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The Tetragrammaton (Greek: τετραγράμματον word with four letters) is the Hebrew name for God, which is spelled (in Hebrew); י (yod) ה (heh) ו (waw) ה (heh) or יהוה (YHWH), it is the distinctive personal name of the God of Israel.

Of all the names of God in the Old Testament, that which occurs most frequently is the Tetragrammaton, appearing 6,823 times according to the ( According to Biblica Hebraica and Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the original texts of the Hebrew Scriptures, written in both Hebrew and Aramaic, contain the Tetragrammaton 6,828 times. It is evident that the Tetragrammaton was used very extensively in original language, ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts. This indicates a much more personal reference to the special identity of the Almighty (as opposed to impersonal titles such as "God" or "Lord"), on the part of the Bible writers. Many Bible scholars view this as evidence that the Bible writers (and indeed, likely the ancient Hebrew and Israelite people) viewed the Name represented by the Tetragrammaton as very important, and commonly used it in their everyday speech and prayers. And, for those that believe the Bible was inspired by God, it shows how he felt about his own personal name.

In Judaism, the Tetragrammaton is the ineffable name of God, and is not pronounced. In reading aloud of the scripture or in prayer, it is replaced with "Adonai" ("my Lord").

One theory regarding the Tetragammaton is that the Jewish taboo on its pronunciation was so strong that the original pronunciation may have been lost somewhere in the first millennium. Since then, many scholars (particularly Christians) have sought to reconstruct its original pronunciation.

Table of contents

1 The Theory Of Tetragrammaton


According to one Jewish tradition, the Tetragrammaton is related to the causative form, the imperfect state, of the Hebrew verb הוה (ha·wah; become); meaning "He will cause to become" usually understood as "He causes to become". Compare the many Hebrew and Arabic personal names which are 3rd person singular imperfective verb forms starting with "y", e.g. Hebrew Yôsêph = Arabic Yazîd = "He [who] adds"; Arabic Yahyâ = "He [who] lives".

Another tradition regards the name as coming from three different verb forms sharing the same root YWH, the words HYH haya [היה]: "He was"; HWH howê [הוה]: "He is"; and YHYH w'yihiyê [יהיה]: "He will be". This is supposed to show that God is timeless. Other interpretations includes the name as meaning "I am the One Who Is." This can be seen in the traditional Jewish account of the "burning bush" commanding Moses to tell the sons of Israel that "I AM has sent you." (Exodus 3:13-14) Some suggest: "I AM the One I AM." This may also fit the interpretation as "He Causes to Become." Many scholars believe that the most proper meaning may be "He Brings Into Existence Whatever Exists."

Jewish use of the word

In Judaism, pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is a taboo; it is widely considered forbidden to utter it and the pronunciation of the name is generally avoided. As noted above, "Adonai" is used as a substitute in prayers or readings from the Hebrew Bible.

According to Rabbinic tradition, the name was pronounced by the high priest on the Day of Atonement, the only day when the Holy of Holies of the Temple would be entered. With the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 EV, this use also vanished, also explaining the "loss" of the correct pronunciation.

The name Adonai (The Lord) has come to be so connected with the Tetragrammaton that even this word has restrictions among pious Jews. It is only used in prayer and Bible readings, or instructions of those subjects. When many religious Jews refer to the name of God in conversation or in a non-textual context such as in a book, newspaper or letter, they call the name Hashem which means simply "The Name".

Thus, except for a small number of Kabbalists and Karaite Jews, no one claims to know with absolute certainty just how it was pronounced — the only generally accepted fact is that the last Heh in YHWH is silent. In the end, it is impossible to state definitively how it was pronounced.

Qabalistic Symbolism

In Qabalah, the cosmological structure of Creation is defined according to two interdependent numerical structures; the Tetragrammaton, being the expansion of zero into four, and the Tree of Life, defined by the numbers one to ten. The key concept fundamental to an understanding of both is that they are evolutionary in structure and sequence. Both the formulae of the Tetragrammaton and the Tree of Life communicate the process by which the Creator manifested general spiritual Substance, and then, through an evolutionary sequence, condensed this substance into specific material Form. These terms, "Substance" and "Form", are essential, and are applicable to each stage in the sequences of both the Tetragrammaton and the Tree of Life. In these sequences, each stage gives Form to a Substance represented by the stage preceding it.

It must be mentioned at this point that the formulae of the Tetragrammaton and the Tree of Life represent God producing Something from Nothing (Yesh M'Ain, in Hebrew). In relation to these formulae, God Himself is referred to as "Ain", which is Hebrew for "Not", or "Nothing". This is because the qualities of material existence cannot be conceived of as applying to God in His essential state, which is independent and exalted from all material existence. Thus, by the standards of material existence, God is nonexistence. The formulae of the Tetragrammaton and the Tree of Life portray the process by which God projected material existence out of Divine nonexistence.

The Four letters of the Tetragrammaton represent four basic and definitive stages of this process. First, the Yod of the Tetragrammaton represents the emanation of a general, all-encompassing spiritual Substance out of Divine Nothingness. Second, the first Heh of the Tetragrammaton represents the definition of particular qualities within this general Substance. Vav represents the separation and recombination of these particular qualities to form various basic compounds and ideal Forms which comprise the basic guidelines according to which material existence is ultimately manifested. Manifestation itself is represented by the final Heh. This basic outline applies to all applications of the formula of the Tetragrammaton.

God, existing in His essential and absolute Unity, is exalted and distinct from material manifestation. As such, He is considered as a "fifth state" existing "behind" manifest Creation. This "fifth state" is the Source from which the four letters or phases of the Tetragrammaton are projected. This concept implies a direct relationship between the four letters of the Tetragrammaton and the four elements of classical philosophy, which, in turn, correspond directly to the four states of matter in modern physics. These four elements are Fire (energy), Water (liquids), Air (gases), and Earth (solids). These are the four distinguishable manifestations of the "source-substance" which Pythagoras termed "Quintessence". In Latin writings, "quinta essentia" literally means "fifth substance".

Fire, which corresponds to Yod, the first letter of the Tetragrammaton, also corresponds to the soul of humanity, the element of spirituality which resides within us. This element motivates us to strive for exalted degrees of consciousness and action, and it motivates us to become close to the Divine. Positively, the qualities of Fire manifest as will, inspiration, nobility of deeds, and the motivation and power to achieve honor, prestige, dominion, and leadership. Negatively, these last qualities become pride, egotism, despotism, and tyranny, as opposed to deserved authority. In a literal sense, Fire is the provider of warmth and light, but uncontrolled is the most destructive of the elements.

Water corresponds to Heh, the second letter of the Tetragrammaton, and corresponds to the desires of humanity, the passions which shape and direct the will towards specific ends and goals. This concept is most obviously manifest as human emotions. Philosophic Water represents the qualities of passivity, receptivity, flexibility, and dependency, which are the qualities of emotion and desire, because emotion and desire are totally dependent on outside influences. Philosophic Water has no inherent power of its own, except as the conductor and transformer of another. Alone, the element of Water is barren; life did not manifest in seawater without the catalysts of heat and light, which are qualities of the element of Fire.

Obversely, when brought to bear on the element of Fire, Water becomes very powerful and important. Fire, in and of itself, is very chaotic and amorphous. It is the qualities of Water that make it possible to contain and control Fire. Without these "Watery" qualities, Fire would run rampant in a destructive rage and then burn itself out. It is Desire (water) which shapes, sustains, and directs the Will (fire) towards practical ends. Thus, Fire and Water are interdependent for any creative act. This fact is the basis of their relationship to the Tetragrammaton.

