Mishkan ha-Echad

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Hebrew Errors in the Golden Dawn

Hebrew is one of the first things people learn when they initiate into the Golden Dawn, and it crops up consistently throughout all the grades. The problem is many people never look beyond a cursory knowledge of it and take the Knowledge Lectures at face value, but there are many errors in them and various other books that continue to this day.

Sandra Tabatha Cicero covered some of these in an excellent blog post last week, but another one I came across recently was the spelling of Haniel with an extra Aleph. Regardie's book shows the spelling as HANIAL (האניאל), but in the Tanakh, where the name originates, it is spelled HNIAL (הניאל). Generally speaking Alephs are not needed to mark a vowel in the middle of a word, but many people have a habit of putting an Aleph anywhere they see an 'a'. Aleph is not a vowel, it's a silent consonant that acts as a place-holder for a vowel (for example, at the beginning of a word) or as a glottal stop. 

A particular pet peeve of mine is when people spell Shem ha-Mephoresh (שם המפורש) as Shemhamphoresh or any other variation of that. This is what we find in the Knowledge Lectures, but it's an error that comes from a lack of understanding of the grammatical constructs in Hebrew. Shem is clearly 'name', while ha is a preposition that can mean 'of', 'the', and various other things, depending on context. In Hebrew this is spelled with a single Heh, but no letter would ever be left on its own, so it joins the next word, which obviously led to some people thinking the next word began with Heh, not Mem. Sufficed to say, this is a mistake that modern students should try to rectify. Mephoresh means 'explicit', but some people translate it as 'extension' or 'divided', which are not entirely accurate, but give an insight into what the overall phrase means.

I consider Hebrew a vital part of the Golden Dawn corpus which students could benefit from studying in more detail. Not only will this enhance their ability to write, read and speak the language within the context of ritual, but some of the grammar that people dismiss as irrelevant to magical work provides insight into the mysteries of the Qabalah that cannot be accessed otherwise. The Qabalah is entirely built up on the foundation of the Hebrew language. To dismiss it is to dismiss much of the Qabalah itself.

I will be posting a few more things on Hebrew over the coming weeks that people might find interesting. First up will be some pronunciation aides and 'rules of thumb', which will also make spelling Hebrew words a lot easier.


Lavanah said...

The issues with Hebrew usage within the GD have driven me up the wall for years!

Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

It is GD-incorrect to say this, but I sometimes think that all GD members need to take a semester of college level Hebrew.

Dean Wilson said...

I agree completely, Morgan. We shouldn't be satisfied with a cursory knowledge of the language. We don't necessarily have to become fluent, but we need to aim for a lot more than what's in the Knowledge Lectures.


Tabatha said...

Morgan's point is well taken, and I don't think it is "GD-incorrect." I know one magician who took a course on modern Hebrew and was very glad he did, even though he had to study translations of such things as "Moshe and Rebecca go to the kibbutz." :)

Dean Wilson said...

Very true, Tabatha! Even if we have to go back to learning ours ABCs, as it were, it certainly can't hurt - and it opens many doors for studying texts like the Zohar, which are entirely based around the language, word play, and so forth.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Dean,
I have had some misunderstandings about the etymology of the GD and all the many tomes available. When I went to college for Graphic Communications I was taught First and foremost a person can not and should not ever try to proofread their own material. In the Golden age of the GD and with the oaths I can only assume writers were hard pressed to find a good Proofer. I would say, personally with no malice towards Morgan, seek out a Unorthodox Rabbi at a proper shul.
One of my all time favorite misrepresentations from the "Bible" (I am referring to the King James Version in English. The post College of Cardinals of 1555 version as well as pre 1555)is that of the letter "J". Which all of you know is NOT in the old Hebrew. I don't think God is Jealous but maybe Zealous?
I am also of the earnest belief that all writers should NEVER totally rely on the modern spell checker in place of a real proof reader. We must also give a bit of thought to the original writers and the use of vernacular and colloquialism of the era.
Now this is one of the main reasons that I desire a living teacher instead just practicing ritual from a book.
I was going to suggest to Ms. Cicero (and now Dean) that a book or at least a monograph on this subject be written for the mundane world.
I also remember reading that S. L. Mathers studied old material at the British Museum. Read a mistake, copy a mistake, you'll end up teaching a mistake. After a while a mistake will become truth if no one delves further.
I thank my lucky stars that we live in an age where a person, either a student or an Adept can take the ball and run with it to a touchdown. Yeah, I Know, I also hate cheap metaphors...LOL.
I would love to see this subject become an occasional blog entry on ALL GD Blogs from time to time.
With all respect,