The Essential Nature of Creativity
The First Word of Genesis
With-beginningness Elohim created the heavens and the earth.
The first word of the Bible in Hebrew is B’reshit. This word is usually translated with the phrase “In the beginning,” but the interpretive translation “with-beginningness” is preferred here. In Hebrew the letter bet (B’) is a prefix, which signifies “in” or “with.” The word Reshit refers to a continual state of becoming. This is the condition that all things are “in.” B’reshit is the dynamic nature of creativity that presents total possibility. It is always unfolding fresh, new, and unique. The continual beginning is the volatile and playful disposition that can do or be anything, which displays itself as everything.
When properly understood, B’reshit constitutes a direct assault on all conventional assumptions about the solidity of substance, the linear cohesiveness of time, and the integrity of thought. Conventional perception assumes that moments in time, appearances in space, and individual thoughts are separate, unrelated, random occurrences. The wisdom of B’reshit attacks this by asserting the changeless basis of continual change.
The primordial dynamism of B’reshit is evident in the relentlessness of perception. Considering the “texture” of cognition is helpful in appreciating this. Ordinary perception is an ever-changing ocean of transformation. Waves of thought arise and fall back onto themselves, following an unquestioned and unexamined continuum. When an attempt is made to grasp a thought or feeling, the perceived moment and its contents immediately slip away into the next moment. The next moment always presents itself in a manner subtly different from the last. As this occurs, the moment that was originally sought has vanished before it could even be glimpsed. Neither the content nor context of any moment of perception is the fortress of security that it is assumed to be. The artifice of perception erodes on contact with any attempt to investigate it. The only conclusion that can be made is that the unfolding of perceptual events is not a static parade of frozen moments to be grasped at one by one, it is a constant, uncatchable, and
Exoteric religion interprets the Bible’s first word as an indication of creation “ex nihilo.” In the proto-historical mythology a distinction is made between “before” and “after” creation. In the mystical sense, this separation is nullified by the equalizing nature of Divinity, which goes beyond all distinctions. It is asserted by the essential nature of B’reshit, which equalizes all divisions with the wisdom of pure creativity. The wisdom of B’reshit is a “Beginningness” that cannot be experienced or known in any conventional sense. Ordinary perception cannot comprehend its own nature. This would be like trying to see your own face without a mirror. B’reshit is not a concept about wisdom that confronts the mind like a visitor, it is the mirror of the mind itself and reflects whatever habits and tendencies the mind clings to. However, B’reshit is beyond all habits--it is the open reflectivity of the mirror that can reflect anything. It is equal before birth and after death; it is beyond change but is the basis of all change. It is the common basis of what is known as well as that which knows it. Realization of this simultaneity is gnosis (mystical realization).
The wisdom of B’reshit continually explodes into phenomenal play. It is always arising and dissolving, beyond grasp, never static, insubstantial yet vivid. Appreciating this irrepressible wisdom in all things is the door out of the superficial, petty concerns that obscure the Divine mystery. Conversely, not appreciating it perpetuates ordinary perceptual fixation, which literally shuts the door to gnosis. This is made clear in The Zohar:
B’Reshit is a key enclosing all, closing and opening.
(Haqdamat Sefer HaZohar)
The pure Divine creative essence is referred to by the Hebrew term Ain Sof, which can be translated as “the infinite.” The essential nature of creativity is not dependent on anything, but it is not an independent existent entity either. Ain Sof is composed of two words: Ain (without) and Sof (limitation).
No matter what phenomena arises, or does not arise, the purity and wholeness of Ain Sof is unaffected. Ain Sof cannot be diluted or subjugated, no matter how it appears to be distorted, misapprehended, or ignored. Nothing ever leaves and nothing can ever be brought in. These categories are attempts at a definition, which is impossible. All that can be said is that Ain Sof is creative and free. This is indicated in the following quote from the thirteenth-century kabbalist Moshe de Leon.
The highest crown is the pure avira (luminous space) that cannot be grasped. It is the sum of all existence, and all have wearied in their search for it. One should not ponder this “place.” It is secretly named Ain Sof, for it engenders everything that is. The belt of the wise is burst by this mystery. Arouse yourself to contemplate, to focus thought, for the Divine is the annihilation of all thoughts, uncontainable by any concept. Since no one can contain the Divine, it is called Ain (nothingness). (Sheqel HaKodesh)
Ain Sof is the essential unadulterated purity that arises as all things, and B’reshit is its nature. Here the esoteric dimension of language must be extremely precise. Ain Sof is pure essence, and B’reshit expresses the nature of that essentiality. Both aspects, the essence and its nature, are a complete unity. For example, sugar’s nature is to be sweet. We know sugar through the expression of its nature in a variety of forms. No matter how the nature becomes known, it is always sweet. In any form this sweet nature expresses the essence of sugar directly, and it can be known that sugar is present.
The essence and nature of creativity are represented by the first two sefirot, called keter (crown) and chochmah (wisdom). Keter is Ain Sof ’s sublime essential potentiality, and chochmah is its wisdom nature. Both are included in the word B’reshit.