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A depth of beginning notes on kabbalah by colin low

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A Depth of Beginning Notes on Kabbalah by Colin Low

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  • 1. A Depth of BeginningNotes on Kabbalah Colin Low
  • 2. Copyright © Colin Low 2001. All rights reserved.License to CopyThis publication is intended for personal use only. Paper copies may be made for per-sonal use.With the above exception, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmit-ted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, with-out permission in writing from the author. Reviewers may quoted brief passages.Why a free book?The WWW would not have evolved without the extraordinary voluntary labour ofthousands of willing individuals. The Apache WWW server (www.apache.com) is, atthe time of writing, the most popular WWW server software, and it is free for anyoneto use. It often runs on the free Linux operating system, and the two together providethe backbone of the WWW.The immense quantity of useful information and opinion available on the WWW is, inmost cases, provided freely, for the general good of all.Sharing gives us power over our own lives. No person can control a thing when it isfreely available to all. Sharing is a basic human impulse that binds people together.When we share knowledge, skills, experience, and wisdom, it costs us nothing but ourtime, and often leaves us richer than we were.Colin Low, 8th. May 2001Email: cal@digital-brilliance.com
  • 3. ContentsPreface iIntroduction 1The Tree of Life 5The Pillars & The Lightning Flash 13Sephirothic Correspondences 19The Sephiroth 29 Malkhut 29 Yesod 34 Hod & Netzach 40 Tipheret 49 Gevurah and Chesed 52 Daat and the Abyss 58 Binah, Chokhmah, Keter 63The Letters & the Paths 71 The Letters 71 The Paths 80The Tarot and the Tree 91The Four Worlds 107 Atzilut - Emanation 107 Briah - Creation 108 Yetzirah - Formation 109 Assiah - Making 110 The Four Worlds & the Tree 110 The Souls 113The Great Work 117
  • 4. Notes on KabbalahThe Klippot 121Practical Kabbalah 125 Initiation 127 Ritual 131 Essential Ritual Steps 134 Using the Sephiroth in Ritual 138 Suggestions for a Malkhut Ritual 140 Other Practical Work 141In Conclusion 143References 145
  • 5. Preface Preface The domestic cat is a curious creature. Any- plexity that is utterly intimidating and alienat-one who has lived with a cat will have become ing. There is so much to know.accustomed to finding the creature on top of the My primary motivation is to learn at firstwardrobe, in the attic, beneath the bed, under hand. It is important to learn what other peoplethe floorboards, and inside each and every card- have learned, but too many people have livedboard box that appears in the home. and died for me to learn more than a small frac- Human beings are curious creatures too, tion of what they have learned. There is a prodi-every bit as curious as cats, and differ only in gious supply of information, facts, opinions,being less fascinated by the interiors of empty theories, suppositions, and doctrines, but thecardboard boxes. For many people the urge to wisdom needed to sort through the mountain ofexplore is as vital as eating, drinking and sleep- trash in the hope of finding a gold nugget is noting. supplied. Kabbalah is part of an ancient tradition of Kabbalah is part of a long tradition of learningexploration. The domain of exploration is the about the human condition that devotes ashuman condition. For some people the experi- much time to the heart as to the head. The headence of living in the world is not enough; can be catered for en-masse - this is what schoolsbecause we are self-conscious we can observe and universities do - but the heart is alwaysourselves in the process of living, and we can intensely personal. The head can be taught inobserve ourselves observing ourselves, and lectures and instructed from books, but theimmersed in this introspective hall-of-mirrors, heart has to live each experience from thepeople have attempted to find meaning and inside.make of sense of it. Morality, ethics, metaphys- Kabbalah comes from a time when peopleics, theology, science and mysticism are conse- lived less in their heads. Kabbalah has beenquences of a long tradition that places human practised since Crusaders were riding to theexistence inside a larger framework. The truth, Holy Land in the early Middle Ages, and itsas Chris Carter observes, is out there. underpinnings go back another fifteen hundred The urge to explore is as strong today as it years to a time when Rome was a one-chariotever was. It is an individual impulse that cannot town on the banks of the Tiber. There are ele-be satisfied gratuitously through books or tele- ments that date from a time when Jews were liv-vision. For some people the need to explore the ing in Babylon in the time of the Assyrian kings,human condition is urgent and instinctive... and and there are borrowings, buried deep within,personal. It is the personal element that distin- that go back as far as Sumer and Akkad fiveguishes received knowledge from first-hand thousand years ago.experience, and it is the root of wisdom. Should Kabbalah is capable of touching the soul in ayou live a moral life because you were way that very few things can. It contains muchinstructed in morality, or can you find an inner that went out of fashion two hundred years agowellspring of morality? Can we ground our when it seemed that human reason could pro-lives in a context that is not completely arbi- vide answers to all meaningful questions. It con-trary? Is there a home for our hearts that does tains much that has been actively suppressed bynot insult our intelligence? established religions - and even Judaism has We live in a deeply confused age. A plethora gone through phases of trying to limit the influ-of full-time professional experts in every subject ence and accessibility of Kabbalah. Kabbalahhas disenfranchised the majority of people from brings the subjective and personal element backgenuine inquiry. Pick up a book on any subject, to learning (hence attempts to suppress it).work through its references into the heart of the Unlike science, which studies the natural worldsubject, and you will discover a world of com- in a way which factors out the subjectivity of i
  • 6. Notes on Kabbalahhuman consciousness, Kabbalah takes ‘con- do not do this and become trapped in the past,sciousness-acting-in-the-world’ to be a legiti- then it becomes a dead thing, an historical curi-mate field of study, and the world of the ousity, as was virtually the case within JudaismKabbalist extends beyond the world of natural by the nineteenth century.science to include a larger world of direct mysti- These notes were written with that intention:cal apprehension. It includes God. to present one view of Kabbalah as it is cur- From the point of view of Enlightenment rently practised, so that people who are inter-rationality, as embodied by thinkers such as ested in Kabbalah and want to learn more aboutDavid Hume and Immanual Kant, Kabbalah is a it are not limited to texts written hundreds orreversion to a discredited metaphysical view of thousands of years ago, or for that matter, mod-existence that projects human values onto a uni- ern texts written about texts written hundredsverse that is utterly alien to human values. or thousands of years ago. For this reason these From the point of view of a modern Kabbalist, notes acknowledge the past, but they do notHume and Kant are just as dated; the astound- defer to it. There are many adequate texts foring success of modern physical theories, partic- those who wish to understand Kabbalah as itularly quantum mechanics and general was practised in the past.relativity, shows that human beings do indeed These notes have another purpose. The major-have a deep and penetrating understanding of ity of people who are drawn towards Kabbalahthe natural world through the medium of math- are not historians; they are people who want toematics, just as Plato proposed two and a half know enough about it to decide whether theythousand years ago. We reason about the natu- should use it as part of their own personalral world and create exceedingly complex tech- exploration into the condition of being human.nologies on the basis of that reasoning. Our These notes may be brief, but there is enoughminds can function as a simulacrum of the exter- information not only to make that decision, butnal world. The Kabbalistic doctrine that the also to move from theory into practice.human being is a microcosm, a perfect minia- I should emphasise that what I present here isture simulation of the world at large, contains one interpretation of Kabbalah out of many. Imore than a grain of truth - it is at the heart of leave it to others to present their own variantsmodern epistemology. and I make no apology if the material is biased towards a particular point of view. It is easy, What does this book propose to achieve? when looking at history from a great distance,What are its goals? to see homogeneity where there was none, and If a chemist from the twentieth century could when looking at a tradition as long-lived andstep into a time-machine and go back two-hun- complex as Kabbalah there is a temptation todred years, he or she would feel a kinship with over-simplify and create for the modern readerthe chemists of that period. The glass apparatus the fiction of an homogeneous, monolithic andwould be cruder, the chemicals less refined, and internally consistent tradition called ‘The Kab-there would be considerable differences in ter- balah’. There never was such a thing. The vari-minology, underlying theory, and laboratory ety of viewpoints, interpretations and practicesprocedures, but a chemist today still shares was (and still is) bewildering.much in common with the chemists of the past.However, despite this kinship, chemists have A version of these notes was published origi-not been trapped in the past, and the subject as it nally on the Internet over the period 1990-1992,is studied today is very different from the chem- and ASCII versions of the text can be found on aistry of two hundred years ago. number of Internet and bulletin board servers. Kabbalah has existed for nine hundred years, This version has been completely revised andand like any living discipline it has evolved greatly extended.through time, and it continues to evolve. Oneaspect of this evolution is that it is necessary for I would like to thank M.S. and the T.S.H.U. forliving Kabbalists to present what they under- all the fun.stand by Kabbalah so that Kabbalah itself con-tinues to live and continues to retain its And the title? It comes from the Sepher Yetzi-usefulness to each new generation. If Kabbalists rah: ii
  • 7. Preface “Ten sephirot of nothingness: Their meas- ure is ten which have no end. A depth of beginning, a depth of end ...”Colin Low 2001 iii
  • 8. Notes on Kabbalah iv
