Consider Sepher Yetzirah
It is to no purpose for this supposition to cross examine or defend the multiple translations of Sepher Yetzirah, the Book of Formation. That might best be left to professional philologists. I have found that many versions cancel each other out in some sections. Chapters and sections do not tally with each other with the different versions. Some early translators have incorporated their comments into the actual text itself, and other, subsequent commentators considered these in-corporations part of the original. It can easily descend into a nightmare for the Literal Qabalist.
Fortunately for this investigation I have found Rev. Dr. Isidor Kalisch's and Knut Stenring's translations, and one from the Internet, in rather close agreement. At least in the portion used for this conjecture. And although the excerpts were found in different sections of Sepher Yetzirah from each other, the English translations of each are rendered similar. This, I believe, will prove sufficient for the purposes discussed here. The three translations are from Chapter One, Sepher Yetzirah:
1) “He selected three consonants from the simple ones which are in the hidden secret of three mothers or first elements:
א ,מ ,ש, air, water and ether or fire. He sealed them with spirit and fastened them to His great name and sealed with it six dimensions” – Chapter 1, Sec 8, Para 4, from Rev. Dr. Isidor Kalisch.
2) “He chose three of the simple letters, a secret belonging to the three mothers אמש – A M Sh, and put them in His Great Name and sealed with them six extensions.” – Chapter 1, Para 13, from Knut Stenring.
3) “He chose three letters from among the Elementals [in the mystery of the three Mothers Alef Mem Shin] And He set them in His great Name and with them, He sealed six extremities.” – Chapter 1:13, Gra Version, translated by Aryeh Kaplan (from Internet).
The Great Name in Qabalah and in Judaism is Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh, יהוה, or Tetragammaton, usually translated 'Lord' or 'Jehovah.' It is not a name actually, but a formula of sorts. The Creator is not a person, male or female. In the Qabalah these four letters are attributed the four elements of fire, water, air and earth for all practical purposes, that is, in the Practical Qabalah. In this manner, in one sense, the Great Name implicates God to be of all levels and elements in Its subsequent creation.
However, only the first three letters in the Great Name are used to define the six dimensions, extensions, or extremities mentioned in the three quotations. In the above quotations the first Mother letter, Aleph (א) assigned to Air, is coupled with Yod (י) the first letter of Tetragrammaton. The second Mother letter, Mem (מ) assigned to Water, is given to Heh (ה) the second letter in Tetragammaton. The third Mother letter, Shin (ש) is then assigned the third letter Vav (ו) in Tetragrammaton. So then, transposed for אמש, Aleph-Mem-Shin, we have יהו, Yod-Heh-Vau.
With the assignation of the Mother letters to the first three letters in Tetragrammaton it is made clear to a Literal Qabalist that Fire, Water and Air are the chief elements composing the Three-in-One-Spirit of creation. These 'elements' are not to be assumed any connection with the physical substances that share the same title. Succinctly, consider Fire as the animating mode of the Spirit, Water the substantive aspect, and Air the sentient quality of the Triune One-God. "One God in Three Divine Persons," as proffered in Roman Catholicism, is actually "Animation, Substance and Sentience," esoterically. All the major religions and philosophies refer to this triune nature of the Creative Principle in some manner or other.
The permutations of Yod-Heh-Vau, יהו, are pronounced I.A.O. (EE AH OH) in Practical Qabalah. These permutations of the Great Name 'seal' the six directions of 'Limitless Space,' אין סוף, AIN SUPh, the Second Veil of the Absolute. The word 'seal' from the Sepher Yetzirah is spelled חתם, chatam. It has several nuances in meaning as a noun and a verb as a guarantee or pledge, but it is also used in the spiritual sense to close a benediction. By gematria its letters sum to 448, equal to that of נפש חי, nephesh chi, 'Breath of Life.' A Literal Qabalist would understand through the use of this word that the author had implicated that the Creator had 'blessed' His Creation with the Breath of His Life and sanctified the six infinite directions as in a benediction; unconditional and unequivocal Love.
The benediction comes out or exudes from the First Veil of the Absolute, אין, AIN, 'no, nothing, the negative existence.' However, referring back to the various versions of the Sepher Yetzirah, and as to which exact permutation of the three letters are assigned to each of the six directions is yet another mixed bag of opinions from the many translators and commentators. And, once again, I am in agreement with Mr. Knut Stenring. He presents strong commentary and backs it up with his detailed analysis.
For the directions and their assignations we must turn to the Cube of Space, the supplemental and most important diagram for deeper understanding of both the Sepher Yetzirah and the first few lines in Chapter One in the Book of Genesis. Under 'Articles' in the menu bar at the top of this page is a supposition on the Garden of Eden. Appendix B in that article presents one illustration of the Cube of Space borrowed from the Internet. There are numerous diagrams of the Cube on the Net. The focus here is on the three inner coordinates defining the infinite height, breadth, and depth of Limitless Space, AIN SUPH.
The three Mother letters of the Hebrew alphabet are assigned these coordinates on the Cube. The first Mother letter, Aleph (א) representing the Air element and a symbol of sentience, is assigned the coordinate Above-Below. The second Mother letter, Mem (מ) representing the Water element and symbolizing the substantive, is assigned East-West. And the third Mother letter, Shin (ש) representing the Fire element and symbolizing animation, is positioned North-South.
Consequently, according to various translators and commentators of Sepher Yetzirah, the permutations of the Divine Name, Yod-Heh-Vau, יהו, have been assigned conflicting coordinates depending upon the version presented. Mr. Knut Stenring offers the best and truest argument, by my estimation, for assigning the letters of the Divine Name with the coordinates. Coupling my offering in this supposition together with his commentaries, it follows that the same positions would be the result of matching the elements of the Mother letters Aleph, Mem, and Shin with the elements represented by Yod, Heh, and Vau in Tetragrammaton.
Therefore it also follows that the element Air, and letters Aleph (in the Cube) and Yod (from Sepher Yetzirah), would naturally be assigned the same coordinate, Above-Below. The Above face is assigned to Yod-Heh-Vau (יהו), and the Below face with Yod-Vau-Heh (יוה). This is the first pair of permutations on the Air axis and sentience. And it posits letter Yod as primary in these two directions.
For the element Water it would follow that letters Mem (in the Cube) and Heh (from Sepher Yetzirah) would connect the East-West coordinate. The East face is assigned to Heh-Yod-Vau (היו), and the West face to Heh-Vau-Yod (הוי). This is the second pair of permutations on the Water axis, the substantive. Letter Heh assumes the primary position in both these directions.
This leaves the element Fire to letters Shin (in the Cube) and Vau (from Sepher Yetzirah) connecting the North-South coordinate. The North face is assigned Vau-Yod-Heh (ויה), and the South face to Vau-Heh-Yod (והי). This is the third and final pair of permutations on the Fire axis and animation. Letter Vau is primary in both directions.
Readers unfamiliar with the Sepher Yetzirah texts may consider this needless tedium. So why the detailed nit-picking with these assigned permutations?
Knowledge and Power. The study of Qabalah is the expanding Knowledge of, and the growing Communion with, the Creator. In its course we are evolving from being one aspect of the Creator to becoming one with the Creator, a co-Creator. Inherent with this waxing Union is Power, power to act as the Creator, only for the Creator's purpose. We cannot in any way act or impose our pseudo will separately from Him in this Knowledge and Power because it is inimical to His very Nature. None can fool Him. The Knowledge and the intrinsic Power of the Hidden Qabalah is simply not forthcoming to any soul devoid of Love. The Knowledge of Qabalah proves out the Love concurrently and conclusively.
Intelligent application of the detailed instructions, while presented to all in the Sacred Writings, but given only to the Blessed few who persevere, is the Knowledge and Power to affect all physical worlds from the Plane of Causes (Atziluth and Briah). The attendant Power is the apex of all Magic, the apex of all Arts, the apex of all Religion, and the apex of all Science; a four-sided pyramid. The 'Breath of the Mighty Ones,' רוח אלהים, Ruach Elohim, steers the course of evolution in the Plane of Effects (Yetzirah and Assiah).
The course study and application of Practical Qabalah in ceremonial ritual is exacting and disciplined. Invocation of the finer forces into an ill prepare physical vehicle is crushing. This is the primary reason Sacred Writings remain so obtusely cryptic. They protect us. They do not lie to us. They drop hints and innuendo that force us to become serious and persevering. If the inherent Power from The One is to be used to effect Nature then the Laws of Nature must be followed exactingly. We must work through the maze of arcane symbols and deliberate blinds through study, meditation and prayer. It is a path of heart and wisdom far more difficult and demanding than any arena of knowledge in this world. And just as one number or glyph placed erroneously in a mathematical equation may throw the entire theory into chaotic nonsense, so is it within the higher, subtler and technical regions of the Hidden Qabalah. For no vain reason is it named The Great Work. There is no quick or easy path to our Source within you. Eventually we come to surrender everything attached to this world down to our bone marrow. Life on this path is eventually all consuming. Overcoming and conquering our base nature is the most difficult yet most rewarding endeavor we can ever accomplish in this physical life.
The Sepher Yetzirah is an exacting and detailed account of creation. Originally it was deliberately cryptic. It uses complicated and obscure mental and spiritual symbolism in the form of numbers, letters, and words (sounds). Then, too, some translators and commentators muddied things up considerably either accidentally, or again, deliberately. And although some versions might have been corrupted there is enough core information to be gleaned for the discerning. It offers no fundamentals by which we may approach its enigmas. It is all up to us to decipher what we are able.
The rewards for those persevering may be a peek into the crack of a dimensional fabric inwardly perpendicular to the familiar other three. Few souls are willing to do what it takes to rend that fabric for a look into what lies beyond. Sepher Yetzirah is not for the idle curious or the beginners in esoterica. Devoid at least some understanding of Sepher Yetzirah limits any success with the symbolism within the Zohar, rendering that book completely unapproachable.
There is one book, however, given to all which may initially prepare us for this journey. The Bible, in all its modern translations, is the very beginning for most of us. Unfortunately, most of us stop there; obscure enough, thank you very much. Granted.
The Hebrew version of the Pentateuch presents a little more. Albeit demands a little more effort to those hearty of soul, but it serves up more reward.
And then there is the dedicated Qabalist, hungrier and thirstier yet. The Bible in the Hebrew, for one such in that case, is the best stepping stone literature out there for serving up some comprehension and apprehension of creative evolution and our place in it. The mere surface reading of it, however, is almost a waste of time.
With this initial brief introduction to Sepher Yetzirah, then, a deeper perusal of the first verses in Genesis, Chapter One, might be attempted.