Notes from the Waxhaws

A very short history of the Aleph

with 2 comments

I’ve always been on the lookout for evidence of its existence. The Aleph…its name taken from the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

The first reference that I stumbled upon concerning this strange object occurred while thumbing through the pages of a book by Jorge Luis Borges. He related the story of a friend, which involved a fantastical object that existed in the cellar of his house on Garay Street in Buenos Aires. On a visit, his friend leads him down into the dimly lit cellar, and closes the trapdoor, leaving him lying in a corner, alone in the darkness, perfectly positioned to witness this apparition…

“On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished.”

What he then saw astounded him…

“I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon — the unimaginable universe.”

Further back, in the eighteenth century, there is also a somewhat obscure, but in retrospect, most certain, reference to the Aleph in William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Later, I was even more astonished when I came across a passage in the writings of Julian of Norwich, the great fourteenth century English Christian mystic who took her name from the Church of St. Julian in Norwich, where she was an anchoress and solitary. In Chapter 5 of her ‘Revelations of Divine Love‘, she relates a vision she had of an encounter with the Lord…

“He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.”

Tantalizing as all this may seem…that’s all that can be said for now. I know…the evidence is far from conclusive. With further research, perhaps using hitherto unknown source material as it becomes available, this mysterious object will be more fully understood, and the timeline of the Aleph (or whatever its true name is) extended further back into the distant reaches of the past. We can only hope…and wait…

Written by Jim

November 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Lovely, interesting and extremely comforting – thanks~ Although I continue my search, I just know it’s not necessary.


    November 7, 2011 at 12:47 am

  2. I have to admit that I was feeling a bit playful when I wrote this. Borges has always been a favorite author of mine. He had a very strange way of weaving together fact with fantasy that blurred the line between fiction and reality.

    One of my favorite quotes of Julian is when the Lord said to her…”All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” At the risk of sounding like a universalist, I sometimes imagine our Lord…at the end of time…drawing us all together and saying something like…”Well done, my good and faithful servants! What shall we do next?”


    November 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: