Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500 - Page 5 - Tarot History Forum

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

mikeh wrote:Hi Huck. I don't know about 5x10 structures in Kabbalah. Even the original source, Leviticus chapter 25, has a 7x7 + 1 structure.
So I've to look for their appearances ...

Here is one:

Here another (in greater length).
This author relates the 5x10 scheme to Christian kabbala and calls them "Hermetic
Gates of Intelligence."
... at pages (6-11)
It says, that Kircher was the first, who used it (which I would doubt, from my memory, but I might err)

Here something, which has the 50 gates even in the title, interestingly the book is dedicated to "Jess Karlin"
Qabalah of 50 Gates
Steven Ashe, 2008 - 156 Seiten ... ah&f=false
even promoted by Youtube movies
(the offered preview text don't tells about details like 5x10-structure)


Later added: I remember in this context (5x10) something earlier than Kircher, also the big excuse of Dummett and Decker against Kircher, about whom they had written before a longer accusing passage. They went on to say, that Kircher usually didn't invent something, but had sources (as far I remember).

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Huck: Thanks for showing us that Kircher's 5 by 10 array has not been forgotten since his time.

The first link you provided is based on Kircher but makes it clear that historically, apart from that, historically the structure was 7x7 +1. The second one presents two formats, one pre-Kircher, which is 7x7 + 1, and the other that it says is from Kircher. The third isn't interested in history, at least not before the Golden Dawn. It is 5x10, at least as far as Google Books allows you to see, and would seem to be the same as Kircher.

Since Kircher, you can expect to get writers talking about "50 Gates" as 5x10 based on him, even more so after the Golden Dawn, as you have provided. What would be interesting, as you recognize, is something based on writing before Kircher that talks of "50 Gates" as 5x10 and not 7x7 +1.

Now I am going to conclude, for now, my thoughts about Llull and Kabbalah.


At the beginning of the work proper (as opposed to the colophon), in the Hebrew as in the Latin, Hames gives the Hebrew terms, their English equivalents, and Llull's Latin (Hames 2013, ... is&f=false, pp. 146-147). There are minor differences only. Of most signficance, I think, is that it includes a transliteration into Hebrew characters of the Latin words and that these transcriptions are in a different handwriting than the rest. Hames says (2013 p. 149):
Looking closely at the Hebrew manuscript, it seems that the Latin terms transcribed in Hebrew letters were added by a different hand, possibly that of the copyist Pinhas Tzvi, indicating that this manuscript was read and studied and probably compared again with the original Latin. This did not do away with all the mistakes as this table shows.
But at least they made a special effort to get the terms right. Also, the Latin is there in a form that Hebrew readers could vocalize.

Then the text presents the nine "subjects", the terms that correspond to the hierarchy of being in Llull, from instruments to God. Hames says that their presentations in the two works are significantly different. Here I can only summarize. Llull (1) speaks of the subjects as "clothing the intellect", but without the mystical-magical implications that the translator has added (p, 155f). Then in the next paragraph (2):
The Latin is more mechanical in dealing with how the intellect of the Artist is trained to do the Art, while the Hebrew text appears to lean more to the mystical talk about running and drawing the intellect to the essences (meaning the subjects), the first of which is God.
(3) When it comes to angels, the Latin talks about the goodness of angels and of God as separate from each other. The Hebrew, if read with Abulafia in mind, seems to talk about the experience of being at one with the angels, and in particular with the highest of them, Metatron (p. 156f). Then later, (4), where the Latin says that God can be "discussed" through the principles and the art, the Hebrew says that even though he is unknowable, he can be "known" through the principles (p. 157). And (5) the Hebrew describes God as "a being outside of which nothing exists", whereas the Latin has "the being who needs nothing outside himself"; in other words, the Hebrew "has an element of panentheism". In short, the Hebrew attempts to fit Llull's work into a mystical-magical Kabbalist framework.

If we go back and put Llull's Latin words in such a context, we can see what happens to the "ars combinatoria". It becomes part of an ecstatic experience, not just a way of pursuing reasoning given certain basic concepts. As such, it is a form of prophecy. The line between "practical" and "theoretical" Kabbalah is continually crossed; the latter is a means to the former and vice versa (just as it will be later in the natural science of a Galileo or Newton).

As a result, what is a hierarchy of being is on the one hand a classification system of all that is and all that can be (and therefore of all that must be, that which cannot not be), and also a road to new knowledge, both of the heights and of what can be seen only from the heights (e.g. the future). This Hebrew document, Llull made Kabbalistic, is therefore the first step in a new direction, taken further by Pico and others.


By the early 16th century, as Umberto Eco tells us (From the Tree to the Labyrinth, 2014, p. 414f), there is a new Llullian work, explicitly Kabbalisic:
De auditu kabbalistico appears under his name. Thorndike (1929, [History of Magic and Experimental Science] V: 325) already pointed out that the De auditu first appeared in Venice in 1518 as a little work by Ramon Llull, “opusculum Raimundicum,” and that it was consequently a work composed in the late fifteenth century. He hypothesized that the work might be attributed to Pietro Mainardi, an attribution later confirmed by Zambelli (1965, ["Il De audito kabbalistico e la tradizione lullista nel Rinascamento"]).
Garzoni mentions it in his Universal plaza of all the professions of the world, 1585, with some skepticism as to its author: "this is the way lies are composed beyond the alps", Eco quotes Garzoni as saying (p. 415). Mainardi seems to have been quite Italian. I do not know the content of the work.

Agrippa would also make his contribution, in a work purporting to be an explanation of Llull but in fact expanding on him, Eco says, although still within the domain of rhetoric (p. 419: "...for Agrippa too, the point is not to lay the foundations for a logic of discovery, but instead for a wide-ranging rhetoric..."). Eco has the view, which seems strange to me, that Llull intended his work to be only a convenient way of constructing and accessing arguments for a position one already holds as true, i.e. with a purely rhetorical purpose as opposed to a means to new knowledge. That is how it is different from Abulafia's Kabbalah, he says (p 411):
Consequently, though it may be only in a mystical sense (in which the combinations serve only as a motor of the imagination), the Kabbalah pretends to be a true ars inveniendi, in which what is to be found is a truth as yet unknown. The combinatory system of Llull, on the other hand, is (as we saw) a rhetorical tool, through which the already known may be demonstrated—what the ironclad system of the forest of the various trees has already fixed once and for all, and that no combination can ever subvert.
It seems to me that while Llull did intend his "ars" to be used rhetorically so as to persuade infidels of the truth of Christianity and reaffirm one's own faith, he also intended it as a means to knowledge of new truths. Llull's translator Anthony Bonner tells us in his introduction that Llull, in his Compendium artis demonstrativae listed five goals to the "ars"; of which there were "three of a more theological nature and two of a more scientific nature" (Bonner, Selected works of Ramon Llull, vol. 1, p. 68). For the latter two he says (p. 69f)
4. "To formulate and solve questions." 80. This is a constant of the Art, almost no work of which is without its final section giving questions (and answers) based on the subjects treated. Because of its generality, this aspect is closely connected with the next.

5. "To be able to acquire other sciences in a brief space of time and to bring them to their necessary conclusions according to the requirements of the material." As Paolo Rossi puts it, this made the Art a "science of sciences," offering "a key to the exact and rational ordering of all knowledge, whose various aspects are comprised in and verified by it." 81
80. Ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem, MOG i, 433 = Int. vii.I,and Brevis practica Tabulae generalis, MOG v, 301 = Int. iii, 1 ("The subject of the Art is a general artificium for solving questions"). See Ars demonstrativea, Dist. III, mode 10 on "Solving" more more details.
81. Rossi, "Legacy," p. 185. See also Pring-Mill, "Trinitarian," p. 233, as well as text at nn. 12-13 above. In the Ars demonstrativea Llull places this application under the heading of "Teaching"; cf. Dist. m. mode 12 and n. 34.
Combinations of concepts result in thoughts not considered before by the artist. And surely "verification" is new knowledge, even of old thoughts. His combinations are the basis for the construction of hypotheses that, when not following from or inconsistent with the basic axioms of faith (to which Christians, Muslims, and Jews would all agree) result in consequences verifiable or not from experience. To be sure, his concept of "experience" is rather rudimentary; his examples are such truths as "evil exists in the world". It is not at Galileo's level, but it is not non-existent.

Giordano Bruno, Eco says, goes even further than Agrippa, with a vast number of associations based on a wide variety of principles, anything, in fact, that was memorable, now as a means for attaining truth and not just remembering something:
A thing can represent another thing by phonetic similarity (the horse, in Latin equus, can represent the man who is aequus or just), by putting the concrete for the abstract (a Roman warrior for Rome), by the coincidence of their initial syllables (asinus for asyllum), by proceeding from the antecedent to the consequence, from the accident to the subject and vice versa,,,
Bruno's types of associations are precisely the kinds the Etteilla school would later make (including homonyms) in its "synonyms and related meanings" for each of the 78 x 2 upright and reversed keywords of Etteilla's tarot, by which one could see into the future.

Alemanno had theorized about Abulafian vocalization of letter combinations as a means to sudden insights. Idel writes (2011 p. 252):
Thus, when dealing with the moment of revelation, Alemanno combines elements found in ecstatic Kabbalah, especially the concept of a "science of prophecy" and the "sphere of letters," with an Avicennan and Ibn Tufayl's theory of "sudden vision," a form of intuition that is sometimes also called prophecy, and with a concept of nature.
Such "sudden vision"--in Alemanno's Hebrew, hashqqfah pit'omit (Idel p. 295)-- of an extra-sensory kind, upon performing the letter combinations, corresponds eerily to the reports of "second sight" in 16th century Scotland and England after the visits of first Cardano and then Bruno. In 1638 a Scottish poet boasted (Schuchard, Wisdom of the Temple, p. 103):
We have the Mason word, and second sight;
Things for to come we can foretell aright.
According to Schuchard (p. 103),
The masons' claim to "second sight" was probably rooted in Cabalistic visualization techniques that were transmitted from Eastern and Southern Europe.

One source might have been Cardano, who visited Scotland in 1552 (p. 157). As Schuchard explains (p. 159)
When Cardano practised the art of memory, he concentrated on the numerical-linguistic and architectural images advocated by the Cabalists and Lullists. By methodically intensifying these mental gymnastics and visualizations, he would achieve an "intuitive flash" that made the proper connections and analogies of all elements--natural as well as supernatural--vividly clear. From this insight, he could sometimes predict future events.
Schuchard does not say what she is basing this account on.

Another source might have been Bruno, who visited England in 1583 and acquired a Scottish disciple named Alexander Dickson (Schuchard p. 203). Dickson gave lessons on the basics, but apparently not enough to achieve "second sight". One student, Hugh Platt, writes (quoted by John Meador at ... hlight=ars):
..two especial uses, I have often exercised this art for the better help of my own memory, and the same as yet has never failed me. Although I have heard some of Master Dickson, his schollers, that have prooved such cunning Cardplayers hereby, that they could tell the course of all the Cards and what every gamester had in his hand. So ready we are to turn an honest and commendable invention into craft and cousenage."
-Hugh Platt: The Jewell House of Art and Nature 1594
In other words, it is one thing to use the Art of Memory to remember what cards one has played, but quite another to know what cards the others held. Using such means seems to Platt a form of cheating (cozenage).

This sort of knowledge is not the sort Llull was after. What differentiates Llull from Kabbalah--and from cartomancy--is not rhetoric vs. new knowledge, but rather the means used (reasoning alone vs. the addition of ecstasy) and the knowledge gained (conclusions from reasoning and common experience vs. additional special knowledge gained in ecstasy).

I also see a relationship between Llull and the encyclopedic structurings of knowledge that were performed in the renaissance, e.g. Camillo's elaborate "memory theatre" in Milan of the 1540s, of which Garzoni's book represents one small part. Eco says of Llull's Ars Brevis that by this simple set of tools, he had constructed (p. 404)
a device capable of resolving, not only theological and metaphysical problems, but also problems of cosmology, law, medicine, astronomy, geometry, and psychology. The Ars becomes more and more a tool to take on the entire encyclopedia of learning, picking up the suggestions found in the countless medieval encyclopedias and looking forward to the encyclopedic utopia of Renaissance and Baroque culture.
Such applications are not merely exercises to confirm what one already believes. Llull may also have something to say to the computer experts now studying him, despite Eco's ridicule of their project, to seek clues on how to process large amounts of diverse data mechanically in the quest for new knowledge. Whether such means can duplicate the "intuition" of the cartomancer--his or her unconscious perceptions of a consultant's behavior, for example, and the unconscious deductions therefrom--remains to be seen.

Pico's innovation of combining Llull with Kabbalah makes what I imagined in another thread (see my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1019&p=15683&hilit=seats#p15683) a logical next step: a "memory theatre" in which the first row is 10 seats, for the sefirot, with 1 more on stage for the En Sof, then back and out 2 rows for 22 letters and cards, then back again for 8 rows for the number cards and courts, each with its lists of associations, all on Pythagorean principles (as in the "Tarotica" document) indefinitely, With such array in one's mind, the combinations of cards yield, through a combination of reasoning and intuition, knowledge of a prophetic kind.

To sum up this post: Pico's suggestion in his 1486 900 Theses and 1487 Apologia for the inclusion of Llull's "ars" into Kabbalah is both anticipated in the Hebrew Ars Brevis and carried through by Christian writers after Pico. The Hebrew Ars Brevis is more than a translation from the Latin, according to Hames; it also occasionally puts Llull's into the tradition of ecstatic Kabbalah. And while there is no testimony so far of an application to cartomancy, two famous 16th century Italian visitors to the British Isles seem to have taught an "Art of Memory" with an ecstatic element thought by some as leading to extrasensory perception by players of ordinary card games. Both of these visitors, I should now add, were later imprisoned and put on trial by the Inquisition, the first barred from teaching or publishing (see e.g. ... ardan.html) and the second burned at the stake.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

From Interlibrary Loan I got a copy of Arthur M. Lesley, Jr.'s Ph.D. dissertation, The Song of Solomon's Ascents by Yohannan Alemanno: Love and human perfection according to a Jewish colleague of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, 1976. I was hoping for clarification of Alemanno's early life and family, through a closer look at what he actually said. Lesley does give direct quotes, but unfortunately for me they are in untranslated and untransliterated Hebrew. I will work on getting them translated, although I don't expect much illumination. In the meantime, it is not a complete loss. From what Lesley has in English I understand some things better about his life, and especially about his philosophy.

About Alemanno's birthplace Lesley says, in a footnote discussing a quote entirely in Hebrew:
Yohanan can be referring to either a French-speaking region or one that had come under French rule by the time he was writing, circa 1500.
The unclarity is apparently in the Hebrew.

Otherwise, I do see more justification for Alemanno's birthdate being autumn 1433-summer 1434. Lesley computes the numerical value of two words in Alemanno's Ms. Mantua 31, f. 12b; they equal 194 (p. 261). These words are near the end of a long sentence which Lesley does not translate. Why those words would be signaled out is not explained. There are other places from which one could deduce 1435 or 1436, as others do. It doesn't matter.

