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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Love is Harmony and Harmony is Love

“Love is harmony and harmony is love”

The whisper was hardly a novel message.  We’ve heard the cliché “Peace, love and harmony” and we’ve seen the image that came to mind to represent the message: that iconic picture of children of all lands holding hands around the earth. Even still, the message caught my attention.  It came as many do, when my mind was on nothing related to it, but in one of those rare moments for a mom juggling work and kids -- a moment of stillness. 


Cliché or not, the whisper struck me as both intuitively true and not at all understood.  More than anything, love is limited by separation, division – that painfully human tendency to adopt an “us and them” mentality.  It is Love that helps us drop this mentality and enter instead into harmony.  We think of those totally in love and we see them to be as one, a unit; we cannot imagine them separate.  Their names and identities blend together as a single, harmonious unit.  At times, those of us on the outside of this harmonious little couple can be indignant toward their harmony, but that is because we are on the outside of it.  If we can imagine the little couple growing to a family, a community, and an entire society, while maintaining that initial harmony of the couple, then we could perhaps catch a glimmer of Love.

A whisper is pondered and then set aside until support arrives through more natural means.  This time, it came about a month later while I was perusing through the Jewish mysticism section in Portland’s staggering bookstore, Powell’s – a must for any booklover coming to the NW.  One of the books there struck me with confirmation of the recent whisper.

But first, a background: Jewish mystics are known to glean mysteries by peering into the Hebrew letters of words.  Hebrew is a remarkably powerful language; to each letter is assigned not only a sound, but a word, a picture, and a number.  The Hebrew word for “letter” also means “sign,” even wonder.  To the Jewish mystics, then, even a single Hebrew letter holds a treasure of mysteries.  (My favorite introduction to this subject is  Rabbi Michael L. Munk's The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet.)  Within this system, the specific study of the numerical values of words is called Gematria.  The one many may be most familiar with is the divine name, YHVH, with a value of 26, deriving from the Yod (10), the Hei (5), the Vav (6), and the final Hei (5).  Once the Jewish mystic has determined the value of a word or name, he enters an adventurous quest into innumerable mysteries. 

Returning to the bookstore perusal, one of the books I was looking through was explaining this very concept of Gematria by introducing these two words: unity and love.  Both hold the same value of 13.  In Hebrew, unity is achad (AChD) and love is ahebah (AHBH)  Achad is made up of Aleph (1), Ches (8), and Dalet (4) and ahebah is made of Aleph (1), Hei (5), Bet (2), and Hei (5).  From this, we see that love, unity, and the number 13 all hold something in common and that the meaning of one speaks to the meaning of the other. 

Having not purchased the book I was perusing, I consulted other sources for further information.  One quoted Rabbi Meir Ibn Gabbi of the fifteenth century:

“For the perfect adoration worship demanded of the true worshipper
is the service of Unity, that is, the unification of the glorious and Only Name.
But the essence of Love is the true Unity,
and the true Unity is what is termed Love.”

Several sources noted that “achad” (spelled by some as “echad”) is also the word for “one” and, in fact, the very word used to describe God in the foundational Jewish prayer, the Shema:  “Hear O Israel the Lord they God, the Lord is One” (Deut 6:4).  “Oneness,” then, may be the more appropriate word to connect with love than either “unity” or “harmony.”  The very next verse is just as foundational for us Christians: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5).  While these verses are often heard separate, they belong together.  The first expresses Oneness and the second expresses Love.

To continue contemplating the meaning of oneness and love, one can also consider the value of each, 13, which has a bad rap in our culture.  Could it deserve its reputation?  Most likely, Jewish sages would say “no,” pointing to its special quality as half the value of the Divine Name (26 = 13 x 2).  We also see here that Oneness + Love = the Divine Name.  While Christians rarely consider this, 13 ought to be sacred for us too, as it is the number of Jesus with his disciples.  Finally, the most sacred symbol in the Jewish tradition, the Star of David, is also made up of 13 units.  As two perfect equilateral triangles joined together, one pointing upward and the other downward, the Star suggests the unification of God and Man, Heaven and Earth, “As Above, So Below,” or as Jesus expressed it, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”




Jesus also called for a kinship of Oneness and Love within humanity by calling us to love our brother as ourselves, who he then defined as our enemies (Luke 10:27-29& 36-37).  Hence, more than merely saying, “Love your enemy,” he was saying “love the one you consider your enemy as yourself.”  To completely follow Jesus’ command, then, we should release ourselves from considering anyone an “enemy” at all; all are “brothers” who we love “as ourselves.”  Such oneness is genuine love.

Within Jesus’ paradigm, however, love and unity must go beyond the cliché of “peace, love and harmony,” for this same Master also said, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword . . .” (Matt 10:34).  We would expect a sword to represent not oneness, but division, which Jesus further notes by his added words that he has come to divide, set against, or set at variance man and son and mother and daughter (Matt 10:35 )  If God is One and Jesus came to preach Love, then how could he have also come to bring a sword?


Within Jesus’ paradigm, however, love and unity must go beyond the more cliché of “peace, love and harmony,” for this same Master also said, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword . . .” (Matt 10:34).  We would expect a sword to represent not oneness, but division, which Jesus further notes by his added words that he has come to divide, set against, or set at variance man and son and mother and daughter (Matt 10:35)  If God is One and Jesus came to preach Love, then how could he have also come to bring a sword?

I wonder if, ironically, the sword helps lead the way to Oneness.  The fusion of Above with Below ought to be expected to be traumatic and temporarily painful.  In that moment when Man meets God, he turns his face.  Should he look or hear God’s voice directly, man says he will die (Ex. 20:19).  Perhaps he is meeting Cherubim with swords and fire before the Tree of Life (Gen 3:24).  So when Jesus says he came to bring not peace but a sword, perhaps he was referring to the sword of the Cherubim, the very sword that leads to the Tree of Life – but only through the confrontation with mighty angels waving fiery swords.  This sword can be seen as that painful moment when Heaven and Earth meet.  In the sacred geometry of the Star of David, one could imagine it as that moment when the upper and the lower triangles fuse together to form the glorious Star Tetrahedron. 

The idea in this single paragraph above is, I know, the subject of what could be a very extensive and controversial book.  I've begun to explore this theme elsewhere, such as the final part of my “In the Beginning” series and Colors of Harmony and Duality.  But it comes here as a way to explore not only the unification of Oneness and Love, but also to investigate what seems to be the very opposite of oneness, the sword, and to peruse how they can all come together.  It may be that the Star of David, with its own value of 13, may start to hold a clue.  But these are merely initial considerations.  In any case, even if the whisper feels like a cliche, I sense that it is profound beyond our comprehension.
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