The Fourfold River

Ain Soph – The Unknown God

Chapter 19

Fred Mayers

Genesis II, v. 10 to 14.

v. 10: “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

v. 11: “And the name of the first is Pishon; that is it which encompasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

v. 12: “and the gold of that land is good; there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

v. 13: “And the name of the second river is Gihon; the same is it that encompasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

v. 14: “And the name of the third liver is Riddekel; that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria, and the fourth river is Euphrates.” (English A.V.)

At this point the narrative appears to “change the subject” rather abruptly, but as we proceed we shall see that there is really no break at all in the story, and that it is logically necessary that this section should be inserted just in this place.

If “Eden” were, as most commentators assume, a geographical district “in” which the “garden” was planted, this 10th verse certainly reads very strangely. It says: “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden”-the garden which we had been told had been planted in Eden! This is one of the many little difficulties which commentators, whose researches go no deeper than the skin of the narrative, have no explanations to offer for, and therefore pass over in prudent silence. If, however, we turn back to what was said about Eden in Chapter XVIII, we shall see that the question of place-position does not arise at all; we are dealing with a state of existence, a sphere of activity, in the finite realm of time and space. It is out of this state of existence that the so-called “river” proceeds; and the whole meaning of these four verses will appear, step by step, if we examine closely some of the principal words in them.

We will take first the word “river,” “nahar. The root of this word is “har.” This root is composed of the sign of “life,” “h,” and the sign of “movement,” “r”; it denotes quite simply a movement of the life force. The word “harah” means to bring forth life; pregnancy; and similar ideas. The prefix “n” denotes any particular thing. The word “nahar” means anything that moves along like a stream, a river, or a current, but it also includes the idea of something that carries life where it goes. So this river of Eden was a great stream of life-force. The word “to water”- “hishekah” was explained in the notes on verse 6. It means to make anything fertile or productive, or able to sustain life.

The “garden” or “enclosure” was the special sphere or environment in which humanity-i.e., “Adam -was to receive physical form, and to develop and, finally, to make human nature divine, in accordance with the creative purpose of God. What was that “special sphere or environment”? The answer is not far to seek. Astronomy tells us that (as far as we have any means of knowing) the earth, and the earth alone, of all the starry occupants of space, is physically suitable, or possible, as a dwelling for beings-living beings-having physical bodies such as those of men and women. The earth, through countless ages, had to be specially prepared and developed for that purpose. It had to become capable of providing sustenance for all physical life-forms; and in it these life-forms had to be evolved. All of this long preparation was the work of the spiritual stream of life-force ever flowing through and from the universe of time and space.

That stream, we are told, was in the first place ONE great general flow of life-force moving the whole material universe, but when it enters upon the special sphere of existence designed for the location of humanity, it is broken up and becomes four new “starting points” of separate streams of life-force-or of different types of life-force. The word which we have just rendered as “starting points” is, in the original, “reshim.” We explained the meaning of this word in our notes on the very first word of Genesis :- “b’reshith.” It means head, beginning, first, leader, chief, principal, etc. In Genesis I, v. 1, it denoted the principle underlying all creation. It does not mean a “branch”-as it would need to do, if the narrative, which we are considering, meant that the river of Eden simply branched off into four streams. The idea of the text is something quite different from that. It means that the stream of life-force became, so to speak. decomposed; certain elements or qualities in it were separated to follow independent courses, just as when white light passing through a glass prism is decomposed, and becomes the several coloured lights of the spectrum. The single stream, in our text, becomes four streams of differentiated forms of the original life-force. The narrative gives special symbolic names to three of these streams. Commentators have made desperate – we might say “pathetic”-attempts to identify these three “names” (to which they take the liberty of adding a fourth) with the names or characteristics of any rivers that exist. or ever have existed on the face of the earth. All such attempts have utterly failed. Delitzsch confirms that fact, if he fails to do anything else, in his Commentary. So we shall have to see what an examination of the names, and of what is told us about the respective streams, has to reveal to us.