I also see why Moshe Idel thinks his father's family was from Germany by way of Spain. Here is Idel (p. 176f, at ... y_djvu.txt):
One of the most important Jewish intellectuals in the period under discussion, Yohanan Alemanno, was born in Mantua in 1435 or 1436, the son of a certain R Yitzhaq, who apparently made his living selling manuscripts. 1 Yohanan's grandfather R. Elijah was a physician; he had either been born in Germany or his family had come from there, and he lived for a while in France and then in Aragon, where Yitzhaq presumably married a Spanish woman. The entire family accompanied Elijah to the Vatican, where the king of Aragon sent him on an embassy, while the family apparently remained in Italy. Alemanno, who believed in
the importance of climate as a determinant of different qualities in humans, saw himself as embodying the best qualities of all four countries experienced by his family. The family name that he adopted, Alemanno, was the Italian version of "Ashkenazi, " and he was very proud of his extraction. 2
1. [Long footnote listing numerous studies of Allemano, but no indication of which of them back up what he is saying. See Idel p. 398f]
2. I shall analyze in another study the documents corroborating this summary. See Daniel Carpi, Between Renaissance and Ghetto (University Publishing Project, Tel Aviv, 1989), pp. 70-72 (Hebrew).
Lesley quotes Alemanno directly, but it is in Hebrew only (p. 260f). It is to back up his statement in the text that Alemanno says that his father, who died when he was one or two, was Isaac ben Elia of Paris. Lesley (p. 262) also cites Cassuto, p. 25: there was a Maestro Elia Alemanno who was physician to the Duke of Burgundy and went to Florence and Rome, 1419-1421, to intercede with Pope Martin V for the Jews of Spain. Lesley objects that "this Elia, however, appears to have been considered Spanish" (p. 262f). This can be reconciled with Alemanno's statement if between Burgundy and Italy this Elia was in Spain. Lesley observes that the last rabbis of Paris before the 1394 expulsion were R. Matatya and R. Yohannan. If this Yohannan had a son named Elia, born before 1394 in Paris, the son would have been over 40 if his own son was born in 1433-36. If so, it would be reasonable for him to have died when Yohannan was 1 or 2, as Lesley points out (p. 262). If after being expelled from France, Rabbi Yohannan went to Spain, and his son grew up there but became physician to the Duke of Burgundy, it all could be true. Elia could have been raised in Spain but then as an adult had Burgundy as his home base, where his son Isaac was raised. Then shortly after the birth of his son, he could have moved to Italy but died shortly thereafter.

Another piece of biographical information that Lesley includes is Alemanno's unabashed endorsement of divination even without benefit of Kabbalah. His notebooks record that he went to a palm-reader, who told him his past and future, and also went to a reader of physiognomy, who told him his character and how it would play out. The account of these readings, since Alemanno apparently agrees with them, says something about his life.

The palm reader was "one of the servants of the most perfect man" (p. 6). Lesley says that the "most perfect man" was Pico. For the past, the palm reader said it "indicated a grievous pang on the occasion of great honor without much use." That might be the doctorate he was awarded. Also
two wives. Love of my wife before I married her. Knows how to do everything for others, not for myself. Bad impression on women. Many promise to benefit me, but they did not keep their promise.
For the future (the last entry in the notebooks is in 1505):
Grief in the breast. Long life. Wealth and honor. At the end of my life, fear of the prior death of my wife, since at the end of my life I shall be very lonely and shall become very pious. To die away from my place and my homeland.
These are not unusual expectations for a Jew. Wealth may have eluded him, and honor except from a few. As for long life and dying away from his homeland, there is the report, which Idel believes, of a wise and very old man who turns up in the Holy Land in 1522 (Idel, p. 177):
And it may be that a scholar in Jerusalem, writing to Italy in 1522, referred to him when he mentioned that a certain "very old man," ha-Yashish, named Yohanan Ashkenazi, a "universal man," hakham kolel, had come to Jerusalem. 5 I am inclined to accept this identification not only because of the complete correspondence in names and age but especially because of the epithet he-hakham fia-kolel, the Hebrew form for uomo universale, which accords perfectly with Alemanno's vast culture.
5. See the letter written in Jerusalem by the Spanish Kabbalist R. Abraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi to R. Abraham of Perugia, extant in Ms. Florence, Laurenziana-Medicea Plut. II, 35, fols. 3ob-3ib, printed and discussed by Abraham David, "A Jerusalemite Epistle from the Beginning of the Ottoman Rule over the Land of Israel," in Chapters in the History of Jerusalem at the Beginning of the Ottoman Ages, ed. Yehudah ben Porat (Yad ben Zvi, Jerusalem, 1989) , pp. 3 9-60 (Hebrew); and Frabrizio] Lelli, "Biography and Autobiography [in Yohanan Alemanno's Literary Perception", in Cultural Intermediaries: Jewish Intellectuals in Early Modern Italy, ed. David B. Ruderman and Giuseppe Veltri (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2004), pp. 25-38. On hakham kolel or uomo universale see also Lelli, "Umanesimo Laurenziano [nell'opera di Yohanan Alemanno," in La cultura ebraica all'epoca di Lorenzo il Magnifico, ed. Dora Liscia Bemporad and Ida Zatelli (Leo S. Olschki, Florence, 1998), pp. 49-67], pp. 50 n. 3, 58 n. 26.

"Ashkenazi" is the Hebrew form of the Italian "Alemanno", meaning "German".

The physiognomist was a gentile in Bologna who knew absolutely nothing about him, Alemanno avers. The list of his findings, since Alemanno agrees with them, say something about his life. Many things could be written off as flattery, but there are also these:
2. In your youth you were hot-tempered to those who had authority over you and to those who wronged you. You would hit them with a stone or with your fist. But now if you injure your adversary you do not touch him with your hand, but instead you refute him in public, in writing or in speech.
3. You have suffered many injuries as a result of having revealed your ways and manners to intimates and sympathizers, for that is your way: not to hide anything you do from your acquaintances and well-wishers. ...
10. You know how to think profound thoughts, but not to put them into effect and bring them from potentiality to actuality.

This evidence of Alemanno's temper and outspokenness is to me evidence of the break between him and his teacher that I have hypothesized happened in the 1470s. If you want to see more of the content of these readings, I have uploaded my scan of the two pages with the reports at ... sley06.JPG and ... sley07.JPG.

I had not noticed this before, but there is apparently evidence that Alemanno was in Florence sometime between his two extensive stays, the one early on (c. 1456 and years before or after) and the one 1488-1494 or after. This third period was "1481", according to a source that Idel cites in footnote 4 to p. 178:
For documents related to Alemanno's stay and activity in Florence see Michele Luzzatti, "Documenti inediti su Yohanan Alemanno a Firenze (1481 e 1492-1493)," in Bemporad and Zatelli, La cultura ebraica, pp. 71-84. In the introduction to his Hesheq Shlomo, Alemanno pointed out the affinity between his first name, Yohanan, and Pico's, Giovanni.

Lesley does include in his dissertation a translation of a portion of Hesheq Shlomo, i.e. The Desire of Solomon, but the reference to Pico that Idel cites is not in it. As Lesley explains (p. 12), he only includes the part that seems to be a slightly rewritten version of what he had written in 1468 pertaining to the "literal meaning" of the Song of Songs.

To me, reading this account, it is clear that Alemanno already had in mind a certain allegorical meaning before writing this account of the "literal meaning", because this "literal meaning" often does not correspond very closely to the words of his text. It is a reworking of the story that keeps to the level of men and women and their mutual romantic involvement. He was already a kind of Neoplatonist at that time.


Alemanno's book, The Song of Solomon's Ascents, of which Lesley provides a lengthy summary (153 pages, corresponding to 283 pages of the Hebrew original), is of relevance to tarot history for three reasons. One I expected: the book defends divination as the outcome of randomly combining letters in various combinations. This is somewhat analogous to the combining of cards, if each is assigned a letter. There are also two reasons I did not anticipate: first, the work's structure is somewhat parallel to the tarot sequence. And second, in it he talks about the Sefer Yetzirah as though it is somehow related to divination through teaching the principles behind change; thus it is a kind of "book of changes". Since Huck has noticed parallels between the Sefer Yetzirah and the I Ching, the parts of Alemanno's book discussing the Sefer Yetzirah is deserving of a closer look. Neither Lesley nor Idel do so, except for short discussions of the "divine efflux" (or influx) spoken of there, which Alemanno says is brought down by talismans. In this post I will deal only with the parallels in structure. I will deal with Alemanno's use of the Sefer Yetzirah in a separate post.

Alemanno's Song of Solomon's Ascents is an account of the imagined virtues, goods-- perhaps more precisely, goodnesses-- of Solomon, starting from the physical and gradually ascending to the most spiritual, of a sort that can be experienced both before and after physical death. The work, whose title is often translated as The Song of Solomon's Virtues, has seventeen main sections in all; seventeen, he tells us, is the sum of the numerical values of the letters that make the word "tov", meaning "good" (p. 80). I will reproduce here, piece by piece, the outline of sections (I-XVII) and subsections (A, 1, a, i, etc.) that Alemanno provides (Lesley pp. 80-83).

The first five sections (above) concern virtues/goodnesses of a material nature: beauty, health, strength, long life, and wealth. He is not saying that one must have these attributes to be virtuous, but that they are good to have. Wealth, for example, makes magnanimity possible. Long life makes wisdom and the wise application of justice possible (p. 178). This is of course the kind of thing the da Pisas wouldn't mind hearing.

After that (above), the next three (as well as the others, assuming they are all honorable as well as useful materially; of them I give just the fifth, as an example) seem to have to do in part with the middle part of the Platonic soul, those of the soldier and honorable man: honor, noble ancestry, companions and supporters.

Then (above) come four that have to do with the rational part of the soul, but primarily in relation to either practical utility or honorable conduct (Lesley p. 75, where he lists just the sections, not their subsections). These are the traditional four cardinal virtues: intelligence [prudence, as we shall see], self-control [temperance], fortitude, and justice. However to some extent these also pertain to a fourth part of the soul, not explicitly in Plato and not part of the soul's native equipment, namely the spiritual. They are ways in which the rational part can invite the influx of spirit from higher realms.


Under "skill" (above) he lists materially productive ones such as farming, building, hunting, commerce, and setting salaries. I am reminded of Garzoni's Universal Plaza of all the Professions of the World and Camillo's Memory Theatre. There are are also verbal skills such as grammar, rhetoric, poetry, logic, incantations, and letter combinations; the latter two probably are not in Garzoni. There are also mathematical skills, in which he includes "perspective" (as in the visual arts), mechanics, and "geomancy" as well as the usual arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and astrology. Essentially it is the usual seven liberal arts with a few unusual additions. Unfortunately either he or Lesley does not include anything about what incantations and geomancy entails. He gives an example of letter combinations: besides "top", there are tpo, opt, otp, pto, and pot (p. 112).

"Understanding" is deeper than just know-how. Under "political", it includes economics, politics, "occult legal judgments", and subjection of enemies. By "occult legal judgments" he mans "making judgments on obscure cases", where there are no witnesses or other objective evidence. The main example is how Solomon handled the two women disagreeing over whose baby died and whose lived. In such cases it is not a matter of weighing the evidence in relation to the statutes, but of skill in drawing out people's character, i.e. making them hang themselves. as we would say today. The woman who preferred to see the child cut in two might well have been its mother, he says, if her ruling planet was Mars, the type of person who prefers death to dishonor; there were stories, for example, of mothers killing their children rather than seeing them condemned to slavery (p. 119). It also might be Alemanno's reflection on Caterina Sforza, reputed in 1488 to have lifted up her skirts and told those who held her children as hostages: "Fatelo, se volete: impiccateli pure davanti a me... qui ho quanto basta per farne altri!" ("Do it, if you want to: hang them well in front of me...I have the mold to make more!") ( The implication was that those new children would have their revenge. Caterina's enemies did not kill the children. Would Solomon have done so? Solomon knew from identifying their planets that one of the women would respond in the way that gave him a way out, if he acted before they had a chance to think. The other, ruled by Venus, would sacrifice her honor for the sake of the child's life. This same difference in ruling planet makes it more likely that the child of the one wold have died rather than that of the other. But how could Solomon have known with certainty, we might ask, or even enough certainty to risk doing it? If he did, it could only be by "occult" means--seeing into the past and future by means not only of astrology but something higher than that.

There is also scientific understanding. Presumably these are to be known by means of the skills he enumerated under "mathematical", especially that of experiment:

You will have noticed that divination is included as subsection x; alchemy is xi; and medicine is xii.

There is also metaphysics, known partly by reason and partly by intuition.

Knowledge of the sefirot and its employment is covered under "intuitive". All of these types fall under "prudentia" of the kind that Alemanno expects a ruler--a philosopher-king, clearly--to have. Solomon's virtues, Alemanno attests, included "divination, augury, and talismans". On talismans: Just as Nebuchnezzer outdid Nimrod in building an image of gold, to bring down the power of the sun, instead of iron, to bring down the power of Mars, so Solomon built a temple with no image, to bring down the power of the Lord (p. 127). Knowledge of the sefirot was first articulated by Abraham in his Sefer Yetzirah (p. 129). Alemanno characterizes this book as being about the unity underlying all pairs of opposites and all change (p. 130). This part is probably the most interesting section for our purposes. I will devote a separate post to it.

Alemanno's next chapters, following Prudentia, are on Self-control (Temperentia), Fortitude (Fortitudo), and Justice (Justicia), in that order--the same order, one right after the other, I would observe, in the A order tarot of Florence and Bologna.

Temperance, or self-control, consists in part of "spending wisely great amounts of money for the sake of virtue, beauty, and honor" (p. 145). It is also the justified mockery of "those who think themselves wiser and greater than they are" and "pride in one's accomplishments" (p. 145), including the outdoing of others in the making of offerings. It is also humility before God, of which Alemanno says little, except that Solomon felt humble when at age 14 God made him ruler of Israel (p. 146f).

In the chapter on Fortitude, Alemanno repeats his earlier theme of doing good on a grand scale (p. 158), describing Solomon's Throne of Judgment.
The throne was made of ivory, plated with gold, and met with various kinds of precious stones. ...Pairs of lions and eagles stood on each step, the lions rampant and the eagles with wings spread. In addition, there were gold figures of various other animals, which were cleverly designed to be able to move and produce characteristic noises.
... To ascend to the throne of judgment, Solomon would be carried by the animals and transferred from one to another, up the stairs. When Solomon sat in judgment,, he would "open a device" on the throne and the statues would all begin to move and call out in their characteristic voices. All this was to awe the witnesses, so that they would not testify falsely.

The animals would also call out verses from the Torah to remind him of his grave responsibility. Here he says he is drawing on rabbinical sources, although he does not give specifics. What it brings to my mind is the Aesclepius, which attributed that power to the Egyptians. He says he has heard of such devices even in his own time, which moved "as if there were in them a living spirit". One even had a bird that chirped like a nightingale (p. 160).

For Alemanno fortitude is shown by "those who are not easily excited by external things". He says that Solomon, unlike David, did not "leap and dance before the Lord", showing his excitability (p. 161). Determination is also a characteristic of fortitude, which means doing great things despite the cost, such as conquests and building the Temple (p. 162).

For Alemanno, like Plato, justice is the greatest virtue, because it produces (p. 165)
harmony between the faculties of the soul which produce wisdom (Sapientia), fortitude (Fortitudo) and self-control (Temperentia). Justice is not merely one of the virtues, but is the principle by which they may be placed harmoniously within a hierarchy

This of course reflects Plato's Republic, on the four virtues.

Justice requires a acting in a way that combines both tradition (Kabbalah) and intellectual attainment, so as to bring down the "pleroma" [Greek for "fullness"] from God (p. 166f). It requires knowledge of the hierarchy of powers descending from the divine. The ascent through these powers is by "passionate love" and "divine mania" or "divine madness," resulting in a "possession" (p. 168(. These concepts are obviously borrowed from Plato's Phaedrus, perhaps mediated by Arab sources. He divides love into three types: love of the pleasant, love of the useful, and love of the good (p. 170). The love of the useful is that of a superior for an inferior. Love of the good is that of an inferior for a superior, including between man and God. Love of the pleasant is love between equals, as it is the love of what is similar in another. There is also the desire for unity with the beloved, which in an inferior's relationship to a superior, and man to God (p. 174), is accomplished by means of a combination of techniques. One is a rational understanding of the hierarchy of being, first acquiring the Acquired Intellect, then becoming attached to the Agent Intellect, by means of the Emanated Intellect (p. 176) This is the "kiss" discussed by Pico. And beyond that is the First Cause.

Another approach is by writing holy words and names and combining them, as in the letter-combinations described in the Sefer Yetzirah and the books of Abulafia (p. 178).
In a few days he can become familiar with combining the letters of Scripture and the revealed name of 48 or 12 or 4 letters. As he combines them, backwards and forwards, with many melodies, an overflow of the holy spirit will come upon him. He will begin slowly and increase his speed until he is adept. Then fear and trembling will come upon him; the hair on his head will stand up and his limbs will tremble. Then he will receive upon himself the spirit of the Lord, and it will seem to him that his body has been anointed. From combining the letters, which contain all languages, he will attain all intellectual sciences and thoughts, including the science of formation and of the merkabah and the secrets of the Torah, which no philosopher ever attained, without the use of any other book. By knowing the Name, you shall know everything. This is, in its way, a median between God and ourselves.

It strikes me that it is this Name that Pico and Reuchlin tried to identify with that of Jesus--although not to the end of "attaining all intellectual sciences".

A third method is by the performance of the commandments, especially sacrifices (p. 179).

Then, given all these methods, one's passionate love will ascend through all the types of being: from natural to spiritual to intellectual to sefirotic to divine. The entrance to the sefirotic, starting with Malkhut, is the Gate of Heaven. And "Whoever enters through Malkhut and Yesod reaches Keter without hindrance" (p. 191).

We are now very much in the spiritual part of the ascent. The next section, XIII, is short, on the importance of the parents' spiritual elevation at the time of a child's conception, meaning their non-contamination by sinful thoughts at that moment (p. 194). He does not explain his reasoning. Is it possible that thoughts can influence which sperm gets to which egg?

The following two sections are also short: "Attention shown to a man by his contemporaries"--i.e. good influences (p. 195(--and "Good fortune sent by God from Heaven", which Solomon always enjoyed (p. 196).

The next, number XVI, "Divine Guidance", is quite long. There is divine guidance to the material intellect (to understand nature, p. 202)), to the appetite (to desire only the good, p. 204), to the temperament (through the influence of celestial influences, p. 295, as in Solomon's judgment), in speech (p. 297), and then--resulting from particular kinds of speech, such as prayers, offerings, and letter-combinations--perception by the soul without mediation of the senses (p. 209):
a powerful, internal, mental perception of spiritual things that exist potentially , but have not yet come into being. This is through the perception of angels and the souls of the righteous. ...The explanation of sorcery, necromancy, and other occult arts that operate upon the souls of the dead is similar: they are internal, spiritual perceptions.

Then the sixth kind of guidance is through the imagination, in particular the prophetic imagination, "images taken from subtle spiritual forms and substances" (p. 210). The seventh and final type is of the reason, the rational faculty, which allows one to know "the principles of all the other sciences and also about the existence of God, His unity, His providence, that he is the cause of the sensible world, and the form, agent and end of it" (p. 211)

For each of these types of "divine guidance", Alemanno emphasizes that to partake of them while in the flesh is to receive the divine influx into one's soul, and thereby create the conditions for immortality:
The rabbis alluded to the existence of various levels of immortality in the world to come, which is the world of intelligence that comes after the world of matter: they said, "When do infants merit the life of the world to come? - From the time when they know how to say , "Amen, may His great name be blessed (T.B. Shabbat 119b)...'."

The lowest level of immortality is acquired in the simplest reasoning ability--to know that a body cannot be in two places simultaneously, for example (p. 202)-- which even so is given by God. So (p 202f):
...this intellectual form confirms some existence and perfection upon the hylic intellect, so that it already has some immortality when separated from matter, even though the human intellect is not perfected until it attains the acquired intellect and the emanated intellect.

The acceptance of higher forms of guidance then bestow higher forms of immortality. "Hylic" is Greek for "material". The more influx, and the higher the type, the more exalted will be one's immortality after death. The next stage, for example, is that of desiring only the good, which by divine guidance means loving God through obeying the commandments revealed in the Torah. Then:
...the actions commanded by the Torah, when derived from rational conceptions that man has of his Maker, of the separate intelligences and of the active intellect, become an essential cause for the immortality of the man's soul.

And so on for the other types of divine guidance. Only Jews can attain the highest level.

The final section of the book, number XVII, is about "The Ultimate Good". This starts at "the universal soul" (p. 214) and proceeds upward to the Agent Intellect, the Separate Intelligences, the Ministering Angels [planetary spirits], the 28 Encampments of the Shekhina, the sefira Malkhut, and the sefira Tiferet. This section builds on what he said earlier about the sefirot, so I will discuss it together with that one in another post. He remarks that the 28 "mansions of the moon" in astrology are a reflection of the "28 encampments of the Shekhina" (p. 217).

There is more (to p. 227), but I hope I have given some flavor of the strengths and weaknesses of this work of Alemanno's. He seems to have gone a different way than Pico, more in the direction of defending Renaissance magnificence than Pico's turn toward Savonarola in an unusually clear, at least in outline, combination of Jewish, Greek, and Arab thought, with the inclusiveness that characterized Pico's 900 Theses, but in a way that affirms the uniqueness of Judaism in bringing about the goal.

As far as correspondences to the tarot sequence, they are, as I have said, without direct one-to-one correspondences in the order, while conforming in overall approach. We might see all the ones before the four virtues as contained in the Empress and Emperor. Then the part on "skills" could be the Chariot. Some of the part on "understanding" might be the Hermit. The parts on Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice correspond to those virtue cards in the tarot; but certain sections would apply to the Magician--the parts on incantations, divination, talismans, etc.--and the Pope, in a Jewish rabbinical equivalent--namely, high-mindedness, ascent to God, spiritual elevation of parents, and attention paid by contemporaries. His account of the forms of love are covered by the Love card, and divine madness in particular by the Fool. as well as mockery against those who think themselves wiser than they are. For Death there are his occasional comments on life after death, as a fact to be reckoned with and not a subject in itself. By the Devil and Moon cards can be understood the "impure spiritual beings" of which I have not yet talked, above which is the Moon as a representation of Malkhut. The Star card of the lady pouring from two vessels would be the divine eflux ensuring immortality, a central theme which I have only mentioned briefly. The Sun is the triumph of immortality before the general Judgment, and even in this life. The Fortune card is that which God assured to Solomon. section XVI. The Popess might correspond to the Queen of Sheba, portrayed in the Bible as both submissive to Solomon and also seducing him into worshiping false gods.

So far I have skipped over Alemanno's discussion of the Sefer Yetzirah in the context of his overall presentation. I will address that, and how it might relate to the tarot, in another post.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

English and Spanish wiki have Yohanan Alemanno born in Constantinople. Italian wiki has him born in Mantova.

You quoted Idel:
One of the most important Jewish intellectuals in the period under discussion, Yohanan Alemanno, was born in Mantua in 1435 or 1436, the son of a certain R Yitzhaq, who apparently made his living selling manuscripts.
If Isaac (the father) sold manuscripts in Mantova, he might have gotten them from Constantinople. Possibly he might have been involved in the organization of the preparations of the council.

The grandfather Elia is said to have been a delegate to pope Martin in Rome in 1419-21. There appear German background ("Alemanno"), "physician in Burgundy", "from Paris", "delegate of Spain". That's quite an international activity.
I've no idea, where this "Constantinople" comes from.

Jewish Encyclopedia has: ... no-johanan

A cabalist who flourished in the second half of the fifteenth century; born in Constantinople. He migrated to Italy, and became distinguished there as the teacher of Pico della Mirandola, "the Italian prodigy," in Hebrew and the Cabala, thus contributing toward the spread of Jewish mysticism among the Christian humanists (see Cabalists, Christian). Allemanno's writings show great versatility and attainments. In his chief work, "Ḥesheḳ Shelomoh" (The Delight of Solomon), he evinces a certain philosophic acumen as well as a wide acquaintance with both the Arabic and the Greek philosophers. The introduction to this work is a discourse on the artistic and intellectual attainments of the human race, all of which are combined in King Solomon, whom the author places above Plato and his fellows (compare "Sha'ar ha-ḤesheḲ," pp. 3-7). Excerpts from the introduction were published, with additions by Jacob Baruch b. Moses Ḥayyim, at Leghorn in 1790. Allemanno also wrote: "'Ene ha-'Edah" (The Eyes of the Congregation), a cabalistic commentary on the Torah (compare Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya's "Shalshelet ha-ḳ;ab-balah," ed. Warsaw, 1889, p. 86); "Ḥayye Olam" (Eternal Life), a treatise on immortality; "LiḲḲutim Collectanea," a volume of about two hundred pages, containing stray thoughts, aphorisms, noteworthy quotations from rare authors, and exegetical remarks.

This might be the source for the wiki articles.


There are also two reasons I did not anticipate: first, the work's structure is somewhat parallel to the tarot sequence. And second, in it he talks about the Sefer Yetzirah as though it is somehow related to divination through teaching the principles behind change; thus it is a kind of "book of changes". Since Huck has noticed parallels between the Sefer Yetzirah and the I Ching, the parts of Alemanno's book discussing the Sefer Yetzirah is deserving of a closer look.

Knowledge of the sefirot was first articulated by Abraham in his Sefer Yetzirah (p. 129). Alemanno characterizes this book as being about the unity underlying all pairs of opposites and all change (p. 130). This part is probably the most interesting section for our purposes. I will devote a separate post to it.
This red-marked sentences I indeed might have said myself, when describing my ideas about Sepher Yetzirah.


The structure of the text in 17 chapters is interesting. It looks structurally like ...

4+4+4 (zodiac)
+ 5 (planets)

... somehow similar to the German lot book to which I paid so much attention to ...
..., though it doesn't include the 13th zodiac sign (crow, No 6), and not the signs for Sun+Moon+Emperor+Pope (19-22).

Somehow it's interesting, that we find the 4 cardinal virtues (9-12) on the same places, which were used by Etteilla.


Intelligence ... plausibly = Prudentia
Self-Control ... plausibly = Temperantia

Etteilla Tarot (different row)
9. Justice (changed)
10. Temperance (dito)
11. Fortitudo (dito)
12. Prudentia (changed)
Justice and Prudentia have exchanged positions.


Observing 10 - 11 - 12:


10. Temperantia: 15 elements
11. Fortitudo: 8 elements
12. Justice: 3 elements

I would "translate" ...

10. Temperantia: 15 elements
.... 15 hexagram-pairs with "2 yin + 4 yang" or "4 yang + 2 yin", in other expression "12 zodiac signs" (simple letters) + "3 mothers"

11. Fortitudo: 8 elements
.... 8 trigrams of I-Ching

12. Justice: 3 elements
.... 3 lines of the basic trigram of I-Ching


These 3 groups are preceded by 9. Prudentia, which seems to be much more complicated.

A comparable system style can be observed in the chapters of the "Eschecs amoureux" of Evrart de Conti (1398).
The 24 pictures stand for 24 chapters. 8 pictures present the frame story (1-4 and 21-24). The inner part are the 16 gods. From these the chapter of Apollo is very expanded, containing a lot of other topics and complicated structure, in length much longer than all other chapters, indeed a sort of encyclopedia, and one might think, that frame story and the description of 15 other gods are only written to underline the central part.

Evrart de Conti's "Apollo" might be Almanno's "Prudentia".

I don't know, if I have all information, but this detail ...
2. Theoretical

a. verbal

.... looks like an expansion to the Mantegna Tarocchi pictures No. 21-29 (leaving No. 30 Theology for understandable reasons aside, somehow also 28 Philosophy isn't noted).

Roughly the point "verbal" refers to Mantegna Tarocchi 21-23 (the Trivium), the point "mathematical" to 24-27 (the Quadrivium), whereby the usual point "Music" is moved to a 3rd category "Musical" and Poetry moved to "verbal". 29 Astronomy/astrology is given to the mathematical part.

A possibly deciding information is the detail, that Geomancy is marked as the last entry to the category "mathematical", possibly considered the higher art than for instance astronomy and astrology.

Alemanno seems to have high value for the number 17 = "good".
16 is one lower than 17 and Geomancy has 16 symbols, which are organized according the binary scheme 2^4. The I-Ching uses the binary scheme 2^6 and is naturally more complicated. If Alemanno knew really the I-Ching - Sepher Yetzirah relation as an internal Jewish mystery, he possibly avoided to tell the full story, but showed, that already the Geomancy had its riddles.
17 is one more than 16, and naturally one step higher.

Jews were often good chess players.


Added: I forgot to mention it, but it should naturally be noted, that ...

6 elements for "verbal"
8 elements for mathematical
2 elements for musical

... are 16 elements totally in this part.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Huck. The "Constantinople" thesis is dismissed by every scholar I have read. I can't remember their account of the origin of that idea, but there is one somewhere. These days, the only disputed point is whether he was born in Mantua or in some French-speaking territory. When Alemanno, upon being awarded his doctorate, was said to be "da Mantova", Leslie thinks that means that was where he was living at the time of the award. Idel thinks it means his birthplace. Lesley's idea takes into account more documents than Idel's, mainly, what Alemanno himself says. I don't think it much matters. If he were born in Constantinople, yes, but not if it's between, say, Provence and Mantua.

Yes, I thought you would like my comments on the Sefer Yetzirah as a book of changes. I will have more to say about that, not in this current post, but in the one after.

Your comments on the numerical parallels between the I Ching and Alemanno's sub-section headings are interesting. I am not sure what to make of them, of course. I can't imagine that the reasons behind them are similar or have anything to do with each other, but you never know. I will keep these parallels under consideration.

Yes, it is without doubt that the "Mantegna" tarocchi series 21-29 and Alemanno's subheadings have a common source, the medieval "trivium" and "quadrivium".

So now I need to talk about the Sefer Yetzirah. In this post I am mostly going to deal with that text, with just a little nod here and there to Alemanno.


About the Sefer Yetzirah, I want to start with a remark toward the end of Allemano's book, in the section on the ultimate good. It is the realization (p. 220, of which I give a scan at ... ley220.JPG):
...that there is a One that unites all contrarieties of the existents, and that the whole world is one because is is ruled by One. He [Abraham] explained, in his Book of Formation, that the five opposed pairs, first and last, good and bad, high and low, north and south, and east and west, are all harmonized and unified by the single Ruler of them.
This doctrine comes directly from the Sefer Yetzirah itself (Short Version 1.5, at; Long Version 1.5, Kaplan translation, p. 271):
Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Their measure is ten which have no end. A depth of beginning, a depth of end; a depth of good, a depth of evil; a depth above, a depth below; a depth east, a depth west; a depth south. The singular Master, God faithful King, who dominates them all from His holy dwelling until eternities of eternities.
These are not mentioned as opposites, but that is understood. It certainly was how Alemanno understood them. The Sefer Yetzirah does talk of paired opposites later, in connection with the letters. I will quote these passages later.

Most analyses of the Sefer Yetzirah only deal with three of these pairs, those of the three spatial dimensions, resulting in a cube. They do this by ignoring the part on the sefirot, where there are five pairs; in contrast, the part on the letters, which they do focus on, does use only the the three pairs. The result is a considerable oversimplification, even while involving us in fantasies of cubes and hypercubes of much complexity (see e.g.

There are five pairs of opposites, conceived as a unity, that of "nothingness" or "no end", who is "the singular Master". As such, there are 32 combinations of these mutually exclusive opposites, 2 to the 5th power. These may or may not be an explanation of the "32 wondrous paths of wisdom" (Sefer Yetzirah 1.1); but there is more than one way to reach that number. However attained, the 32 combinations could be represented as 32 pentagrams of the "I Ching" variety, if one of the opposites is represented as a whole line and the other as a broken line. (I do not know whether Jews in the ancient world were familiar with these diagrams or not. I don't see why not, since there was abundant trade with China from Hellenistic times on. It did not take a knowledge of the Chinese language to identify them in a book. And something very similar to them, on four lines, appeared in medieval geomancy, either spontaneously or in imitation of Chinese models.)

However there is a problem. The opposites of the Sefer Yetzirah are not simply bipolar, but have a continuum of possibilities in between. You might represent "North" as a point at the top of a map and "south" as a point at the bottom, or simply as directions up, down, or sideways. Either way, there will be a continuum of less northerly points from the top to the center and of less southerly points from the center to the bottom. The same is true for all the other polar opposites. They each could be represented as a line with two endpoints. There is also for each a midpoint that belongs to neither in particular.

How could we represent such lines and their combinations pictorially? The simplest way would be similar to what the I Ching does: five lines, with a word at each end: north, south, etc. That would be have 5 lines and 10 points. But the Sefer Yetzirah speaks of "32 paths of wisdom". We have nowhere near that.

Another way would be to expand the idea of a map. A square surface can represent two of the pairs, most obviously east/west and north/south. Then up/down would be an extension of that square in the third dimension, a cube, perhaps. This can be represented in a two-dimensional picture as two squares connected at their corners. That is what we see at, for example,, Diagram 6.

But there is more. The pair "first/last" suggests adding the dimension of time. We take our cube and put it in two places along a line that represents time: once at a time designated "first" and then at a point designated "last". Then we connect the corners as we did before. Finally, there is the dimension "good/bad". In other words, there is a rating of our cube over time along an axis of better to worse. This can be represented as a vertical axis on a surface of which time is the horizontal axis. Our cube goes up and/or down over time. In other words, what we have is a two-dimensional map of the motion of a cube. There are 8 points and 12 lines on each of two cubes, plus 8 connecting lines. The total is 16 points and 32 lines.

But the 32 lines are not the "32 paths of wisdom", because the Sefer Yetzirah very explicitly says that only 22 are lines, in addition to 10 serifot. Also, it explicitly divides the lines into 3 groups: 3 mother letters, 7 doubles, and 12 elementals. There is no way to get such groupings out of the picture I have presented.

We could simplify our picture. Instead of a cube, we merely have 3 intersecting lines, each at right angles to the others in three-dimensional space ( as in diagram 2 at, ignoring, however, the labels, at least temporarily). That would make 7 points (two for each pair plus the midpoint), and 6 lines in the figure. Since there are two of these configurations (first and last), that makes 14 points and 12 lines, plus 7 connecting lines. That makes 33. We could perhaps subtract the connecting line between midpoints. But there is still no division into 10, 3, 7, and 12.

If there were just one of these configurations, and the sides of a cube were added, then at least there would be the 3, 7, and 12: 3 intersecting lines, 7 points where the lines intersect the sides of the cube and each other, and 12 outside lines on the edges of the cube. For a picture of that, see Kupferman's diagram 6 ( The only difference is that he has 6 of the 7 as lines extending from the center of the cube to the sides, whereas I have described them as points on the sides, plus the midpoint. This is because I can't find Kupferman's 7th black line. If I knew where it was, maybe I could accept Kupferman's picture, for the lines. But it still leaves out the sefirot.

For the sefirot, the last 6--3 of the pairs--are identified with the usual six directions in three-dimensional space (Here the Long Version adds embellishments that do not affect the outcome, so for simplicity I use the Short Version, at
1:13. Five: With three of the simple letters seal "above". Choose three and place them in His great Name: YHV. With them seal the six extremities. Face upward and seal it with YHV.

Six: Seal "below". Face downward and seal it with YHV.
Seven: Seal "east". Face straight ahead and seal it with HYV.
Eight: Seal "west". Face backward and seal it with HVY
Nine: Seal "south". Face to the right and seal it withn VYH.
Ten: Seal "north". Face to the left and seal it with VHY
On the cube of Kupferman's diagram 6, these could be the sides of the cube, seen from the midpoint inside the cube. In the above qote, notice that south is to the right, north to the left. That will become relevant later on, when this pair gets located on the diagram.

The other four sefirot are derived from the three elements:
1:9 Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: One is the Breath of the Living God, blessed and benedicted be the Name of the Life of worlds. Voice, Breath and Speech. This is the Holy Breath (Ruach HaKodesh).
1:10 Two: Breath from Breath. With it engrave and carve twenty-two foundation letters - three Mothers, seven Doubles, and twelve Elementals - and one Breath is from them.
1:11 Three: Water and Breath. With it engrave and carve chaos and void, mire and clay. Engrave them like a garden plot, carve them like a wall, cover them like a ceiling.
1:12 Four: Fire from water. With it engrave and carve the Throne of Glory, Seraphim, Ophanim, holy Chayot, and Ministering Angels. From the three establish His dwelling, as it is written, "He makes His angels of breaths, His ministers from flaming fire" (Psalms 104:4).
Sefira 1 is made of Breath; sefira 2, is a second-order breath, "breath from breath"; 3 is water plus breath; and 4, fire from water. They are clearly a sequence. From the phrase "establish his dwelling", we might think that 2-4 were the three dimensions of space, in which to put the 6 others, and 1 the action of God that starts the process.

The sefirot are not lines. The lower (or later) six could be the 6 surfacesof the cube, looking left, right, back, forward, and up and down, as I have said. In the usual Kabbalistic diagram, however, they are the points of intersection of 22 lines formed by planets, zodiacal signs, and elements. And the lines are explicitly described as horizontals, verticals, and diagonals. This division does not fit the cube in space.

One way of resolving this difficulty might be to say that there are two pictures being painted simultaneously. In one, we have a cube, where 6 of the sefirot are its sides, and the others are made from God's Breath in the process of creating, by speech, the three elements breath, water, and fire, corresponding also to the three dimensions.

The other picture is a two dimensional diagram in which the lines are associated with the Hebrew letters and the sefirot are the points at which these lines intersect in a diagram, in a way that forms 5 opposing pairs. That is most likely the diagram we are familiar with, the so-called "tree of life".

There are other possibilities; I will discuss one later. But I will go with this one for now. The question then is, how does such a diagram as the so-called "tree fo life" come out of the Sefer Yetzirah?

I will start again, in the way I started, my modified I Ching representations of pairs, with lines that have points at the ends. We need to end up with 5 of them, if Alemanno's citation at the end of his book is important, as I am hypothesizing.

For the first two pairs, I start with the sides of a square. Then I add midpoints on all 4 sides. Midpoints are good allegorically, because they represent places equidistant between extremes. Allegorically, this is useful for representing virtues as "golden means" rather than as just more or less. For example, Aristotle conceived of "fortitude" not as the opposite of "lack of fortitude", but as a mean between rashness and cowardice. Similarly temperance might be not an extreme of self-control, but as a mean between complete repression of desires and total impulsiveness. The same would work for the other virtues. Prudence is neither a matter of calculating all the outcomes before acting--because then we would never act--or of calculating none of them. It involves just enough calculation not to miss one's window of opportunity. Justice likewise is a mean between total lack of judgment and such strict standards as to make life miserable.

Midpoints are good, if we want to represent life in an Aristotelian way, which is certainly in tune with Pico, Alemanno, and their Arab and Jewish forebears.

On the sides of the square there are four midpoints. If we connect the opposite midpoints, forming a cross within the square, that creates another midpoint in the center of the square. Now we also have a picture of 4 opposing pairs and their midpoints, with 9 points and 8 lines, all still in two dimensions. One pair is horizontal line AC, bisected by B. Another is horizontal line EG, bisected by F. Then we also have vertical line BF, bisected by I in the middle of the square. And horizontal line DH, bisected in the middle. Since a line is defined by its extremities, we can reuse the midpoints as extremities of a different line. But we can't use the corner extremities twice. because our pairs don't work that way. "North" only goes with "south", not "bad", "west", "last" "below" or their opposites. So we have 9 points and 4 pairs. How do we get a fifth pair and 10th point?

In the sefirotic diagram, we are in two dimensions. When the Sefer Yetzirah speaks of "up/down" as different from "north/south" and "east/west" it means up from the surface or down from it, in three-dimensional space. In a two-dimensional diagram, that pair can be represented by putting one of the pairs as an extension of one of the existing vertical lines. It will still be "up/down", with the midpoint of the previous vertical line as one of the extremes of the new pair. But at which point on the square should this new line and point be added?

From what Alemanno writes about the sefirot, we know that one, called Malkhut, is the lowest. It is described as the one clinged to by the sons of Jacob, who could not cling to Tiferet (p. 221). If so, it must extend below the edges of the square. We also know that there is one sefira that connects to all of the others. Allemano writes (p. 221, at ... ley221.JPG)):
The sages of the sefira say that the ineffable name, Y.H, which resides in the sefira Tiferet, is the juncture of all the sefirot, both higher and lower: those from below are united in it as they ascend and are influenced though it from above.
The only way one sefira can have a direct connection to all the rest, including the lowest, is if that lowest sefira is directly beneath the middle sefira. The midpoint, I, is then the extremity of a pair of which the lowest sefira, J, is the other extremity. F is then its midpoint.

We now have 5 pairs, all neatly bisected. If you count the lines between points, there are are 6 horizontals and 7 verticals. We don't yet have 10, 3, 7, and 12, but we are half way there (10 and 7, for the sefirot and planets). We need to add one more category and change the number of horizontals. We can get this without increasing the number of points by a couple of little tricks. One is to push point B up half a unit, F and J down half a unit, and I down half a unit. Then we can insert horizontal lines where B, F, and I used to be, but without a midpoint to them. We don't need one. If we want to retain the idea of midpoints, we've still got B and F, which remain equidistant from the other ends of their lines. It's just that the line between the extremities isn't straight any more. And we've created 6 diagonal lines while subtracting 3 horizontals. We are at 10-3-7-6. (Below, I have added the horizontals in red).

The Sefer Yetzirah even says that the the 12 zodiacal signs are "diagonals". It calls them "diagonal boundaries", in three dimensions: east-west, north-south, and up-down. Kupferman has them as the edges of a cube; but in that setting it is hard to see how they could be "diagonals", unless we're talking about a two-dimensional representation of a cube. As I've said, they might be both, in different pictures: diagonals in the diagram, and something like edges of a cube in the spatial representation. We still don't know if these are the only alternatives. Meanwhile let us keep looking into the principles by which our diagram is constructed.

The diagram I am working with is not much like a cube, of course. Even as a two-dimensional representation, of one, it is all skewed; what would otherwise be the back part is too far up. But it still is missing 6 diagonals, which might make matters better or make them worse.

We can add 4 diagonals by connecting the corners A, C , E, and G with I in the middle. This gives a second bisected way of going from A to C and from E to G. Below I have put these four in green.

That is definitely not a cube. It could conceivably be a pyramid with a square base, even two, with some twisting.

But we need 2 more. There is one obvious place to put them, namely linking E and G with J. But it is also possible to put them between A and E on the one hand and C and H on the other. In fact both choices were made historically (see e.g. ... hebrew.png and ... f_Life.png), although the second doesn't surface until 1652. It would probably look better if we put them in the lower position rather than up above, but which we choose is not only a matter of aesthetics, but also what is best for the allegory. Either way, we have 32, divided in just the way the Sefer Yetzirah says they should: 10 points, 3 horizontals, 7 verticals, and 12 diagonals. (For pictures, see the two links I just gave.)

Neither looks much like a two-dimentional projection of a three-dimensional picture. I haven't given up, but for the moment I will stick with two dimensions. My proposal (so far) is that the Kabbalist "tree" is a five-paired version of the I Ching pattern adapted to the recognition that there is a continuum between the paired opposites and that the midpoint is a kind of ideal, a "golden mean", for four of them. One and the same point, I in the diagram, is in fact the "mean" between four of the pairs. So it is a kind of perfect place. The fifth midpoint has that point, I, as its top and the lowest point, K, as its bottom.

Now I want to go back to the question of whether two pictures are needed to account for the sefirot plus the letters--one with the sefirot as points in a two dimensional diagram, with the zodiacal signs as diagonals inside and outside the diagram, the other with the sefirot as the surfaces of a cube plus their midpoint, and the zodiacal signs as the surfaces of a cube and thus its boundaries. Now that we have our diagram, there might be a way of having one picture, in which the zodiacal signs are both diagonals and boundaries.

Let us go back to the diagram with only 10 diagonals:

There is a place in the diagram, between line AC and line DH, where sefirot J could easily have gone, instead of at the bottom, resulting, when diagonals are added, in a more symmetrical design, but with exactly the same number of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines. Let us hypothesize that originally, before the sefirot got allegorized with words from bible verses, sefira J, instead of being at the bottom by itself, was up there. Then we could connect the lines from A, C, D, and H to it, and not bother with either the diagonals CI and HI or the diagonals EJ and GJ. What we get, ignoring the verticals and horizontals, is a diamond pattern of diagonals.

Also, if we didn't ignore the verticals, we could also see this diagram as a representation of two wire cubes on top of each other, where we are looking at each in such a way that the closest corner obscures the one furthest from us on the other side.

These two ways of seeing this diagram are worth playing with.

On the first way of seeing, looking at just the diagonals, It seems to me that these diagonals could be considered boundaries encircling the sky, bending down to the planets as vertical lines below them, so that the whole diagram becomes the central part of a hemisphere. If so, the zodiacal signs might be arranged in these three diamonds in some sort of pattern resembling the real night sky. I would guess that it would be a circular pattern, like the ecliptic and the zodiacal constellations that it passes through or near. But it might also be some other pattern. It should be possible to use the clues in the Sefer Yetzirah to identify the pattern. We know that the three diamonds somehow represent the dimensions east, west, north, south, up, and down. We also know that the diagonals are each identified by just two of these labels, for twelve in all. Each permutation is actually listed in the Sefer Yetzirah. It is easy to make up directional assignments to each of the lines on the diamond; Assuming that the "upper" diamond is above the "lower" diamond, it can be done in three ways, depending on where the diamond with no "upper" or "lower" in it is put--I would guess in the middle is most likely. Below I have shown a different possibility, where the diamonds for "upper" and "lower" are both above the third one. I have put south on the right, something that the Sefer Yetzirah mentions specifically, and east on the top. These directions hold for all three diamonds.

In addition, letters can be assigned to constellations in a way that forms a circular pattern easily enough, following the assignments in the Sefer Yetzirah. The only problem is in making the letters so assigned correspond to the letters on the Bahir diagram, allowing for the one change that I proposed to make the pattern that of diamonds (it changes IA to JA and IC to JC). I can't find any way to make the correspondences to come out in a way that reflects the order of the zodiac. And yet there is a pattern to the miscorrespondences. If the letters were assigned to constellations according to the letters in the Bahir diagram (see ... Hebrew.svg), the result would look like this, from top to bottom. I hope I have not made mistakes; it is not easy for me to read Hebrew letters, as several look very similar:

Line AB = Vav = Taurus.__________Line BC = Heh = Aries.
Line AJ = Eyin = Capricorn_______Line JC = Tet = Leo
Line HJ = Kuf = Pisces___________Line JD = Zayin = Gemini
Line HI = Tzadi = Aquarius_______Line ID = Chet = Cancer
Line GI = Samekh = Sagittarius___Line IE = Yod = Virgo
Line GF = Lamed = Libra_________Line FE = Nun = Scorpio

As you can see, the first half of the zodiac is mostly on the right, except for Taurus which is on the diagonal just before Aries going around the circle. It proceeds in roughly clockwise fashion, but with most zodiacal signs out of order by one or two spaces. There is a kind of pattern in the miscorrespondences; they are correctable by exactly the same switches on the left side as on the right. That is, the top and bottom assignments (1st and 6th rows above) shold simply be switched right and left. And then instead of 2nd row, 3rd row, and 4th row, it should be 3rd row, 4th row, 2nd row. But I cannot see any rationale for such switches.

