The Alphabet and the Twenty-two Elements of the Logos

By dividing the Apocalypse into twenty-two chapters - the same number as the letters of the Hebrew alphabet - St John showed that it was dedicated, as it were, to the Logos, the Divine Word which, he says in his Gospel, is at the origin of all things : 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God': What can we understand of the Word, His nature and His Powers1 ?

1: The dictionary tells us that the Greek term Logos, used by St John in speaking of Christ, means 'word', 'speech', 'disclosure' or 'reason'. The standard English rendering in New Testament translations is 'Word'. However, speaking in French, the Master was able to make a distinction between the French rendering of Logos, Verbe, and mot (word) and parole (word or speech). In passages quoted directly from the Bible, we have retained the familiar term, 'the Word'. However, in order to give as faithful a rendering as possible of the Master's argument in the three lectures included in this chapter, we have used Logos or, sometimes, 'the Divine World' where the Master uses Verbe and The English Bible uses 'Word'. Where the Master uses the word parole to express the manifestation of the Logos in the physical world, we have used the word 'speech' or, occasionally, 'word' (Translator's note).

In the last chapter of the Apocalypse, Christ says, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega , the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.' Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the language in which the New Testament was written. In Hebrew, the language spoken by Jesus, the first and last letters of the alphabet are Aleph and Tav. 'I am the Alpha and the Omega' means exactly the same, therefore, as, ' I am Aleph and Tav'.

Alpha and Omega or Aleph and Tav - these two letters represent the whole alphabet, for the beginning cannot be separated from the end. An alphabet is a whole consisting of a series of elements, the letters. The order in which these letters follow each other is not the result of chance ; they are the analogical representation of the 'letters' of creation. The letters of the Hebrew alphabet represent the elements, forces, virtues, qualities, spirits and powers, which God combined in order to create the Universe. By means of living letters, God composed words and phrases, and he continues to do so, today. This was how the world was created and this is how it is continually being created. When an Initiate studies the cabbalistic meaning of the Hebrew letters, he does so in order to read and understand the living language of Nature.

The Hebrew alphabet contains twenty-two letters. When Christ said, 'I am the Alpha and Omega', he was saying, ' I am the Logos, the twenty-two elements by means of which the world was created'. Man also uses the letters of the alphabet to help him to think, speak and write and, in doing this, he is doing what God did. The word (the physical expression of the Logos), whether it be thought, spoken or written is always one and the same thing.

We possess all the elements within us : colors, forces, projections, rays and vibrations all serve to form and express our thought. To think, speak or write, therefore, are three ways of expressing the Logos. Some people think the Logos, others speak It, others write It. The Initiates of old knew these three expressions of the Logos and, from earliest Antiquity, marked certain religious buildings with written, graphic expressions of the Logos in the form of figures and geometrical or hieroglyphic signs. Knowing that these figures would survive the centuries, they did this in order to put men of future generations in touch with the Divine Logos.

All the letters of the cabbalistic alphabet are linked to each other in a network that embraces the universe, and he who knows how to combine them into phrases and poems is a true scribe. A scribe, in the initiatic sense of the word, is one who has learned to transpose the elements of language, the letters of the alphabet, into every area of his life and, particularly, into his own inner being where he endeavors to combine them into a beautiful, harmonious 'word'. And it is precisely this that is so difficult : when our inner life is disordered, it means that our 'words' are in disorder, that we have jumbled them all up without order, science or wisdom.

It is also important to know that each letter corresponds to a geometrical form in nature, and that behind every geometrical form specific forces are at work. Nature knows how to link her own forms with the letters that represent them, so that he who knows the invisible powers that correspond to each letter is capable of setting cosmic currents in motion. When we create or draw certain forms, therefore, we are putting ourselves in touch with corresponding entities of the invisible world. When an Initiate seeks to learn the correspondences between the forces, forms and letters, and how to handle them, it is in order to create a bond with Heaven.

Let's pause for a moment to study the letter Aleph . The first thing to notice is that it resembles a man with one arm raised Heavenwards and the other pointing down towards the earth. This attitude depicts an intermediary, a medium between Heaven and earth. With one hand he reaches up to receive light from Heaven and, with the other, he pours it out on humanity. Alternatively, he takes up all that is human, transforms it within himself and sends it back to Heaven in the form of light. Aleph is a being who knows and who is able.

The letter Aleph marks the beginning of an activity. When a man raises his arm he is signaling the beginning of something ; it is an expression of the will to act. When a man's arms are stretched out horizontally, like the wings of a gliding bird, so that arms and body form a cross, they express balance. But if his arms are at different angles, it means that the two arms of his scales are at different levels, he is no longer in a state of equilibrium ; in other words, he is ready for action.

And now, look at the first card of the Tarot, the Magician . What do you see? A man standing by a table, with one arm raised and the other lowered ; in other words he is not immobile, he is doing something. What is he doing? With the arm that is raised, he is making contact with Heaven and, with the other, he is in contact with the earth and with human beings. The forces that he receives from Heaven pass through him and are handed on to the earth : he is Aleph. But to be Aleph also means to be capable of taking the forces of earth and of projecting them Heavenwards ; in other words, to be an intermediary. This is what Jesus was expressing when he said, 'No one comes to the Father except through me'. For a cabbalist Aleph is perfect man because he is in close touch with Heaven and, at the same time, working actively for mankind. Aleph also holds the secret of the two operations, Solve et Coagula : it teaches the adept how to work on matter in order to dilute or condense it.

Another interesting point is that the letter Aleph is made up of four Yod's. The Yod is shaped like a bent thumb , and this means that it is related to the will. Aleph is a very powerful, creative letter ; its form shows that it possesses a will that is a combination of four wills, four activities and four directions. Aleph is the letter of space with its four directions - north, south, east and west - the letter of the four elements. And in the Tarot card we see the Magician standing in front of a table, symbol of the element earth ; on the table is a cup which symbolizes the element water, and in his hand is a wand that is pointing upwards, and this means that he is linking the elements below - water and earth - to those above, air and fire. In addition, the hat he is wearing has a very distinctive shape: the brim describes a horizontal figure eight, the symbol of infinity. The letter Aleph, therefore, symbolizes an Initiate who has the power to command the forces of nature, the four elements.

And now you are going to see how the numbers follow on each other : he who subjects the Four to the power of the One (spirit and will), becomes the Five, the perfect human being who possesses the five virtues : love, wisdom, truth, kindness and justice. But we can only be said to have attained perfect equilibrium when we have become the Six, the Six that is twice three, the two triangles of matter and spirit, the Seal of Solomon. A man becomes the Seal of Solomon when he achieves an inner state of perfect equilibrium between the two triangles.

St John, who said 'In the beginning was the Word', certainly had full knowledge of the letter Aleph, the 'first born of God', the beginning of all things. The Logos is the Christ, the cosmic Magus who works with the four elements by means of which all things were created. When Jesus said, 'My Father is always at work and I, too, work with Him', it was the Christ who was speaking through him and who wanted to emphasize the idea that his activity never ceases. You will understand, now, that the cross, the symbol of Christ, is also related to this idea of God's ceaseless activity in the universe. When the horizontal bar of the cross is tilted, it shows that it is in action, and its form is very similar to that of the letter Aleph. This is also the meaning of the swastika, a symbol which is found in many religions both in India and in Greece.

Aleph is the cross with the horizontal bar at an angle, the cross which has lost its perfect equilibrium in order to go into action. The cross with four equal branches at right angles to each other, on the other hand, symbolizes the absolute equilibrium of the masculine and feminine principles. But there are other ways of drawing the cross. The Ankh, for instance, indicates that the cross is a key, the key that enables us to open all the doors of the universe. And the key is also an image of man, but as long was we still do not know anything about man, we shall never be able to open the doors of the universe, for the universe is simply man stretched of the dimensions of infinity.

The letter Aleph can be seen in many other symbolic forms, that of a lamb holding a cross, for instance, or that of a serpent pierced by an arrow. Both are representations of Aleph and, at the same time, representations of man. The spine and skull of a human skeleton have some resemblance to a snake, and the arrow which pierces it and which indicates movement and the direction of its work, is represented by the arms, the lateral branches of Aleph. Christ, the Logos, is the living cross.

But what is this figure of a lamb holding a cross? What does it mean? The lamb is the victim of sacrifice, Love. In the beginning, before the world was created, the Lamb sacrificed himself so that the world might come into being. A cohesive force was necessary to hold atoms and molecules together, and that force is love. This is why it is said that Christ is the Lamb who was immolated at the beginning of the world. And this same force that holds the world together is to be found in all aspects of life. It is thanks to this force that molecules and all chemical bodies exist and survive, and it is also thanks to this force that all human communities, families, societies and nations exist and endure. Without sacrifice nothing can exist. A whole can only exist thanks to the sacrifice of each one of its parts. Do away with all the numerous forms of sacrifice - looks and words, mutual care and assistance and all forms of renunciation - and everything will disintegrate and fade into nothingness. If you want something to last a long time, be sure that it is founded in Christ, on love 2.

2: See Complete Works, vol. 5, chap. 9

The practical conclusion to be drawn from what I have just been saying about the letter Aleph, the first letter, is that one must never undertake an action of any kind without knowing the forces that one is going to set in motion. It is the beginning that is essential. It is always very easy to trigger forces and events, but it is very difficult to remain in command of them and steer them in the right direction. If the men and women involved in the political arena were more conscious of this law they would give themselves more time for reflection before deciding to make certain changes. A great many of those who have started revolutionary movements, believing that they were going to be able to keep control of things, have ended by being mown down by their own creation ! The term 'sorcerer's apprentice' exactly suits the person who imprudently sets in motion currents that he then finds himself unable to control or orientate.