  • 9. Introduction 1 Introduction The word “Kabbalah” is derived from a root chanting, prayer, posture - to induce trancewhich means “to receive or accept” and is often states in which they fought their way past terri-used synonymously with the word “tradition”. ble seals and guards to reach an ecstatic state inThere are many alternative spellings of the which they “saw God”. Documents such as theword, the two most popular being Kabbalah Greater Hekhalot describe the heavenly halls thatand Qabalah, but Cabala, Qaballah, Qabala, must be negotiated to reach the throne of God,Kaballah (and so on ad nauseam) are also seen. and provide clues as to how to pass the variousThe choice of spelling in these Notes was made guardian spirits.as a result of a poll of the books on my book- A highly influential document, the Sephercase, and it should not be taken as highly signif- Yetzirah, or “Book of Formation”, was writtenicant. during the earlier part of this period, probably If Kabbalah means “tradition”, then histori- during the late Roman empire, and may havecally the core of the tradition was the attempt to originated in Palestine. It is an extremely tersepenetrate the inner meaning of the Bible, which and enigmatic document that has been the sub-was taken to be the literal (but heavily veiled) ject of many commentaries since the earliestword of God. times. It appears to be theurgic. It describes how The act of reading sacred texts, such as the God made the world using numbers and letters,Bible (Tanakh) and Talmud, is a vital activity in and implies that a person can acquire some ofJudaism. Torah scholars were and are respected the divine creative power by understandingand admired as leaders of their communities. numbers and letters.These documents are seen as having an almost By the early Middle Ages more theosophicalholographic complexity, and rather than having developments had taken place, chiefly aa single agreed meaning, they were scrutinised description of “processes” within God, and theand referred to in order to yield new meanings development of an esoteric view of creation as ato deal with every kind of situation. Vast com- process in which God manifests in a series ofmentaries were written and referred to. Ingen- emanations, or sephiroth. This doctrine of theious interpretations and insights were sephiroth can be found in a rudimentary formaccumulated, and often printed around the text in the Sepher Yetzirah, but by the time of the pub-of the Bible so that it becomes a kind of early lication of the book Bahir in the 12th. century CEhypertext. it had reached a form not too different from the In these circumstances it was natural for form it takes today. The doctrine of sephirothicsecret or initiated traditions of interpretation to emanation and the use of the word “Kabbalah”arise, traditions grounded in the Jewish religion as a description for a particular mystical tradi-but which encouraged more daring specula- tion is believed to come from Provence in thetions about the nature of God, the creation, and south of France, from the school of Isaac thethe role of human beings in it. Blind, who is widely credited with being “the The earliest documents associated with Kab- father of Kabbalah”.balah come from the period ~100 to ~1000 A.D. A motive behind the development of the doc-and describe the attempts of “Merkabah” mys- trine of emanation can be found in the ques-tics to penetrate the seven halls (Hekaloth) of tions:creation in order to reach the Merkabah (throne- “If God made the world, then what is thechariot) of God. These mystics appear to have world if it is not God?”used what would now be recognised as familiar “If the world is God, then why is it imper-methods of shamanism - fasting, repetitious fect?” 1
  • 10. Notes on Kabbalah It was necessary to bridge the gap between a into myth as a saint. Emphasis was placed onpure and perfect being and a manifestly impure living in the world and bringing the conscious-and imperfect world by a series of “steps” in ness of God through into the world in a practicalwhich the divine light was successively diluted. way. Practices were largely devotional.The result shares something in common with Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenthdevelopments in Platonism, a system of philoso- centuries Judaism as a whole was heavily influ-phy which was influential from classical Greek enced by Kabbalah, but two influences causedtimes until the Renaissance. Platonism also tried its decline. The first event was the mass defec-to resolve the same difficulty by postulating a tion of Jews to the cause of the heretic and apos-“chain of being” which bridged the gap tate pseudo-messiah Shabbatai Tzevi (1626-1676between the perfection of God, and the evident CE), an event Scholem calls “the largest andimperfection of the world of daily life. most momentous messianic movement in Jew- The most influential Kabbalistic document, ish history subsequent to the destruction of thethe Sepher ha Zohar or Book of Splendour, was Temple and the Bar Kokhba Revolt.” The Shab-published in the latter half of the thirteenth cen- bateans included many prominent rabbis andtury by Moses de Leon (1238-1305 CE), a Span- Kabbalists, and from this point on Kabbalahish Jew. The Zohar is a series of separate became inextricably mired with suspicions ofdocuments covering a wide range of subjects, heresy.from a verse-by-verse esoteric commentary on A second influence was the rise in Easternthe five books of Moses (Pentateuch), to highly Europe of a populist Kabbalism in the form oftheosophical descriptions of processes within Chasidism, and its eventual decline into super-God. There are some who believe the Zohar stition (in the eyes of its rationalist opponents),dates back to the Roman occupation of Pales- so that by the beginning of this century a Jewishtine, but many scholars believe it was written by writer was able to dismiss Kabbalah as an his-Moses de Leon and passed-off as an earlier text. torical curiousity.The Zohar has been widely read and was highly Jewish Kabbalah has vast literature of manyinfluential within mainstream Judaism. thousands of texts, most of which have not been One of most interesting characters from the translated into English.early period was Abraham Abulafia (1240-1295 A development which took place almost syn-CE), who believed that God cannot be described chronously with the translation and publicationor conceptualised using everyday symbols. Like of key texts of Jewish Kabbalah was its adoptionmany Kabbalists he believed in the divine by many Christian mystics, magicians and phi-nature of the Hebrew alphabet and used losphers. Some Christians thought Kabbalahabstract letter combinations and permutations held keys that would reveal mysteries hidden in(“tzeruf”) in intense meditations lasting many the scriptures, others tried to find in Kabbalahhours to reach ecstatic states. Because his doctrines which might be used to convert Jewsabstract letter combinations were used as keys to Christianity.or entry points to altered states of conscious- There were some who recognised in the Kab-ness, failure to carry through the manipulations balah themes with which they were alreadycorrectly could have a drastic effect on the Kab- familiar in the literature of Hermeticism andbalist. In Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism [39] Neoplatonism. Renaissance philosophers suchScholem includes a fascinating extract from a as Pico della Mirandola were familiar with Kab-description of one such experiment. Abulafia is balah and mixed it with Gnosticism, Pythagore-unusual because (controversially) he was one of anism, Neo-platonism and Hermeticism to formthe few Kabbalists to provide explicit written a snowball which continued to pick up tradi-details of practical techniques. tions as it rolled down the centuries. It is proba- An important development in Kabbalah was bly accurate to say that from the Renaissancethe Safed school of mystics headed by Moses on, virtually all European occult philosophersCordovero (1522-1570 CE) and his successor and magicians of note had a working knowl-Isaac Luria (1534-1572 CE). Luria, called “The edge of some aspects of Kabbalah.Ari” or Lion, was a highly charismatic leader Non-Jewish Kabbalah has suffered greatlywho exercised almost total control over the life from having only a limited number of sourceof the school, and has passed out of history and texts to work from, often in poor translations, 2
  • 11. Introductionand without the key commentaries which ists as more of a theoretical and intellectual dis-would have revealed the tradition associated cipline, rather than a potent and self-containedwith the concepts described. It is pointless to mystical and magical system in its own right.criticise non-Jewish Kabbalah (as many writers Some of the originators of modern witchcrafthave) for misinterpreting Jewish Kabbalah. (e.g. Gerald Gardner, Alex Saunders) drewAfter 500 years it should be recognised as a par- heavily on medieval ritual and Kabbalah forallel tradition with many points of correspond- inspiration, and it is not unusual to find modernence and many points of difference. witches teaching some form of Kabbalah, Very little information has survived about the although it is generally even less well integratedPractical Kabbalah, but there is abundant evi- into practical technique than in the case of thedence that it involved a wide range of practices Golden Dawn.and included practices now regarded as magical To summarise, Kabbalah is a mystical and- the fact that so many Kabbalists denounced the magical tradition which originated nearly oneuse of Kabbalah for magical purposes is evi- thousand years ago and has been practiced con-dence in itself (even if there were no other) that tinuously during this time. It has been practicedthe use of these techniques was widespread. It is by Jew and non-Jew alike for about five hun-highly likely that many ritual magical tech- dred years. On the Jewish side it has been anniques were introduced into Europe by Kabba- integral and influential part of Judaism, and haslists or their less scrupulous camp followers. once more come into vogue after two centuries The most important medieval magical text is of neglect1. On the non-Jewish side it has cre-the Key of Solomon, and it contains the elements ated a rich mystical and magical tradition withof classic ritual magic - names of power, the its own validity, a tradition which has survivedmagic circle, ritual implements, consecration, despite the prejudice generated through co-evocation of spirits etc. Its name and contents existing within a strongly Christian culture.suggest at the very least a Jewish influence. No- The tradition continues, and in what followsone knows how old it is, but there is a reasona- you will find an introduction to the tradition as Ible suspicion that its contents preserve tech- received it, plus whatever personal insights Iniques which might well date back to Solomon. am able to offer. The combination of non-Jewish Kabbalah andritual magic has been kept alive outside Judaismuntil the present day, although it has been heav-ily adulterated at times by Hermeticism, Gnosti-cism, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism,Rosicrucianism, Christianity, Tantra and so on. The most important “modern” influences inthe English-speaking world are the Frenchmagician Eliphas Levi, and the English “Orderof the Golden Dawn”. At least two members ofthe Golden Dawn (S.L. Mathers and A.E. Waite)were knowledgable Kabbalists, and threeGolden Dawn members have popularised Kab-balah - Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, andDion Fortune. Dion Fortune’s “Order of theInner Light” has also produced a number ofauthors: Gareth Knight, William Butler, andWilliam Gray to name but three. An unfortunate side effect of the GoldenDawn is that while Kabbalah was an importantpart of its “Knowledge Lectures”, survivingGolden Dawn rituals are a syncretist hodge-podge of symbolism in which Kabbalah seems 1. It was nurtured during the last two centu-to play a minor or nominal role, and this has led ries in many East European Chassidicto Kabbalah being seen by many modern occult- communities, most of which were devas- tated by the Holocaust. 3
