Last Saturday morning my wife Holly and I drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to attend the Pagan Pride day celebration. It was small, but diverse, and there were some great workshops. The area was covered for shade, but still hot and very dry. I hope next year the attendance will be even better.
After the event my wife and I went to a party being held by some friends we hadn’t seen in years. Sunday morning we got up early and took the drive home. As I wrote, the weather was incredibly hot and dry, and with stops (such as in the city of Baker where one shop is decorated in an alien—from outer space, not terrestrials from outside the U.S. borders—motif and they sell a wide variety of beef [and other] jerky), we didn’t get home until quite late.
With the heat, including spending a lot of time in the sun, and although I was tired, I felt “fried.” I couldn’t go to sleep. So I turned to my favorite sleep-inducing drug, late-night TV. Flipping the channels, I ended up on a religious channel.
Even though on cable there are a few channels dedicated to Roman Catholicism and to Judaism, the term “religious broadcasting” is most often an euphemism for “trying to make money with fundamentalist Christianity.” So it was with some surprise that I discovered a program that was supposed to reveal…The Bible Code! “This is cool,” I though. “It’s going to be something about the Kabalah.” Bzzzz. Sorry, Don, but you’re totally wrong.
The Bible Code is a book from 1998. A very general description is that there are codes hidden in the Bible—specifically, the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah—that reveal secret information. Because of that description I never bothered to read it. “Big deal,” I thought. “Kabalists have known this for thousands of years.” I didn’t need yet another popular version of what I studied in greater depth.
I was wrong.
The basis of this new interpretation of the Bible is that what would take years in human research could be done with computers in seconds. You start somewhere in the Bible and pick a letter. Then you go forward a certain number of letters, say, 8, or 12, or 50. Then you go forward to the next letter that is the same number of letters away. This is known as the Equidistant Letter Sequence version of the Bible code.
For example, let’s say you start in the first book of the Bible with the first appearance of the letter Tav, which in English sounds like a “t.” Move forward 50 letters, and then another 50 letters, and then again. Surprisingly, you eventually spell out the word “Torah.” Wow! So why does a program about this appear on a “religious” station? Because the code supposedly predicts aspects of Christianity and proves that the Bible had to have been written by a higher source. (i.e., Big guy. Beard. Throne. Clouds. Goes by name of “God.”)
Unfortunately, in reality this doesn’t prove anything. There are over 300,000 separate letters in the Torah. It was inevitable that if you are looking for something using this system, eventually you will find something, somewhere. The letter after the first Tav is a Bet (pronounced like the English “b”). Follow the same technique and you get…nothing. No word. No meaning. No secret. Nada.
In other words the Bible code concept—which has given birth to a bunch of books and even software so you can go looking for Alice’s March Hare in the privacy of your own home—is a self-deluded hoax. If it were true, such revelations would only appear in the Bible and you wouldn’t find such secrets in other books. And yet, some researchers found that by using the same system there were predictions of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin in the pages of Moby Dick!
So let’s look for some other fun codes!
Bible code supporters aren’t content with looking from letter to the following letters in the Bible. You can also go backwards. Not good enough? Make a grid of letters based on the words of the Bible. Start anywhere, and have your first line of letters be, say 30 letters long. Then continue with the following letters of the Bible, in order, forming a second, third, and more lines. Now, look for meaningful words going forward or back, diagonally or vertically (top to bottom or bottom to top). This is similar to the famous “word search” puzzles you can find in newspapers, books near the register at the supermarket, and given to third graders to help improve their word recognition skills. If you didn’t find anything, no problem! Start somewhere else or make the length of the lines of the grid shorter or longer. Keep at it because eventually, if you look hard enough and make up cockamamie rules, you will find something!
Naturally, people are doing this silly process with English versions of the Bible, too.
The Kabalah is Different
The Kabalah—or rather, the part of the Kabalah that works with letter codes—is quite different.
There are three major forms of working with the Kabalah and letters. The first, and perhaps best known, is called Gematria. The technique begins quite simply. Hebrew does not have a separate set of symbols representing numbers. Rather, each Hebrew letter has a numerical value. If you take a word or phrase and determine its total numerical value, if the relationship is meaningful it is believed to be the same as or related to other words or phrases with the same numerical value.
The example I like to give of this is that in Hebrew, the numerical value of the words meaning “love” and “one” each total 13. Since, in Judaism, there is only one God, the one is said to represent God. Therefore, God is love. Need further proof? Add the numerical value of love (13) and one (13) together and you get 26. This number is the same as the numerological value of the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter name of God often transliterated into English as Jehovah or Yahweh. Love+Oneness=God.
The second method of working with letters is called Notarikon. This is simply a way of using abbreviations or acronyms. For example, the word used to end prayers, amen, doesn’t really mean something like “so be it” as it is often translated. Rather, it’s an acronym in Hebrew for the expression, “God is a faithful king.” The meaning behind this is that prayers are meant to be like legal agreements. If you keep up, or have kept up, your part of the bargain, God would be faithful to His word and keep up His end of the bargain.
Early Jewish makers of talismans and amulets believed the verses of the Torah to be holy and magickal. If they didn’t have room on a small piece of parchment to print an entire sentence or passage of the Bible, they would us a Notarikon, sometimes based on the first and last word of sentences, paragraphs, or entire pages of the Torah.
The third system is known as Temura and has actually been usurped by the Bible code fantasists. It uses a variety of letter substitution codes, much as is done when making a simple code to hide the meaning of a message. Kabalists would find a word that was unclear in the Bible’s context, and using one of the codes, discover a different meaning, one that is more spiritual. Bible Coders use the system to prove the existence of their interpretation of God by saying that God hid the message in the Bible.
The Kabalistic systems can be used to make difficult passages in the Bible more clear or more spiritual. They can also be used as part of a variety of magickal and mystical techniques. The Bible code uses the properties of chance with large numbers (of letters) in an attempt to prove the existence of God, especially the Christian notion of God. The Kabalah can be used whether you believe in God, gods, or don’t believe in a deity at all. The Kabalistic techniques are practical and spiritual. For those who already believe in God, the Kabalah isn’t needed to prove God exists; it’s a “given.” The Bible Code proves nothing, isn’t practical, isn’t spiritual, and in my opinion would only convert fools.
Take your pick!