Air corresponds to Vav, the third letter of the Tetragrammaton, and also to human intellect. The powers of analysis and synthesis, which constitute the intellect, are the abilities to break down a subject into it's basic components in order to understand it's structure (and, hopefully, it's purpose), and then to reconstruct these components into something new, and - possibly - better. Thus, Air represents the qualities of reason and rationality. Positively, these are directed towards constructive applications and new inventions. But, devoid of the creative guidance of the qualities of Fire and Water, intellect, as the power of division, becomes a very destructive force. It has well been seen in our time that, devoid of higher ideals, science, laws, and politics become - at best - sterile of any worth or meaning. Unfortunately, the worst is more often manifest as war, pollution, infringement of basic human rights, and weapons technology that has advanced far beyond our ability to rationaly control, much less use.

Earth, the final Heh of the Tetragrammaton, manifests in humanity as the physical body, as well as that which is needed to sustain the body, such as food and shelter. Earth is also the literal Earth, the soil in which our food grows, as well as the globe which is the home and environment of the human community. Like Water, Philosophic Earth is barren and sterile in and of itself. It's value is completely dependent on how it expresses and is influenced by the "higher" elements. For example, the actions of the human body can only be judged and evaluated according to how well they express or effect the spiritual will (Fire), the passions (Water), and/or the intellect (Air). Thus, money, the most obvious example of material power, is not inherently evil. It is simply a tool of convenience, like a knife or a match, and one can only judge the value of how it is used.

This is a basic summary of the qualities of the philosophic elements of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. Anthropomorphically, Earth corresponds to the physical body which is the vehicle of human consciousness. The consciousness itself consists of three fundamental parts: the intellect (Air), which is subject to the influences of the passions (Water), which are, in a very real sense, the physical manifestations of the strivings of the spiritual will (Fire). The correspondence of these four elements to the Qabalistic formula of the Tetragrammaton becomes a complex structure of interdependent metaphysical concepts.

The Theory Of Tetragrammaton

On 18th November, 1898 e.v., Aleister Crowley was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He succeeded in uniting under the Schema of the Holy Qabalah, of which the Tarot is the greatest single element, all philosophical and magical systems soever, including that of the Chinese. This, and his Naples Arrangement are with little doubt his greatest achievements in scholarship.

(The Book of Thoth, a publication in class B, is also considered to be one of the most important works of this scholar by a great number of people. There is no doubt about it since The Book of Thoth is an extraordinary attempt to define the pictorial representations of the Tarot according to their true esoteric correspondences and under the ancient scheme of the Holy Qabalah).

The Tao is exactly equivalent to the Ain or Nothingness of our Qabalah, because equally it must be comprehended as necessarily possessing a phase of manifestation. The conception becomes more objective as it is developed, so that both Tao and its hidden correlative Teh are formulated in a quite positive way as the Yang and the Yin, which correspond exactly to the Lingam and the Yoni. These being clothed about become the popular symbols of Father and Mother. In the macrocosm they correspond to the Sun and Moon; and, by further descent into matter, are, on the masculine side, Fire and Air; on the feminine side, Water and Earth.

(In nature, there always exists the positive and the negative, the active and the passive, the masculine and the feminine. Wise men of old age veiled these twin forces in fables, in myths and in legends. Therefore we find out that The Persians had their Ormuzd-Ariman, The Egyptians had their Osiris-Typhoon and The Hebrews had their Abel-Cain. There exists both the good and the bad serpent but it is vital to keep in mind that they are one in essence, each one necessary to the other in the process of evolution, like the spermatozoon is to the ovule).

Obliged to describe Nothing, the only way to do so without destroying its integrity was to represent it as the union of a Plus Something with an equivalent Minus Something. One may call these two ideas, the Active and Passive, the Father and Mother. But although the Father and Mother can make a perfect union, when by returning to Zero, which is a retrogression, they can also go forward into Matter, so that their union produces a Son and a Daughter. The idea works out in practice as a method of describing how the union of any two things produces a third thing which is neither of them.

(Something similar may be the process in which the alchemists experimented in the manipulation of metals. They would take silver and gold for instance; gold being for obvious reasons the father and silver, the mother. When they combined these two metals they would give existence to a third kind of metal, in this case, argent-aurum, being the son, a metal that shares some of the characteristics of its metallurgic parents but does not partake of their purity any longer. It may be added that this type of experiment is considered as an act of magick because it was carried through the formula of Love under Will. In fact, all the processes of nature are magical, because everything that happens in the Universe is in turn necessary and self-compensating).