  • 12. Notes on Kabbalah 4
  • 13. The Tree of Life 2 The Tree of Life At the root of the Kabbalistic view of the won’t give me one unless I fill in lots ofworld are three fundamental concepts and they forms in precisely the right way.provide a natural place to begin. These concepts • I want a university degree. The universityhave more than one name; for the moment I will won’t give me a degree unless I attend cer-refer to them as consciousness, force and form. tain courses and pass various assessments.These words are used in an abstract way, as the In these examples there is something which isfollowing examples illustrate: causing change to take place (“a force”) and • high pressure steam in the cylinder of a there is something which causes change to take steam engine provides a force. The engine is place in a defined way (“a form”). Without a form which constrains the force. being too pedantic it is possible to identify two • a river runs downhill under the force of different types of example here: gravity. The river channel is a form which • examples of natural physical processes (e.g. constrains the water to run in a well defined a falling stone) where the force is one of the path. natural forces known to physics, such as • someone wants to find a way to the centre of gravity, and the form is some combination a garden maze. The hedges are a form of physical laws which constrain the force which constrain that person’s ability to to act in a well defined way (e.g. all stones walk as they please. fall with the same acceleration). • a diesel engine provides the force which • examples of people wanting something, drives a boat forwards. A rudder fixes its where the force is some ill-defined concept course in a given direction. of “desire”, “will”, or “drives”, and the • a politician wants to change the law. The form is one of the forms we impose upon legislative framework of the country is a ourselves (the rules of chess, the law of the form which he or she must follow. land, polite behaviour). • water sits in a bowl. The force of gravity Although the two types of example appear to pulls the water down. The bowl is a form be “only metaphorically similar”, Kabbalists see which gives its shape to the water. no fundamental distinction between them. • a stone falls to the ground under the force of There are physical forces which cause change in gravity. Its acceleration is constrained to be the natural world, and there are corresponding equal to the force divided by the mass of the psychological forces which drive us to change stone. both the world and ourselves, and whether • I want to win at chess. The force of my these forces are natural or psychological they desire to win is constrained within the rules are rooted in the same place: consciousness. of chess. Similarly, there are forms which the physical • I see something in a shop window and have world obeys (natural laws), and there are com- to have it. I am constrained by the condi- pletely arbitrary forms people create for their tions of sale (do I have enough money, is it own purposes - the rules of a game, the shape of in stock). a mug, the design of an engine, the syntax of a language. To the Kabbalist these forms are also • cordite explodes in a gun barrel and pro- rooted in the same place: consciousness. vides an explosive force on a bullet. The gas It is a Kabbalistic axiom that there is a prime and the bullet are constrained by the form cause which underpins all the manifestations of of the gun barrel. force and form in both the natural and psycho- • I want to get a passport. The government logical world, and that prime cause can be 5
  • 14. Notes on Kabbalahreferred to as consciousness. It would be a mis- ciated with consciousness which causes changetake to read too much into the word at this (force), and there is a capacity within conscious-stage, but it is worth noting that in traditional ness to constrain that energy and cause it toKabbalah the primal, first principle of being or manifest in a well-defined way (form). Thisconsciousness is synonymous with the idea ofthe Godhead. Consciousness is indefinable. We know we First Principle ofare conscious in different ways at different Consciousnesstimes - sometimes we feel free and happy, atother times trapped and confused; sometimesangry and passionate, sometimes cold andrestrained - but these words describe manifesta- Capacitytions of consciousness. Being happy, being con- to take Raw Energyfused, are both aspects of being. Form We can define the manifestations of con-sciousness in terms of the manifestations of con-sciousness, just as a dictionary uses words todescribe other words - I am happy when I feel Figure 1: The Prime Dualitygood and I am not sad. This is about as useful asdefining an ocean in terms of waves and foam. duality is shown in Figure 1. The examples atAnyone who attempts to define consciousness the beginning of this chapter were chosen toitself tends to come out of the same door as they demonstrate the interplay of force and form inwent in. We have many words for the phenom- real life.ena of consciousness - thoughts, feelings, What do we get out of raw energy and anbeliefs, desires, emotions, motives and so on - inbuilt capacity for form and structure? Is therebut few words for the underlying states of con- another hidden potential within this trinitysciousness which give rise to these phenomena, waiting to manifest? What Kabbalah suggestsjust as we have many words to describe the sur- (and this idea will be developed in detail at aface of a sea, but few words to describe its later stage) is that force and form becomedepths. “locked” together, like baking a cake. You start Kabbalah provides a vocabulary for states of off with flour, sugar, eggs, water and so on, butconsciousness underlying the phenomena of what comes out of the oven isn’t what went in.consciousness, and one of the purposes of these Force and form interact to produce somethingnotes is to explain this vocabulary, not by defi- which is neither force nor form, but somethingnition, but mostly by metaphor, example and quite distinct from either, something which Ianalogy. The only genuine method for under- will call “matter” although that is something ofstanding what the vocabulary means is by an oversimplification. By matter I mean “theattaining various states of consciousness in a stuff of the real world”.predictable and reasonably objective way, and Something resembling this view can be foundKabbalah provides practical methods for doing in physics. Physicists talk about “energy”, andthis, methods which are outlined later in these use the concept of energy almost like money -notes. every form of matter has its equivalent in A fundamental premise of the Kabbalistic energy (this is the basis for E = mc2), but whatmodel of manifest reality is that there is a pure, distinguishes different kinds of matter are theprimal, and indefinable state of divine being or laws which determine its behaviour. Again, wedivine consciousness, which manifests as an can see here a duality between “energy”, theinteraction between force and form. This is vir- raw unformed stuff from which everything istually the entire basis for the Kabbalistic view of composed, and “form”, the natural laws whichemanation, and almost everything I have to say determine how energy behaves in different cir-from now on is based on the trinity of con- cumstances, the rules which distinguish a pro-sciousness, force, and form. ton from an electron. Consciousness comes first, but hidden within What Kabbalah suggests (and modern phys-it is an inherent duality; there is an energy asso- ics most certainly does not!) is that matter and 6
  • 15. The Tree of Lifeconsciousness are the same stuff, and differ onlyin the degree of structure imposed - matter isconsciousness expressed in the intermixing offorce and form, but so heavily structured and Keterconstrained by form that its behaviour becomesdescribable using the regular and simple laws ofphysics. This is shown in Figure 2. Binah Chokhmah First Principle of Consciousness Capacity Malkhut to take Raw Energy Form Figure 3: The Garden of Eden and two female: Keter and Chokhmah are both Matter represented as male, and Binah and Malkhut The World are represented as female. One of the titles of Chokhmah is Abba, which means Father, and one of the titles of Binah is Imma, which means Figure 2: The Garden of Eden Mother, so you can think of Chokhmah as God- the-Father, and Binah as God-the-Mother. Mal- The glyph in Figure 2 is the basis for a kabba- khut is the daughter, the female spirit of God-listic diagram called the Etz Chaiim, or Tree of as-Matter, and it would not be wildly wrong toLife. The first principle of being or consciousness think of her as Mother Earth. And what of God-is called Keter, which means Crown. The raw the-Son? Is there also a God-the-Son in Kabba-energy of consciousness is called Chokhmah or lah? There is, and this is the point where Kabba-Wisdom, and the capacity to give form to the lah tackles the interesting problem of thee andenergy of consciousness is called Binah, which is me.sometimes translated as Understanding, and The glyph in Figure 2 is a model of conscious-sometimes as Intelligence. The outcome of the ness, but not of self-consciousness, and self-interaction of force and form, the physical consciousness throws an interesting spanner inworld, is called Malkhut or Kingdom. This is the works. Self-consciousness is like a mirror inshown below in Figure 3. which consciousness sees itself reflected. Self- This quaternary is a Kabbalistic representa- consciousness is modelled in Kabbalah by mak-tion of God-the- Knowable, in the sense that it ing a copy of Figure 2.the most abstract representation of God we are Figure 4 is Figure 2 reflected through self-capable of comprehending. Paradoxically, Kab- consciousness. The overall effect of self-con-balah also contains a notion of God the infinite, sciousness is to add an additional layer to Fig-the transcendent and the unknowable which ure 2 as shown in Figure 5.. Fig. 2 is sometimestranscends this glyph, and is called En Soph. En called “the Garden of Eden” because it repre-Soph means “without end” and is used to sig- sents a primal state of consciousness. The effectnify the unmanifest ground from which all of self- consciousness as shown in Fig. 4 is tomanifest being springs, the earth in which the drive a wedge between the First Principle ofTree of Life is rooted. There is not much more I Consciousness (Keter) and that Consciousnesscan say about En Soph, and what I can say I will realised as matter and the physical world (Mal-postpone for later. khut). This is called “the Fall”, after the story of God-the-Knowable has four aspects, two male Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. From a 7