Looking at it in the other way, as two cubes on top of each other, there are three sets of four diagonals that make up the top and bottom surfaces of the two cubes (the top of one is the bottom of another. One is ABCJ; the second is HJDI; and the third is GIEF. In this case, the diagonals are only boundaries on the top and bottom, as opposed to being spread out all over the central sky.

From the first square surface ABCJ we get the sequence Taurus, Aries, Leo, Capricorn in a circular pattern (meaning we could go right or left and start with any of them). The second has Pisces, Gemini, Cancer, and Aquarius. The third is Sagittarius, Virgo, Scorpio, and Libra. This makes even less sense than the previous one. So I'm inclined to dismiss it, but not very strongly, because I'm stumped.

I will have to see how the Bahir diagram was arrived at.

Meanwhile, in another post, I will try to construct, using Alemanno, the allegorical meaning for him of the more conventional diagrams, the ones with Malkhut (point J) at the bottom.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Looking at the diagram with three diagrams afresh, I come up with another version of how it got the way it was. It all fits perfectly.

The three diamonds are the faces of one cube, the cube of Kupferman's diagram 6, reduced to two dimensions, then cut up and pieced together in a different way. Once you see that squares on a cube are diamonds and half-diamonds in a drawing of a cube, you just have to follow the Sefer Yetzirah's directions.

In a two-dimensional drawing of a cube, the lines that make the cube a composite of 6 squares are in fact, on the paper, diagonals making up 6 diamonds, if you tilt the cube away from the vertical by 30 degrees or so.

However you can't represent a cube by six diamonds, because then you'd have 24 lines instead of 12. The lines actually make up two diamonds and two half-diamonds. That is precisely what the Sefer Yetzirah says. You just have to follow the directions (
5:1. Twelve Elementals: HV ZCh TY LN SO TzQ. Their foundation is sight, hearing, smell, speech, taste, coition, action, motion, anger, laughter, thought, and sleep. Their measure is the twelve diagonal boundaries: the north-east boundary, the south-east boundary, the upper-east boundary, the lower-east boundary, the upper-north boundary, the lower-north boundary, the south-west boundary, the north-west boundary, the upper-west boundary, the lower-west boundary, the upper-south boundary, the lower-south boundary. They continually spread for ever and ever. They are the Arms of the Universe.
The part at the end, how the lines "continually spread for ever and ever" means that we have to imagine the edges of this cube, which become lines going to infinity on a two-dimensonal surface. But let's ignore that.

So to represent the lines, i.e. edges, of this cube, we have a diamond on top representing east, then a half diamond (two sides only) representing north, then a full diamond representing west, and on the bottom a half diamond representing south. Then we assign zodiacal signs in the order given in the directions, doing the east diamond first, then the north half-diamond, then the west diamond, and finally the south half-diamond. The east diamond has Aries and Taurus on opposite sides, Aries on top left, Taurus on bottom right (northeast and southeast); Gemini and Cancer are also on opposite sides of that diamond, Gemini on top (upper east) and Cancer on the bottom (lower east). Then comes the northern half diamond, with Leo, upper north, on top, and Virgo, lower north, on the bottom. On the bottom, on the west diamond, are Libra on the right top, Scorpio on the left bottom, Sagittarius on the left top (upper west), and Capricorn on the right bottom (lower west). Finally we have another half square with Aquarius on the upper part and Pisces on the lower part.

We get three diamonds stacked on top of each other, which I showed earlier (but not the one where I wrote directions on each line), by moving the bottom half-diamond up to the middle, to join the half-diamond there. The conventional "tree of life" then comes from adding the horizontal and vertical lines and moving the second point on the middle line down to the bottom, on an extension of the middle vertical line below the bottom diamond. Simple.

I have not investigated whether there is any relationship between the Bahir letter assignments and the Sefer Yetzirah's. I will have to read the Bahir first.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

mikeh wrote: Your comments on the numerical parallels between the I Ching and Alemanno's sub-section headings are interesting. I am not sure what to make of them, of course. I can't imagine that the reasons behind them are similar or have anything to do with each other, but you never know. I will keep these parallels under consideration.
12 Justice (3 elements at the Salomon text)
.... 3 Basic lines of I-Ching (heaven-man-earth = spirit-soul-body)
.... 3 dimensions in the SY-Cube (connections between East-West, South-North, top-bottom)

11 Fortitude (8 elements at the Salomon text)
.... 8 trigrams in I-Ching (= father [3 yang] - 3 daughters [2 yang] - 3 sons [1 yang] - mother [0 yang])
.... In SY the 3 Basic lines (see above) considered as one trigram for "father", the six children considered as six sides of the cube East-West-South-North-top-bottom, the mother considered as the passive free space. Possibly SY is also connecting the 8 corners of the cube.

10 Temperance (15 elements at the Salomon text)
.... 15 hexagram pairs in I-Ching (2 yang + 4 yang)
.... in SY the zodiac (12 elements) and mothers (3 elements)


There should be actually a cut between zodiac and mothers, likely between 12/13 (the best at the finish), so that 13, 14 and 15 present the mothers.

13 Pride is negative (evaluation of oneself as "too high")
14 Shame is negative (evaluation of oneself as "too low")
15 Humility is positive (balance between "too high" and "too low")

This might be well the mothers, standing for the elements Fire = too high, Water = too low and Air = Balanced.

I can't say, that I understand the 12 others, especially 10 "Mockery" makes problems, the other 11 seem to present more or less virtues.
The whole theme is Self-control = (hypothetically) Temperance. Perhaps the idea is, that Self-control presents a lower state (against the higher state of Fortitudo and Justice). "Mockery" might indicate the force, which moves the soul to get a higher development.

There might be connected pairs A-B, C-D, E-F, G-H, I-J, K-L.
J=10 would then be paired to I=9 Munificence, which seems to be a sort of Caritas.

Google gives as synonym:
generosity, bountifulness, open-handedness, magnanimity, magnanimousness, princeliness, lavishness, free-handedness, liberality, philanthropy, charity, charitableness, largesse, big-heartedness, beneficence, benevolence

So that's a rather high state, where one could give a lot of things, however ... the zodiac of I-Ching looks this way ...
0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0
0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0
0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1

A ---------------- C---
R ---------------- A---
I ----------------- P---
E ---------------- R---
S ----------------- I---
------------------ C---
------------------ O---
------------------ R---
------------------ N---

I hope, you can understand it. In "Capricorn" (10th position in the zodiac row, "Mockery" has also 10th position), the system drops to a new beginning at the 11th position (Aquarius). The "high position" is gone, the cycle drops to


The other 10 zodiac signs can be filled in, and it looks, as if he had followed the common zodiac 1=Aries, 2 = Taurus etc.
China had the begin of the year in Aquarius = Sociability, not in Aries (which possibly explains you something).

From the 32 ways of wisdom the 7 double letters (= 7 planets) are missing. Well, there is Prudentia missing in the arrangement. But Prudentia seems to be filled with a lot of stuff comparable to handling of Evrart de Conty in the case of Apollo. I think, that you didn't give complete information to this point.
12 Justice (3 elements at the Salomon text)
.... 3 Basic lines of I-Ching (heaven-man-earth = spirit-soul-body)
.... 3 dimensions in the SY-Cube (connections between East-West, South-North, top-bottom)

11 Fortitude (8 elements at the Salomon text)
.... 8 trigrams in I-Ching (= father [3 yang] - 3 daughters [2 yang] - 3 sons [1 yang] - mother [0 yang])
.... In SY the 3 Basic lines (see above) considered as one trigram for "father", the six children considered as six sides of the cube East-West-South-North-top-bottom, the mother considered as the passive free space. Possibly SY is also connecting the 8 corners of the cube.
This is simply the Sephiroth-tree with 11 elements (not with 10). The missing Sephira Daath.


About the Sefer Yetzirah, I want to start with a remark toward the end of Allemano's book, in the section on the ultimate good. It is the realization (p. 220, of which I give a scan at ... ley220.JPG):
...that there is a One that unites all contrarieties of the existents, and that the whole world is one because is is ruled by One. He [Abraham] explained, in his Book of Formation, that the five opposed pairs, first and last, good and bad, high and low, north and south, and east and west, are all harmonized and unified by the single Ruler of them.
This doctrine comes directly from the Sefer Yetzirah itself (Short Version 1.5, at; Long Version 1.5, Kaplan translation, p. 271):
Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Their measure is ten which have no end. A depth of beginning, a depth of end; a depth of good, a depth of evil; a depth above, a depth below; a depth east, a depth west; a depth south. The singular Master, God faithful King, who dominates them all from His holy dwelling until eternities of eternities.
In the later Kabbala at least one likely has to interpret:

"five opposed pairs, first (= 1 Kether) and last (10 Malkuth), good (= 2 Chochmah) and bad (= 3 Binah), high and low, north and south, and east and west (= the six directions, Sephiroth 4-9).

The Chinese had a similar arrangement (5 pairs), but with another basic idea.


1 + 6 Water
2 + 7 Fire
3 + 8 Wood
4 + 9 Metal
5 + 10 Earth

They used it for their 60 calender cycle with 12 zodiac-animals (rat, bull, tiger etc.) and 10 stems of heaven, so that 60 years had (for instance) 5 horse years: Fire-horse, Water-horse etc.
This arrangement likely was related to the shortened abacus with 4 or 5 lower pearls and 1 or 2 upper pearls used for normal number calculations (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication).


So there's some confusion. The actual "5 elements" or better "5 principles", which the I-Ching really uses, are ...

The Yang state
The Yin state
The first line = defined as "earth"
The second line = defined as "man"
The third line = defined as "heaven"

This group of 5 shows two different groups, states and lines. If you proceed with the principles, then you get the 8 trigrams. These 8 trigrams got associative names by tradition.

111 heaven ... no line is focussed ... associated to metal by tradition
000 earth ... no line is focussed ... earth
100 thunder ... 1st line is focussed ... should by name belong to "fire"
010 water ... 2nd line focussed ... should by name belong to "water"
001 mountain ... 3rd line is focussed ... should by name belong to "???"
011 wind ... 1st line is focussed ... should by name belong to "air"
101 fire ... 2nd line focussed ... should by name belong to "fire"
110 lake ... 3rd line is focussed ... should by name belong to "water"

The names, as they are, associate "elements", as we know them (fire, water, air (or wood), earth, metal).

There's the problem, that "mountain" can't be identified by the name. But we have, that air appears only once and fire and water appear twice. Creating a balance can only be solved by the definition, that mountain belongs to air (which is logical, as a mountain ends at its top in the air). The mathematical opposite of mountain is lake. A lake gathers at the deepest point, the mountain is naturally high. So we have there the top-bottom-dimension, also used in the SY.

Following the identification, then we get for the ...

1st line = WATER
100 thunder = fire
011 wind = air

2nd line = AIR
010 water = water
101 fire = fire

3rd line = FIRE
001 mountain = air
110 lake = water

The 3rd line is high (in I-Ching) and FIRE goes the top (in nature)
The 2nd line is in the middle and AIR is the balance between fire (top) and water (bottom)
The 1st line is low (in I-Ching) and WATER goes to the bottom (in nature)

Going back the start of this consideration we get as the 5 basic principles:
The Yang state ... presenting heaven = element METAL
The Yin state ... presenting earth = element EARTH
The first line = defined as "earth" = element FIRE
The second line = defined as "man" = element AIR (or WOOD)
The third line = defined as "heaven" = element WATER

I hope you got it. The surprising action is, that you have clearly the trigrams fire and water as representative of the second line, and you can only solve the conflict by declaring the second line to AIR. And so you have to do it with the others.

Generally the Chinese or German or English sources, that I've seen at the time, when I studied this, didn't spoke about details, but just repeated some stuff, which they had found somewhere. Similar confusions appeared in Western esoteric interpretations and traditions.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Your presentation looked a little bit chaotic. I've sorted here the major content snippets, as you sorted them. There are 17 chapters ...




contains the 4 cardinal virtues


3 of the 4 major points contains 4 sub-chapters, the last 5, whereby it's a question, if the 17th chapter "Ultimate Goodness and Felicity" really belongs to the 4th group or if it is the glorious finishing chapter.

Again it looks, as if it is made according a geomancy scheme.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Thanks for sorting it out, Huck. In the original, the first page, the table of contents, had all of the chapters in order in the way you arranged my snippets, but all in Arabic numerals. I didn't reproduce it because it seemed like duplication. But it does make things clearer, especially the 4x4 + 1 arrangement. That is sort of like geomancy, I guess. It is also sort of like the gods of the Michelino deck (plus one not in the deck, the Judeo-Christian God), and sort of like the Cary-Yale, if it had 16 trumps and 16 court cards, plus a Fool. It is still possible that the Cary-Yale divided its trumps into four groups of four to each suit, in the way that the trumps were in fact assigned in what came with the deck when it came to Yale. Since I made my inquiry, to which the Beinecke responded saying that the the assignments were part of what came to Yale with the deck, they have removed these assignments from their website--an example, I think, of hiding evidence.

The rest of what you say gets deep into the allegory, much deeper than I have gotten so far in my presentation of Allemano. The Sefer Yetzirah does not use the words "Hokmah", "Binah", "Malkhut", etc. All that is being imposed anachronistically, from the perspective of later writings. So I am treating this part separately, going from the Sefer Yetzirah to Alemanno; but I haven't got to the allegorical part at all yet, except for one mention of "Malkhut" as on the bottom, closest to matter, to justify that placement. That is a placement I now retract in regard to the Sefer Yetzirah. No "Malkhut" is mentioned in the Sefer Yetzirah; and I now hypothesize that the diagram didn't look like the later ones. It was three diamonds stacked one on the other. I have more to say on that. I want to finish that before I get to the allegory. Then I will go back and look at what you've written, and you can look at what I've written. Meanwhile, I am trying to make sense of the Sefer Yetzirah.

I now see how to represent geometrically the five pairs of sefirot described in the the Sefer Yetzirah section 1. It is one cube plus two lines. The faces of the cube are the six lower sefirot, as Kupferman says. Then the other two are time, from first to last, and value, from good to evil, on horizontal and vertical axes. These are lines. "Absolutely first" is on one end of one line, and "absolutely last" is on the other end. Usually we picture time as a line from left to right, so that is what I do. It goes from the moment of the universe's creation to the moment of its destruction; these are definite times in Judaism, from the "let there be light" to Judgment Day. Then "absolutely good" is on the top and "absolutely evil" is on the bottom of another line. This affords a way of rating the goodness in the universe from moment to moment. So there are an indefinite number of values for "good" vs. "evil", one for each moment of time. The series of such cross-sections the universe at particular times, with particular values, is the series graphed by the diagram. They rate the goodness in the universe The cube is then the universe, which extends indefinitely in all four directions. If the universe were a hypersphere, the four lines would bend back and merge with their opposite number on the other side of the universe.

The six lower sefirot are the faces of the cube for any given sized cube, with its center at any given point in space. The four higher sefirot are the endpoints of time and value. I would guess--I don't know of any Kabbalist writing about this--that the beginning is "water" and the end is "fire". The Sefer Yetzirah says that fire comes out of water. So fire is first. It is like in Hesiod's creation myth: the universe starts as mud. In Genesis, the mud gets separated into water, above and below, and dry land. Then at the end of time comes the destruction by fire.

