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Kabbalah and The Lord’s Prayer

David Cowles

Aug 17, 2023

“…Kabbalah offers a systematic philosophy that includes cosmology and ethics as well as metaphysics.”

Kabbalah is a mystical practice of medieval origin, closely associated with, but distinct from, Hasidic Judaism. On its own, Kabbalah offers a systematic philosophy that includes cosmology and ethics as well as metaphysics. Intriguingly, tradition has distilled this entire complex structure down to a single graphic (above).


According to Kabbalah, the Cosmos can be mapped by 10 Sefirot arranged in the form of a ‘tree’, aka the Tree of Life, with its apex in Heaven and its roots in the earth. Atop this tree sits Keter (Crown), Godhead itself. Keter forms a ‘divine triangle’ with Wisdom (Hokhmah) and Understanding (Binah). In the Christian tradition, Keter would be represented by the Father (theos), Hokhmah by the Son (logos/sophia), and Binah by the Spirit (pneuma).


At the base of this tree sits Malkhut (Kingdom), the world you and I know too well and love too much. Labeling the material world ‘Kingdom’ is doubly apt. It may be understood as a reference to the ‘kingdoms of this world’, ‘Satan’s Playground’, the ‘secular world order’ we interpose between ourselves and God.


Harmonically, it can also be understood as the Kingdom of Heaven, prefigured by Moses, Joshua, and the Judges. (I think they opened for Dylan at the Budokan.) There are 6 Sefirot between Binah and Malkhut…which we will ignore. After all, they only concern things like Love and Beauty – so we can afford to skip over them. For our purposes, they can be thought of as forming the trunk of the tree, a mere conduit for the transport of nutrients from the tree’s roots (Malkhut) to its ‘foliage’ (Keter, Hokhmah, Binah).


Your job, my young Kabbalist, is to raise Malkhut to the level of Binah, using the 6 intermediate Sefirot as your tool kit. Like a Freudian psychoanalyst, you will bring the unconscious humus of Malkhut into the conscious light of Binah. Good luck, and may the Force be with you!


Surprisingly, this may be an easier assignment for Christians than Jews. The notion of a Trinitarian God (Keter, Hokhmah, Binah) is central to Christian theology. Better yet, the structure of the quintessential Christian prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, anticipates Kabbalah by more than a millennium:


Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name…


Of course, we are talking Keter here, the transcendent (heaven), the ineffable (hallowed).


Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven…


This verse relates to Hokhmah and Binah. To do the will of God is Wisdom, and it is the explicit

role of Binah to ensure that events on earth (Malkhut) mirror events in heaven (Hokhmah)…and

vice versa. (Understanding is mirroring.)


Give us this day our daily bread,


And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.


Now we are squarely in the realm of Malkhut. This is the world where we struggle to survive (daily bread), where we make mistakes (trespasses) that adversely impact others, and where we are adversely impacted when others trespass against us.


This is where we begin the process of rectification, the reunion of Malkhut with Binah. The things of this world are naturally disposed to rise through the 6 Sefirot (God’s transcendent values, Whitehead’s ‘eternal objects’) to rejoin Binah. Our job, quite literally, is to get out of the way.

But we don’t! We exist for one and only one reason: to build the city of Dioce (Ezra Pound), to know, love and serve God (the Baltimore Catechism), to facilitate the repatriation of Malkhut (Zohar). Instead, like 1980s Soviet commandants in East Germany, we do pretty much everything we can to thwart reunification. Not a good look!


In Malkhut, the ‘treasures of the orient’ (sic) are laid at our feet. When we use these treasures ‘correctly’ (i.e., according to their natures), we liberate the divine spark, Shekinah, that lies trapped within each, allowing it to return to Binah. In the words of the Diamond Sutra (Sanskrit, early CE): “However many beings there are in whatever realms of being…I shall liberate them all.”


But we don’t! We don’t use our ‘treasures’ correctly. Rather than liberate them, we empower them to enslave us. We become attached to them, dependent on them; we cannot let go!

Worse, we use them improperly: to deface beauty, to confuse truth, to impede justice. Worst of all, we turn these treasures into Golden Calves, idols we worship as gods…or God! The Lord’s Prayer addresses all this…and in just three lines. We must not ‘bind on earth’ what we would not have ‘bound in heaven’. Rather, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ and in heaven as it is on Earth.


We must forgive. When we forgive, we loosen (instead of bind), and when we loosen, we liberate, and when we liberate, we diffuse what must be diffused, and we conserve what may be conserved. We must not worship the transient treasures of Malkhut; like Solomon, we must focus on the eternal treasure, Hokhmah, and let God do his thing: Deliver us from Evil! Amen!


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