  • 16. Notes on Kabbalah First Principle Consciousness of of Consciousness Consciousness CapacityConsciousness Consciousness to take Raw Energy of of Form Form Energy Consciousness Consciousness of of Consciousness The World Figure 4: Self-Consciousness Consciousness Consciousness of ofKabbalistic point of view the story of Eden, with Form Energythe Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, theserpent and the temptation, and the casting outfrom the Garden has a great deal of meaning interms of understanding the evolution of con- Consciousnesssciousness. of Self-consciousness introduces four new states The Worldof consciousness: the Consciousness of Con-sciousness is called Tipheret, which meansBeauty; the Consciousness of Force/Energy iscalled Netzach, which means Victory or Firm-ness; the Consciousness of Form is called Hod, Matterwhich means Splendour or Glory, and the Con- The Worldsciousness of Matter is called Yesod, whichmeans Foundation. These four states have read-ily observable manifestations, as shown below Figure 5: The Fallin Fig. 6: Figure 5 is almost the complete Tree of Life,but not quite - there are still two states missing. been repealed. I broke my coffee mug.The inherent capacity of consciousness to take The world changes, and what was here yester-on structure and objectify itself (Binah, God-the- day is not here today. This perception acts likeMother) is reflected through self-consciousness an “interface” between the quaternary of con-as a perception of the limitedness and bounded- sciousness which represents “God”, and theness of things. We are conscious of space and quaternary which represents a living self-con-time, yesterday and today, here and there, you scious being, and two new states are introducedand me, in and out, life and death, whole and to represent this interface. The state which rep-broken, together and apart. We see things as resents the creation of new forms is called Che-limited and bounded and we have a perception sed, which means Mercy, and the state whichof form as something “created” and represents the destruction of forms is called“destroyed”. My car was built a year ago, but it Gevurah, which means Strength. This is shownwas smashed yesterday. I wrote an essay, but I in Fig. 7.lost it when my computer crashed. My granny is The objectification of forms which takes placedead. The river changed its course. A law has in a self-conscious being, and the consequent 8
  • 17. The Tree of Life First Principle The Self of Self-Importance Consciousness Self-Sacrifice Capacity to take Raw Energy Language Emotions Form Abstraction Drives Reason Feelings The Abyss Destruction Creation of of Form Form Perception Imagination Instinct Consciousness Reproduction of Consciousness Figure 6: Self-Consciousnesstendency to view the world in terms of limita- Consciousness Consciousnesstions and dualities (time and space, here and of ofthere, you and me, in and out, God and Man, Form Energygood and evil...) produces a barrier to percep-tion which most people rarely overcome, andfor this reason it has come to be called the Abyss. ConsciousnessThe Abyss is also marked on Figure 7. of I have left out one important detail from the The Worldstructure of the Tree. There is an eleventh“something” which is definitely not a sephira,but is often shown on modern representationsof the Tree. A Kabbalistic “explanation” runs as Matterfollows: when Malkhut “fell” out of the Garden The Worldof Eden (Fig. 2) it left behind a “hole” in the fab-ric of the Tree, and this “hole”, located in thecentre of the Abyss, is called Daat, or Knowl- Figure 7: The Tree of Lifeedge. Daat is not a sephira; it is a hole. This maysound like gobbledy-gook, and in the sense thatit is only a metaphor, it is. Daat is located in the intended to be a convincing exercise from anabyss on the central path between Keter and intellectual point of view - the Tree of Life is pri-Tipheret. marily a gnostic rather than a rational or intel- The diagram in Figure 7 is called the Tree of lectual explanation of divinity and itsLife. Rather than simply present the Tree with- interaction with the physical world.out any kind of rationale, I have employed a The Tree of Life is composed of 10 states or“constructionist” approach to explain its struc- sephiroth (sephiroth plural, sephira singular) andture, and I believe it is original, but the essence 22 interconnecting paths, making a total of 32of my rationale can be found in the Sepher ha “paths”. These are the “thirty two paths of wis-Zohar under the guise of the Macroprosopus dom” discussed in the Sepher Yetzirah. The ageand Microprosopus, although in this form it is of this diagram is unknown. There is enoughless accessible to many readers. My attempt to information in the 13th. century Sepher ha Zoharshow how the Tree of Life can be derived out of to construct the diagram, and the doctrine of thepure consciousness through the interaction of sephiroth has been attributed to Isaac the Blindan abstract notion of force and form was not in the 12th. century, but we have no certain 9
  • 18. Notes on Kabbalahknowledge of its origin. The origin of the word “sephira” is unclear - itis almost certainly derived from the Hebrewword for “number” (SPhR), but it has beenattributed to the Greek word for “sphere” andalso to the Hebrew word for a sapphire (SPhIR).With a characteristic aptitude for discoveringhidden meanings everywhere, Kabbalists findall three derivations useful, so take your pick. In the language of earlier Kabbalistic writersthe sephiroth represented ten primeval emana-tions of God, ten foci through which the energyof a hidden, absolute and unknown Godhead(En Soph) propagated throughout the creation,like white light passing through a prism. Thesephiroth can be interpreted as aspects of God,as states of consciousness, or as nodes akin tothe Chakras in the occult anatomy of a humanbeing. The 22 paths interconnecting the sephi-roth on the Tree also have a rich body of associ-ations. From an historical point of view the doctrinesof sephirothic emanation and the Tree of Lifeare only a small part of an extensive body ofKabbalistic speculation about the nature ofdivinity and our part in creation. To concentrateon the Tree is to ignore an equally rich body ofspeculation on Adam Kadmon, the divine orarchetypal human being. There are many, manyaspects of Kabbalah which I have not exploredin these notes, and to concentrate exclusively onone small part of Kabbalah may seem shortsighted to the academic, but to a practising Kab-balist life is short, the Kabbalah is there to beused, and so I have chosen to concentrate on apart of the Kabbalah which has survived to thepresent day. The Tree of Life continues to beused in the Twentieth Century because it hasproved to be a useful and productive symbol forpractices of a magical, mystical and religiousnature. Modern Kabbalah in the Western Eso-teric Tradition is largely concerned with theunderstanding and practical application of theTree of Life. The following Chapter will continue todevelop a broad understanding of what the Treerepresents, before going on to examine thenature of each sephira in detail. 10
  • 19. The Tree of Life En Soph 1 Keter (Crown) 3 2 Binah Chokhmah(Understanding) (Intelligence) (Wisdom) Daat (Knowledge) 5 4 Gevurah Chesed (Mercy) (Strength) (Love) 6 Tipheret (Beauty) 8 7 Hod Netzach (Glory) (Victory) (Splendour) (Firmness) 9 Yesod (Foundation) 10 Malkhut (Kingdom) Figure 8: The Tree of Life 11
  • 20. Notes on Kabbalah 12
  • 21. The Pillars & The Lightning Flash 3 The Pillars & The Lightning Flash In Chapter 2 the Tree of Life was derived from in the Zohar) the creation, considered as an ema-three concepts, or rather one primary concept nation of God, is a delicate balance between twoand two derivative concepts “contained” or opposing tendencies: the mercy of God - the“concealed” within it. The primary concept was outflowing, creative, life-giving and sustainingcalled consciousness, and it was said to “contain” tendency in God, and the severity or strictwithin it the two complementary concepts of judgement of God - the limiting, defining, life-force and form. taking and ultimately wrathful or destructive This Chapter builds on these ideas by intro- tendency in God. The creation is “energised” byducing the three Pillars of the Tree, and uses the these two tendencies as if stretched between thePillars to clarify a process called the Lightning poles of a battery. Modern Kabbalah makes aFlash. It should not come as a surprise to find half-hearted attempt to remove the more obvi-that the three Pillars are called ... the Pillar of ous anthropomorphisms in the descriptions ofConsciousness, the Pillar of Force, and the Pillar “God”; mercy and severity are misleadingof Form. The Pillar of Consciousness (see Figure terms, apt to remind one of a man with a white9) contains the sephiroth Keter, Tipheret, Yesod beard. Even in medieval times the terms hadand Malkhut. The Pillar of Force contains the distinctly technical meanings as the followingsephiroth Chokhmah, Chesed and Netzach. The quotation shows [39]:Pillar of Form contains the sephiroth Binah, “It must be remembered that to theGevurah and Hod. Kabbalist, judgement [Din - judge- The classification of sephiroth into three Pil- ment, another title of Gevurah] meanslars is a way of saying that each sephira in a Pil- the imposition of limits and the correctlar partakes of a common quality which is determination of things. According to“inherited” in a progressively more developed Cordovero the quality of judgement isand structured way from of the top of a Pillar to inherent in everything insofar as every-the bottom. Tipheret, Yesod and Malkhut share thing wishes to remain what it is, towith Keter the quality of “consciousness in bal- stay within its boundaries.”ance” or “synthesis of opposing qualities”, but I understand the word “form” in this sense -in each case it is expressed differently according it is that which defines what a thing is, the struc-to the increased degree of structure imposed. ture whereby a given thing is distinct and differ- Likewise, Chokhmah, Chesed and Netzach ent from every other thing. A square is not theshare the quality of force, or energy, or expan- same as a triangle - their forms are different.siveness. Binah, Gevurah and Hod share the The complementary concepts of conscious-quality of form, definition and limitation. As ness and force are difficult (if not impossible!) toone moves down the Tree from Keter to Mal- define, because one can only define the form ofkhut, force and form are combined together. something. Of necessity I use the word “con-The symbolism of the Tree has something in sciousness” in a sense so abstract that it is virtu-common with a production line, with molten ally meaningless, and according to whim I usemetal coming in one end and finished cars com- the word God instead, where it is understooding out the other. that both words are placeholders for something In older Kabbalistic texts the Pillars are which is potentially knowable in the gnosticreferred to as the Pillars of mildness, mercy and sense only. Consciousness can be defined onlyseverity, and it is not immediately obvious how according to the forms it takes, in which case wethe older jargon relates to the new. To the medi- are defining the forms, not consciousness. Theeval Kabbalist (and this is a recurring metaphor same qualification applies to the word “force”. 13
  • 22. Notes on Kabbalah Pillar of Consciousness Pillar of Form 1 Pillar of Force Keter 3 2 Binah Chokhmah Daat 5 4 Gevurah Chesed 6 Tipheret 8 7 Hod Netzach 9 Yesod 10 Malkhut Figure 9:The Three Pillars & The Lightning FlashMy inability to define two of the three concepts cussion describes the path taken by the Light-which underpin the structure of the Tree is a ning Flash as it moves down the Tree fromnuisance. This is the reason why I introduced Keter to Malkhut.the concepts of force and form in the previousChapter by the use of many examples. In the beginning ... was Something. Or Noth- I will now return to the metaphor of the Tree ing. It does not matter which term one uses, asas a production line, with molten metal coming both are equally meaningless in this context.in at one end (Keter), and finished cars coming “Nothing” is probably the better of the twoout the other (Malkhut). The conveyer belt zig- terms, because I can use “Something” in thezags across and down the Tree in a pattern next paragraph. Kabbalists call this Nothing Encalled the Lightning Flash. The following dis- Soph which literally means “no end” or infinity, 14
  • 23. The Pillars & The Lightning Flashand understand by this a hidden, unmanifest frequent use of sexual polarity as a metaphor toGod-in-Itself. describe the relationship between force and Out of this incomprehensible and indescriba- form, or mercy and severity, although the mostble Nothing came Something. Probably more vivid sexual metaphors are reserved for thewords have been devoted to this moment than marriage of the Microprosopus and his bride,any other in Kabbalah, and it is easy to make the Queen and Inferior Mother, the sephira Mal-fun the effort which has gone into elaborating khut.the indescribable, so I won’t ... but in return I am The sephira Binah is the Mother of Form. Formnot going provide a justification for why Some- exists within Binah as a potentiality, not as anthing came out of Nothing. It just did. A point actuality, just as a womb contains the potentialcrystallised in the En Soph. of a baby. Without the possibility of form, no In some versions of the story the En Soph thing would be distinct from any other thing; it“contracted” to “make room” for the creation would be impossible to distinguish between(e.g. Isaac Luria’s doctrine of tsimtsum), and this things, impossible to have individuality or iden-is probably an important clarification for those tity or change. The Mother of Form contains thewho have rubbed noses with the hidden face of potential of form within her womb and givesGod, but for the purposes of this discussion it is birth to form when a creative impulse crossesenough that a point crystallised. This point was the Abyss to the Pillar of Force and emanatesthe crown of creation, the sephira Keter, and through the sephira Chesed. Again we have thewithin Keter was contained all the unrealised idea of “becoming”, of outflowing creativepotential of the creation. energy, but at a lower level. An aspect of Keter is the raw creative force of The sephira Chesed is the point at which formGod which blasts into the creation like the blast becomes perceptible to the mind as an inspira-of hot gas which keeps a hot air balloon in the tion, an idea, a vision; that “Eureka!” momentair. Kabbalists are quite clear about this; the cre- immediately prior to rushing around shoutingation didn’t just happen a long time ago - it is “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”. Chesed is that quality ofhappening all the time, and without the influx genuine inspiration, a sense of being “pluggedof creative force to sustain it the creation would in” which characterises visionary leaders whocrumple like a deflated balloon. The force-like lead the human race into every new kind ofaspect within Keter is the sephira Chokhmah endeavour. It can be for good or evil. A leaderand it can be thought of as the will of God, who can tap petty malice and vindictivenessbecause without it the creation would cease to and channel it into a vision of a genocidal newbe. The creation is maintained by this ravening, order is just as much a visionary as any other.primeval desire to be, to become, to change, to The positive interpretation of Chesed is theexist, to evolve. The experiential distinction humanitarian leader who brings about genuinebetween Keter, the point of emanation, and improvements to our common life.Chokhmah, the creative outpouring, is elusive No change comes easy; as Cordovera pointsand it is difficult to say anything which would out “everything wishes to remain what it is”.be meaningful. In the tradition, Keter, although The creation of form is balanced by the preser-manifest within the En Soph, is hidden from us, vation and destruction of form in the sephiraand Chokhmah is the first true manifestation. Gevurah. Any impulse of change is channelled Force by itself achieves nothing; it needs to be through Gevurah, and if it is not opposed thencontained, and the balloon analogy is appropri- something will be destroyed. If you want toate again. Chokhmah contains within it the make paper you cut down a tree. If you want tonecessity of Binah, the Mother of Form. The per- abolish slavery you have to destroy the cultureson who taught me Kabbalah (a woman as it which perpetuates it. If you want to changehappens) told me Chokhmah (Abba, the Father) someone’s mind you have to destroy that per-was God’s prick, and Binah (Aima, the Mother) son’s beliefs about the matter in question. Thewas God’s womb, and left me with the picture sephira Gevurah is the quality of strict judge-of one half of God continuously ejaculating into ment which opposes change, destroys the unfa-the other half. It is a vivid and appropriate met- miliar, and corresponds in many ways to anaphor, and one with a long history of use in immune system within the body of God.Kabbalah. The author of the Zohar also makes There has to be a balance between creation 15
  • 24. Notes on Kabbalahand destruction. Too much change, too many “But what’s so good about that one.”ideas, too many things happening too quickly “I don’t know what to say ... I just like it.”can have the quality of chaos (and can literally This conversation is not fictitious and is quin-become that), whereas too little change, no new tessentially Netzach. The structure of the Tree ofideas, too much form and structure and proto- Life posits that the basic driving forces whichcol can suffocate and stifle. There has to be a bal- characterise our behaviour are pre-verbal andance which “makes sense” and this “idea of non-rational; anyone who has tried to changebalance” or “making sense” is expressed in the another person’s basic nature or beliefs throughsephira Tipheret. force of rational argument will know this. Tipheret embodies the idea of wholeness, of After Netzach we go to the sephira Hod tobalance in a dynamic sense of reconciling many pick up the final imprint of form. Ask a childopposing forces, and represents an instinctive why they want something and they say “I justmorality, which is not present by default in the do”. Press an adult and you will get an earful ofhuman species. It isn’t based on cultural norms “reasons”. We live in a culture where it isand it doesn’t have its roots in upbringing important (often essential) to give reasons for(although it is easily destroyed by it). Some peo- the things we do, and Hod is the sephira of formple have it in a large measure, and some people where it is possible to give shape to our desiresare, to all intents and purposes, completely lack- in terms of reasons and explanations. Hod is theing in it. It doesn’t necessarily respect conven- sephira of abstraction, reason, logic, languagetional morality: it may laugh in its face. and communication, and a reflection of Binah, I can’t say what it is in any detail, because it is the Mother of Form in the human mind. Wepeculiar and individual, but those who have it have a innate capacity to abstract, to go immedi-have a natural quality of integrity, soundness of ately from the particular to the general, and wejudgement, an instinctive sense of rightness, jus- have an innate capacity to communicate thesetice and compassion, and a willingness to fight abstractions using language, and it should beor suffer in defence of that sense of justice. clear why the alternative translation of Binah isTipheret is a paradoxical sephira because in “intelligence”; Binah is the “intelligence ofmany people it is simply not there. It can be God”, and Hod underpins what we generallydeveloped, and that is one of the goals of initia- recognise as intelligence in people - the abilitytion, but for many people Tipheret is a room to grasp complex abstractions, reason aboutwith nothing in it. them, and articulate this understanding using Having passed through Gevurah on the Pillar some means of communication.of Form, and found its way through the moral The synthesis of Hod and Netzach on the Pil-filter of Tipheret, a creative impulse picks up lar of Consciousness is the sephira Yesod. Yesodenergy once more on the Pillar of Force via the is the sephira of interface, and a comparisonSephira Netzach, where the energy of “becom- with computer peripheral interfaces is appro-ing” finds its final expression in the form of priate: between the computer programs running“vital urges”. Why do we carry on living? Why on a computer and the real world are variousbother? What is it that compels us to do things? interfaces, such as a mouse, a visual display, aAn artist may have a vision of a piece of art, but printer, a keyboard and so on. Yesod is some-what actually compels the artist to paint or times called “the Receptacle of the Emanations”,sculpt or write? Why do we want to compete because it interfaces the emanations of all threeand win? Why do we care what happens to oth- Pillars to the sephira Malkhut, and it is throughers? The sephira Netzach expresses the basic, Yesod that the final abstract form of somethingvital, creative urges in a form we can recognise is realised in Matter.as drives, feelings and emotions. Form in Yesod is no longer abstract. It is Netzach is pre-verbal; ask a child why he explicit, but not yet individual - that last qualitywants a toy and the answer will be “I just do”. is reserved for Malkhut alone. Yesod is like the “But why,” you ask, wondering why he mold in a bottle factory - the mold is a realisa-doesn’t want the much more “sensible” toy you tion of the abstract idea “bottle” in so far as ithad in mind. “Why don’t you want this one expresses the shape of a particular bottle designhere.” in every detail, but it is not itself an individual “I just don’t. I want this one.” bottle. 16
