From The Zohar

When The King conceived ordaining
He engraved engravings in the luster on high.
A blinding spark flashed
Withing the Concealed of the Concealed
from the mystery of the Infinite,
a cluster of vapor in formlessness,
set in a ring,
not white, not black, not red, not green,
no color at all.
When a band spanned, it yielded radiant colors.
Deep within the spark gushed a flow
imbuing colors below,
concealed within the concealed of the mystery of the Infinite.
The flow broke through and did now break through its aura.
It was not known at all
until, under the impact of breaking through,
one high and hidden point shone.
Beyond that point, nothing is known.
So it is called Beginning,
the first command of all.

"The enlightenment will shine like the zohar of the sky,
and those who make the masses righteous
will shine like the stars forever and ever"
(Daniel 12:3)

Zohar, Concealed of the Concealed, struck its aura.
The aura touched and did not touch this point.
Then this Beginning emanated
and made itself a palace for its glory and its praise.
There it sowed the seed of holiness
to give birth
for the benefit of the universe.
The secret is:
"Her stock is a holy seed"
(Isaiah 6:13)

Zohar, sowing a seed for its glory
like the seed of fine purple silk.
The silkworm wraps itself within and makes itself a palace.
This palace is its praise and a benefit to all.

With the Beginning
The Concealed One who is not known created the palace.
The palace is called Elohim.
The secret is:
"With Beginning, _________________ created Elohim
(Genesis 1:1)

Images of Light in The Creation of Elohim
An examination of the ushering of light in the world in the first section of The Creation of Elohim

The section of the Zohar entitled The Creation of Elohim is concerned largely, and appropriately considering the fact that Zohar means ‘light’ or ‘splendor’ in the Hebrew, with the concept of light. The main subject seems to be sparks and bands of light, but even those sections not describing the light in and of itself ring of luminescent imagery. Considering this passage is a commentary on Genesis 1, in which God creates light, this again is consistent. However, this passage takes a peculiar focus on the creation of light, developing it into rich detail. The resulting focus puts an interesting spin onto the creation story. In using almost entirely the ‘creation,’ if it can truly be called that in terms of this text, of light the passage still manages to develop sophisticated and complex ideas about the form of the universe, as if the creation of light contained within it the potential of the subsequent days’ creations.

The passage starts, “When the King conceived ordaining/ he engraved engravings in the luster on high.” These two lines compare roughly Genesis 1:1 – 2, which state “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,/ the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” While the two lines seem to have little to do with each other besides beginnings initially, there are some key points of tangency when one looks at the language and what it implies. The Zohar text begins with The King conceiving of the world’s ordination, or more properly, simply ordination in and of itself – there is no world in this part of the Zohar. In fact, the only things that are implied to exist before the action of these lines are The King and the “luster on high.” Out of this world, the King conceives the ordering of the world proper, he brings order into being through his own action. If ordaining were not existent prior to this action, the “world” of this text must be without order, or in the words of Genesis, “without form,” thus in both we have an image of a being creating, or at least ordering, something out of a place where no things, forms, or orders had existed. The key difference between these passages, then, comes in this luster into which the King engraves his engravings. Taking luster to mean a quality of brightness and splendor, the world of the Zohar text has light already present as a template upon which to write, which this creator is already in contact with. By contrast, the Genesis text has the creator moving as a wind through the darkness hanging over the waters of the preformed world. This marks the Zohar text as marking light in a very different and more pronounced way as compared to the Genesis; instead of the creator being confronted with a world of darkness and imposing light upon it, the creator is coexistent with the light from the beginning, and works with the light itself to begin the ordering of things.

At this point both texts usher the light into a new place, into creation. In fact, the Zohar concerns much of its text with this process of the light coming into the world. Genesis, by contrast, says simply this: “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. / And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3,4).” In the Genesis text, God has a clear and complete control over the light. God calls light into being from nothingness and imposes it upon the world. He then makes sure that it was the appropriate action, and continues with his work. By contrast, the Zohar ushers in the light initially with the phrase, “A blinding spark flashed within the concealed of the concealed/from the mystery of the infinite.” Note that in Genesis, God is clearly the willing cause of the light coming into the world, evinced by God’s presence as the subject that passage. In the Zohar, the light itself, the spark, is the subject, marking a significant difference. Perhaps it is a result of The King’s having conceived ordaining, but he does not bring it directly into being. Instead, the light is already present at least in the form of the luster, and it comes from this place, this concealed of the concealed from the mystery of the infinite, rather than simply ex nihilo a la Genesis. The light of the Zohar text is also a much more specific light than the simple on/off of Genesis. Instead, the spark of Zohar is, “a cluster of vapor in formlessness,/set in a ring,/not white, not black, not red, not green/ no color at all.” Given that the Zohar text deals very little with creation after the ushering of light into the world and instead focuses on things like the details of the light that enters the world and the process of its entering, it would be logical to think that the light is a much more important aspect of creation to the Zohar text, perhaps to the point where the rest of creation is either made insignificant or even contained within the creation of the light; after all, the text is called The Creation of Elohim, and thus should be a complete account of creation.

Looking at the description of this light, this spark, should give perspective on why the text considers it to be so important. Going line by line, we see first, “a blinding spark flashed.” Matt notes that the concept of a light so bright that it cannot be seen is common to many mystical texts and that it is a goal of kabalistic meditation to ‘see’ this primal spark. These facts, however, do little in the way of answering the question of why it is important for this first light to have a property that is seemingly contrary to its nature, for this is exactly what blinding light is: removing from the viewer all the benefits that light conveys. But then, look at the placement of this spark within the concealed of the concealed – if it is concealed it is necessarily nonvisible, and twice concealed doubly so. The interesting part, though, comes as the spark is described as being concealed within the mystery of the infinite. A mystery is something unknown, but also something sought after. Thus, if the spark is concealed within mystery, if this light is hidden and must be sought, it is the seeking of the light, the looking toward it that causes blindness. The light is then described as being, “A cluster of vapor in formlessness, set in a ring,/ not white, not black, not red, not green, no color at all.” The description of the light as being without color is interesting, if largely esoteric— Commentator on the Zohar D. Matt tells us that the colors represent categories in a kabalistic diagram that represent constituents of the world(Matt, 174). Likewise, Matt tells us that the description of the light as a ring marks a reference to the category Keter, or crown, which is the indescribable head of this diagram, the point where the intangible flows into the diagram and thus the world. Trying to make sense of this, without the aid of a substantial grounding in the imagery and philosophy of this diagram of 10 Sephirot, as it is called, we can still see that at this point in the text, the light is very much removed from the world. It is blinding, not of the world, and belonging in a category essentially indescribable, but it is also an island of vapor in formlessness: the only object in a world that defies objects. With this insight, we can begin to understand why the light is blinding: if it is truly incomprehensible in terms of the world, seeking to see its true nature in terms of the world will only frustrate the seeker and bring the seeker further from a comprehension of this light. After describing the nature of this initial light, the text describes the light’s change of state, its ‘fall’ into the world:

When a band spanned, it yielded radiant colors. Deep within the spark gushed a flow, imbuing colors below, concealed within the concealed of the mystery of the Infinite. The flow broke through and did not break through its aura. It was not known at all until, under the impact of breaking through, one high and hidden point shone. Beyond that point, nothing is known. So it is called Beginning.

Again Matt sheds a dim light on some of the more occult passages, telling how the band is the spectrum of divine colors as well as a path though the stages of ‘emanation.’ We can draw from this that somehow the spark, formerly blinding and colorless, is now colored and perceivable, becoming elements of the world. What’s more, time seems introduced for the first time; where before things were either seemingly eternal, as the luster or the King, or instantaneous, as in the spark, there is a flow deep within the spark, ‘imbuing colors below.’ Time, however, is still distorted, as this flow both breaks through and does not break through its aura. It seems almost as if there is a conflict between two worlds now: the world of the first state, before the flow, where there is no time and thus no change, and the world of the second state, when the flow begins and influences the world around. Thus, in the world of the flow, it is breaking out of the aura, but the aura belongs to the first world and thus is not affected by the changing force of the flow, for the flow still belongs to the aura. This helps in our reading of the next lines, which describe the impact of the break as revealing one high and hidden point, above which nothing is known. Consider that the world of the spark and the aura are already essentially unknowable, whereas the flow is known, for it exists in some capacity inside of time and thus the changeable world. This point above, then, must be this intersected aura, the part of the aura from which the band flowed, a way of talking about the primary point, this spark out of time, without actually understanding the light itself, for to understand it would be to become blind.

While the text goes on to explain how the further machinations of the aura and flow beginning the seemingly material construction of the world, it is this first section, this poem of light, that ends, paradoxically, with The Beginning. It is in this section that the world is brought from a state of simple being without time or distinctions into a world with time, separation of colors and objects, and a world that is separate from the infinite, and from the blinding light, and all of this from the simple conception of the ushering of light into the world. But then, light is perhaps the most important aspect of any creation, for without light one cannot perceive anything else and might as well exist in a world of pure darkness; do not forget that Genesis too begins with the establishment of light – would God begin to hammer in a darkened workshop? However, this text seems to take light one step further claiming that not only would one not be able to perceive the world without light, but the world itself would not exis, for until light entered the world, there were no objects nor was there time, there was simple formlessness. But also remember that light is very often used as a metaphor for knowledge and understanding, leaving one with the question – does the world truly exist if there is nothing that at least tries to understand it?

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.