The 462 Gates of the Sefer Yetzirah
Or, How to Make a 'Golem'


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The 462 Gates
Explanatory Notes

It is written in the Sefer Yetzirah...

2:4. Twenty-two Foundation Letters: He placed them in a circle like a wall with 231 Gates. The circle oscillates back and forth. A sign for this is: There is nothing in good higher than Delight (ענג) There is nothing in evil lower than Plague (נגע).

GRA Version (Trans: Aryeh Kaplan)
§18. Twenty-two letters are their foundation. It is fixed on a Hook, on a wheel with two-hundred and twenty-one gates. The wheel rotates backwards and forwards. And this is the sign: if for good, above pleasure, and if for evil, below pain.

Short Recension (Trans. A. Peter Hayman.)
2:5. How? He permuted them, weighed them, and transformed them, Alef with them all and all of them with Alef, Bet with them all and all of them with Bet. They repeat in a cycle and exist in 231 Gates. It comes out that all that is formed and all that is spoken emanates from one Name.

GRA Version (Trans: Aryeh Kaplan)
§19. Twenty-two letters: he carved them out, he hewed them, he weighed them, he exchanged them, he combined them and formed with them the life of all creation and the life of all that would be formed. How did he weigh and exchange them? - Aleph with them all, and all of them with Aleph; Bet with them all, and all of them with Bet. And they all rotate in turn. The result is that they go out by two hundred and twenty-one gates. The result is that all creation and all speech go out by one name.

Short Recension (Trans. A. Peter Hayman.)

There is much confusion, even among the ancient scribes who transcribed the Sefer Yetzirah, as to how many 'gates' were mentioned in the original text. Modern editions of the Sefer Yetzirah usually reference 231 gates (i.e. Hebrew letter pairings), but this number 231 is incorrect because it doesn't include the reflected permutations of the gates.

The Sefer Yetzirah explicitly states: "Aleph with them all, and all of them with Aleph; Bet with them all, and all of them with Bet." [SY. 2:5] In other words, we must count the combination A-B as well as its permutation B-A.

There are 231 total combinations of Hebrew letter pairings, and there are 231 permutations of those combinations. This gives a total of 462 gates.

Hayman writes...

"The [text] variant בתסב׳ ('in 462') is found also in Judah ben Barzillai in both §§ 18 and 19 (Halberstam 208). Judah acknowledges the existence of the reading 221 but says 462 is the correct reading..." [Sefer Yesira. A. Peter Hayman. 2004. Pg. 103.]

Although I agree there are a total of 462 gates I believe the original text of the Sefer Yetzirah stated 231 gates. The reason for this deliberate ambiguity on the part of the original author of the book is because the number רשא׳ (i.e. RLA', 231) is one of the encoded 'word-keys' that help define the secret mathematical/geometrical arrangement of the 462 gates. See: The Key to Jacob's Wheel.

And there's also a coded clue in the first line of the first verse of the Sefer Yetzirah that suggests the number 462...

"1:1. With 32 mystical paths (נתיבות) of Wisdom"

The Hebrew word 'netivot' ('paths') is the plural of 'netiv' (נתיב, 'path') which is numerically equivalent to 462. A 'path' ('netiv') runs through a 'gate'. There are 231 'gates' but they can be approached and entered from two different directions depending on which way you are traveling on the path. Thus, 231 gates = 462 paths.

The Sefer Yetzirah defines a 'gate' as a Hebrew letter pairing (of which there are 462 in total). The complete series of gates are said to be "fixed on a wheel" [§18 in Hayman]—a requirement fulfilled by the geometry of Jacob's Wheel.

It is thought that the correct pronouncement (i.e. intonation) of the 462 gates is an ancient technique of meditation and magic, and even of the creation of life. This idea is the source of the 'Golem' mythology that developed in connection with the Sefer Yetzirah.

The geometry of Jacob's Wheel resembles a 'living cell'. Its structure unfolds in steps and stages until eventually it grows to full manifestation. At the centre of the 'cell' is its 'nucleus' which controls the growth and development of the outer membrane (i.e. that surrounds it).

The nucleus contains twenty-one 'DNA strands' that are the creative source of twenty-one different organic components (or 'organs') within the outer membrane. The first DNA strand implants its energy within the outer membrane which activates a process of growth and development of its associated organ. The manifestation of the first organ within the outer membrane unfolds via a series of twenty-one sequential steps. Then the second DNA strand implants its energy within the outer membrane and activates a similar process of organ manifestation consisting of twenty-one steps. And so on until the final (i.e. 21st) DNA strand builds its associated organ within the outer membrane. Thus, the organism is born and continues to grow through a series of repeated cycles that follow the original gate sequence mapped out within the outer membrane by the twenty-one DNA strands.

What I have described above is the making of a metaphorical 'golem'. Presumably it's made by intoning with 'kavanah' (i.e. 'meditative intention') the 462 gates of the Sefer Yetzirah. The gates are intoned in the order that I loosely described in the paragraph above. The order is revealed in the arrangement of the Hebrew letters upon the Jacob's Wheel mandala. The series of 462 gates winds its way around Jacob's Wheel in a continuous repeating spiral. As an added tool for practical purposes I have produced a grid (based on Jacob's Wheel) that details the 462 gates in their order of creative manifestation.

[Note: The Hebrew word 'golem' (GLM, גלם) means 'to wrap up, fold together', and also 'fetus'. Notice that the word's root is GL—the same root as the word GLGL (גלגל), meaning 'wheel', or 'cycle'. Therefore, the word 'golem' can be interpreted to mean 'the merging together of various elements during a cycle'. A nine month cycle, for example, develops a human fetus.]

462_gates1.jpg

The image above shows the first few gates of the Sefer Yetzirah (as presented in the top-left corner section of my 462 Gates wall-chart).

The first gate is ShTh (שת). It represents the implantation of the first strand of DNA from the nucleus of the cell. The cell's 'nucleus' looks like this...

462hebrew0.gif

You can see the Hebrew letter Tav (ת) near the centre on the right. The central controlling force of Shin (ש) implants Tav (ת) as the seed of the first stage of the cycle of manifestation. The implanted Tav and the sub-cycle that brings Tav into manifestation looks like this...

462hebrew1.gif

As you can see, Tav (ת) is at the centre of this sub-cycle. It emerges into manifestation as a result of the unfolding sequence of gates that surround it.

So, the first gate (ShTh, שת) within the nucleus activates the first sub-cycle (Tav, ת) within the outer membrane of the cell. The sub-cycle begins with the gate ThA (תא), then ThB (תב), then ThG (תג), and so on, until the final gate ThS (תס) of the sub-cycle is reached.

Then the second gate (ShA, שא) within the nucleus activates the second sub-cycle (A, א) within the outer membrane of the cell. This pattern continues until all twenty-one sub-cycles have been completed and thus the outer membrane of the cell is fully manifested.

The outer membrane (of Jacob's Wheel) therefore, is composed of 441 gates, and these 441 'outer' gates are produced by the twenty-one 'inner' gates of the central nucleus. (21 x 21 = 441) Thus, the total number of gates amounts to 462 (i.e. 441 + 21 = 462).

This leads us to an alternative 'esoteric' way of numbering the 462 gates that differs to the purely 'procedural' numbering system (briefly described above). The alternative 'esoteric' counting system emphasizes the important distinction that exists between the 441 outer gates and the 21 inner gates. It starts the counting from the first gate of the first sub-cycle and proceeds to number the 441 outer gates. And then it adds the twenty-one inner gates at the end of the numbering sequence. I find that this method produces some interesting symbolic connections between the Hebrew letter pairings (i.e. the gates) and their associated numbers. A good example occurs in relation to the 50th gate, which is BN (בנ) in the 'esoteric' numbering system. BN is the esoteric root of Binah (BYNH)—the third sefirah—which is commonly understood in the Kabbalah to represent the '50th Gate of Understanding'.

Click to view/download the wall-chart that employs the 'esoteric' numbering system.

Practice

When performing the 462 Gate meditation, the gates are probably meant to be visualized (and the Hebrew letters positioned) as per the spiral blueprint of Jacob's Wheel. One way of doing this is to imagine yourself sitting at the centre of the nucleus of Jacob's Wheel—i.e. in the position of Shin (ש). Then, as you intone the gates, visualize each Hebrew letter appearing in its place in the spiral as it gradually unfolds around you. This is obviously a very advanced meditation technique and experimentation is required in order to discover an effective methodology and any associated meta/physical effects.

It's a good idea to begin this work by choosing a sub-cycle and intoning the twenty-one gates of that sub-cycle. For example, if you are seeking to attract material resources into your life select the Vav (ו) sub-cycle.

462hebrew7.gif

The order of the gates for this sub-cycle are given in the seventh row of my 462 Gates wall-chart. Visualize yourself at the centre of the mandala (shown above)—i.e. in the place of Vav (ו). Intone the gate sequence beginning with VZ (וז) and ending with VSh (וש). As you intone each gate visualize the Hebrew letters manifesting around you in their places as per the mandala above.

Intone the letters of each gate individually. For example, VZ (וז) is pronounced Vav-Zayin.

After you've worked with each sub-cycle individually, then you'll be better able to tackle the complete 462 gate working.

Another way of working with the mandalas involves an evocation performed standing up...

Face the East and focus on the sphere of Tifaret at your mid-section. Visualize the selected mandala's central letter (in this case Vav) within Tifaret. Intone the Hebrew letter Vav. Then raise your right arm (keeping it straightened) beside you to an angle that approximates the first spoke of the Vav mandala. (In other words, your right arm becomes the first spoke.) Then intone the three letters that are located on the first spoke three times. Then lower your arm to the angle/level of the second spoke. Intone that spoke's letters three times. Then lower your arm again and intone the letters of the third spoke. Then drop your arm to your side and intone the letters of the fourth spoke. Then raise your left arm slightly and intone the letters of the fifth spoke. Then do the sixth and seventh spokes. Then drop your left arm to your side. End by intoning the letter Vav within Tifaret.

The letters of the spokes of the Vav mandala are intoned as follows...

1. Zee-tzah-dah (Z-Tz-D)
2. Khee-qoh-bee (Ch-Q-B)
3. Tee-ree-thoh (T-R-Th)
4. Yoh-noo-hay (Y-N-H)
5. Kah-sah-gee (K-S-G)
6. Lah-oh-ah (L-O-A)
7. Mee-pay-shee (M-P-Sh)

Blessings,
Patrick Mulcahy
(3rd March, 2013)