KosherTorah.com - a simpler, more natural way.
The Truth about the 72 Names of God,
and Some Other Truths about Religion
by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
The Bible tell us the story. Seven days after the Children of Israel left Egypt they arrived at the shores the Reed Sea. Pharaoh's army had pursued them there, blocking any escape. Israel was trapped, with a hostile army in front of them, and the Sea to their rear. We all know about the famous miracle of the parting of the Sea, and the salvation of Israel.
Since ancient times there is said to exist a secret code, a special holy Name of God, found in three of the verses that mention the parting of the Sea. The letters in these three verses, when rearranged according to a specific formula, form this special 72 Triad Name of God. According to many, this Name is the famous and awesome “Shem HaMe'forash.” This Name is considered so powerful, and so dangerous, that anyone attempting to recite any of its parts, or use it in any way, will be immediately struck dead. At least, so the legend says.
Let us put legend and myth aside, and look at some of the facts.
The three verses in question are Exodus 14:19-21. Each verse curiously has the same number of 72 letters. Seventy-two is considered a special number in Torah. It is the numerical value of the Hebrew word “Hesed” (mercy), and, with the letter Vav, is also three times the value of the Name YHWH, signifying a cubing of its power.
The three verses are subject to a formula of transformation in this way. The first verse is written straight across, the second verse is written backwards, and the third verse, again, written straight across. Then the letters of the three verses are divided into triplets, thus forming seventy-two triads.
However holy and sacred this Name and this formula may or may not be, most are totally unaware that this formula of forward, backwards, and forward writing is not indigenous to anything Israelite or Jewish. This form of writing is called Boustrophedon, and was common in Greek culture, and before them it was used in Luwian (Hittite) hieroglyphics. How interesting that the most sacred form of Torah secret coding is not originally Jewish at all.
Those with experience using the Names have learned from their experience that the awe and hype surrounding the Names are pretty much myth building fear tactics. Reciting them properly, chanting them, and even reciting or chanting the combinations of these triads with YHWH, or equally reciting or chanting the angelic Names associated with each of the 216 letters is not a lethal practice. No one has ever died from making use of these Names. No one has gone insane. No one has been cursed by Heaven because they were impure, or unworthy.
On the contrary, those using these Names have learned either one of two things. Either one has experienced absolutely nothing, and concludes that the entire ceremony, and practice associated with these Names is a complete myth, and religious hype, or one learns the real truth, that the usage of these Names are a psychological tool, for guidance in active imagination, or to focus archetypal meditation. Essentially, the Names are not Names at all. Rather, they are a psychological tool for deep self introspection, and for pursuing psychological revelations and insights that such a practice can brings to one's consciousness.
This psychological result is certainly not magical, it is not even mystical, but it is certainly real. It can be tried, retried, and proven over and over again. The greatest secret about the magical Names is that they work “magic” in the mind, and can be used to help a meditator discover one's own inner truths. This, they do, indeed!
However, by revealing this revelation, I have also deflated the magic out of the myth, and possibly put a number of charlatans, who try to take advantage of others by promoting the non-existent magic of the Names, out of business. Good riddance to bad trash! Let the truth be told. For me, this is the key to real religion.
Let this revelation serve as a lesson to us. Let this lesson serve us as an introduction to further lessons. Let me share with you some of these.
Religion is terribly misunderstood, most especially by the religious. People today read ancient texts from ancient societies, and think that because they can read these texts in their own modern languages that these texts are to be understood literally, and their lessons applied accordingly. It is an unfortunate statement of modern arrogance for one today to view an ancient text and proclaim that one understands it, in translation, without knowing the text's original cultural context, intricate literary devices, and purpose and intents of the original authors.
So much is misunderstood because people look at the surface, and refuse to believe that there are layers and layers of deeper meaning, and that without knowledge of these, that any surface (superficial) perusal is fundamentally wrong. It is not enough to read the text, and then proclaim what it means. One must first ask the difficult question, what does the text really mean, what is it really saying, what is its original purpose, why is it written the way it is, and what does this teach us about the nature of its literary style?
If these are the questions that we must ask about religious texts, think about the questions that we must ask about God.
What do we really know about God? What can we know? We read texts that represent God to us in almost human terms, and we interpret this literally, to create God in our own image. In the Hebrew/Judaic tradition God is always portrayed in almost human context, in spite of the fact that the Bible itself says clearly never to make any form or image of God.
Throughout the centuries stories have been created that speak of God doing this or that, yet a point made extremely clear by the ancient Sages is that all the stories that they have created were for moral and ethical purposes only. They emphasize that all apparent references in the Bible to God having any semblance of form is completely symbolic and metaphorical. The ancient texts use this language not to be in any way literal, but rather to be poetic, and to try to help mere mortal human beings to comprehend and embrace ethical and moral instruction.
Using the ancient example, the Sages also used metaphor and symbol to express their moral and ethical teachings. Yet, when their methods were forgotten, many look at their words and begin to interpret them literally instead of how they were originally meant to be understood in their symbolic and metaphorical style. This has led many to adopt many mistaken beliefs and concepts about God.
Without actual verifiable knowledge and experience of spiritual realities, many are inclined to believe just about anything that they are told. The words ascribed to the circus-man PT Barnum begin to ring true ever so loudly. “A sucker (foolish, gullible person) is born every minute.”
When it comes to religion and spiritual matters, many fall “hook, line and sinker,” for this or that scam, or whatever be the latest trend of superstitious nonsense that is popular at the moment.
The Biblical texts take a strong stand against magical and occult practices. These prohibitions were not instituted to prevent access to the occult because it is spooky and full of actual, authentic evil powers. Rather, these edicts were instituted to keep the public away from the foolish practices that charlatans practice and leads to the promotion of superstition.
The occult is very real, especially when it it is understood within its proper psychological parameters. However, without true in-depth knowledge of the human psyche, many are duped into believing all kinds of nonsense, superstitions and foolishness, even though they are packaged under the guise of being spiritual, pious religious and mystical behavior. Those who fall for this line of thinking, or who get involved with these foolish practices, ascribing any value to them at all, are indeed suckers, as PT Barnum would indeed have called them.
Religion is supposed to be simple and natural. It is not supposed to be convoluted, complicated and confusing.
Superstitions and much of religious mysticism is make-believe. It is better suited to be presented as children's fairy tales, rather than as authentic religious dogma, or as mystical, magical truths.
There is an authentic mystical tradition, just as there are authentic occultic realities. Both of these, however, are expressions and manifestations of human consciousness, and the explorations of the mind. The more grounded one is to the Earth, the more enabled one becomes to rise to Heaven.
Thou shalt not be superstitious. Thou shalt not fear the boogey-man. Thou shalt not put thy faith in charlatans, make-believe, and mumbo-jumbo. Let these commandments be your guide to explore authentic spirituality, along your path to an authentic encounter with the Divine, experienced within.
The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright (C) 1997 - 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
Please remember, KosherTorah is supported by
your generous contributions.
Thank you for your support, and your interest in our works.