  • 25. The Pillars & The Lightning Flash The final step in the descending process is the spiritual empyrean, where it remains inaccessi-sephira Malkhut, where God becomes flesh, and ble, but in the routine and unexciting littleevery abstract form is realised in actuality, in things in life. There is a real sense in whichthe “real world”. There is much to say about lighting a match, baking a cake, or walking thethis, but I will save it for later. dog are all connected with the deepest spiritual realities. The view that the Tree of Life and the The process I have described is called the Lightning Flash describe how everything is con-Lightning Flash. The Lightning Flash runs as tinuously created leads to a view that every-follows: Keter, Chokhmah, Binah, Chesed, thing is equally “spiritual”, equally “divine”,Gevurah, Tipheret, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Mal- and there is more to be learned from simplekhut. If you trace the Lightning Flash on a dia- daily routines than there is in a spiritual disci-gram of the Tree you will see that it has the zig- pline which puts you “here” and God “overzag shape of a lightning flash. The sephiroth are there”.numbered according to their order on the light- The Lightning Flash ends in Malkhut, thening flash: Keter is 1, Chokhmah is 2, and so on. world of matter where we live our lives asThe “Sepher Yetzirah” [24] has this to say about human beings, and it can be followed throughthe sephiroth: the hidden pathways of creation like Blake’s “When you think of the ten sephiroth “golden thread”, until one arrives back at the cover your heart and seal the desire of source. your lips to announce their divinity. This introduction to the sephiroth via the Yoke your mind. Should it escape your Lightning Flash has provided only the bare grasp, reach out and bring it back under bones of a description of each sephira. The next your control. As it was said, ‘And the Chapter provides detailed information (“corre- living creatures ran and returned as the spondences”) for each sephira, and then in appearance of a flash of lightning,’ in Chapter 5 we will follow the Lightning Flash such a manner was the Covenant cre- from Malkhut back up to Keter by examining ated.” the qualities of each sephira in detail. The quotation within the quotation comesfrom Ezekiel 1.14, a text which inspired a largeamount of early Kabbalistic speculation, and itis probable that the Lightning Flash as describedis one of the earliest components of the idea ofsephirothic emanation. The Lightning Flash describes the creativeprocess, beginning with the unknown, unmani-fest hidden God, and follows it through ten dis-tinct stages to a change or manifest effect in thematerial world. It can be used to describe anychange - lighting a match, baking a cake, walk-ing the dog - and students of Kabbalah may beset the exercise of analysing any arbitrarily cho-sen event in terms of the Lightning Flash. Because the Lightning Flash can be used tounderstand the inner process whereby the phe-nomenal world changes and evolves, it is a keyto practical magical work. Because it is intendedto account for all change it follows that allchange is equally magical, and the word “magic”is essentially meaningless (but nevertheless use-ful for distinguishing between “normal” and“abnormal” states of consciousness, and themodes of causality which pertain to each). It also follows that the key to understandingour “spiritual nature” does not belong in the 17
  • 26. Notes on Kabbalah 18
  • 27. Sephirothic Correspondences 4 Sephirothic Correspondences The correspondences are a set of symbols, some are astute.associations, metaphors and qualities which 6. The Briatic Correspondence is an abstractprovide a handle on the elusive something a quality which says something about thesephira represents. Some of the correspond- essence of the way the sephira expressesences are hundreds of years old, many were itself.concocted this century, and some are my own; 7. The Illusion characterises the way in whichsome fit very well and are obviously appropri- the energy of a sephira clouds one’s judge-ate, and some are obscure. Oddly enough it is ment; it is something which is obviouslyoften the most obscure and ill-fitting corre- true at the time. Most people suffer fromspondence which is most productive - like a Zen one or more of these according to theirriddle it perplexes and annoys the mind until temperament.one arrives at the right place more in spite of the 8. The Obligation is a personal quality whichcorrespondence than because of it. is demanded of an initiate at this level. There are few canonical correspondences. 9. The Virtue and Vice describe the energy ofSome of the sephiroth have alternative names, the sephiroth as it manifests in a positivesome of the names have alternative translations, and negative sense through the personal-the mapping from Hebrew spellings to the Eng- ity.lish alphabet varies from one author to the next, 10. Klippot is a word which means “shell”. Inand inaccuracies and accretions are handed medieval Kabbalah each sephira wasdown like the family silver. I keep my Hebrew “seen” to be adding form to the sephiradictionary to hand but guarantee none of the which preceded it in the Lightning FlashEnglish spellings. (see Chapter 3). Form was seen to be an The correspondences I have given are as fol- accretion, a shell around the pure divinelows: energy of the Godhead, and each layer or 1. The Meaning is a translation of the Hebrew shell hid the divine radiance a little bit name of the sephira. more, until God was buried in form and 2. The Planet in most cases is the planet asso- exiled in matter, the end-point of the proc- ciated with a sephira. In some cases it is ess. At the time, attitudes to matter were not a planet at all (e.g. the fixed stars). The tainted with Gnostic and Manichean planets are ordered by decreasing appar- notions that matter was evil, a snare for the ent motion - the sun and moon are spirit, and consequently the Klippot or included, so this is one correspondence shells were “demonised” and actually which pre-dates Copernicus. turned into demons - some books give lists 3. The Element is the physical element (earth, of Klippotic demons. The correspondences water, air, fire, aethyr) which has most in I have given here restore the original idea common with the nature of the Sephira. of a shell of form without the correspond- Only the five Lower Face sephiroth have ing force to activate it - it is the lifeless, been attributed an element. empty husk of a sephira devoid of force. 4. Briatic colour. This is the colour of the 11. The Command refers to the Four Powers of sephira as seen in the world of Creation, the Sphinx, with an extra one added for Briah. There are colour scales for the other good measure. three worlds in the literature (e.g. [35])but 12. The Spiritual Experience is just that. I don’t use them in my own practical work. 13. The Titles are a collection of alternative 5. Magical Image. Useful in meditiations; 19
  • 28. Notes on Kabbalah names for the sephira. Most are very old.14. The God Name is a key to invoking the power of the sephira in the world of ema- nation, Atzilut.15. The Archangel mediates the energy of the sephira in the world of creation, Briah.16. The Angel Order administers the energy of the sephira in the world of formation, Yetzirah.17. The Keywords are a collection of phrases which summarise key aspects of the sephira. 20
  • 29. Sephirothic Correspondences Table 1: Malkhu tMeaning KingdomNumber 10Colour Brown (citrine, russet red, olive green, black)Briatic Correspondence StabilityMagical Image A young woman crowned and sitting on a throneTitles The Gate; Gate of Death; Gate of Tears; Gate of Justice; The Inferior Mother; Malkah, the Queen; Kallah, the Bride; the Virgin.Element EarthVirtue DiscriminationVice Avarice; InertiaIllusion MaterialismKlippot StasisObligation DisciplineCommand Keep silentGod Name Adonai ha Aretz, Adonai MalekhArchangel SandalphonAngel Order IshimPlanet Cholem Yesodeth (The Breaker of the Foundations, the sphere of the elements)Spiritual Experience Vision of the Holy Guardian AngelKeywords The real world, physical matter, the Earth, Mother Earth, the physical elements, the natural world, sticks & stones, possessions, faeces, practicality, solidity, sta- bility, inertia, heaviness, bodily death, incarnation. Table 2: Yeso dMeaning FoundationNumber 9Colour PurpleBriatic Correspondence Receptivity, perceptionMagical Image A beautiful man, very strong (e.g. Atlas)Titles The Treasure House of Images, the Receptacle of the EmanationsElement AethyrVirtue Independence 21
  • 30. Sephirothic Correspondences Table 2: Yesod (Continued)Vice IdlenessIllusion SecurityKlippot Zombieism, robotismObligation TrustCommand Go!God Name Shaddai el ChaiArchangel GabrielAngel Order CherubimPlanet Levanah (Moon)Spiritual Experience Vision of the Machinery of the UniverseKeywords Perception, interface, imagination, image, appearance, glamour, the Moon and tides, the unconscious, instinct, illusion, hidden infrastructure, dreams, divination, any- thing as it seems to be and not as it is, mirrors and crys- tals, the “Astral Plane”, Aethyr, glue, secret doors, tunnels, sex & reproduction, the genitals, cosmetics, instinctive magic (psychism), the shamanic tunnel. Table 3: HodMeaning Glory, SplendourNumber 8Colour OrangeBriatic Correspondence AbstractionMagical Image An HermaphroditeTitles -Element AirVirtue Honesty, truthfulnessVice DishonestyIllusion OrderKlippot Rigidity, rigid orderObligation LearnCommand To WillGod Name Elohim TzabaothArchangel RaphaelAngel Order Beni ElohimPlanet Kokab (Mercury)Spiritual Experience Vision of Splendour 22
  • 31. Sephirothic Correspondences Table 3: Hod (Continued)Keywords Reason, abstraction, communication, conceptualisa- tion, logic, the sciences, language, speech, money (as a concept), mathematics, medicine & healing, trickery, writing, media (as communication), pedantry, philoso- phy, Kabbalah (as an abstract system), protocol, the Law, ownership, territory, theft, “Rights”, ritual magic. Table 4: NetzachMeaning Victory, FirmnessNumber 7Colour GreenBriatic Correspondence NurtureMagical Image A beautiful naked womanTitles -Element WaterVirtue UnselfishnessVice SelfishnessIllusion ProjectionKlippot Habit, routineObligation ResponsibilityCommand To KnowGod Name Jehovah TzabaothArchangel HanielAngel Order ElohimPlanet Nogah (Venus)Spiritual Experience Vision of Beauty TriumphantKeywords Passion, pleasure, luxury, sensual beauty, feelings, drives, emotions - love, hate, anger, joy, depression, misery, excitement, desire, lust; nurture, libido, empa- thy, sympathy, ecstatic magic. Table 5: TipheretMeaning BeautyNumber 6Colour YellowBriatic Correspondence Centrality, wholenessMagical Image A child, a king, a sacrificed god 23
