The Spear of Ithuriel and The Fourth Anointing
Updated: Mar 29
The Pythagoreans gave a special significance to numerals and numbers and described their qualities and natures in terms of hieroglyphs and symbols. In fact, according to Britannica, the Pythagorean school is the most ancient systematic numerological cult. To the students of that school, the number 4 represented the principle of justice, was inherently female, and was symbolized by the Tetrad. The foundation of the Tetractys (Fig. 1), an important construct in Pythagorean theory, depicted in two dimensions the form of a tetrahedron, a triangular pyramid. A tetrahedron is a polyhedron composed of four triangular parallel faces which are represented by the fourth row of dots. It has six straight edges and four vertices. The tetrahedron is the simplest of all the ordinary convex polyhedra, as the triangle is the first and simplest of the polygons. In both manifestations, this principle represents the foundation of the universe, kosmos, and the feminine nature of its genesis.
The number four is also circumferential, present along all three sides of the Tetractys, making the Tetractys itself a tetrad, to which the Pythagoreans offered prayer and devotion. Indeed, as the whole is contained in its parts, so do the parts compose the whole in unity. This is known as a unity of unities. Unity, numerically represented by 1, is called the Monad, and ten monads are called a Decad, of which the Tetractys is a representation.
The decad is anciently significant because the number ten is the first number discovered that uses both the unity of 1, and the multiplicative power of 0. Additionally, the number ten can be arranged into a hieroglyph, the Tetractys, in which are contained the other unities; the Monad, the Duad, the Triad, and the Tetrad. The Kabbalist would recognize the decad in the hieroglyph known as the Tree of Life, upon which are depicted the 10 sephiroth. Each sephirah is encased in the shell of a dynamically opposing force, called a Qliphah. The Qliphot are the “evil” or negative forces that separate one emanation of God from another. The famous magician and mystical philosopher Israel Regardie identified each of these shells by name in his research, and refers to them not as evil, per se, but as the natural consequence of the contraction of God’s infinite power.
Depending on how one looks at the several emanations of God on the Tree of Life, one may find that there are in fact 11 sephiroth, which implies the existence of a corresponding 11 Qliphot. Together, this makes 22, which is mirrored in the 22 paths which the divine energy of God took, according to the Sefer Yetzirah, in the creation and which connect the several emanations to each other. Incidentally, the Hebrew alphabet is likewise composed of 22 characters, each of which was called into existence by God in a holy utterance. In the Zohar, a controversial Kabbalistic text, we read the dialogue between God and the several letters, each of whom offers explanations for their inadequacy as the foundation of creation. You may read therein what letter was eventually chosen.
One initiate may view the several stages of his journey as being typified by the transition from one state to another, or the passage through one portal toward the next. Another may see his journey holistically, as the transmigration of his soul through the several passages of enlightened thinking without respect to any particular “up or down” spacial prejudice. Yet another may see his journey in terms of alchemical transmutation; from one stage of refinement to another, facilitated by fire, water, and air. Indeed, initiatic transformation may be related to all three transformative processes, as the four faces (a maximum of three of which can be seen at once) of the tetrahedron are but facets of a greater whole. An appropriately administered course of discipline has the potential to uncover the nature of one’s inner barriers, shedding light into the shadowy recesses of our unconscious. Initiation and contemplation are like the spear of Ithuriel which, in Milton’s Paradise Lost, ruined the disguise of Lucifer as he whispered to Eve in Eden.
It is for each initiate to discover for himself what symbols are apprehensible to him, and which may require further concentration, and indeed which he may discard as unusable. Not all that you read, hear, or see is necessarily important, or deserving of further study; except as it may reveal to you that the process of learning requires discernment, and therefore occasional error. The Zen Master Bankei, for example, regarded dualistic thinking as one of the primary barriers to Zen. Categorizing all things into 2 principle “boxes” was an error in his view. Light/Dark, Wrong/Right, True/Untrue, Beginning/End; all are mistakes in perception arising from a prejudiced, purely human frame of reference. What “begins” only seems to do so because it is advantageous for humans to perceive the flow of the universe as temporal in some fashion. This does not mean that there is any such thing, ultimately, as beginning. It is the same with enlightenment, according to Bankei. Merely establishing a practice of any kind which has as its aim the attainment of higher perception, is evidence of enlightenment. Or, if you prefer a western perspective, Friedrich Nietzsche is credited with the theory of eternal return, which posits, in essence, that life is an eternal present, and that time’s arrow is a human illusion. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide.
Thank you for your time and attention. I hope you return soon.