"And they repeat in a cycle and exist in 231 Gates.
And it comes to pass that all that is formed and all that is spoken, emanates from a single Name."
-- Sepher Yetzirah 2:5
Creation is a cyclic process. It begins with the descent of force into form, then shifts to the ascent of force from form. Thus the ending is reunited with the beginning and the Creator, having created and then redeemed her creation, turns anew to re-creation.
For a thing to be alive, it must be actively passing through this cycle of creation -- redemption -- re-creation. If it halts anywhere along the way, it becomes a static, dead thing. The Creator therefore, can never look away from her creation, but instead must always be nurturing it and moving it along through the cycle.
Creation begins with the gathering of forces. These are symbolized in Kabbalah by the 32 Paths of Wisdom. This initial gathering of 32 "spoken", defined factors generates the potential for 14 (according to the Gra Tree of Life image) additional "unspoken" factors known as the Hidden Paths.
A "Path" signifies a specific flow of a single force. A "Gate" however, signifies a specific focusing of one or more Paths. As the Creator descends, the Paths interact and generate focused expressions, i.e. Gates. At the Atziluthic or upper edge of Briah, the 46 Paths of the Gra Tree combine to generate the 182 Gates of Creation which descend into and fill Briah.
The Creator's descent through these Briatic Gates, results in the appearance -- at the Yetziratic or lower edge of Briah -- of the 50 Gates of Understanding (Binah). These Gates pass through the thin membrane or veil separating Briah from Yetzirah and appear at the Briatic or upper edge of Yetzirah as the Hebrew Tree.
The 50 Gates of Binah are composed of 49 enumerated Gates and one un-numbered Gate. The un-numbered Gate represents the Creator and is the first of the 50. The Gates numbered 1 through 48 correspond to the 32 "spoken" Paths and to the 16 "unspoken" Hidden Paths that the Hebrew Tree generates. [ NOTE: Here, at the level of Binah, these are now gates instead of paths.] The final Gate, number 49, corresponds to the integrated action of the previous 49. As the Creator enters Gate 49, the veil is finally penetrated and the archetype for Yetzirah, the Hebrew Tree, appears.
The Creator's descent through the 182 Gates of Creation and through the 49 enumerated Gates of Binah, fulfills the first cycle of 231 -- Creation.
The Hebrew Tree is the direct product of Briah and thus it is the highest expression of Yetzirah, serving as an archetype for Formation just as the Gra Tree served for Creation. As the Creator enters and enlivens the Hebrew Tree, the 231 Gates of Formation are generated, descending into and filling Yetzirah. Passage through these gates gives Form to the Creator's force -- a Form to which material substance will naturally and automatically adhere. This fulfills the second cycle of 231 -- Formation.
The filling of Yetzirah accomplishes two
things. First, it results, automatically, in a material manifestation (Assiah).
Second, it generates the 231 Gates of Yetziratic Redemption (also know as the
231 Gates of Initiation).
To redeem a thing is to re-connect it with its source of inspiration. Redemption therefore, is a process which releases the created thing from its clothing of form and returns it to its original state as a primal force. Redemption is a process of ascension, necessitated according to the Universal Law of Equilibrium, by the fulfillment of the creative descent. In other words, the creative descent itself automatically generates the ascending 231 Gates of Yetziratic Redemption.
Having succeeded in giving form to her creative force, the Creator now becomes the Redeemer. She gathers her creation and ascends with it through a re-ordered sequence of the 231 Gates of Formation. These Gates of Yetziratic Redemption outline a cumulative path leading upwards through the Sephiroth from Malkuth to Kether. By following this path, the Creator raises her creation, ascending through the levels of Yetzirah till she reaches the upper, limiting veil separating it from Briah.
As she inhabits the final Gate, she pierces the veil and enters Briah, fulfilling the third cycle of 231 -- Yetziratic Redemption.
The ascent through Yetzirah redeems the
Formation and generates the final cycle of 231. These are the 49 enumerated
Gates of Understanding, taken in reverse order, and the 182 Gates of Briatic
Redemption. These Gates, like the Gates of Yetziratic Redemption, are generated
automatically according to the Universal Law of Equilibrium.
The Redeemer therefore, ascends through the 49 enumerated Gates of Binah, in reverse order, and then through the 182 Gates of Briatic Redemption (which are a re-ordered sequencing of the 182 Gates of Creation).
The Creation is redeemed and the fourth cycle of 231 fulfilled when the Redeemer reaches the 32 Paths of Wisdom residing at the upper, Atziluthic edge of Briah.
And then the Redeemer becomes again the Creator, repeating the four cycles of 231 anew.
The Hidden Paths
The 231 Gates of Initiation are formed out of the 32 Paths of Wisdom and the 16 “unspoken” or Hidden Paths of the Hebrew Tree. These Hidden Paths exist as potentials, whose realization and fulfillment are unique to each Creator who employs them. Consequently, little of value can be "spoken" regarding their individual meanings.
We cannot assign letters to them or define them with scripture or describe their experiential significance, such as we can with the 32 "spoken" Paths. Knowing them is not a thing that can be transmitted by words from one person to another -- only the Creator knows the true meaning of the Hidden Paths involved in the crafting of her creation -- and it is only by experiencing them first-hand that this knowledge is gained.
These "unspoken" Paths are the hands-on thumbprint of the Creator and are what distinguishes one creation from another. They are avenues of uniqueness and spontaneity. The most that can be said of them is that they spread the influences of the Sephirot in all the ways that the 32 "spoken" Paths do not.
Working the Gates
Each Gate is “worked” or traveled in the sequence given, and then one’s steps are retraced, until the beginning is again reached. For example, with Gate #1, you begin in Yesod and follow the Path of Tav down to Malkuth. Then you retrace your steps by passing upward along the Path of Tav until you once again reach Yesod.
Each Gate begins in its highest Sephira. Thus with Gate #1, you begin in Yesod, not Malkuth. Yesod can be reached through the pathway established in The Eight Temples Meditation Project. The best approach is to pursue the work of The Eight Temples and once you become familiar with a new Temple, begin the work of the Gate(s) corresponding to it.
Each Gate is a simple geometric form. With the Gates of Yetziratic Redemption, for example, there are 38 lines (i.e., two Sephirot and one Path, like Gate #1), 68 triangles (three Sephirot and three Paths), 74 quadrangles (four Sephirot and four Paths), 41 pentangles (five Sephirot and five Paths) and 9 hexangles (six Sephirot and six Paths). The final Gate, #231, is the whole Tree and represents the final integration of the completely self-realized Self.
The 32 Paths of Wisdom
Derived from the 32 times the Name "Elohim" appears in the creation story of Genesis 1.
Sephiroth: "Elohim said:" *
Kether -- "In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth." 1:1*
Chokmah -- "Let there be light" 1:3
Binah -- "Let there be a firmament . . . let it divide . . ." 1:6
Chesed -- "Let the waters be gathered . . . let dry land appear . . ." 1:9
Geburah -- "Let the earth put forth grass . . . etc." 1:11
Tiphareth -- "Let there be lights in the firmament . . ." 1:14
Netzach -- "Let the waters swarm . . . let fowl fly . . ." 1:20
Hod -- "Let the earth bring forth living creatures . . ." 1:24
Yesod -- "Let us make man . . ." 1:26
Malkuth -- "Be fruitful and multiply . . ." 1:28
Mothers: "Elohim made:"
Aleph -- "the Firmament and divided the waters . . ." 1:7
Mem -- "the two great lights . . . and the stars." 1:16
Shin -- "the beast of the earth after its kind . . ." 1:25
Doubles: "Elohim saw:"
Beth -- "the light, that it was good." 1:4
Gimel -- "that it was good." (the separation of dry land and waters) 1:10
Daleth -- "that it was good" (the earth bringing forth grass, etc.) 1:12
Kaph -- that it was good" (the two lights in the firmament) 1:18
Peh -- "that it was good" (swarming of waters with creatures; of air with fowl) 1:21
Resh -- "that it was good" (the beasts of the earth) 1:25
Tav -- "every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." 1:31
Elementals: "Elohim --"
Heh -- "hovered over the face of the waters." 1:2
Vav -- "divided the light from the darkness." 1:4
Zayin -- "called the light Day, and darkness Night." 1:5
Cheth -- "called the firmament Heaven." 1:8
Teth -- "called the dry land, Earth . . . and the waters, Seas." 1:10
Yod -- "set them [the two lights] in the firmament of the heaven" 1:17
Lamed -- "created the sea-monsters, creatures that creep, and fowl." 1:21
Nun -- "blessed them [sea-monsters, creepers, and fowl] . . ." 1:22
Samekh -- "created man in His own image." 1:27
Ayin -- "created He him; male and female created He them." 1:27
Tzaddi -- "blessed them [male and female]." 1:28
Qooph -- "said: I have given you all . . ." 1:29*
*There are two exceptions to this: The first is Gen1:1, and Sephirah 1/Kether, wherein "Elohim said" is assumed. The second is Gen1:29, and Elemental 12/Qooph, wherein the focus is shifted from the "Elohim said", to the "I have given you all . . ."