Tohu Wa Bohu (תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ). ‘Without form, and void.’ describes the condition of Earth before God uttered a Word. Tohu is unique to Hebrew and doesn’t really have an English translation so we use words like unformed, chaos, or inconceivable. Tohu is inconceivable because it suggests this totality of a creative dynamism that overwhelms our sense of perception. David Smith summed it up nicely when he said, “To the human mind the power of B’reshit becomes tohu. The power of tohu that overwhelms the meager human sense of order is kept in balance by the power of bohu. Bohu is the empty receptivity of space that is inherently contextual. Its context allows the potency of tohu to continually adapt to ever‐changing needs.” We’re literally talking about a primordial purity full of limitless outcomes completely beyond our ability to comprehend. But… we can conceive it in poles.
– a combination of the singular noun “Eloah” (אֱלוֹהַּ
– to which the plural ending “im” has been added. The Infinite added an “I” to be experienced.
Plenty of Christian philosophers have wrestled with this concept and painted out the formless void as an invisible world that needed the Light of Creation shone on it to be. What they fail to see is the Spirit of God was already present over the void tingling with infinite possibilites. While there are obvious doctrinal reasons for their findings I personally feel like they’re reaching in their attempts to Platonize the Unknowable. Greek concepts of matter and creation were projected onto very Jewish ideas with almost no regard for the original meaning Moshe meant to convey: Creation is far from over as it never had a beginning we could recognize in the first place. If we could recognize it it would hardly be noteworthy.
What’s really depressing is most of the confusion between Greek philosophy and Judaism only exist because a few early theologians didn’t understand Philo of Alexandria. Philo spent a good portion of his life framing Jewish mystical concepts in terms that Greek thinkers could follow and broke the unknowable Hebrew God down in three parts. A Godhead beyond understanding who withdraws into Himself in order to make room for creation, essentially becoming two aspects- Sophia and Logos. Philo envisioned these two working together in shaping creation: Sophia, the feminine, creative vessel, and Logos, the masculine, active doer.
St. Clement studies Philo, Scripture, Philosophy and creates a doctrine. He teaches Origen. Origens lineage eventually ended up in Ecumenical Councils. We’re talking Arian Controversy at Nicaea here. This literally formed our doctrine.
Of course, the Greek Sophia does fall in line with Spirit via Woman Wisdom, but not in the word Wisdom. Her Hebrew counterpart, Chokmâh (חָכְמָה) “wisdom” is masculine in Hebrew and brought in balance by Binah (בינ), feminine “understanding,” found on the Tree of Life and that’s where we stumble. Had we recognized polarity being how information is shared cosmically, no one would ever dispute the truth.
Our concept of Godhead would then be represented in the crown by Keter concealing His true nature- Ein Soph, “nothingness without end.” Keter would then enter into existence through energy in the form of a supernal luminescence called Chockmah -Wisdom- carrying all the limitless potential of existence within.
Imagine absolute oneness expressing itself as “I,” or in the metaphor of ‘creature.” Our souls themselves have an intimate connection with Wisdom because we are dashing experiments of God. Human beings are these unique creations full of unbridled energy the Crown sent shooting through the Universe.
Streams of light and sound waves uttered through Wisdom find their home embedded in Binah- Understanding. If Wisdom is waves of energy Understanding is form. From our perspective on Earth both Binah and Chockmah only exist as potential. As of now, divine light and supreme knowledge can’t be revealed in their entirety, but continue to contain limitless potential for a future where they can be known. This is what the Prophets created Merkhavah- “chariots” to ride Ru’ahh and see. Olam ha’Ba “the World-To-Come.” It’s how they came to know their teachings in a way they could instruct others to follow.
Now, during Philo of Alexandria’s lifetime the Zohar hadn’t been written yet. Abstract concepts like tzimtzum weren’t there to describe why the Creator removed His Limitlessness from the world so we could exist. There was no Sefer Bahir- Book of Illumination- available online to provide the diagram we see above. In spite of that, Philo’s concept of Sophia and Logos are still in line with Moshe’s description of Tohu wa Bohu. If he had been a little more systematic in his interpretations we’d have a much broader acceptance of his works. Kabbalists would’ve made him famous.
Philo wasn’t an initiate with intimate knowledge of scripture or methods of meditating on the Living Waters flowing within forms we can understand. It would’ve taken even less time for him to explain the Trinity in relation to the influx of Divine Power streaming into creation than it did for us to come to it slowly over the centuries that followed him.
What we see in him is another archetype. A man who, through whatever method he used to silence his mind and feel God came to the same conclusion so many before him and after him have, That is, “God is alive. And He’s vibrating in my soul.”
Naturally, the further Philo progressed in his descriptions of the Hebrew God to Greek thinkers the more he focused on the active Logos. Logos represented the masculine reason and that’s the aspect of God the early Church ran with. St. Clement of Alexandria, having a formal Greek education had a vast appreciation for philosophy. Clement probably saw Philo’s description of the Logos where he states “the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son,“ and went off to the races with it. What he failed to realize is he was only looking at a fraction of the truth.
Philo’s explanation didn’t include Jewish concepts like Neshamah (נשמה) “the soul’s provided at birth that allows one to have some awareness of the presence of God,” or… Yehidah (יחידה) “the highest plane of the soul that can allow one to achieve Divine union with God,”
How were scholars supposed to catch the depths when the keys were hidden in symbolism based on books they hadn’t seen?
It’s easy for us to note the Babylonian Talmud stated the Sefer Yetzirah was in circulation as early as 70 BCE but it’s not like it was common knowledge. We forget how blessed we are to have unlimited access to so many of the known works that existed in the Hellenist era.
We can look at diagrams that illustrate all these intimate connections found in scripture without much of a struggle. It’s easy to count down the tiers of the tree when it’s put on display.
Sadly, there weren’t huge schools of Kabbalists directly corresponding with Mystery School Initiates to tie the pieces together. The depth of Wisdom sort of stayed where it always is, in the Heart of the Seeker. It would take all the diagrams and symbolism another few centuries to circulate around before the pieces really started coming together.
As a result, we’ve forgotten how Sophia and Logos mediate between humanity and the unknowable Godhead. We aren’t normally shown Da’ath [דעת] “knowledge” unless we ask. This is discernment which manifests more like a conscious knowledge of the Wisdom relating to the soul than what we think of as intellect. That heart space is so vital. We end up missing that one element that shows existence is alive otherwise.
Oddly enough, quantum mechanics slides right into the creation epoch and lines up with Tohu wa Bohu. Theories like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems are completely compatible with the idea of God creating a primordial chaos before our current state. Both theories are underpinned by quantum indeterminacy- a particle doesn’t have a specific mass, or position, or velocity, or spin, until those properties are measured. Purely speaking, a particle doesn’t exist in a particular form until it’s observed. It’s like the very fabric of the Universe is entangled with a sort of Divine flux between its passive and active essences.
We see these waters of primordial chaos teeming with unfathomable potentiality as the Spirit of God moves across their face. The visible waters and the invisible Spirit of God represent the same unity found in our Lamp of the Body meditation. Water is the canvas and Spirit is the paintbrush. Thus is the true nature of existence.
Water without Spirit and Spirit without water are one and the same. Spirit requires a material body if it’s to lead a corporeal experience and the body needs life to be. It is the breathe of God that causes existence in a physical state. The Universe is like us in that way, just on a grand scale. The same way our bodies require life to be the Universe itself had to be impregnated with all the potentiality of life we see. Thus Sophia was born creating a sort of World Soul. That’s why spacetime is a wave of infinite possibility collapsing into what the senses can perceive. It’s alive.
Until next time, Peace be with you!