Genesis II, v. 11 (English A.V.) says: “And the name of the first is Pishon : that is it which encompasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.” The root of the word “Pishon” is “ish.” This root conveys the idea of “reality,” of substantiality, or something that “IS.” Used in its simple form it corresponds exactly to the English word “is” “was,” “were,” according to the pronoun accompanying it. To this root “ish” is prefixed the sign “ph” or “f,” which denotes outward expression, speech, etc. That combination makes “phish” which means “to cause anything to become numerous, “to spread,” “to flourish,” “to open out” physically. Then the affix “on,” as we have shown before, augments or extends the meaning of the word to the fullest extent possible. It is quite obvious that this word Pishon (or Phishon) is a word specially “coined” by the writer of “Genesis” to express the idea he had in mind as, except when quoted, it is never found in use in any way in the language.

The symbolic name Pishon denotes some force which permeates all space. and the activity of which brings to outward, physical expression that which was created in idea, and given form in the spiritual realm only in the first case. Thus it denotes the means by which the physical plane of existence, and everything in the physical universe comes into being. Without Pishon, man could never have had an existence in a physical “flesh and blood” body – or a physical environment in which to become “fruitful and multiply.” The verse goes on to tell us that Pishon “encompasseth the whole land of Havilah.” The word translated “encompasseth” is “sobab.” One might translate this word by several different English words: surround”; “encompass”; “enclose”; “include”; “comprise.” They are all correct, and there is not much difference in their meaning but there is a little difference which makes one word more suitable than another in certain cases. The translators of the Bible chose the word “encompass” because they had started with the idea that they were dealing with an ordinary river running round a certain country. As soon as we get at the real meaning of the words: “land of Havilah,” we shall see that “includes” or “comprises” would have been more appropriate.

The word “land is aretz.” It means “land,” “earth,” “country,” “soil,” etc., in ordinary use. The deeper meaning of the word has been fully explained in earlier chapters, as the most material – the most outward expression of anything. In this verse it is applied to human activity, and the most “outward” of all human activity is physical activity in the physical realm, in ordinary life, in everyday work and occupations. This is quite clear from the meaning of “havilah.” This word is based on the root “hal,” “hol,” or “heel,” which relates to the idea of effort, tension, energy, virtual work, trial, physical activity, etc. The final “ah” in the word serves exactly the same purpose as the final “ah” in “adamah” and other words we have already discussed. Just as “adamah” represents the spiritual element from which “adam” is “formed,” so “havilah” denotes the conditions and means of activity in the physical realm. The word “havil” would cover all human activity, all outward expression, on the “earth” plane; all that demands effort, struggle. etc. II we, therefore, study with a little care these meanings of the words of the text, we can scarcely fail to see how completely one agrees with another and how logically they combine in support of the interpretation we are giving of the text.

But, to continue; the verse adds the statement that havilah was the “place of gold,” “sham-ha-tzahab.” “Sham ha-tzahab” would be more correctly translated by “there was the gold.” The word “place” is misleading. It really means that in the work accomplished was the “gold.” This is a very interesting little phrase. We pointed out in our notes to verse 4 that the author stated at the beginning of this narrative that it was symbolic”; so we know what to expect to find this phrase to be. Etymologically the word “tzahab” means “light’s reflection.” Gold has been very aptly described as “metallic sunshine.” It has also always been regarded as an emblem of what is good or valuable. There we have two suggestions as to the symbolism of the word here, and we have seen from the meaning of the word “havilah,” that it is applied here specially to human activity, to daily labour, to “the trivial round, the common task,” etc. We have also seen that “Light” and “Intelligence” are practically synonyms in the Bible. Is it not true that a man’s work is a very faithful “reflection” of his intelligence? In fact, what a man does, is a reflection of the whole man. Just as God is made manifest through His work, so is -man through his. And is not work-honest, faithful, true work, the very “gold” of life to man himself? The next verse goes on to state very definitely that it is : “the ‘gold’ of that land was good!” Of course the work of “Adam” in Eden was good! Although his activities were in the physical realm, the adam himself was still a spiritual being; he had not yet “fallen” and God had created him “good.”

There is some doubt as to whether verse 12 really formed part of the original text or not. It may have been a comment added by a scribe at some time. The style and language are not quite like those of the Mosaic writer. The words “beddolah” and “aeben ha-shoham,” for instance, are suggestive of the terms used by some of the Hermetic writers, and later, by some of the alchemists. The word “beddolah means a “mysterious dividing,” and “aeben ha-shoham” means, literally, “stone of universal sublimation.” No satisfactory explanation of their hidden meaning has yet been given, as far as the present writer is aware.

Verse 13. “And the name of the second river is Gichon.” Pishon, as we have seen, had to do with substances and realities – things and conditions. Gichon is concerned with types of activity-motive force, etc. It is that which determines any movement, change or activity in the material realm and material conditions. The root of the word “Gihon” is “gah” or “gach,” which denotes impulsion, inclination, or compulsion. The insertion of the “i” gives the word a “causative” signification; and the affix “on” makes it of general or universal application. The whole word denotes “force” of a mechanical, chemical. unreasoning, impulsive or instinctive nature, according to the medium in which it acts.

The remainder of the verse (in the English Version) tells us that Gihon “encompasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.” The Hebrew says. literally, “the whole earth cush.” In “Cush.” “ch,” is the assimilation sign equivalent to our words “as” or “like,” and the root “ish” denotes “fire” or “force.” “The whole earth cush” means the whole sphere of human work or effort. There is not the slightest justification whatever for identifying “cush” with Ethiopia, except that Ethiopia was sometimes called Cush. It is exactly on a par with identifying a country in Asia Minor with the bird we had for our Christmas dinner, just because they both happen to be called “Turkey.” In the next place there is no known river anywhere called Gihon; and there is no river which surrounds, or ever did surround “the whole land of Ethiopia.” As a matter of fact the word “cush” presents no difficulty, if we take it as it is, instead of making ridiculous attempts to identify it with something it is not It quite simply means “fiery, impulsive,” “forceful.” The passage just tells us that the realm of Gihon included all activities arising from passion, impulse, and blind inclination in any field.

Verse 14. “And the name of the third river is Hiddekel; that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria, and the fourth river is Euphrates.”

So reads the English A.V. The only word in the first part which we need specially to study, is the symbolic name Hiddekel. Before we deal with that, we may point out the formula with which verses 11, 13 and 14 begin :-

Verse 11: “And the name of the first,” etc.

Verse 13: “And the name of the second,” etc. Verse 14: “And the name of the third,” etc.

But when the narrative reaches the fourth stream it says nothing about any name. It simply says: “the fourth is phrath.” We will explain that word later. What we wish to notice here is the significance of the deliberate omission to mention any name. It leads one at once to suspect that the author of the -narrative (perhaps by subconscious inspiration) actually anticipated the very mistake which his interpreters did make-when they jumped to the conclusion that the last two words of the verse were a fourth “name.” It must be admitted that there was some excuse for the mistake, as the two words are: “houa phrath” which, read as one word, does sound very like “Euphrates.” Not only that, they may actually have been the -derivation of the word “Euphrates.” But surely, the translators knew well enough that that same word “houa” came in each of the other three cases also-and in those cases they gave it its proper meaning. The word is simply ‘the third person, masculine, singular pronoun: “he,” “it,” or “that one.” The word “phrath” is an abstraction of the word “phrah,” which means to propagate, to generate, to be fruitful. “Phrath” really means the power to propagate, generate, or be fruitful.*

This is an interesting example of the simple, graphic way in which Hebrew can say, with a couple of words, what we need a complete phrase to translate into English. It is also a reason why no absolutely “word-for-word” translation is ever possible.

As regards the word “phrath,” it may be interesting to mention that, in Semitic languages, the essential significance of words always lies in the consonants. The vowels vary considerably from one language to another, and also to serve various grammatical purposes; they do not alter the root meanings of words. The consonants in “phrath” are “ph” or “f”; “r”; and

‘th” or ‘t.” Curiously enough, the English words “fruit” and “fertile” have exactly the same consonants, and the same basic meaning as the Hebrew. Even such a word as “forth,” which has the same consonants in the same order, but which at first appears to differ entirely in meaning, can easily be traced back to the same old root meaning, as to bring “forth” is closely connected with the idea of something produced, the outcome, or fruit of something.

