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Binah - Full Text

A written introduction to the nature of Binah

Binah is the second sphere, and as such it belongs to the trinity of spheres above the abyss in the Qabalistic world of Atziluth. These are the three which are one, divided only for our understanding and not in reality; there is no plurality above the abyss, only unity.

In many regards the spheres of the trinity equate to the Yin, Yang and Tao of Oriental esoteric philosophy. Binah, the sphere of the Great Sea, is associated with the contractive, passive, and feminine energy of Yin. It is the emptiness of pure awareness, as yet unattached to any particular object of awareness. The philosophical formula for experiencing Binah is expressed admirably in Schopenhauer’s denial of the Will to Live, culminating in the state of pure passive receptivity in which he experiences the ‘sublime’ (see The World as Will and Representation in _). This state of Yin is also the esoteric purpose of all religious dogmas which teach absolute submission or obedience.

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Chokmah is known as the sphere of understanding. It is important to recognize the distinction between the understanding of Binah and the common usage of the word which indicates comprehension, usually of an abstract concept. Whereas understanding as the comprehension of concept refers to an ability of the rational mind to follow a train of logical thought, the awareness is a direct act of perception. Schopenhauer’s skeptical philosophy divides the world into subject and object; he notes  that ‘we do not known a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth’, meaning that the entirety of human experience, the entirety of reality insofar as we have any evidence for its existence, is perceptual and hence can be divided into fundamental categories of the object of perception – including the material world – and the subject of perception – the conscious mind; everything which exists for us is necessarily composed of these two components. He goes on to define understanding in a manner wholly consistent with the nature of Binah:


‘As the object in general exists only for the subject as the representation thereof, so does every special class of representation exist only for an equally special disposition in the subject…The subjective correlative of matter, or of causality, for the two are one and the same, is the understanding.’


A passage in the Sepher Yetzirah which is of particular relevance here, as it deals with the power of the understanding to ‘spiritualize’ the world around us is chapter 1:4:


‘Ten Sefirot of Nothingness

Ten and not nine

Ten and not eleven

Understand with Wisdom

Be wise with Understanding

Examine with them

And probe from them

Make each thing stand on its essence

And make the Creator sit on His base’


In his commentary on this chapter the Jewish scholar Aryeh Kaplan says that:


‘In this manner, one can learn how to perceive the essential nature of each thing. The Sepher Yetzirah says, “make each thing stand on its essence” so as to parallel the next phrase “make the Creator sit on His base.”

The Sepher Yetzirah is also indicating here that when a person perceives the true spiritual nature of a thing, he also elevates that thing spiritually. “Standing” refers to such elevation. The expression “make each thing stand” therefore says that when one “probes from them”, he elevates the thing that he probes.’


The ‘essence’ on which a thing stands is its ‘subjective correlative’, that is, the specific subject which corresponds to it as a specific object. And through perceiving a thing with a clear understanding we cause it to ‘stand on its essence’ uniting it with its higher nature.


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