Whether it be on the physical, astral or mental plane, your power is not in the middle nor at the end of an action, but at the beginning. Picture yourself standing on a mountain peak ; beside you, balanced on the brink of the precipice, is a huge rock. You know that you only have to stretch out your hand and give it a push and it will obey you. The choice is yours, to leave it where it is or to send it hurtling down the mountain side. If you tip it over the edge it will, of course, obey you, but that is as far as your authority goes : from then on you will have no control over it ; it will cause untold damage that you will be powerless to avoid. Similarly, if you decide to keep a tight rein on your anger as soon as you feel it rising within you, it will not burst out, but once you let it go you will lose control of it. The same is true of certain ideas that you may cling to ; you will end by being unable to uproot them. Be very vigilant, therefore. Never forget that Tav depends on Aleph, that the end depends on the beginning. Be like a magus who performs a magical rite knowing exactly how to begin it in order to achieve the goal he intended.

When Christ said 'I am Aleph and Tav', he showed us how to begin an action. The beginning is Heaven, the Divine World, and we have to begin with Heaven and move gradually down into matter. If you begin with matter and try to work up towards Heaven, you are bound to meet with failure and suffering. Two people who are in love must begin by loving each other spiritually before loving physically. Men and women usually do just the opposite ; they begin with Tav and relegate Aleph to the end. But, when everything has fallen apart, will they be able to love spiritually? In everything you do you must begin with the beginning, with the head.

Cabbalists, who study the Hebrew alphabet, distinguish, first of all, three Mother letters, Aleph, Mem and Shin, which created, respectively, air, water and fire ; secondly, seven Doubles, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Khaph, Pe, Resh, and Tav, which created the seven planets, and, finally, twelve Singels, He, Vav, Zayin, Het, Tet, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Sameck, Ayin, Tsade and Qoph, which created the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. The twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, therefore, embrace the whole of creation.

Of course, you realize that these letters are simply the material expression of abstract principles. When you speak or write, you do what God did, you combine letters and words, using them as the means by which you create. In this way you can create joy, trust, love and light in others, or you can create sorrow, darkness, illness, and despair. In the second instance you are producing neither true writing nor true speech - nothing but scribbles and gibberish. True evolution consists in learning to use speech, writing, forms and images to attain a divine result, that is to say, to bring elements of the Logos into play so as to create only what is good, beautiful and right. He who works consciously to do this participates in God's own work and, one day, he will be hired as a laborer in God's vineyard.

The work of creation is not finished. The Creator is continuously at work and He needs laborers to carry a little sand or a little plaster for Him. 'Is that all?' you will say. Yes, and there is no need to feel insulted. God is certainly not going to choose us for the most important tasks, but it is a glorious privilege to be allowed to participate in this divine work, however humbly. Examine the life that God has given you. Contemplate all its manifestations as though you were looking at the Lord Himself, and say : 'Henceforth I shall speak and act only with a view to vivifying, soothing, enlightening, warming, encouraging and strengthening other creatures'. Immediately, simply because you make this decision, the Logos starts to find His niche within you and you begin to perceive, more and more clearly, that you possess a multitude of God-given elements. You don't yet know how to use them but, little by little, you will find that they begin to obey you and you become very powerful. The only thing is that you must not be content to pronounce good and beautiful words. You must follow through with them, carry them out to their full accomplishment. Provided you do that, the words you utter will be 'truly truthful truths'.

In conclusion, I would like to tell you a story about myself. I was seventeen at the time, and I felt the need to find a form, a geometrical figure which would fill me with Harmony and Peace when I looked at it. After thinking about it for quite a long time I decided to draw a circle, then, using the same radius, I set off six points at equal distances on the circumference. With these points as the centre, I drew six circles, which gave me a rosette, then I painted the six circles with the six colors of the spectrum, violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. The contemplation of this figure lifted me to a state of ecstasy. To me, it was the symbol of perfection. After a little while, however, I felt that something was lacking and, while I was trying to think what it could be, a mysterious impulse drove me to write the first lines of the Gospel of St John under the rosette : 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made'. Why these words? Did I have some special relationship with them? I have no doubt that that is what it was ; in any case, I have thought about them all my life. Today I know why I completed my drawing in this way.

St John revealed the mysteries of the Logos who gives the power to influence the forces of nature. That is his Teaching. If Christians turn their backs on that Teaching and are content to be on the same wavelength as the priest or sacristan, that is their affair, but they have forgotten the mysteries of the Logos which contain all the secrets of the Universe. Do you remember the promises in the letters that St John was told to write to the churches? 'To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it'; 'To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in midst of the Paradise of God' ; 'He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments' ; 'He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God' ; 'To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne'. All these promises are an Initiation into the mysteries of the Word.

Sèvres, 2 March 1958

Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov