“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” I can see hands raised in horror, for this statement—attributed to Hassan-i Sabbah, and also to Nietzsche—sounds very much like wishy-washy postmodern relativism. Everything is permitted—uh-oh, sounds like a recipe for rape, murder, and carnage. Yet really this statement refers to Ein Sof (the Keter before it); the hidden point in the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. The statement is a radical expression as regards creation: nothing is true, everything is permitted; therefore, our creative potential is limitless. Hence the Keter in Kabbalah represents the gateway to “0”; the Keter is circular, gateway to the unspeakable; and so it emanates the white light that blinds—the creative light. Love is creation; it is not moral—and this is why people are confused in theodicy as to why “bad things” happen when there is supposedly a divine order or benevolent God; creation is terrific and amoral.
The Keter expresses the reality that creation is amoral—“Everything is permitted”—for creation is sheer joy, to bring worlds into existence is a joy in and of itself. The Keter—as with the divine child Heraclitus speaks of—cannot help but create, zero cannot help but birth worlds; and creation must encompass both good and evil, for to exclude either would create a lopsided entity that would not be a real creation; it would have no dynamism, no interplay. Genuine love—being light—purifies in a gentle way, as with sunlight; and yet it still burns away and obliterates imperfection, just as sunlight annihilates microbes.
This is not exactly to cleanse in a moral way, for the creator removes what is unnecessary—different qualities are necessary at different times, and so there is no absolute morality. Rather, there is effective action; and this calls for the appropriate response to circumstance—sometimes merciful, sometimes merciless. As Hassan-i Sabbah and his assassins knew, it is quite difficult to do whatever one wishes, not least because it is quite difficult to grasp that nothing is true. Those who undertake an action with a certain glee that they have transgressed are still captured by the duality; they break a moral rule but they still think what they do is “wrong”—there is truth, and what they have done is not permitted.
Hence the assassins sought to bind people in the strictest way possible; they simulated death—an initiate was drugged into unconsciousness and awoke in a room that appeared to be Heaven, eventually they would be drugged again and returned to the normal world. This path required absolute indifference to death; the assassin’s missions often resulted in death. These were techniques with which to overcome duality; it was only once a person had navigated this path that they truly understood “nothing is true, everything is permitted”—it was a moment when a person transcended and so could become a locus of light.
The indeterminacy found in creation is encapsulated in light; light is curious, being wave and particle. At the beginning it was said, “Let there be light,” and this may not be as foolish as it has come to seem. Light is an entity that is colourless and tasteless, it has very little—possibly no—quiddity. In its duality, soft yet harsh, light both destroys and sustains; appreciated in this symbolic way, light becomes an appropriate way to think about creation. It cannot be seen and yet it permeates and sustains everything; its progress is indifferent, whether it allows wheat to grow or whether it disinfects a surface; as energy it is returned to us as coal and oil—and even in nuclear energy we create an artificial sun.
Thought about in such a way, science and religion do not seem very far apart at all—hardly different, in fact. And if we take a further step away from physics and formal religious stories about creation, we have the idea that there is a light within us—the light of consciousness that sustains our world.