HPB wrote rather extensively on the Kabbalah, for example, Isis Unveiled, chapter 5, The Secret Doctrine, B I, P2, C5 (The Hidden Deity), and the The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 3, The Eastern Gupta Vidya and the Kabalah. Here's a somewhat cryptic passage from the Sepher Yetzireh in Isis Unveiled (p. 272.).

In the Sepher Jezireh, the kabalistic Book of Creation, the author has evidently repeated the words of Manu. In it, the Divine Substance is represented as having alone existed from the eternity, boundless and absolute; and emitted from itself the Spirit. "One is the Spirit of the living God, blessed be His Name, who liveth for ever! Voice, Spirit, and Word, this is the Holy Spirit"; ** and this is the kabalistic abstract Trinity, so unceremoniously anthropomorphized by the Fathers. From this triple ONE emanated the whole Cosmos. First from ONE emanated number TWO, or Air, the creative element; and then number THREE, Water, proceeded from the air; Ether or Fire complete the mystic four, the Arba-il. *** "When the Concealed of the Concealed wanted to reveal Himself, he first made a point (primordial point, or the first Sephira, air or Holy Ghost), shaped it into a sacred form (the ten Sephiroth, or the Heavenly man), and covered it with a rich and splendid garment, that is the world." **** "He maketh the wind His messengers, flaming Fire his servants," says the Jezireh, showing the cosmical character of the later euhemerized angels, * and that the Spirit permeates every minutest atom of the Cosmos.

* See Vol. I., chap. i., pp. 33, 34, of this work.

** "Sepher Jezireh," chap. i., Mishna ixth.

*** Ibid.

**** "Sohar," i., 2 a.

the reference is re-used in the SD, p. 337 (Primordial Substance and Divine Thought) (and  p. 447).

n the Sepher Jezireh, the Kabalistic Book of Creation, the author has evidently repeated the words of Manu. In it, the Divine Substance is represented as having alone existed from the eternity, boundless and absolute; and as having emitted from itself the Spirit.* “One is the Spirit of the living God, blessed be Its name, which liveth for ever! Voice, Spirit, and Word, this is the Holy Spirit;”† and this is the Kabalistic abstract Trinity, so unceremoniously anthropomorphised by the Christian Fathers. From this triple One emanated the whole Kosmos. First from One emanated number Two, or Air (the Father), the creative element; and then numberThree, Water (the Mother), proceeded from the air; Ether or Fire completes the mystic four, the Arba-il.‡ “When the Concealed of the Concealed wanted to reveal Himself, he first made a point (primordial point, or the first Sephiroth, air, or Holy Ghost), shaped into a sacred form (the ten Sephiroth, or the Heavenly man), and covered it with a rich and splendid garment, that is the world.”§

Footnote(s) ———————————————

* The manifested Spirit; Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also.

† “Sepher Jezireh,” chap. 1, Mishna ix.

‡ Ibid. It is from Arba that Abram is made to come.

§ “Sohar,” I., 2a.

It actually gets a more detailed explanation in the SD 3, p.181 (and a more accurate translation).

As is constantly shown in the Zohar, the Infinite Unity, or Ain-Suph, is ever placed outside human thought  and appreciation; and in Sepher Jetzirah we see the Spirit of God - the Logos, not the Deity itself -  One is the Spirit of the Living God . . Who liveth forever. Voice, Spirit, [of the spirit], and Word:  this is the Holy Spirit, [ Mishna, i. 9.]  Three-in-one and Four - (Page 181) - and the Quaternary. From this Cube emanates the whole Kosmos.

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Thanky kindly for the reference Nicholas.

Interestingly, there's a fifth reference to that passage in SD 3- The “Zohar” on Creation and the Elohim - this time it's quoted by the British Kabbalist MacGregor Mathers from a private correspondence that HPB reproduces:

In the Sepher Yetzirah,or Book of Formation,we read:
“One is She the Ruach Elohim Chum - (Spirit of the Living Elohim). . . . Voice, Spirit, and
Word; and this is She, the Spirit of the Holy One.” Here again we see the intimate connection
which exists between the Holy Spirit and the Elohim. Furthermore, farther on in this same
Book of Formation- which is be it remembered, one of the oldest of the Kabalistical Books,
and whose authorship is ascribed to Abraham the Patriarch - we shall find the idea of a
Feminine Trinity in the first place, from whom a masculine Trinity proceeds; or as it is said in
the text: “Three Mothers whence proceed three Fathers.” And yet this double Triad forms, as it
were, but one complete Trinity. Again it is worthy of note that the Second and Third Sephiroth
(Wisdom and Understanding) are both distinguished by feminine names, Chokmah and Binah,
notwithstanding that to the former more particularly the masculine idea, and to the latter the
feminine, are attributed, under the titles of Abba and Aima (or Father and Mother).