But, as we have been examining the ending of the verse first, we must return to the first part of the verse and examine the name “Hiddekel,” and what is told us about that.

The name “Hiddekel” is composed of the roots “had” and “dak,” with the affix “1.” The idea conveyed by the root “hd” is that of any spiritual emanation. For instance, the word “hod” means “glory, splendour. harmony, majesty,” and similar ideas. With the “0” changed to “i,” it would denote the cause of those things. The second root, “dk,” expresses the idea of dividing or breaking up something very small, drawing something out very finely. reducing to powder. etc. As an adjective it denotes something thin or impalpable. and used in a more abstract way it means to analyse or to go into details, etc. The affix “1,” like the “on” which ends the word Pishon and Gihon, is an extensive sign ; but while the affix “on” broadens or intensifies the meaning of a word, the “1” extends the action of the forces indicated by the word. It is clear that the force called “Hiddekel” is something of a higher or more spiritual nature than Pishon or Gihon. Pishon had to do with forming or developing physical substances; Gihon had to do with organisms, and activities more or less mechanical, instinctive, and impersonal. Hiddekel is a force that acts in the human sphere, and can only be exercised through the human functions. It is the “force” produced by human thought, human reason, human desire, human will.

About “Hiddekel” the verse goes on to tell us (English A.V.): “This it is (‘houa’) that goeth toward the east of Assyria.” The word there translated “toward the east” is exactly the same word, “kedem,” which we discussed when dealing with verse 8, and it misinterprets the meaning of the original in exactly the same way. In this case it has the affix “th” which has the same abstracting effect that it had in the word “phrath”. The word has nothing to do with the “east” or any other direction. but with something that “precedes” or “goes before.” It denotes, perfectly clearly. something that is a preliminary, or a necessary antecedent to something else, and that “something else” in this case is called “Ashur.” This word means to make happy; to bless; to guide aright; to bring about harmony, right relationships, good order, satisfaction, etc. It is the first word of the first Psalm. There it is translated “Blessed is.” (Quite literally, as the word is plural, it means “The blessings of.” etc. To be “blessed” is just to have the things mentioned above. The word “ashur” has been applied to Assyria-as an adjective, just as the term “Land of the Free” used to be applied to England; but in this verse it is certainly not used as the name of any country.

We can see now what the whole verse means. “Blessedness,” in whatever form we conceive of it, can only result from the activities of the higher and purely human qualities, and they alone can go on to realise the final aim of creation :-the multiplication of beings in the likeness of God.

Much more could have been said about the “Garden of Eden.” It is a subject rather for a whole book than for a chapter or two. We hope, however, that enough has been said to show something of the real nature of the narrative, and to convince the reader that, far from being a mere childish myth, it has something of real importance to give. and that it is a necessary portion of the whole Genesis story, and quite logically is in its proper place, just where it is.

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-Paul 2016-01-01 19:45:31

Does anyone know where I can find the origin of that pendant/charm? I think there may be more to it than the 4 rivers. Thanks in advance and Happy New Year! 🙂

    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2016-01-02 16:47:27

    Dear Paul – A Happy New Year to you too 🙂
    I did some research on Jewish and Greek Kabala and will send you the links per email.
    Anna 🙂

      -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2016-01-02 17:13:48

      Dear Paul – I received an email that my message could not be delivered to your email account.
      The amulet is designed by Danny Rave, who has been designing and manufacturing mystical charms and jewelry of Kabbalah, based on the strength of the letters.
      His website is asiyah-kabbalahamulets dot com.
      Anna 🙂

-Paul S Fix 2013-10-12 15:32:17

Hello Tony, I was wondering if you had any info on the Amulet you have as the header on your Ain-Soph Four Fold River page. I’m a “47” researcher and came upon this image in my searching. I think I recognize some of the runic symbols as Romanian or Hungarian, can you help? 🙂 thanx!


    -Tony Crisp 2013-10-20 6:16:59

    Paul – I get all the images from searching Google Images. I tried this today to see if I could locate it, but all I got was my own page. I’m sorry.


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