The Union of the Father and the Mother produces twins, the son going forward to the daughter, the daughter returning the energy to the father; by this cycle of change the stability and eternity of the Universe are assured.

(The authors of the gospels were aware of the secret methods of nature and they represented them in the forms of The Holy Ghost as the father, Jesus Christ as the son, The Virgin Mary as the mother and Mary Magdalene as the daughter.)

At first sight it would appear that the formula is the union of the extremely masculine, the big blond beast, with the extremely feminine, the princess who could not sleep if there was a pea beneath her seven feather beds. But all such symbolism defeats itself; the soft becomes the hard, the rough the smooth. The deeper one goes into the formula, the closer becomes the identification of the opposites. The Dove is the bird of Venus, but the dove is also a symbol of the Holy Ghost; that is, of the Phallus in its most sublimated form. There is therefore no reason for surprise in observing the identification of the father with the mother.

(Among the Greeks, Zeus was the Lord of Air and he was bisexual, and so as our Adam Kadmon, the primordial man. It has been re-discovered in the field of psychoanalysis that man is potentially bisexual because he has a female soul, which is called Anima while woman has another kind of soul called Animus, which is considered as being male).

The ultimate sense seems to be that the original god is both male and female, which is, of course, the essential doctrine of the Qabalah; and the thing most difficult to understand about the later debased Old Testament tradition, is that it represents Tetragrammaton as masculine, in spite of the two feminine components.

(Tetragrammaton is the name that the Hebrews gave to their demiurge who is some kind of bipolar and tyrant demi-god, a presumptuous slave driver with a sadistic tendency to tempt and deceive mankind. The Gnostics saw him as their mortal enemy.)

The Hebrew system is straightforward and irreversible; it postulates Father and Mother from whose union issue Son and Daughter. There an end. It is only later philosophical speculation to derive the Father-mother Dyad from a Unity manifest, and later still to seek the source of that Unity in Nothing. This is a concrete and limited scheme, crude, with its causeless Beginning and its sterile End.

(It is said that Moses had to climb Mount Sinai in order to receive the Qabalah along with the 10 commandments, but this aint so, since Moses came from Egypt, the place where he was accordingly trained and consecrated, the Qabalah being older than history itself, vulgar history, that is).

The Pagan system is circular, self-generated, self-nourished, self-renewed. It is a wheel on whose rim are Father-Mother-Son-Daughter; they move about the motionless axis of Zero; they unite at will; they transform one into another; there is neither Beginning nor End to the Orbit; none is higher or lower than another. The Equation "Naught=Many=Two=One=All=None" is implicit in every mode of the being of the system.

(In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Liber AL II; 3 Every number is infinite; there is no difference. Liber AL I; 4).

Zoroaster says, “God is he, having the head of a hawk; having a spiral force”. It is interesting to notice that this oracle appears to anticipate the present Aeon, that of the hawk-headed Lord, and also of the mathematical conception of the shape of the Universe as calculated by Einstein and his school. In this may be discovered the doctrine which asserts that the blindness of humanity to all the beauty and wonder of the Universe is due to this illusion of straightness. It is significant that Riemann, Bolyai and Lobatchewsky seem to have been the mathematical prophets of the New Revelation. For the Euclidian geometry depends upon the conception of straight lines, and it was only because the Parallel Postulate was found to be incapable of proof that mathematicians began to conceive that the straight line had no true correspondence with reality.

(Trough the right understanding of the formula of Tetragrammaton the magician will attain a more exalted perception of reality as well as a unique method and original way to manipulate those forces in which nature manifests itself to his physical and spiritual senses. Further meditation upon the Book of the Law will assist him in the dissolution of complexities and raise his self-consciousness to a higher level of non-dualistic existence experiencing every phenomenon of the Universe as a manifestation of himself to himself).


Aleister Crowley's: The Book Of Thoth

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