In reponse to his response I would like to post a fuller extract from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz that talks more about the concepts of "space," "time," and "soul" that recur in Sefer Yetsirah.
“The Thirteen Petalled Rose” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
“...The world of action, however, is only one world in a general system of four fundamental dimensions of being, or four different worlds, each with its own cosmos of varying essences. These four worlds have been called, in order from the highest to the lowest, “emanation,” “creation,” “formations,” and “action”. Thus, the world directly above ours is the world of formation. To understand the difference, one must first understand certain factors common to all four worlds. These factors were traditionally known as “world,” “year,” and “soul”; nowadays we would call them “space,” “time,” and “self” (experience of one’s being). Each world is distinguished from the others by the way these three factors are manifested in it. For example, in our world, physical place is a necessary external element for the existence of things; it is the background against which all objects move and all creatures function. In the higher worlds, and also in the world of spiritual action, that which is analogous to space in the world of physical action is called a “mansion.” It is the framework within which various forms and beings converge and connect. Perhaps one may compare it to those self-contained systems – known in mathematics as “groups” or “fields” - in each of which all the unit parts are related in a definite way to the other parts and to the whole. Such systems may be inhabited or full to capacity, or they may be relatively sparse or empty. Whatever the case, such a system of related existences constitutes a “place” in the abstract – a “mansion” in the higher worlds.Time also has a different significance in the other worlds. In our domain of experience, time is measured by the moment of physical objects in space. The “year” as it is called abstractly constitutes the very process of change; it is passage from one thing to another, from form to form, and it also includes within itself the concept of causality as that which keeps all transition from form to form within the bounds of law. Indeed, upon ascending the order of worlds, this time system becomes increasingly abstract and less and less representative of anything that we know as time in the physical world; it becomes no more than the purest essence of change, or even of the possibility of potential change.Finally, what we call “soul” is, in the physical dimension, the totality of living creatures functioning in the time and space dimensions of this world. Although they are an essential part of this world, they are distinguished from the general background by their self-consciousness and knowledge of this world. Similarly, in the higher world, the souls are self-conscious essences acting within the framework of the mansion and the year of their world...”
Space, Time, Soul – My understanding To Date
This extract from Rabbi Steinsaltz, a man I consider to have a vast knowledge of both revealed (i.e. written & oral law) and concealed Torah (i.e. Kabbalah), contains some critical elements in the understanding of the other “worlds” and the entities that operate within them.
In terms of “place”, entities in the various worlds can interact with those that they are similar to. However, opposites can only come together in this world of action. The angels of anger have no commonality with the angels of joy and hence are unable to properly interact in the world of “Yetsirah”. “Place” in that realm is not one dictated by physical space, that only exists as such in the lower parts of the world of action. Now imagine what “place” may be in the worlds of “Beriyah” and “Atzilut” - what the entities are that populate those worlds and how they “move” in the dimensions of place?
Time in the world of “Yetsirah” flow in the reverse order to what we experience in this world of action “Assiyah”. Time does not operate in a way that we can really understand in the world of “Atzilut”, it’s the mere hint of the potential for change.
“Soul” is another distinguishing quality of the four worlds that I do not understand sufficiently to explain.
Each of these three qualities “space,” “time,” and “soul” of the four worlds are different in each of the four worlds. The fact that Sefer Yetsirah refers to space, time, and soul in each of the chapters is to reinforce this point that they exist in each of the four worlds.
My limited understanding is that in order to move in space, time, and soul mansions/sets of the four worlds – we have to carve, engrave, permutate, etc. them. Else we only end up moving along one of these axis and not all three.
Back to Abulafia
Now back to Rabbi Abraham Abulafia. As written in my previous post – he talks of 3 sets of Sefirot. 10 for space, 10 for time, and 10 for soul.
I understand this to mean that there are 3 sets of 10 in each of the four worlds. So there are for example: a Binah of space, a Binah of time, and a Binah of soul in the world of Yetsirah. There is a Netzach of space, a Netzach of time, and a Netzach of soul in Atzilut.I will leave it up to you to permutate the other combinations...
Does this mean that I believe that there are 120 Sefirot in total? No! There are more. As Rabbi Abulafia writes (pp.14 of Amnon Gross’ Otzer Eden Ganuz (Hidden Treasury of Eden)):
“And it (Sefer Yetsirah) states ‘Ten Sefirot Without What (Beli-mah) their attribute is ten that has no end. And this matter is very important because he [the author of SY] wants to inform us that that the Sefirot are not physical (do not have bodies) that have an end and the Sefirot do not have an end. And if they are ten, then see that they are also tens of ten, and also a thousand that are also ten hundred, and also more that they are tens of thousands and so on until there is no end (Ein Sof). And by this way the truth is hinted when it states [in Sefer Yetsirah] “Their attribute is ten that has no end”. And it did not say ten alone without mentioning the name of attribute. None the less it did not say attributes but rather a single attribute to all of them.”
What I believe Rabbi Abulafia is saying is that when Sefer Yetzira states that the attribute of the Sefirot is ten and it has no end – what it is teaching is that we can assign 10 Sefirot across the four worlds, we can assign ten Sefirot in each of the four worlds, we can assign 3 sets of ten according to place, time, and soul in each of the four worlds…. But that still does not encompass the essence of the Sefirot. The number ten is an attribute that alludes to orders of infinity. Anything less is putting a limit to the Sefirot which I think SY tries to reinforce in chapter one is ultimately meaningless by the repeated mention of Sefirot Beli-Mah (literally without what, without anything… infinite).