The sacred word YOD-HE-VAU-HE

The Kabbalah and the Sacred Word–The Yod–The He–The Vau–The second He–Synthesis of the Sacred Word.

ACCORDING to the ancient oral tradition of the Hebrews, or Kabbalah1 a sacred word exists, which gives to the mortal who can discover the correct way of pronouncing it, the key to all the sciences, divine and human. This word, which the Israelites never uttered, and which the High Priest pronounced once a year, amidst the shouts of the laity, is found at the head of every initiative ritual, it radiates from the centre of the flaming triangle at the 33rd degree of the Freemasonry of Scotland, it is displayed above the gateways of our old cathedrals, is formed of four Hebrew letters, and reads thus, Yod-he-vau-he, יהוה.

It is used in the Sepher Bereschit, or Genesis of Moses, to designate the divinity, and its grammatical construction recalls even by its formation 1 the attributes which men have always delighted to ascribe to God. Now we shall see that the powers attributed to this word are real up to a certain point, for with its aid the symbolical gate of the arch, which contains the explanation of the whole doctrine of ancient science, is easily opened. It is therefore necessary to enter into some detail respecting it.

The word is formed of four letters, Yod (י), he (ה), vau (ו), he (ה). This last letter he is repeated twice.

A number is attributed to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We must look at those which relate to the letters we are now considering.

י Yod = 10

ה he = 5

ו vau = 6

The total numerical value of the word יהוה is therefore

10 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 26.

Let us now study each letter separately.


The Yod, shaped like a comma or a dot, represents the principle or origin of all things.

The other letters of the Hebrew alphabet are all produced by different combinations of the letter Yod1 The synthetic study of nature had led the ancients to conclude that one law only existed, and ruled all natural productions. This law, the basis of analogy, placed the Unity-principle at the origin of all things, and regarded them as the reflections at various degrees of this Unity-principle. Thus the Yod, which alone forms all the other letters, and therefore all the words and all the phrases of the alphabet, was justly used as the image and representation of this Unity-principle, of which the profane had no knowledge.

Thus the law which presided over the creation of the Hebrew language is the same law that presided over the creation of the Universe, and to know the one is to know the other, unreservedly. The Sepher Yetzirah2 one of the most ancient books of the Kabbalah, proves this fact.

Before proceeding any further, let us illustrate the definition which we have just given of the Yod by an example. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the aleph (א), is composed of four yods placed opposite to each other; the other letters are all formed on the same basis. 3

The numerical value of the yod leads to other considerations. The Unity-principle, according to the doctrine of the Kabbalists, is also the Unity-end of beings and of things, so that eternity, from this point of view, is only an eternal present. The ancients used a dot in the centre of a circle as the symbol of this idea, the representation of the Unity-principle (the dot) in the centre of eternity (the circle, a line without beginning or end). 1

According to these demonstrations, the Unity is regarded as the whole, of which all created beings are only the constituent parts; just as the Unity-man is formed of an agglomeration of molecules, which compose his being.

The Kabbalah, therefore, places at the origin of all things the absolute assertion of the being by itself of the Ego-Unity, which is represented by the yod symbolically, and by the number 10. This number 10, representing the All-principle 1, with the Zero-nothing 0, well supplies the requisite conditions. 2


But the Ego cannot be realized except through its opposition to the Non-Ego. The assertion of the Ego is scarcely established, when we must instantly realize a reaction of the Ego, Absolute, upon itself, from which the conception of its existence will be drawn, by a kind of division of the Unity. This is the origin of duality, of opposition, of the Binary, the image of femininity, even as the Unity is the image of the masculine. Ten, divided by itself, in opposition to itself, then equals 10/2 = 5, five, the exact number of the letter He, the second letter of the great sacred name.

The He therefore represents the passive in relation to the Yod, which symbolizes the active; the Non-Ego in relation to the Ego, the woman relatively to the man; the substance relatively to the essence; life in its relation to the soul, &c., &c.


But the opposition of the Ego and the Non-Ego immediately gives rise to another factor; this is the Affinity existing between this Ego and this Non-Ego.

Now the Vau, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, produced by 10 (yod) + 5 (he) = 15 = 6 (or 1 + 5), signifies link or analogy. It is the link which, uniting

antagonisms in the whole of nature, constitutes the third word of this mysterious Trinity.


Affinity of the Ego with the Non-Ego.

THE 2nd HE.

Nothing can exist beyond this Trinity, considered as a law.

The Trinity is the synthetic and absolute formula to which all the sciences converge; and this formula, forgotten with regard to its scientific value, has been transmitted to us integrally, by all the religious of the world, the unconscious depositaries of the SCIENCE WISDOM of primitive civilizations. 1

Thus the great sacred name is formed of three letters only. The fourth term of the name is formed by the repetition of the second letter, the He.

This repetition indicates the passage of the Trinitarian law into a new application; that is, to speak correctly, a transition from the metaphysical to the physical world, or generally, of any world whatever to the world that immediately follows it. 2

The knowledge of the property of the second He is the

key to the whole divine name, in every application of which it is susceptible. We shall presently see the proof of this statement.


Now that we have separately studied each of the letters that compose the sacred name, we will apply the law of synthesis to them, and sum up the results obtained.

The word Yod-he-vau-he is formed of four letters, signifying:

The Yod The active principle pre-eminent.

The Ego = 10.

The He The passive principle pre-eminent.

The Non-Ego = 5.

The Vau The Median letter, the link, which unites the active to the passive.

The Affinity between the Ego and the Non-Ego = 6.

These three letters express the Trinitarian law of the Absolute.

The 2nd He The second He marks the passage from one world to another. The Transition.

This second He represents the complete Being, comprising in one Absolute Unity the three letters which compose it: Ego, Non-Ego, Affinity.

It indicates the passage from the noumenal to the phenomenal or reciprocal; it serves as means of ascension from one scale to another.


The word Yod-he-vau-he can be represented in various ways, which are all useful.

The circle can be drawn in this way–


1st he

1st he


But since the second He, the sign of transition, becomes the active entity in the following scale, i. e. since this He only represents a yod in germ, 1 the sacred word can be represented, with the second he under the first yod, thus–

yod 1st he vau
2nd he

Lastly, a third method of representing the word consists in enveloping the Trinity, Yod-he-vau, with the tonalisating letter, or second He, thus–

Now we will leave these data, to which we must return later on, and speak of the occult or Pythagorean conception of numbers.

Excerpt from The Tarot of the Bohemians

By Papus

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