Interestingly, absolute good and absolute evil are created simultaneously at the beginning of time. That has to be, because at any point in time we can rate the value of the universe. If so, we get the theological question, if God created absolute good and absolute evil, how can he be absolutely good. It would seem that nothing absolutely good could create something absolutely evil. Even if he didn't create the creature as absolutely evil, but it became absolutely evil by choice, still, an absolutely good being would foreknow that that would happen.

There are two initial ways of answering that question. One is to say that an absolutely good being can create absolute evil for the sake of creating more good in the universe than there would be otherwise. In other words, humans are at a higher level of good when they triumph over evil than if such evil never existed. The other is to say that the one who sets everything in motion, the creator of the opposites, is either neither good nor evil in itself, and that good and evil are merely from our perspective, just as north, south, east, west, up, down, before, and after are. There may also be a synthesis of the two answers, namely: God, as containing the universe, contains both what is absolutely good and what is absolutely evil, as well as being neither, since he is also outside the universe; but he puts both into the universe for the sake of the highest good in the long run. Which of these alternatives Alemanno takes is a matter for investigation. I suspect he would take the last one, but I haven't thought it through yet.

So below is my rethought diagram of the Sefer Yetzirah's picture of the universe, seen as a cube extending out in all six directions, at a particular point in time and with a particular value, yet to be filled in. I have also written in the particular combination of directions for each of the diagonal lines, i.e. the 12 edges of the cube, according to the designations of Sefer Yetzirah 5.1, which I quoted earlier. I have also color-coded the two diamonds and two half diamonds, following the Sefer Yetzirah's instructions, which I repeat (
5:1. Twelve Elementals: HV ZCh TY LN SO TzQ. Their foundation is sight, hearing, smell, speech, taste, coition, action, motion, anger, laughter, thought, and sleep. Their measure is the twelve diagonal boundaries: the north-east boundary, the south-east boundary, the upper-east boundary, the lower-east boundary, the upper-north boundary, the lower-north boundary, the south-west boundary, the north-west boundary, the upper-west boundary, the lower-west boundary, the upper-south boundary, the lower-south boundary. They continually spread for ever and ever. They are the Arms of the Universe.
Here the west diamond is highlighted in green (it looks blue on my computer), the west diamond in orange, the north half-diamond left in black, and the south half-diamond in yellow.

The next thing is to draw a two-dimensional representation of the cube in the shape of 3 diamonds and 12 diagonal lines. When I do that, I see that I made a mistake in the assignments of pairs of directions to the lines that I gave earlier (at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1049&start=40#p15956). The Southeast and Northeast lines are parallel to each other on the cube. This means that they are parallel to each other in the diagram. The same is true for southwest and northwest. This means that the half-diamonds look different than what I pictured them. I didn't follow the directions given in the Sefer Yetzirah! Below is the picture as I think it should be. I have color-coded the diamonds and labeled the lines to correspond to the picture of the cube that I showed earlier in this post

This is not three whole diamonds, of course. So another step is required, that of merging the north and south halves into one diamond situated between the other two. That is easy enough to imagine, so I am not giving another drawing.

But is that the correct thing to do, following the Sefer Yetzirah? The trouble is that in a series of diamonds, the top one will look OK: it has the first four zodiacal signs in order, if we take first one pair of opposite sides and then the other. The bottom will also look OK: it has zodiacal signs from Libra to Capricorn. But the middle diamond is something of a mess: it has the zodiacal signs Leo, Aquarius, Virgo, and Pisces. That can be derived from the instructions in 5.1 and 5.2. In 5.1, the letters are listed in the first sentence, in the same order as the directional pairs listed later on. Then from 5.2 we read off the constellation corresponding to the letter. Since makes some mistakes, I give them below, from Kaplan's book, p. 266):
How does one permute them? Make Heh king, bind a crown in it, and with it depict Aries in the Universe, Nissan in the Year, and the right hand in the Soul.
Make Vav king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Taurus in the Universe...
Make Zayin king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Gemini in the Universe...
Make Chet king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Cancer in the Universe...
Make Tet king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Leo in the Universe...
Make Yud king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Virgo in the Universe...
Make Nun king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Scorpio in the Universe...
Make Samekh king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Sagittarius in the Universe...
Make Eyin king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Capricorn in the Universe...
Make Tzadi king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Aquarius in the Universe...
Make Kuf king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Pisces in the Universe...
We get, going down the three diamonds, with South on the right (O = Ayin):

Left (North)_____________________Right (South)
UE = Z = Gemini__________________SE = V = Taurus
NE = H = Aries____________________LE = Ch = Cancer

UN = T = Leo_____________________US = Tz = Aquarius
LN = Y = Virgo____________________LS = Q = Pisces

NW = N = Scorpio_________________UW = S = Sagittarius
LW = O = Capricorn_______________SW = L = Libra

The top and bottom groups might just correspond to the months in two of the three seasons represented by the three horizontals. But that middle group won't do. So in the Sefer Yetzirah, we are [added next day: put "would seem to be" instead of "are"] stuck with going from east to north to west to south, leaving the half-diamonds as they are (two sets of parallel lines), or with the cube itself.

The following paragraph added next day: Actually, if we think in terms of a figure 8 instead of a circle for the succession of the zodical constellations over the year, the configuration above does make perfect sense. It is not three seasons, but two main parts of the year, 4 months each, plus two transitional parts, 2 months each. In the diagram with half-diamonds, it goes around in a circle, the two months in South connecting with the 4 months in East. In the diagram with three full diamonds, it is a figure 8. After the four months from Aries through Cancer, then come the 2 parallel lines in North, Leo and Virgo. Then come the 4 months from Libra to Capricorn, and finally the two months Aquarius and Pisces. The lines don't connect in sequence, but that is not important. The diagram is about what is clearly visible, up from the horizon, in these months.

It is in the transformation of that unwieldy thing--the two diamonds plus two half-diamonds--that we can use the above assignments [added next day: delete the rest of this sentence,] even though they make only minor sense in terms of the Sefer Yetzirah. Then the verticals and horizontals are added, resulting in (but now with directional pairs added, which are the same as in the layout above, the typed one, with the constellations and Hebrew letters included ( ... quare5.JPG):
And finally, for theological reasons, the point connecting the top and middle diamonds is removed and placed below the others, connected to them by an extension of the vertical middle line. The result is that the Aries (H) and Cancer (Ch) lines now connect to the vertices of the next lower point on the other side, and the Leo (T) and Aquarius (Tz) lines go go down to what is now the second of the four middle points. So the diagonals now are arranged, from left to right and top to bottom:

UE = Z = Gemini__________________SE = V = Taurus
NE = H = Aries____________________LE = Ch = Cancer (both crossing to the next lower on the opposite side)
UN = T = Leo_____________________US = Tz = Aquarius
LN = Y = Virgo____________________LS = Q = Pisces
NW = N = Scorpio_________________UW = S = Sagittarius
LW = O = Capricorn_______________SW = L = Libra

None of this corresponds to the Bahir, which goes ( ... Hebrew.svg):
Q______________________________Z (both crossing to the next lower on the opposite side)

Sometime I will have to see how these assignments were derived from the Bahir, but not in the immediate future.

[Added on Feb.13, 2015. According to Kaplan p. 29, the array I just gave, the most popular one except for Kircher's, is the "Ari", with nothing to do with the Bahir, and goes, with zodiacal signs added from p. 204, and directions from p. 205:
V = Taurus = NE_______________________H = Aries = UE
Q = Pisces = LN_______________________Z = Gemini = LE (both crossing to the next lower on the opposite side)
O (Ayin)= Capricorn = UN________________T = Leo = SE
Tz = Aquarius = NW____________________Ch = Cancer = US
S = Sagittarius = LW ____________________Y= Virgo = LS
L = Libra = UW_________________________N = Scorpio = SW

None of this makes any sense to me as a map of the sky or of the sides of a cube.

I see that there was also another version, called the "Gra", in 3 diamonds (Kaplan The Sefer Yetzirah p. 30) ... age-39.JPG. Its ketter assignments, based on Kaplan p. 30 and 204, are:

Line AB = Vav = Taurus = NE.______Line BC = Heh = Aries = UE.
Line AJ = Chet= Cancer = US_______Line JC = Zayin = Gemini = LE
Line HJ = Yod = Virgo = LS ________Line JD = Tet = Leo = SE
Line HI = Nun = Scorpio = SW_______Line ID = Lamed = Libra = UW
Line GI = Ayin = Capricorn = UN ___Line IE = Samekh = Sagittarius = LW
Line GF = Kuf = Pisces = LN_______Line FE = Tzadik = Aquarius = NW

This array makes perfect sense; everything is in order. It is also constructed from the cube in the way the Long vision suggests (Kaplan, p. 204). First it does 3 of the East square. Then it goes to the South square and does three of them. It could also follow the directional order of the short version, 5.1 at, which forms a figure 8 pattern.

Also, according to Kaplan, the "short version" array, i.e figure 8 pattern, is similar to that at Bahir 95 (Kaplan, The Sefer Yetzirah, p. 374, note 19) except that the directions go east, west, south, north. I have not yet examined Bahir 95.]

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Since my last post was just going over the Sefer Yetzirah again, and I need to catch up with Huck as far as comparing allegories, sefirotic diagram to I Ching, I will proceed immediately to that subject.


Alemanno in another part of his book (p. 216) divides the universe into 7 regions, each with its attendant spirits. Of the 6th he says:
6. The sefira Malkhut. This sefira is the beginning, in ascending order, of the world of the sefirot. This world is higher than the world of motion to which the previous five levels belong. Those preceding levels are all attached to matter in some form, and consequently it is those to which most souls are able to attach. It is impossible, however, for souls to become attached to this and the next level except through knowledge of the secrets of the Torah and the performance of its commandments.
By "secrets" he means the "oral Torah", not divulged to other nations. The one level higher is that of Tiferet, associated with the four-letter name of God (p. 217). The next two lower levels are first, those of spirits associated with the fixed stars and then, below them, the spirits associated with the seven planets. The lowest is the "mutable world" in which we live, associated with the "universal spirit".

Alemanno's idea is that below the sefirot, are the "worlds of motion", which the sefirot, although at rest, put in motion, through a kind of universal yearning. This is his Kabbalist adaptation of an Aristotelian idea.

It strikes me that motion is characterized by a change in nearness to one or another of two opposites, or more than two. When changing location we go further in one of east vs. west, in one of north vs. south, and perhaps even in elevation. Time passes, and we arrive at a place sooner or later (between "first and last"). Those are the famous four dimensions of Einstein's theory of relativity. The Sefer Yetzirah's fifth is "good and evil", the dimension that Einstein didn't take into account when he said that the atomic bomb was possible. He later regretted his error. It is in that aspect that the atomic bomb is impossible, he later thought.

Although the pairs can be called "North-South", "East-West","Up-Down", "Good-Evil", and "First-Last" (or, in place of the last two, "Breath/second breath" and "water from breath/fire from water"), they do not have to stay that way. The Kabbalists had quite different names for the sefirot, although there may be some allegorical correspondence. With suitable titles, the sefirotic diagram might be able to show us how to achieve balance in achieving the mean between several exremes.

Alemanno in this same discussion mentions two more pairs of opposites: "Justice and Mercy" and "spiritual and material." And the midpoint is called "Tiferet" (p. 220, ... ley220.JPG):
Jacob took as his measure the sefira Tiferet, the middle line that unites the higher and lower existents, Justice and Mercy, spiritual and material.

So we have "Justice" and "Mercy", i.e. Gevurah and Hesed, in the place of points H and D in the diagram; and we can put B, the highest sefirot, as "spiritual-most" (analogously to northernmost), i.e. Keter, and J, the lowest, as "material-most", i.e. Malkhut. Since the sefirot are spiritual entities, most of them will be above Malkhut. The diagram is necesarily top heavy.

Although we have "Justice" and "Mercy" as two sefirot, we don't yet know which is on the left and which is on the right. Our Kabbalists have decided that between the two, Mercy is closer to God and so higher. In the law, kings often had the power to pardon but not convict. Conviction had to be done by a special agency called the Court of Justice. Likewise we would all be condemned were it not for the clemency of God. Since Hebrew goes from right to left, Mercy would thus seem to be on the right, with a lower number (and so closer to God) than Justice.

You will recall that the Sefer Yetzirah specifies that north is on the left and south is on the right (Long Version 1.22:
Nine: He sealed south, faced to his right, and sealed it with YVH.
Ten: He sealed north, faced to his left, and sealed it with HVY.
Similarly, by Alemanno's time the Kabbalists seem to have identified "Mercy" or "Love", sefira 4, with the South (Pico, thesis 28.14, Farmer, Syncretism in the West, p. 351) and "Justice", sefira 5, with the north (thesis 28.6, Farmer p. 349; for both together, thesis 28.24, Farmer p. 355). It might be because the south is warm, like love, and the north cold, like justice. (In contrast, the Sefer Yetzirah characterizes 4 as "fire from water" and 5 as "above".) This use of "north" and "south" suggests that the analogy of a map was indeed part of the Kabbalist construction of the sefirotic diagram, even if it is rotated 90 degrees from what we are used to.

A pair of opposites that Alemanno does not mention is one that features prominently in the I Ching, that of active/determining vs. passive/receptive. But perhaps it fits under "up/down" viewed in a sexual way, the male being active and the female receptive. Tiferet was frequently viewed as corresponding to the Sun in the heavens, and Malkhut to the Moon. In this case, the mean might be an equal combination of the two tendencies. He does in another place (p. 130, ... ley130.JPG):
The wisdom that Abraham invented is the science of unification which unites opposites, such as day and night, the greater and the lesser light, heaven and earth, north and south, and all other opposites.
The "greater and the lesser light" are the Sun and the Moon, which shine in the day and night respectively. It is their allegorical unification that is being considered.

There is a natural sexual analogy here: the Sun gives light, while the Moon receives light and responds by reflecting the sun's rays. It is like the man and the woman in bed, as conventionally conceived. The midpoint is the phallus/vagina connection. So we have another of the opposing pairs of sefirot, the second of the two on the vertical central axis.

If Tiferet is to be directly connected with all the sefirot, including Malkhut, then it makes sense to identify the sefira just above the bottom one as Tiferet's phallus, connecting with Malkhut through the line FJ as the phallus/vagina union. There is then another allegorical meaning appropriate to this point F, namely, circumcision. It is that symbol of the covenant which every Jew makes with God that is the Foundation of the Chosen People. Hence the name Yesod, meaning Foundation. It is also, I think, what Alemanno is referring to when he speaks of "the circumcision of Tiferet".

Now, with the allegorical meanings more flushed out, we can consider whether our final two diagonals should go to connect Malkhut with all three of the lower sefirot, down at the bottom, or near the top, to connect the Justice and Mercy sefirot diagonally with the pair above them, so that they are each connected with both of the ones above them.

In the Kabbalist application of the Sefer Yetzirah system, Malkhut is always in danger of being disconnected from the rest of the sefirot. Allemano says (p. 221, ... ley221.JPG):
And the rest of the nations of the world at the time believed that there was no unity to the world, and no connection between higher and lower worlds, so that they understood Malkhut only as separated from the spiritual world. The nations put all their efforts to separating Malkhut, as the ruler of the material world, from the unified structure. But the sons of Jacob, in contrast, strove to unite it to the spiritual world. When they said to Jacob, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one," he replied, "Blessed be His name, whose glorious Kingdom (Malkhuto) is for ever and ever (as in Jewish Liturgy)."
The reason Malkhut is in such a perilous circumstance, requiring constant affirmation of divine Unity, is that it is connected to the sefirot only in one place to Yesod above her, the phallus/vagina linking "up" with "down" and the material world with the spiritual world of God. Allegorically, the phallus is a circumcised one, symbolizing the covenant of God with his people. This act connects God with his people, and for males it cannot be omitted. (For both males and females, in Jewish law, there is also water immersion. The two together seem to be as important as baptism for Christians. But I do not see Jewish Kabbalists discussing this.) Hence the only line between Malkhut (point J on our diagram) and the rest of the sefirot is through Yesod (point F). This the sons of Jacob maintained. Only with Moses was there a return to where Jacob and Abraham stood, at Tiferet.

This point, of the tenuous connection between Malkhut and the rest, was also emphasized earlier by Joseph Gikatilla in Gates of Light, which was known at the time both in Hebrew and in Latin. He, too, has only one link from Malkhut to the rest. The Bahir diagram is the same. And the same configuration is articulated a little later in Safed by Moses Cordovero. So probably that diagram is the one known in Florence in Alemanno's time.

Pico also emphasized the fragility of the connection. In thesis 28.4 (Farmer p. 347) he says
The sin of Adam was the severing of kingdom from the other shoots.
In other words, cutting off the connection is the origin of sin, i.e. separation from God.
This is also evident in a later thesis:
28.36. The sin of Sodom came from severing the last shoot.
The sin of Sodom is evidence of wickedness, hence separation from God. That he says "shoot" indicates that there is only one connection between Malkhut and the rest of the tree. He also says (p. 359):
28. 31. Circumcision was given to free us from the impure powers that circle about.
28.32. Circumcision occurs on the eighth day, because it is superior to the universalized bride.
Here, according to Farmer (p. 358), "eighth day" = Yesod, the 9th sefira, and "univesalized bride" = Malkhut, the 10th sefira. This confirms the interpretation of Yesod as the phallus, or perhaps phallus/vagina connection, that connects Malkhut as bride to Tiferet as groom.

What we lose in such an allegory, of course, is a more multifarious connection between Malkhut and the rest. If sefirot seven and eight represent obedience to God's commandments (I will discuss that suggestion in a moment), then that could suggest other ways to make the connection. But that would de-emphasize the importance of the covenant symbolized by circumcision, perhaps even suggesting that circumcision can be bypassed, that following the commandments (represented in 7 and 8) is enough.

So what we have, at least tentatively, is the diagram below, in which I have put the last 2 diagonals in blue:

We still have several more parts of the allegory to flesh out. For these we will need to know more about the allegorical meanings of the two remaining pairs. I will have to turn to a different part of Alemanno's text (parts of pp. 116-138 in Lesley's translation).

One pair not yet part of the allegory is the line from sefira 2 to sefira 3 (C and A in my diagram). sefira 1 (point B), in the middle. In Allemano's classification of goodnesses, this might be the contrast between that which allows the mastery of skills and arts, which he calls "intelligence", and that which imparts understanding, which he calls "wisdom", e.g. on p. 116:
Right Understanding - Science
This includes what the gentiles call Wisdom, and the prophets, Understanding. It is divided into Natural and Political wisdom.
In what follows, he uses the word "wisdom" to apply to these subject-matters very often. He also uses it in the next two sections, on "theoretical knowledge", (p. 117), which includes those of "dialectic and sophistic" (p. 122), "nature and metaphysics" (p. 129), and "intuitive knowledge" (p. 129), on. "Intelligence" was the main way that sefira 3 was understood in the Renaissance, certainly by Pico in the 900 Theses (see Farmer p. 350f, citing Scholem in commenting on Theses 28.10-13). In Thesis 28.13 Pico speaks of sefira 3 in terms of "mysterium portarum intelligentiae", the mystery of the gates of intelligence.

Granted this distinction, Wisdom would be higher than Intelligence, and so Wisdom would be on the right in the diagram. With this identification, we can see why it is important to have a path between A and D in my diagram, as well as C and H. Love or Mercy, which is what D allegorically is, needs a dose of Intelligence in its application. And Justice needs a dose of Wisdom. i.e. the intuitive grasping of essences, as in the case of Solomon with the two women. Also, there is otherwise a problem of how one ascends from 4 to 3, or descends from 3 to 4, without a path connecting the two, part of the so-called "zigzag path" of ascent and descent through the sefirot. (One could, I suppose, just leap, but the intelligence-love path makes it easier to see.)

The other pair not yet allegorized is sefiroth 7 and 8, E to G, whose meaning is not easy to tease out of Alemanno's text. I think he has alluded to them in the next part of his book starting on p. 129, which also tells us more about what sefira 2 (Hochma) is, in its highest aspect. My scans of pp. 129-130 are at ... ley129.JPG and ... ley130.JPG.

On p. 129, Alemanno relates "intuitive knowledge" to Psalm 89, which he says the rabbis teach was authored by Abraham, who also wrote the Sefer Yetzirah. And yet Solomon was wiser than Abraham:
Intuitive knowledge, which the prophet also included in the word, "wisdom," is intended by the phrase, "For he was wiser than....Ethan the Ezrahite (I Kings 5:11). The rabbis tell us that Ethan the Ezrahite was Abraham, considered to be the author of Psalm 89: "Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite (v. 1." (Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 4.3) His wisdom is shown by the book he wrote, the Book of Formation , as well as from this psalm (89), which is written about wisdom.
Here it is fairly clear that intuitive knowledge is an important component of wisdom; it is also what the Sefer Yetzirah imparts.

Lesley's reference in parentheses to I Kings, I think, should be 4:31 (, at least as Christians identify verses. The number 89 for the psalm is correct. Looking at psalm 89, I see a lot of pairs of opposites: raging sea vs. still waves, strong enemies vs. enemies slain; heavens and earth; north and south; justice and mercy; faithfulness vs. faithlessness; lovingkindness vs. wrath; sun and moon. And also some implied pairs: day and night, high and low, strong and weak. (Sun and moon contain the opposition of giving light vs. receiving light, and so also active vs. receptive.) It is in reference to this psalm and its spirit, that Alemanno continues, in a passage I quoted from earlier (p. 130):
The wisdom that Abraham invented is the science of unification, which unites opposites, such as day and night, the greater and the lesser light, heaven and earth, north and south, and in general all opposites. He demonstrated the falsity of the belief in duality, of good and bad divinities, which was widespread n his time. He also introduced the science of the sefirot, which was not known in his time.
The point is that all are from God, and within each is always some of the other. In a similar way, the yin contains yang, darkness contains light, etc. God, despite our faithlessness, will never lose faith in us, etc. So one side of the opposition can change into the other, in the sense of becoming predominant.

Allemano also sees in psalm 89 a division of existents into four parts (p. 130):
In this psalm he divides all existents into four parts: "skies" (shahaq, v. 7), a reference to the spheres; "holy ones" (hna elokim, v. 8), the movers of the spheres; "the great council of the holy ones" (sod qdoshim rabba: v. 8), the world of the seferot; and "mighty one" (hasin yah: v. 9), the agent intellect, which mightily brings all the latent forms from potentiality into actuality, and is affected by the name "Yah," which includes the three highest sefirot.
It would be tempting to say that this doctrine, that the "mighty one" includes the three highest sefirot, implies the doctrine of the Trinity. Others did draw that conclusion, for sure. But that would not be inclusive enough for Alemanno: God, in the Sefer Yetzirah, is "without end". In fact He includes not only all opposites but all differences (still p. 130):
In the Book of Formation[/i] he [Abraham] is concerned with describing the world of the sefirot, with the single foundation that unites all multiplicity, whether of opposed pairs or not, and with the unification of all the worlds.
And how many worlds are there? In the preceding quote, he had four divisions, counting the upper three sefirot as one "world". However it appears that there is another world there beneath the "skies":
On this last, he says that everything is in the mutable world is in the world of motion, and everything in the world of motion is in the sefirotic world.
Since the celestial bodies were considered subject to motion but not change, this seems to imply a fifth "world" below the skies, which is nonetheless part of the "world of motion". As to why "everything inthe world of motion is in the sefirotic world", this is probably the idea that Malkhut includes everything below it as well.

Other Kabbalists before Alemanno had four worlds. Although modern commentators on the Zohar do not find it there, Idel has traced this idea, with its distinctive labels, as far back as R. Yitzhaq ben Samuel of Acre, whom he located in Sicily of the end of the 13th century. For Yitzhaq the four worlds are as follows (Idel, p. 247f at ... y_djvu.txt):
The highest one, that of 'Atzilut, is the world of emanation, referred to by R. Yitzhaq in the first A of the 'ABYA' acronym. The next one is the world of Beriy'ah, namely Creation, which is the world of the Divine Chariot, hinted at by the letter Bet. The third, the world of Yetzirah, meaning Formation, is the world of the angels, and corresponds to the letter Yod. Finally, the world of 'Asiyah, the lower world, is to be understood as the world of making.
I would think that the astrological entities would be part of the world of Yetzirah. The parts of the human body are below that. I am not sure where the units of time fit in.

So what does the Sefer Yetzirah teach? Here is Alemanno again (p. 130):
This is the science which is acquired through the divine imaginative faculty which is in the soul of the prophet who sees, through his intuition, the sefirotic world.
In other words, when in a trance produced by reciting the divine names in various letter-combinations, having done the proper incantations and obeyed the commandments, this is what the prophet sees, re-enacting the creation. And Solomon sees more than Abraham (p. 130f):
Solomon was greater than Abraham in such wisdom. Whereas Abraham sought to be attached to God through the sefira Gedulah, called "mercy (hesed) to Abraham (Micah 5:20)," Solomon sought to rise to the second sefira, Hokma.
That identification of the second sefira as Wisdom includes the intuitive understanding that comes from God. Solomon rose to that level, we learn elsewhere, by attaching to Tiferet, the unifying center. That is where Moses fixed himself, too. But (p. 131, at ... ley131.JPG)
It is also said that Solomon "was wiser than....Haman (I Kings 5:11)." That is a reference to Moses, about whom it is said, "He is trusted (na'eman) throughout my household (Numbers 12:7)."
How is that possible, for Solomon to have been wiser than Moses? We do not find out until the next page of Lesley's translation (p. 132, at ... ley132.JPG).
Doubtless Moses knew better than anyone how the observance of the commandments in the Torah and the avoidance of the prohibitions of the Tarah would benefit the Israelite people; truly, "never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord singled out, face to face (Deuteronomy34:10)." Among the nations, however, Balaam resembled him in his cognate knowledge of spiritual forces available to the gentiles. It was in this knowledge that Solomon surpassed Moses.
Alemanno is saying that Balaam, a gentile magician and diviner, was comparable to Solomon in understanding hidden spiritual forces, but from a non-Jewish foundation, i.e. from "impure" sources. It appears that Solomon knew both the Jewish and the gentile "wisdom". In that way he was wiser than Moses, by delving into impermissible areas.

In the above quote (from p. 132), I think I see another pair of opposites: positive commandments and negative commandments (i.e. prohibitions). There is a remark by Pico that suggests that these were attached to the 7th and 8th sefirot.
When the Cabalists say that sons should be sought from the seventh and the eighth, those petitions in the inferior merkabah are to be interpreted this way: so that one is asked to grant them, the other not to prohibit them. And which he grants and which one prohbits anyone who is knowledgable in astrology and Cabala can understand from the preceding conclusions.
By "inferior merkabah" I think Pico means the sefirot below the first three. Even though this statement is about petitions and not commandments, the preceding conclusion is in fact about commandments. There he correlates the 4th commandment with the 7th sefira and the 8th commandment with the 8th sefira. I think, from reading Wikipedia's article on the the Ten Commandments, that the 4th commandment would have been "Remember the sabbath, and keep it holy". a positive commandment. (Another possibility is "Honor thy mother and father", also positive.) The 8th would have been "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor", a negative commandment (the other possibility being another "Thou shalt not). So the 7th sefira is about positive commandments and the 8th about negative ones. This division fits the general tenor of the left side of the diagram, which has above the 8th "strict judgment", as opposed to "love" and "mercy" on the other side. Both of the positive commandments have to do with love. In Gikatilla's Gates of Light, the 7th sefira, Netzach, is the agent of "compassion upon Israel" (Weinstein translation p. 142); the 8th sefira, Hod, is that of God's armies, "to bring low the enemy, win wars", as in Daniel 10:8: "My majesty [veHODi] became a destroyer..." (p. 123).

The middle way here, represented in both Yesod (from below) and Tiferet (from above), is of course not that of doing things that are neither commanded nor prohibited, but rather of attending to both equally. Yesod is the sefira of Righteousness. Tiferet is the agent of compassionate judgment, sending his forces to the right or the left as needed.

The passage from Alemanno just quoted (p. 132) also articulates another pair of opposites, namely "spiritual forces available to the Jews" and "spiritual forces available to the gentiles". Solomon, it appears, tried to know both. I do not see this pair among the sefirot. Alemanno is rather bold to include it, but it is also in keeping with the inclusive spirit of this period in Florence.

There is a danger in this project: in knowing the gods of others, one is in danger of worshiping them. Alemanno sees a metaphor in the thousand wives of Solomon (p. 132).
R. Menahem of Recanati wrote in his commentary ont he Pentateuch: "All my days I ahv been astounded that such a wise man should have been trapped by women, when his own book, Proverbs, is full of warnings about them." When I recognized that the text says that he had a total of a thousand foreign wives (I Kings 11:3), I understood that these mean the thousand ranks of unclean spirits that are influence by the higher tree, Tiferet, and that Solomon, attached to this sefira, tried to complete his wisdom by understanding them. This is what was intended in the verse, "For Solomon went after Ashtoreth (I Kings 11:5): not that he worshipped them, but that he sought to complete his knowledge and went beyond the permissible point of investigation. Solomon tried to understand the customs and cults of the nations."
Looking up I Kings 11: 5, I see that it has "Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites". It seems to me that Lesley has put the quotation marks in the wrong place: they go after "Ashtoreth"; the rest is Alemanno's interpretation of "went after Ashtoreth". etc. Moses did not try to understand foreign gods (still p. 132):
In contrast, Moses sought only to preserve his power of receiving influences through Tiferet, the commandments of the Torah, as is written: "That caused his glorious (Tifarto) arm to go at the right hand of Moses (Isaiah 63:12)."
The problem is that in trying to understand the cults and customs of the nations, one is letting the door open to idol-worship, by others in one's domain if not oneself. This leads to the weakenng of Israel in the generations that follows. In this context Alemanno himself is of interest. He studied Greek and Arabic philosophers and even conversed with the Christians of his own time and place. Like the rabbis who commented on the Arabic philosophers, Alemanno is using this language, which of course the scriptures never heard of, in a way that is like what the Christians do but still tries to be true to Judaism. To many, at that time and since, this was considered dangerous and impermissible.

I do not see in these pages any suggestion that the golden calf was Moses' idea, an idea Idel finds in Alemanno's Notebooks. In "Solomon's Ascents" Alemanno says: (p. 138)
..the making of the calf was obviously taken from the science of talismans, as Ezra comments (to Exodux 32:2vv).
But it would seem to have been the Israelites' idea, not Moses, because he says that the Israelites asked God to forgive them (p. 138).
They sought to have God forgive them, and punish their children, for the rabbis say: "No punishment comes to the world that does not contain an accounting for the making of the calf, as indicted by the verse, 'But when I make an accounting, I will bring them to account for their sins (Exodus 12:34) (Exodus Rabba 42; Sanhedren 102a).'"
That was rather mean-spirited of them, to wish that their sons be punished and not themselves, who committed the crime! Alemanno continues (still p. 138):
Every transgression contains some element of idolatry. But God pardoned them.
So apparently making the golden calf was, although not Moses' idea, at least a transgression. Alemanno goes on:
Solomon was wiser than they in building such forbidden idols. They built only one calf, but for his wives he built thousands of them. Like the Israelites, he was pardoned: although his son suffered for his sins, Solomon himself repented at the end of his life and was pardoned...
I am not totally sure what the sin was. Making idols for his wives is letting impurity flourish (and so seemingly unwise). On the other hand, the gentiles have wisdom that Jews may and have used to get closer to God (the learning of which would make one wiser). I have no further clarification. For anyone who wants to try, I give Alemanno's text 133-138: ... ley133.JPG ... ley134.JPG ... ley136.JPG ... ley137.JPG ... ley138.JPG
Of these I have only discussed p. 138.

Given that Malkhut is the gate to Yesod, that Tiferet is in the middle, and Kether at the top, there are, for these 4 sefirot, 2 vertical pairs, one with Yesod as mid-point and the other with Tiferet as midpoint. There are also 3 horizontal pairs, all with Tiferet as midpoint. The five pairs of the Sefer Yetzirah are now all interpreted allegorically.

It might be possible to find 2 more pairs in this same diagram, to the extent that H (Gevurah), allegorically understood, is between A (Binah) and G (Hod), and D (Chesed) is between C (Hokmah) and E (Netzach). It may well be that Strict Judgment is between Intelligence (skill at questioning witnesses and interpreting statutes) on the one hand and negative commandments (sefira 8, prohibitions/negative judgments) on the other. It may well be that acts of Mercy or Love are between intuitive/rational wisdom (sefira 2) and positive commandments/decrees.

This approach to the sefirot in terms of opposing pairs is not foreign to the Sefer Yetzirah. But it is quite different in its particulars. When I look at the Sefer Yetzirah, I see that it, too, often talks of opposed pairs. Of the "mothers" it says:
...The heavens were created from fire, the earth was created from water, and the air from breath decides between them.
...The hot was created from fire, the cold is created from water, and the temperate from breath decides between them.
...The head was created from fire, the belly was created from water, and the chest from breath decides between them.
Correspondingly, in the diagram whose letter assignments are derived from the Book Bahir ( ... Hebrew.svg), the upper horizontal line is associated with Shin, the letter assigned to fire, the lower horizontal with Mem, the letter assigned to Water, and the middle horizontal is Alef, the letter assigned to Breath or Air. That is the only time that I can find where the diagram pictures a mediation between what is signified by the letters. It is probably because in the universe Fire was considered the highest sphere of the elements, Air next, and Water below that.

That is another way in which the diagram is a map: it shows how the three elements are situated spatially in relation to one another. Similarly, in the Bahir diagram, the letters for the seven planets are presented in order on the vertical lines, starting on the top left and working down to the bottom. And the signs for the zodiac there, assuming the Sefer Yetzirah assignments, form a kind of band from the top of our stretched square to the bottom, like the ecliptic except that some constellations are out of order by one or two places (see the end of my earlier post in this thread at posting.php?mode=reply&f=11&t=1049#pr15953.

But the Sefer Yetzirah suggests no oppositions, and neither does the arrangement in the diagram. It does mention, in connection with the planets, seven oppositions: life and death, peace and strife, wisdom and folly, wealth and poverty, beauty and ugliness, fertility and sterility, lordship and servitude (Long Version 4.1). But in this case both members of each pair are associated with one planet. So there is no opposition between planets here.

The Sefer Yetzirah also mentions other oppositions. Short Version 5.5 says
Seven: three opposite three, and one divided.

This sounds like three good planets and three bad planets. But they are never named. In the diagram, there are 2 verticals on each side and 3 in the middle. A 16th century alchemical diagram is closer (my scan from Roob, Alchemy and Mysicism, p. 308):

The Sefer Yetzirah also finds oppositions among the 12. Section 5.5 continues:
There are three who love and three who hate, three who give life and three who kill.

That makes 12, which you might think refer to the zodiacal signs. However does not mention those signs. The passage does associate each of the 12 with different body parts; but these body parts are not, except in two cases, associated with particular zodiacal signs.

So there is a certain tension betwen Alamenno's identification of the opposites, which I have found easy to attach to sefirot as they are positioned in the diagram, and the Sefer Yetzirah's own identification of opposites, which is mostly disconnected from the diagram's oppositions (left-right, up-down, etc.) and even oppositions between qualities mentioned in the text itself. The Sefer Yetzirah, mainly concerned with the creation of the world by means of the Hebrew letters, which in the diagram correspond to the paths between sefirot, has little to say about the sefirot themselves, except that they are a unity made up of five opposing pairs. Alemanno, like Gikatilla and most other Kabbalists, is concerned with allegorizing the opposing pairs and achieving a balance between the two sides of the opposition.

This tendency to emphasize the sefirot and their relationships rather than the astrological components of 3, 7, and 12 may be reflected in the version of the sefirotic diagram that became most used by Christian hermeticists, namely, that presented by Kircher in 1652 ( ... f_Life.png). If you look carefully on that tree (or any following it, such as Crowley's), you will see that the assignments of letters to paths do not reflect the division into 3 horizontals, 7 verticals, and 12 diagonals at all. Alef is at the top, between Kether and Hokma, and thus would be one of the 12 diagonals. However the Sefer Yetzirah clearly says that it is a mother letter; so it should be one of the horizontals. It is the same throughout. The principle Kircher's tree follows is not that of the 3, 7, and 12 but rather that of simply going from the top down, with Alef at the top and Tau at the bottom. That is good for picturing the allegorical relationships between the sefirot, but not for picturing astrology.

And when Kircher's diagram does add astrology, it does it in a way those who diagrammed the Sefer Yetzirah never dreamed of: it assigns planets to sefirot rather than to the 7 vertical paths, and not simply in descending order but with an adjustment that better fits the meaning of the various sefirot: it goes 4 Jupiter, 5 Mars, 6 Sun, 7 Venus, 8 Saturn, 9 Mercury, 10 Moon. This is a variation on what Pico did in his 900 Theses, not as what Jewish kabbalists did but as his innovation (Thesis 11>48); the only difference is that Pico made Saturn 8 and Venus 9; he was probably thinking of the left side as "feminine" and the right as "masculine".

But this tendency, too, is anticipated in Alemanno and probably other Jewish Kabbalists before him, when he associates the 3rd safira, Binah, with Saturn (Idel p. 188 at ... y_djvu.txt). How the other planets then run he doesn't say. The Christian hermeticists, as though oblivious to the Sefer Yetzirah, which they also used, then went down the order, similar to Kircher's until they made further innovations near the end, with 8 Hod as Mercury, 9 Yesod as the Moon, and 10 Malkhut-- this last in Jewish lore mainly associated with the Moon--as the earth.

There is another version that also does not fit, namely, the one on the cover of Paolo Ricci's translation of Gikatilla's Gates of Light, 1515. That one has 17 paths (see; I count the forked one as 1 vertical and 2 diagonals). Since the sefirot were always justified by reference to the Sefer Yetzirah, to which Ricci's picture still has a deformed connection (4 verticals, 1 horizontal, 12 diagonals), there must have been 22 paths. It is only Gikatilla's total disconnection from the astrological assignments in his writing that makes such a misrepresentation possible.


For Alemanno, the sefirot, in the context of the sefirotic diagram and Alemanno's outline of "goods" reproduced in the previous post, constitute a schema not only for human choices but for change in general, as it affects the "world of motion". Someone who can attain the level of the sefirot is in a position to know, for example, whether in a particular case, Justice or Mercy is the stronger, if they are balanced, and likewise for the other sefirot. The sefirot, with God's help, allow one to see behind appearances to the essential.

In the Sefer Yetzirah's own allegory, relating to astrological entities, units of time, and parts of the body, the same is true, but mostly not in relation to the diagram or even the sefirot. The only connection between its schema and the diagram, with the one exception in the case of the three mother letters, is in how the associated letters are grouped in terms of the different types of Hebrew letters, the 3 mothers, 7 doubles, and 12 elementals. Correspondingly, there are 3 horizontal lines, 7 vertical lines, and 12 diagonal lines in the diagram. But that is the only connection. It is even unlikely that in the Sefer Yetzirah the letters constitute paths between sefirot, given that the lower 6 sefirot are most likely faces of a cube, or at least something that one sees when facing different directions; the upper 4 only seem to be concerned with the conditions under which lines are generated, i.e. the conditions under which He speaks (time, goodness).

For Alemanno's view of the sefirot, an analogy might be to Newton's laws. of motion and gravitation. From them it is possible to know in a particular case what will happen to a given object in relation to other objects, knowing their mass, speed, density, etc. These laws are "occult" in operating invisibly; it is not a matter of chains or levers pushing and pulling the objects around. The forces work in a hidden way, known only to the wise, who know both the principles and how to apply them, through the various sciences, to particular cases in the "mutable world".

However in Alemanno's world numerical operations are not differential calculus but rather gematria supplemented by ecstatic vocalizations of very precise permutations; and the "sciences" include those of alchemy along with astrology and other forms of divinaion. Yet at the same time "mechanics", in which mathematics is an important tool, and "experiment", as specified in his list of "goods", are parts of what we must learn to understand the world. With such means it is possible to make progress toward understanding some of these "occult" forces in the way that Kepler and Newton eventually did. How much their verified theories left out is another issue.

Astrology, given the Sefer Yetzirah, for Alemanno is the mathematical science that governs the stars, with the sefirot above them. In the Sefer Yetzirah, it is a way from sounds and combinations of sounds called "letters" to entities in the world. How they relate to the sefirot is not even mentioned. Medicine and bodily health are also incorporated in the Sefer Yetzirah, since particular bodily organs are assigned to particular paths. However the parts still must be put together in a coherent whole. The Kabbalists' sefirotic system, as a product of a monotheistic consciousness that includes the "en sof" as its unifying principle, offers this unity.

Apart from the Sefer Yetzirah's mystical assignments of the Hebrew letters, there are the allegorical meanings of the sefirot themselves, not mentioned in that book but interpreted, as Alemanno does, in relation to cognate biblical verses and kabbalist commentaries. That is how Moses got the power of Tiferet in his right arm, as Alemanno explains it.

The sefirotic system then forms, or is understood to form, a kind of "science of sciences", a book for understanding all changes in the lower world, based on knowing the energy in the paths and spheres of the sefirot. It is a kind of "book of changes", in other words. Just as the I Ching is based on the unity between yin and yang, broken lines and whole lines, and the various subjects and combinations under which this unity can play out, on six different axes, so the Sefer Yetzirah does something similar, on at least five different axes and 32 different situations. The sefirotic system makes up for its lower number--32 vs. 64--by recognizing the continuum between the opposites and the middle way. Perhaps the I Ching does so as well, in its own way. I have not studied it.

The I Ching, besides being a book of wisdom-poems, also gives a method of focusing on one or a few of these poems, the method of casting sticks, which may or may not be legitimately simplified by the tossing of coins. That is where the tarot comes in.

When the tarot expresses the sefirot, including the lines between them, it, too, becomes a "science of sciences", focused on a particular person at a particular time. However I doubt if it is one accessible to the ignorant--despite what Alemanno says about children's interpretations of scripture--but rather only someone like Solomon, who has mastered all the particular sciences, even down to stonecutting and shepherding. (That point would seem to be a given in Camillo's massive theatre of all knowledge and the memory systems to hold it all in one's mind.) Once one knows how the sefirot are charged, one can predict the future, Alemanno says--just as surely as a physicist today who knows Newtonian mechanics can predict the course of a spaceship, given that he knows the relevant facts to put in the equations. And just as the scientist can adjust the thrust of the rocket remotely to achieve success, so might a Kabbalist be able to adjust the relevant energy levels in the sefirot and their paths. Divination, aided by piety, becomes magic.

With the tarot, it is a matter of understanding that the same basic laws that are expressed in the sefirot govern the distribution of cards, when done in a way that connects them to their divine archetypes. It is a matter of interpreting them according to definite principles. The Sefer Yetzirah then becomes a key to understanding the cards, or at least the 22 "triumphs", now properly seen as "major secrets". Their astrological and medical diagnoses can be read from the letter corresponding to the number of the card. And to the extent that cards can be linked with particular sefirot, by the method of numerical and subject correspondence, it is possible to use their meanings, understood in terms of the Kabbalist commentaries, for occult diagnoses and predictions as well. '

On p. 136 of Lesley's translation, we also learn Alemanno's explanation of why it is that there is more to the meaning of work than meets the eye. It is something that would apply as well to the tarot:
He [Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes] made every subject comprehensivle to every person, each according to his taste and desire, in order to gather together the thoughts and opinions of the people. He apologized for this by saying, "The words of the wise are as goads (Ecc. 12:11)," to arouse the lazy. As such, they must at first sound like what is familiar to the learner, so that he will accept them; then, when he is receptive, he gradually comes to learn the truth. So the words of the wise teacher must partly resemble the opinions of the fools, to insert a brace of truth. Ultimately, this mixture of the pleasant and the instructive will give the people knowledge of the sefirotic world and the immortality that comes with knowledge of that world.
But there are problems. For one thing, when the paths are assigned to Greco-Babylonian astrological entities, then the allegory of paths as gradations between pairs of opposites is lost--if, for example, the Fortitude card is understood in isolation from Rashness and Cowardice. In that case it may be possible to appeal to "surrounding cards". Perhaps in this context the number cards would have been of use.

More seriously, there is the problem of how to correlate the letters with cards. Is card 1 Alef, card 2 Beth, and so on, or might it go in the reverse direction, as de Mellet supposed? It would seem that the subjects of the tarot sequence are of some relevance, and not merely their number. But how to do justice to both the subject and the number? There is also the question of what letter to assign to the Fool card, which has no number. Maybe it, instead of card 1, should be "Aleph". And apart from the astrological correspondences, may one correlate cards with the sefirot themselves, even past the number 10 (perhaps by ignoring the "1" in front, and reversing the order, as I have suggested at ). At least here there is no problem about what number to give the Fool; the "En Sof" also is unnumbered.

Then there is the question of what the proper order of the sequence is, given that many orders existed by Alemanno's time. Does it matter, or is there one or more that is correct, rationally and intuitively?

There is also the question of who is qualified to be a tarot reader. Alemanno admits that astrology is a science even though not Jewish. Is the same true, going in the other direction, for Kabbalah? Is a Kabbalist tarot-reader necessarily someone who follows the precepts ofJudaism, or can others adapt Kabbalah to their beliefs? If so, must they still practice the Abulafian permutations?

In part these problems are simplified when you consider that Alemanno and the Kabbalsits before him de-emphasized the astrological and biological parts of the Sefer Yetzirah in favor of an elaboration of the sefirot themselves, in ways far beyond what that book imagined. It is possible to get a meaningful Kabbalist interpretation of the cards without considering those other areas, astrology and biology, at all. I have examined this issue at

Papus and others spoke of "triads" within the tarot sequence corresponding to "triads" in the sefirot, such that one mediates between or encompasses the other two. That is very much in the spirit of Alemanno's approach to the seferot. The astrological, biological, and linguistic reflections are then secondary at best. They are like old things kept for their sentimental value, not thrown out but never actually used in one's current life.They can be used, in the way that children might dress up in the old clothes they find in the attic, but in Jewish Kabbalah, astrology and astrological medicine seem to have been regarded as a kind of foreign accretion picked up in the Babylonian captivity and not really a proper Jewish endeavor. And while it may or may not work in the modern day, the framework of Jewish morality that it projects is still valuable: let the spiritual infuse the material, keep the heart's commandments as though they were agreements with God, love what is lovable and hate what deserves to be hated, develop your practical intelligence and your intuitive wisdom, temper justice with mercy and love with intelligence.

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