears to include no one with actual training in linguistics, while it does include a number of individuals with interests in lost alien civilizations on Mars and the Moon.

    In short, sounds like pseudo-science...

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 06:54:08 AM PDT

    •  "lost alien civilizations" . . . . ? (4+ / 0-)

      So it's the space aliens who put the code in the Bible, not God?

      Too funny.

      And yet so many Americans swallow pseudo-scientific bullshit like this whole . . . .  As a nation, we are like medieval peasants, only with cellphones and laptops. (sigh)

      •  "History" Channel nonsense (0+ / 0-)

        I fear that we, as a people, are slipping down the path that led to the Dark Ages in the West 1500 years ago, in Islam 600 years ago, in India 800 years ago, in China about 900 years ago, in Korea 700 years ago, and in Japan about 400 years ago.

        A bit repetitive, but, to rip off Twain, history rhymes better than Pitbull.

    •  Well, it's not about linguistics per se, (0+ / 0-)

      it's about consciousness in general if you will.

      I agree, it can sound like pseudo-science, but I do not believe it is because of who is vetting the work, but, as always, it's your call.

      None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      by achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:52:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, the only one who (0+ / 0-)

      comes close to qualifying is Hoagland; I'll give you that. But I think "a number of individuals" in this class is a bit of an overstatement.

      None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      by achronon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:14:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  neo-religious hokum (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, asym, Meteor Blades

    While I agree that this "research"  seems way too much like the kind of pablum seen of late on the "History" Channel, it does raise an interesting point, though one I suspect the author did not intend.

    Many of the independently or semi-independently derived writing systems in human history that we know about were first developed for and used in temples, first used, like some known proto-writing systems as a mnemonic, symbolic instrument of divination or record keeping, and only later spreading its usage into government and society at large.

    As to the claims in the book outlined in this diary, I believe that James Randi is still offering a $1 million prize for such things.   Just puttin' it out there...

    •  as I recall (and I am going completely on memory) (0+ / 0-)

      most of the earliest cuneiform tablets were records of commercial transactions and tax payments.

      •  True. But over time, they were also used for... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        achronon

        ...literature and a too-little explored fact of early writing: their use in letters to distant family and colleagues. Most of the latter did not get preserved, of course, the way some of the commercial "ledgers" did. But some researchers believe that letters were, in fact, the most common use of cuneiform. Doubtful they will ever prove it.

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 02:04:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Talmud has something like this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    achronon, bluebird of happiness

    First, the rabbis decreed that God gave out two Torahs in the Sinai, the written Torah which became the first five books of the Bible, and the Oral Torah which gave transmitted orally to Moses.  God made this second Torah to give it flexibility as it was orally transmitted from generation to generation.  After the Second Jewish Rebellion against the Romans, 132 to 136 CE,  the Romans got tired of all these revolts so they engaged in ethnic cleansing and mass murder to teach the Jews a lesson.  They also raided the rabbinical academies, where the rabbis were studying the oral Torah, and tortured and murdered every rabbi they could grab.  One of the few survivors, Rabbi Meir, decided that the oral Torah would be lost unless it was written down, so he started the Mishnah, which, after his death, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi (Judah the Prince, known simply as "Rabbi") completed, around 180 to 200 CE.

    Second, the rabbis believed that, as the written Torah was God's words dictated to Moses, every word, every letter, had its own meaning.  They figured if God is perfect, He/She wouldn't waste words, or even letters.  For example, if a word is preceded by an extraneous vav - translated as "and" - the vav/and must have some special meaning apart from the text.  Thus the Oral Torah is hidden inside the written Torah, and the rabbis who compiled the Talmud have uncovered the secret, albeit with lots of dissent and argument as to the specifics of what this Oral Torah comprises.

    I think I can be Jewish without buying these premises, which I don't - although I think the rabbis were transmitting traditions that went back many decades and even centuries - but thought it might be relevant to the diary.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 04:46:18 PM PDT

    •  It is relevant, (0+ / 0-)

      and was, in part, the starting point for Tenen's research.

      The alphabet appears to express a universal language that is independent of any religious faith, but points to a Oneness that is central to all Abrahamic faiths.

      It would appear that there is something being communicated from within the text, other than just the stories that enclothe it.

      None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      by achronon on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 08:11:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  FYI, Mr. Tenen's attitudes towards gematria, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    achronon

    numerology, Bible Codes, etc., can be found in his essay titled "Damning by Faint Praise," at
    http://www.meru.org/....
    (Truth in posting: I'm the author's wife and working partner.)

  •  Excellent, Unique Book--Must Read! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a gilas girl, achronon

    I hold a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.  In an over thirty year career, I have held positions of senior scientist and senior engineer in the aerospace & semiconductor industries, as well as spending two years in a university research laboratory.  My work has extended to research & development, production, and pure research, and has largely been focused on mathematical modeling, statistical characterization, and special analyses.

    I have also read this book from cover-to-cover, carefully.

    The book is eye-catching – certainly what caught my eye the first time that I saw it.  It has many graphics to leaf through in the first skim, truly beautiful in the artistic, but more so the mathematical symmetry sense.  This, in fact, made me suspicious about the book because while clearly it took a great deal of work to produce, appealing graphics often hide shallow or erroneous content.  [The publication and distribution houses for the book are certainly very reputable, but even the best laymen can be fooled by English text and illustrations of superior quality.]  However, after briefly taking a look at a few sections I was much more than pleasantly surprised-–how to say it—pleasantly shocked!  I realized that I was holding a unique work of genius in pattern recognition, developed carefully over many years with meticulous external research to support its findings.  

    The findings aren’t demonstrated by a statistical method because there doesn’t seem any obvious way to do so.  What the author does instead is demonstrate different facets of this pattern—forming as it were, a multidimensional weave—which is very convincing.  

    One should not imagine that the author claims a Bible code type of finding, prophetic method or, or some type of magical method.  Any of these would involve some semantic (meaning) relationship across syntactically (spelling/grammar) different sections.  On the contrary, the author proposes the syntax as the direct generator of the semantic.  This sticks totally with the letter form symbolism itself, making no flight of abstraction/fancy into gematria/numerology whatsoever.

    The author, in fact, digs down under syntax to the more primordial psychology underlying it—back to animal gesturing.  [This is based on modern scientific investigations, and not a return to certain discredited 19th century notions.]  The author travels this road further back into nature and mathematics itself to certain insights into the base fundamentals of tetrahedral geometry and torus topology.  The journey, as well, takes us to the kind of information-based attraction of similar forms, as most simply manifested in certain quantum mechanical phenomena as the Bose-Einstein condensate.  Going back up into human language, the author shows that these matters are most obvious in the Hebrew alphabet and specifically it’s weaving, at least, in the beginning of Genesis, with hints of a conscious awareness of such indicated in Jewish Kabbalistic sources.  Nonetheless, the author shows the phenomenon’s presence in other ancient languages—specifically Arabic and Greek, with hints to some conscious awareness there too (in the Arabic example, preserved in some customs of Sufi Islam).  Most interestingly, the author proffers numerous examples of how such come about in more blurred, but still present formation through the syntax psychology of even modern language—specifically such a seemingly complex composite one as English.

    The entire presentation of the author in fact itself follows a weave, passing through the subliminal to external development seemingly several times at different levels.  It is a logical development, yet also stream of consciousness in a sense – as though the author wants you not just to get it intellectually, but actually sense, be part of, the ebb and flow on a very basic level.

    So I close as I opened, that this is a very unique work of scholarship, to my knowledge without parallel.  Whether its conclusions are ultimately true, we cannot know—but the reader will at minimum find them haunting.  Obviously, I recommend The Alphabet That Changed the World in the highest terms.  It changed me and some of my long-held views radically.  I don’t believe that it will leave you unaffected either.

  •  The author's approach to Biblical texts (0+ / 0-)

    Stan and I thought it might be helpful to post more on his early research approach vis a vis both academic and rabbinical Biblical scholarship.

    The following quote is from pp. 74-75 of The Alphabet That Changed the World, in a section titled "Ten Years of Research." --More from this section is available on Google Books (use the "preview" function) if you log in with a Google ID.
    *****

    Assuming that Genesis was probably the most heavily researched book in existence, I asked the experts. But when I approached scholars in religious studies, they didn’t know what I was referring to. I was told that what I had seen, if it was real, might be what Kabbalists are concerned with: “mysticism” centering around the language and letter-text of the Torah. I had no knowledge of Kabbalah. But I realized that if there was a meaningful pattern in the letters of the text, and if the scholars were not aware of it, the pattern might be of considerable importance.

    I spent ten years reading everything I could find in English about Kabbalah. I read Jewish material, I read Christian material, I read Arabic and Greek material. I read books printed in green ink by people who had been up in flying saucers. I read essays by Orthodox rabbis. I read academic histories, linguistic hypotheses, and the theories of secular Biblical scholars. None of this referred to the letter-pattern, and I began to get a sense that no one knew what to make of the text of Genesis at all. It seemed that, among the non-religious scholars, there was an agreement that the Bible was “great literature,” composed in excellent poetry: literary critics—the school of higher criticism, the documentary hypothesis, et al.—developed ingenious ways of comparing different parts of the text, but without fully understanding all of its features, and with no reference to the unusual features I had noticed. Historians take the Bible stories apart and find many different “strata,” relating the text to the history of ancient Israel, but they have nothing to say about what the text means or even why it has been regarded as so vitally important by so many people over so many years. Among some academic scholars more sympathetic to traditional claims, there occasionally appeared the idea that the text of Genesis might be involved with some form of meditation. As far as the religious scholars themselves were concerned, there was no end of interpretations of the text, but most were superficial, allegorical, or homiletic, and again none addressed the patterns I had first noticed in the beginning of Genesis. Clearly, at some point in the past, there had been rabbis and scholars who were aware of a deeper level and a more subtle approach to the text, but none today seemed to know more than that there was much that had been lost.

    This intellectual divide between religious and academic scholars about the nature of Kabbalah is eloquently conveyed by the following comments from historian Rabbi Joseph Telushkin:

    As a rule, mekubbalim (people who actively study and practice kabbalah) are skeptical of men like [Gershom] Scholem, who studied kabbalah as a university discipline and not from a personal conviction of its truth. Onemekubbal,  Rabbi Abraham Chen, declared on one occasion before a seminar of Scholem’s students: ‘A scholar of mysticism is like an accountant: He may know where all the treasure is, but he is not free to use it.’ A precisely opposite view on the value of kabbalah was taken by the late Professor Saul Lieberman, the great Talmud scholar of the Jewish Theological Seminary. In an introduction to a lecture Scholem delivered at the seminary, Lieberman said that several years earlier, some students asked to have a course here in which they could study kabbalistic texts. He had told them that it was not possible, but if they wished they could have a course on the history of kabbalah. For at a university, Lieberman said, ‘it is forbidden to have a course in nonsense. But the history of nonsense, that is scholarship.’
    My studies also took me beyond the world of biblical scholarship to sacred texts in other traditions and languages. Though I didn’t have the same direct perception of a pattern of letters, I encountered something of a similar phenomenon: the most sacred texts lacked a definitive interpretation.

    These researches lasted ten years. Eventually I became convinced that many traditional records were referring to something quite specific, in spite of the range of views about what that might be. There was too much detail and too much that these diverse traditions had in common for them to have been just pulled out of the air, or for those texts to be no more than the accounts of the idiosyncratic experiences of mystics (a common interpretation of some academic scholars). Many seemed to have some common underpinning. And indeed there were scholars and even teachers in each of the traditions who appeared to be hinting this was the case. So I was encouraged to look more deeply at the sequence of letters in Genesis 1:1 and to try to understand the details and clarify the pattern I saw.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site