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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Sepher Yetzirah - A Pseudo-Linguistic Treatise

The Sepher Yetzirah is a foundation document to the Qaballistic Arts  It is also one of the earliest occult documents that specifically references linguistic observations being embedded into esoteric constructions.

The primary proposition of the The Sepher Yetzirah is that language is predicated on 3 ciphers, or sepharim: letter, numbers, and sounds. Writing in the introduction to his work, "The Sepher Yetzirah", William Wescott shares,

Eliphas Levi, the famous French Occultist, thus wrote of the "Sepher Yetzirah" in his "Hisoire de la Magi, p 54:"The Zohar is a Genesis of the illumination, the Sepher Jezirah is a ladder formed of truths.  Therein are explained the thirty-two absolute signs of sounds, numbers and letters: each letter reproduces a number, an idea and a form; so that mathematics are capable of application to ideas and to form not less rigorous than to numbers, by exact proportion and perfect correspondence.
Letters are symbols for sounds, but are fused equally to number, form, archetype.  They are two dimensional representations of 3 + dimensional forms which are then combined to form words, and from words, sentences, and from sentences  we begin the process of exponential growth in reason and logic capable of creating "reality".  Whether that "reality" is fiction or truth, deception or lies matters little from the foundation of letters as representations of sounds.

Letters are akin to cloak, a robe.  In fact, in Plutarch's On Isis and Osiris, the letters are known as "the robes of Isis", while the "robe of Osiris is the Alphabet itself. From these instruments, from nothing (a blank piece of paper or silence) comes all things, whether uttered or written.

In order to penetrate this veil, or fusion of letters, numbers, and sounds, it then becomes necessary to understand how "number" is fused to Letters.  Further, we should not dismiss this idea of "exact proportion", of showing specific logic and patterns set into the Alphabet itself.

Linguistic Principles within the Sepher Yetzirah
Voiced and Unvoiced Pairings 

The two sounds of each letter are the hard and the soft - the aspirates and the softened.
Chapter 4, Paragraph 1

Speech is composed of two groups of sounds, which modern linguists call "voiced" and "unvoiced" or "voiceless".  Simply put, voiced sounds occur when the vocal chords vibrate as air passes over, while with unvoiced sounds, there is no air moving over the vocal chords and hence, no vibration.

The ratio of voiced:unvoiced is roughly 70:30 meaning that 70 percent of audible speech is comprised of sounds with vibration, while 30 percent of speech occurs where no vibration is effected on and over the vocal chords.

When viewed in terms of the Sepher Yetzirah, unvoiced (non-aspirated) letters are generally (though not in all cases) the "hard" sounds, while the voiced, or vibrated, are the softened, or aspirated.

One must not jump to simplistic conclusion, however, for there is bound to be some exceptions.

Consider, for instance, the compound sounds "CH" and "SH": the CH sound, as in the word CHURCH, is hard, while the "SH", as in the word SHRED, is the softened form of the CH, but itself remains unaspirated, or unvoiced. 


The TH pairing may be either voiced or unvoiced.  "TH" in the word THIS is the "softened", or voiced, while it is hardened and unvoiced in the word THIRTY.  In this particular case, we have a prime example of a "letter", or "letter pairing" that represents "two sounds of each letter".

Another example of a letter that has "two sounds" is the letter S.  The word SCISSORS, for instance, is an example where the Letter S represents two sounds, the hardened and the softened, the unvoiced and voiced.  The beginning S is hardened (unvoiced), while the middle SS and ending S is voiced, taking the sound of Z.

Not all letters will have two sounds, but instead have their own paired letter.

D is soft - T is hard
B is soft - P is hard
V is soft - F is hard

The modern academic science of Linguistics has developed into a comprehensive science of human speech, but it as shown, it remains that the Sepher Yetzirah clearly references an innate understanding of speech sound groupings.

Phonemes.  Building Blocks of Speech

These twenty-two sounds or letters are formed by the voice, impressed on the air, and audibly modified in five places; in the throat, in the mouth, by the tongue, through the teeth, and by the lips.
Chapter 2, Paragraph 3
Speech, as discussed, consists of sounds that want in and out of two realms: voiced and unvoiced.  Within these two realms lie the basic building blocks of speech, or the "phonemes".  Phonemes are the basic building blocks of language.

Phonemes, like the two categories of speech, themselves are divided into two basic components.  These are the vowels and consonants.  Vowels are unique in that there is never any obstruction by the lips or tongue.  The Letter M is effected by closing the lips, the letter D is effected by a quick tap of the alveolar bone behind the teeth, while the Letters A, E, I, O, and U are effected with the mouth open.

The balance of the letters are effected by some obstruction, whether the lips, tongue, or mouth.  These letters are called the CONSONANTS.  Perhaps it is best to classify these two pairing as follows:


In English, there are 26 letters, but 44 sounds, or phonemes.

When considering the fusion of Letters to Number, each individual phoneme would, theoretically, require its own unique glyph and letter placement.  Such an Alphabet we could consider to be "phonemic" and each unique phoneme would be connected to individual letters which further would have its own unique number.  This is uniquely true of the Devanagari script of India where each letter and its resultant sound has its own signifier (glyph/letter).(1)

Such is not the case in English.  As the Sepher Yetirah discusses, letters have two sounds.  The letters are not being cast into individual phonemic matrices, but rather maintain their positions while possessing the properties of multiple sounds.

The Letter C, for instance, using modern linguistic analysis, comprises 5 sounds:

C(k), C(s), C(sh), C(ts), and C(tch).


The model of "hardness" and "softness" for the letter C as in CAT is the letter G as in GOOD.

Modern linguistics now provides a comprehensive analysis of  phonemes to include the development of an "International Phonetic Alphabet", but the Sepher Yetzirah clearly postulated the idea of "phonemes" and sound pairings long before the academic science of linguistics entered Western academic circles.

What remains is a comprehensive study of the mathematics, or the use of number as assigned or "fused" to "letters".

1 comment:

Dennis/87 said...

hg 87 infinity meets divinity< 87