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Tipharet the pivoting sign of the Cabbala

 created: September 1999


As explained before the central  sign of the cabbalist tree of life, or classification of the divine emanation, is the Tipharet, or Tif'eret, also called with the name Rahamim (Compassion), the sign of Harmony or Beauty. Beauty and Harmony being  also the inner endeavor of designers, I propose to adopt the Tipharet as well as a semiotic center of design language. 

I would like to cite, as a short introduction to this Sephirot, the following comments by Daniel Matt: 

* Before descending to this world, the soul is emanated from the mystery of the highest level. While in this world, she is completed and fulfilled by this lower world. Departing this world, she is filled with the fullness of all the worlds, the world above and the world below. * (note 1) 

* Shekhina is he Sabbath Queen entering the palace of time every Friday evening at sunset. as the seventh sefirah below Binah, Shekhina is the seventh primordial day. Friday evening is the time of her union with her masculine counterpart, the Sefirah of Tif'eret. The Sabbath is God's wedding celebration. * (note 2) 

For Cabbalists the Tipharetis a topos of heightened consciousness, both of the Divine, Kether, and Malkhut or Shekinah,the undetermined Earthly  Matter and other. (note 3). It is the endeavor of human beings to bring harmony between these extremes. This harmony is felt as bliss, or inspiration. Such is also the state of mind of an artist or for that matter, a designer like Rietveld. Modularity for him is effectively not a mere rational instrument for productive scopes but, like rhythm in music, a means to express universal harmony, the marriage of Tipharet and Shekinah. It is a vibration of probability of events, of the density of happening , such as the placement of structural components of his red blue chair. The void intervals between these events become loaded with 'meaning', the silence of non occurrence.(note 4) It is Rietveld's conviction that in order to achieve perfection one must firstly design his own restrictions, formulate the rules of the game, and only then express yourself within these limits. This apparent partial elimination of personal freedom of expression enhances the intensity of the communicative act, resulting in heightened consciousness. A Friday evening wedding ceremony. 

Form, production, function are subordinated to the orchestrating power of the modules, whereas symbols, allegories and ultimately, beliefs, are here announced for the first time in the semiotic process. 

We have taken the red blue chair as an example but any other design could have been focussed to explain the Tipharet - Iconic Legisign - Diagram. It expresses in a schematic way the essential concept behind the design as we can see in the following examples: 

  • in the Eames Lounge Chair it could be the composition of distinct ergonomic concave - convex  parts; 
  • in the Bertoia Chair it seems to consist in the wire mash solution of its shell; 
  • in the Barcelona Chair by Mies it corresponds to the crossing of its quarter circle and S-line steel bars. 
back to the page on modular design in Rietveld's Red Blue Chair
The next sign in our analysis of design language is  about the production and distribution
note 1 Moses de Leon XIIIth. cent. in: 
Daniel C. Matt, The essential Kabbalah. The Heart of Jewish Mysticism,  Harper Collins, Paperback,, 1996, p.148
note 2 Matt, op.cit., p.189
note 3 the Tipharet corresponds also to the first character of the hebrew alphabet, YOD, meaning the hand, the virgin, or the spritual will, the seed or the eye of the hart. 
cfr. René Guénén, Simboli della scienza sacra, Milan, 1975, p.375
Gareth Knight, A practical guide to qabalistic symbolism, Part 1, p.103
note 4 in semiology the meaning of rythm and prosody have been studied by  A.J.Greimas in relation to natural languages in 
A.J.Greimas, Du Sens, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1974

 andries van onck