For the Kabalistic tetrad, it is not clear to me what is the trinity in the Sefer Yetzirah 1, 9. I think de Zirkof adds an appropriate reference to 1, 12 which would refer to the tetrad of one, air, water, fire. Interestingly, in Aryeh Kaplan's commentary of the Sefer Yetzirah(1997, 71) 1, 9 he refers to a kabalistic tetrad of Keter, Chakmah, Binah and Ruach Hakodesh.

"This 'Holy Spirit' can be seen as the intermediate between Voice and Speech. It is thus also intermediate between Chakmah and Binah consciousness. Ruach HaKodesh is the divine inspiration and information that one can bring back from a state of Chakmah consciousness to one's normal state of Binah consciousness.

Such Ruach HaKodesh is like Keter, which stands between Chakman and Binah, but which is above them. Both Chakhmah and Binah are functions of the mind itself, while Ruach HaKodesh is the 'breath of God' mentioned in the verse, 'I will fill him with the Breath of God, with Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge.'


In another major Blavatskyan piece on the Kabbalah, "Tetragrammaton", (Theosophist, November, 1887), she again references Sefer Yetzirah 1,9 via Mathers (20-21) - then a member of the TS - of whom she writes: 'there are few more learned Kabbalists in England, though I do not certainly agree with all his views. But on this question we are in almost full agreement." The article makes extensive use of his just published The Kabbalah Unveiled, (something of an esoteric classic, still in print today, via Penguin Books, of all places). I think it's still a pretty good intro to the Kabbalah:

"The circle emanates a light which becomes to our vision four-cornered; this unfolds and becomes seven." Here the "circle" is the first sephira "the kether" or crown, theRisha Havurah, or "white head," and the "upper skull." [It is not limitless, but temporary in this phenomenal world.] It emanates the two lower Sephiroth (Chokhmah and Binah, which are "Father-Mother") and thus form the triangle, the first or upper triad of the Sephirothal Tree. This is the one or the monad of Pythagoras. But, it has emanated from the Seven Elohim, male and female, who are called the "Upper Father-Mother." These are themselves the reflections of the FemaleHoly Spirit, of which it is said in Sepher Jezirah "One is She, the Elohim of life." How far yet from AIN-SOPH the ALL, are these numbers of the Jewish Kabbala, for they are in fact only secret numbers and glyphs. Microprosopus comes the fourth.  

She also makes some interesting personal asides: " I have studied the Kabbala under two learned Rabbis, one of whom was an initiate, and there was no difference between the two teachings (the esoteric Eastern and the Western) in this instance."



The concepts discussed are related to SD s2.4 - and She discusses it further in theTransactions, for example:

A. In occult and Pythagorean geometry the Tetrad is said to combine within itself all the materials from which Kosmos is produced. The Point or One, extends to a Line — the Two; a Line to a Superficies, Three; and the Superficies, Triad or Triangle, is converted into a Solid, the Tetrad or Four, by the point being placed over it. Kabalistically Kether, or Sephira, the Point, emanates Chochmah and Binah, which two, are the synonym of Mahat, in the Hindu Puranas, and this Triad, descending into matter, produces the Tetragrammaton, Tetraktys, as also the lower Tetrad. This number contains both the productive and produced numbers. The Duad doubled makes a Tetrad and the Tetrad doubled forms a Hebdomad. From another point of view it is the Spirit, Will, and Intellect animating the four lower principles.

Below is Aryeh Kaplan's translation of the Gra version:

1:9   Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: One is the Breath of the Living God, blessed and benedicted be the Name of the Life of worlds. The Voice of Breath and Speech. And this is the Holy Breath (Ruach HaKodesh).

1:10   Two: Breath from Breath. With it engrave and carved twenty-two foundation letters - three, Mothers, seven Doubles, and twelve Elementals - and one Breath is from them.

1:11   Three: Water and Breath. With it he engraved and carved (22 letters from) chaos and void, mire and clay. He engraved them like a garden plot. He carved them like a wall. He covered them like a ceiling. (And he poured snow over them and it became dust as it is written ''For to snow He said, 'Become Earth' (Job 37.6)''

1:12   Four: Fire from water. With it He engraved and carved the Throne of Glory, Seraphim, Ophanim, holy Chayot, and Ministering Angels. From the three He established His dwelling, as it is written, "He makes His angels of breaths, His ministers from flaming fire" (Psalms 104:4).

There's another reference to Sefer Yetzirah 1.9 - this time with a Hebrew transliteration - it's interesting how, even though she recycles that short quote several times, in some cases verbatim, in other cases the explanation and context is different and sometimes, it is a different translation from previous citations:

The monotheists have taken (and are still taking) advantage of the profound esotericism of the Kabala to apply the name by which the One Supreme Essence is known to its manifestation, the Sephiroth-Elohim, and call it Jehovah. But this is quite arbitrary and against all reason and logic, as the term Elohim is a plural noun, identical with the plural word Chiim, often compounded with the Elohim.*

* The sentence in the Sepher Jezirah and elsewhere: “Achath-Ruach-Elohim-Chiim” denotes the Elohim as androgynous at best, the feminine element almost predominating, as it would read: “One is She the Spirit of the Elohim of Life.” As said above, Echath (or Achath) is feminine, and Echod (or Achod) masculine, both meaning One. (SD 130)

Here's Aryeh Kaplan's translation again, with the Hebrew terms.

1:9   Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: One is the Breath (Ruach) of the Living God (Elohim Chayim),

Blessed (Barukh) and benedicted (MeBhorakh) is the name of the Life of Worlds

The Voice (kol) of Breath and Speech

And this is the Holy Breath (Ruach Hakodesh).


All the quotations presented so far have, I think been fairly brief and somewhat cryptic. However, she does gives a fuller explanation with a more extensive citation from the passage in question, i.e. Sefer Yetzirah  I, 9-12, not just 9-10 as the text has it. And she also gives her own interpretative, theosophical paraphrase. So I think it's safe to say that this passage (9-12) plays an important part in the SD commentary.

SD I, 1, 92 - st. 4.3

The “Sacred Animals” are found in the Bible as well as in the Kabala, and they  have their meaning (a very profound one, too) on the page of the origins of Life.  In the Sepher Jezirah it is stated that “God engraved in the Holy Four the throne  of his glory, the Ophanim (Wheels or the World-Spheres), the Seraphim,* the Sacred  Animals, and the ministering angels, and from these three (the Air, Water, and Fire  or Ether) he formed his habitation.” Thus was the world made “through three Seraphim  — Sepher, Saphar, and Sipur,” or “through Number, Numbers, and Numbered.” With the  astronomical key these “Sacred Animals” become the signs of the Zodiac.

Footnote(s) ———————————————

* This is the literal translation from the IXth and Xth Sections: “Ten numbers  without what? One: the spirit of the living God . . . . who liveth in eternities!  Voice and Spirit and Word, and this is the Holy Spirit. Two: Spirit out of Spirit.  He designed and hewed therewith twenty-two letters of foundation, three Mothers  and seven double and Twelve single, and one spirit out of them. Three: Water out  of spirit; he designed and hewed with them the barren and the void, mud and earth.  He designed them as a flowerbed, hewed them as a wall, covered them as a paving.  Four: Fire out of water. He designed and hewed therewith the throne of glory and  the wheels, and the seraphim and the holy animals and the ministering angels, and  of the three He founded his dwelling, as it is said, He makes his angels spirits  and his servants fiery flames!” Which words “founded his dwelling” show clearly  that in the Kabala, as in India, the Deity was considered as the Universe, and was  not, in his origin, the extra-cosmic God he is now.

Also, Westcott actually released a translation of the Sefer Yetzirah in 1887 - and the translation seems similar, but not exactly the same as in the SD.


The Aryeh Kaplan commentaries to 10-12 are more on the microcosmic level - so are not very similar - but he does give some basic compatible notions:

"According to the philosophers, Water represents the primeval matter, while Fire represents the primitive aether." (p. 78)