  • 32. Sephirothic Correspondences Table 5: Tipheret (Continued)Titles Rachamin, charity; Melekh, the King; Zoar Anpin, the lesser countenance; the Microprosopus; the SonElement FireVirtue Devotion to the Great WorkVice Pride, self-importanceIllusion IdentificationKlippot HollownessObligation IntegrityCommand To DareGod Name Aloah va DaatArchangel MichaelAngel Order MalachimPlanet Shemesh (Sun)Spiritual Experience Vision of Harmony, Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian AngelKeywords Harmony, integrity, balance, wholeness, centrality, the Self, self-importance, self-sacrifice, identity, the Son of God, a King, the Great Work, the Philospher’s Stone, the Sun, gold, the solar plexus Table 6: GevurahMeaning StrengthNumber 5Colour RedBriatic Correspondence PowerMagical Image A mighty warriorTitles Din, justice; Pachad, fearElement -Virtue Courage and energyVice CrueltyIllusion InvincibilityKlippot BureaucracyObligation Courage and loyaltyCommand -God Name Elohim GevorArchangel Kamael (sometimes Samael)Angel Order Seraphim 24
  • 33. Sephirothic Correspondences Table 6: Gevurah (Continued)Planet Madim (Mars)Spiritual Experience Vision of PowerKeywords Power, justice, retribution (eaten cold), the Law (in execution), cruelty, oppression, domination & the Power Myth, severity, necessary destruction, catabo- lism, martial arts Table 7: ChesedMeaning MercyNumber 4Colour BlueBriatic Correspondence AuthorityMagical Image A mighty kingTitles Gedulah, magnificance, love, majestyElement -Virtue Humility and obedienceVice Tyranny, hypocrisy, bigotry, gluttonyIllusion Being right (self-righteousness)Klippot IdeologyObligation HumilityCommand -God Name ElArchangel TzadkielAngel Order ChasmalimPlanet Tzadekh (Jupiter)Spiritual Experience Vision of LoveKeywords Authority, leadership, creativity, inspiration, vision, excess, waste, secular and spiritual power, submission and the Annihilation Myth, obliteration, the atom bomb, birth, service, spiritual love Table 8: DaatMeaning KnowledgeCorrespondences Daat does not manifest positively and it is not appro- priate to think of it in the same sense as a sephira.Keywords Hole, tunnel, gateway, doorway, Janus, black hole, vortex. 25
  • 34. Sephirothic Correspondences Table 9: BinahMeaning Understanding , IntelligenceNumber 3Colour BlackBriatic Correspondence ComprehensionMagical Image An old woman (possibly in mourning) on a throne.Titles Aima, the Mother; Ama, the Crone; Marah, the bitter sea; Khorsia, the Throne; the Fifty Gates of Under- standing; Intelligence; the Mother of Form; the Supe- rior Mother.Element -Virtue SilenceVice InertiaIllusion DeathKlippot FatalismObligation -Command -God Name ElohimArchangel CassielAngel Order AralimPlanet ShabbathaiSpiritual Experience Vision of SorrowKeywords Limitation, form, constraint, heaviness, slowness, iner- tia, old-age, infertility, incarnation, karma, fate, time, space, natural law, the womb and gestation, darkness, boundedness, enclosure, containment, fertility, mother, weaving and spinning, death (annihilation) Table 10: ChokhmahMeaning WisdomNumber 2Colour grey, white flecked with silverBriatic Correspondence RevolutionMagical Image A bearded manTitles Abba, the fatherElement -Virtue Good 26
  • 35. Sephirothic Correspondences Table 10: Chokhmah (Continued)Vice EvilIllusion IndependenceKlippot ArbitrarinessObligation -Command -God Name JahArchangel RatzielAngel Order OphanimPlanet Mazlot (the Zodiac, the fixed stars)Spiritual Experience Vision of God Face-to-FaceKeywords Pure creative force, life-force, the wellspring, the erect phallus and ejaculation, standing stones, fountains, the fountain and water of Life, springs Table 11: KeterMeaning CrownNumber 1Colour Brilliant whiteBriatic Correspondence UnityMagical Image A bearded man seen in profileTitles Ancient of Days, the Greater Countenance (Macropro- sopus), the White Head, Concealed of the Concealed, Existence of Existences, the Smooth Point, Rum Maalah, the Highest Point, and many, many moreElement -Virtue AttainmentVice -Illusion AttainmentKlippot FutilityObligation -Command -God Name EheiehArchangel MetatronAngel Order Chaioth ha QadeshPlanet Rashith ha Gilgalim (the first swirlings, the Big Bang)Spiritual Experience Union with God 27
  • 36. Sephirothic Correspondences Table 11: Keter (Continued)Keywords Unity, union, all, pure consciousness, God, the God- head, manifestation, beginning, source, emanation 28
  • 37. The Sephiroth 5 The Sephiroth This chapter provides a detailed look at each world that we have, and it would be foolish toof the ten sephiroth and draws together material imagine that Kabbalah can provide better expla-scattered over previous chapters. nations of the nature of matter than those avail- able to us as a result of the natural sciences. For Malkhut practical purposes the average university sci- Malkhut is the Cinderella of the sephiroth. It ence graduate knows (much) more about theis the sephira most often ignored by beginners, material stuff of the world than the medievalthe sephira most often glossed over in Kabbalis- Kabbalist ever did, and a grounding in moderntic texts, and it is not only the most immediate physics is as good a way as any to approach theof the sephira but it is also the most complex, inexhaustible mysteries of Malkhut.because Malkhut is the final expression of form. For those who are not comfortable with phys-Contemplate the incredible variety of biological ics there are alternative, more traditional wayslife and the amazing variety of human manufac- to approach Malkhut. The magical image oftures and you will understand how Malkhut is Malkhut is that of a young woman crowned andthe final expression of an underlying unity throned. The woman is Malkah, the Queen,through infinite forms of diversity. For sheer Kallah, the Bride. She is the Inferior Mother, ainscrutability Malkhut rivals Keter - indeed, reflection and realisation of the superior orthere is a Kabbalistic aphorism that “Keter is in supernal mother Binah. She is the Queen whoMalkhut, and Malkhut is in Keter, but after inhabits the Kingdom, and the Bride of theanother manner”. Microprosopus, the King who is also the Son of The word Malkhut means “Kingdom”, and God. She is the Anima Mundi, the World-Soul.the sephira is the culmination of a process of She is the Shekhinah, the indwelling spirit ofemanation whereby the creative power of the God in matter. She is Gaia, Mother Earth, but ofGodhead is progressively structured and course she is not only the substance of this littledefined as it moves down the Tree and arrives planet; she is the body of the entire physical uni-in a completed form in Malkhut. Malkhut is the verse.sphere of matter, substance, the real, physical Some care is required when assigningworld. Mother/Earth goddesses to Malkhut, because Malkhut is a veil that conceals. In the least some of them correspond more closely to thecompromising versions of materialist philoso- superior mother Binah. There is a close andphy (e.g. Hobbes) there is nothing beyond phys- deep connection between Malkhut and Binahical matter. From this viewpoint the Tree of Life which results in the two sephiroth sharing simi-above Malkhut does not exist: our feelings of lar correspondences, and one of the oldest Kab-identity and self-consciousness are no more balistic texts [24] has this to say about Malkhut: “The title of the tenth path [Malkhut] isthan the by-product of chemical reactions in the the Resplendent Intelligence. It is calledbrain, and the mind is a complex automata this because it is exalted above every headwhich suffers from the disease of metaphysical from where it sits upon the throne ofdelusions. Binah. It illuminates the numinosity of all Kabbalah is not materialist, but when we lights and causes to emanate the Power ofexamine Malkhut by itself we find ourselves the archetype of countenances or forms.”immersed in matter, and it is natural to think in One of the titles of Binah is Khorsia, orterms of physics, and chemistry and molecular Throne, and the image which this text providesbiology. The natural sciences provide the most is that Binah provides the framework uponaccurate models of matter and the physical which Malkhut sits. We will return to this later. 29
  • 38. Notes on Kabbalah Table 12: Element Fire Air Water Earth God Name Elohim Jehovah Eheieh Agla Archangel Michael Raphael Gabriel Uriel Elemental King Djinn Paralda Nichsa Ghob Elemental Salamend- Sylphs Undines Gnomes ersBinah contains the potential of form in the what it is. The fifth element is aethyr (or ether)abstract, while Malkhut is the fullest realisation and is sometimes called spirit.of form, and both sephiroth share the corre- The quantity of material which has been writ-spondences of heaviness, limitation, finiteness, ten about the elements in occult and astrologicalinertia, avarice, silence, and death. literature is enormous, and rather than repro- The female quality of Malkhut is often identi- duce in bulk what is relatively well-known Ified with the Shekhinah, the female spirit of will provide a rough outline so that those read-God in the creation, and Kabbalistic literature ers who aren’t familiar with Kabbalah will real-makes much of the (carnal) relationship of God ise I am talking about approximately the sameand the Shekhinah. Waite [41] mentions that the thing as they have seen before. A detailedrelationship between God and Shekhinah is description of the traditional medieval view ofmirrored in the relationship between man and the four elements can be found in Barrett’s Thewoman, and provides a great deal of informa- Magus [2]. The hierarchy of elemental powerstion on both the Shekhinah and what he can be found in 777 [8] and in the Golden Dawnquaintly calls “The Mystery of Sex”. material [35] - I have summarised a few useful After the exile of the Jews from Spain in 1492, items below. The elements in Malkhut areKabbalists identified their own plight with the arranged as shown in Figure 10 below:fate of the Shekhinah, and she is pictured asbeing cast out into matter in much the same wayas the Gnostics pictured Sophia, the outcast +Aethyrdivine wisdom. The doctrine of the Shekhinah Zenithwithin Kabbalah and within Judaism as a wholeis complex and it is something I don’t feel com-petent to comment on further; more informationcan be found in [39] & [41]. S Malkhut is the sphere of the physical elements Fireand Kabbalists still use the four-fold scheme E Wwhich dates back at least as far as Empedoclesand probably to the Ark. The four elements cor-respond to four readily observable states of mat- Air Waterter: N Earth solid earth liquid water gas air Nadir plasma fire/electric arc (lightning) -Aethyr In addition it is not uncommon to include a Figure 10:The Elements &fifth element so rarefied and arcane that most the Cardinal Pointspeople (myself included) have difficulty saying 30
  • 39. The Sephiroth The cardinal points have been rotated really there.through 180 degrees from their customary The pseudo-element of Aethyr or Spirit isdirections so that it is easier to see how the ele- enigmatic, but it can be thought of in terms ofments fit on the lower face of the Tree of Life - the forces which bind matter together. It issee Figure 11. Aethyr is shown as the centre of almost certainly a coincidence (but neverthelessthe circle, but has been split into positive Aethyr interesting) that just as there are four elementsat the zenith, and negative Aethyr at the nadir. there are four fundamental forces (gravitational, electromagnetic, weak nuclear & strong nuclear) known to date, and current belief among theoretical physicists is that they can be unified into one fundamental force - that is, the Tipheret properties of matter are an expression of four Fire forces which are really the same thing. Some- times I like to think that the four elements are the four forces, and the one unifying force is aethyr. +Aethyr On an even more arcane tack, Barret [2] has Hod Yesod Netzach this to say about Aethyr: Air -Aethyr Water “Now seeing that the soul is the essential form, intelligible and incorruptible, and is the first mover of the body, and is moved itself; but that the body, or matter, is of itself unable and unfit for motion, and does very much degenerate from the soul, it appears that there is a need of a more Malkhut excellent medium:- now such a medium is Earth conceived to be the spirit of the world, or that which some call a quintessence; because it is not from the four elements, Figure 11:The Circle Cross but a certain first thing, having its being - the Elements on the Tree above and beside them. There is, there- fore, such a kind of medium required to It is important to distinguish between the ele- be, by which celestial souls [e.g. forms]ments in Malkhut, where we are talking about may be joined to gross bodies, and bestowreal substances (the water in your body, the upon them wonderful gifts. This spirit isbreath in your lungs), and the elements on the in the same manner, in the body of theTree, where we are using traditional corre- world, as our spirit is in our bodies; for as the powers of our soul are communicatedspondences associated with the elements, e.g.: to the members of the body by the medium of the spirit, so also the virtue of Earth solid, stable, practical, down-to- the soul of the world is diffused, through- earth out all things, by the medium of the uni- Water sensitive, intuitive, emotional, car- versal spirit; for there is nothing to be ing, nurturing, fertile found in the whole world that hath not a Air vocal, communicative, intellectual spark of the virtue thereof.” Fire energetic, daring, impetuous Aethyr underpins the elements like a founda- +Aethyrglue, binding, plastic tion and its attribution to Yesod should be obvi- -Aethyr unbinding, dissolution, disintegra- ous, particularly as it forms the linking role tion between the ideoplastic world of “the Astral The elements in Malkhut are real. You can Light” [26] and the material world. Aethyr isstub your toe on a stone, you can drown in the thought to come in two flavours - positivesea, and you can set your house on fire (fanned Aethyr, which binds, and negative Aethyr,by a strong east wind no doubt). If you attempt which unbinds. Negative Aethyr is somethingto work with the elements in Malkhut you are like the Universal Solvent - it requires some careworking with the stuff of the physical world. in its handling!Malkhut is not an inner mystical state - it is 31
  • 40. Notes on Kabbalah Working with the physical elements in Mal- sistently identified with the rigours of existencekhut is one of the most important areas of (form, finiteness, limitation), and while it is trueapplied magic, dealing as it does with the basic that many of the things which have been identi-constituents of the real world. The physical ele- fied with evil are a consequence of the finitenessments are tangible and can be experienced in a of things, of being finite beings in a world ofdirect way through recreations such as caving, finite resources governed by natural laws withdiving, parachuting or firewalking. Our bodies inflexible causality, it not correct to infer (asthemselves are made from physical matter, and some have) that form itself is intrinsically evil.there are many meditational exercises which The notion that form and matter are intrinsi-can be carried out using the elements as a basis cally evil, or in some way imperfect or not a partfor work on the body. For example, concentra- of God, may have reached Kabbalah from ation on the element of fire can be used to resist number of sources. Scholem comments [39]:the bodily effects of cold. If you can stand his “The Kabbalah of the early thirteenth cen-manic intensity (Exercise 1: boil an egg by force tury was the offspring of a union betweenof will) then Bardon [1] is full of many ideas on an older and essentially Gnostic traditionthis subject. represented by the book “Bahir”, and the comparatively modern element of Jewish Malkhut is often associated with various Neo-Platonism.”kinds of intrinsic evil. To understand this atti-tude (which I do not share) it is necessary to There is the possibility that the Kabbalists ofconfront the same question as thirteenth century Provence (who wrote or edited the Bahir) wereKabbalists: can God be evil? The answer to this influenced by the Cathars, a late form of Man-question was (broadly speaking) “yes”, but icheanism. Whether the source was Gnosticism,Kabbalists have gone through many gyrations Neo-Platonism, Manicheanism or some combi-in an attempt to avoid what was for many an nation of all three, Kabbalah has imported aunacceptable conclusion. It was difficult to view of matter and form which distorts the viewaccept that famine, war, disease, prejudice, hate, of things portrayed by the Tree of Life, and so inor death could be a part of a perfect being, and some interpretations Malkhut ends up as a kindthere had to be a way to account for evil which of cosmic outer darkness, a bin for all the dirt,did not contaminate divine perfection. We detritus, broken sephira and dirty handker-know that our physical existence is a mixed chiefs of the creation. Form is evil, the Mother ofexperience: perhaps the problem was something Form is female, women are most definitely andto do with our embodiment in physical matter? indubitably evil, and Malkhut is the most This viewpoint is akin to sweeping evil under female of the sephira, therefore Malkhut is mostthe carpet, and in the case of Kabbalah the car- definitely evil...quod erat demonstrandum. Orpet has tended to be Malkhut. Malkhut became so it was concluded by some.the habitation for evil spirits. By the time we reach the late 19th. century If one examines the structure of the Tree with- and the time of S.L. Mathers and the Hermeticout prejudice, it is difficult to avoid the conclu- Brotherhood of the Golden Dawn, there is asion that evil is quite adequately accounted for; complete Tree of evil demonic Klippot under-there is no need to shuffle evil to the lower neath Malkhut as a reflection of the “good” Treeperiphery of the Tree like a cleaner without a above it. This may have something to do withdustpan. The emanation of any sephira from the fact that meditations on Malkhut can easilyChokhmah downwards can manifest as good or become meditations on Binah, and meditationsevil depending on circumstances and the point on Binah have a habit of slipping into the Abyss,of view of those affected by the energy and once in the Abyss it is easy to trawl upinvolved. This appears to have been understood enough junk to imagine one has “discovered”even at the time of the writing of the Zohar, an averse Tree “underneath” Malkhut.where the mercy of God is constantly contrasted This view of the Klippot, or Shells, as active,with the severity of God, and the author makes demonic evil has become pervasive, and as peo-it clear that one tendency has to balance the ple put more energy into the demonic Tree, theother - you cannot have the mercy without the less there is for the original. Abolish the Klippotseverity. as demonic forces, and the Tree of Life comes On the other hand, the severity of God is per- alive with its full power of good and evil. The following quotation from Bischoff [3] (speaking 32
  • 41. The Sephirothof the Sephiroth) provides a more rational view ish. For this reason the obligation of Malkhut isof the Klippot: (has to be) self-discipline. “Since their energy [of the sephiroth] The virtue of Malkhut is Discrimination, the shows three degrees of strength (highest, ability to perceive differences. The ability to per- middle and lowest degree), their emana- ceive differences is a necessity for any living tions group accordingly in sequence. We organism, whether it is a bacterium able to usually imagine the image of a descend- sense the gradient of a nutrient, or a youngster ing staircase. The Kabbalist prefers to see working out how much money to wheedle out this fact as a decreasing alienation of the central primeval energy. Consequently of his parents. As Malkhut is the final realisation any less perfect emanation is to him the of form, it is the sphere where our ability to dis- cover or shell (Qlippah) of the preceeding, tinguish between differences is most pro- and so the last (furthest) emanations nounced. being the so-called material things are the The capacity to discriminate is fundamental to shell of the total and are therefore called our survival. It is so important that it works (in the actual sense) Klippot.” overtime and finds boundaries and distinctions This is my own view; the shell or Qlippah of everywhere - “you” and “me”, “yours” andsomething is the accretion of form which it “mine”, distinctions of “property” and “value”accumulates as energy comes down the Light- and “territory” are intellectual abstractions onning Flash. If the shell can be considered by one level (i.e. not real) and fiercely defendeditself then it is a dead husk of something which realities on another (i.e. very real indeed).could be alive - it preserves all the structure but The quality of discrimination specific to Mal-there is no energy in it to bring it to life. One can khut is often defined as the ability to discrimi-imagine a man who walks into ten shops and in nate between “the real and the unreal”. I am noteach shop he buys a coat and puts it on. By the going to attempt a definition of real and unreal,time he arrives in the tenth shop he is so laden but it is the case that much of what we think ofdown by coats he can hardly move. Are the as real is unreal, and much of what we think ofcoats evil? Are they demonic? Or are they just as unreal is real, and we need the same discrim-coats, dead things, coverings? ination which leads us into the mire of irrele- With this interpretation the Klippot are to be vant distinctions to lead us out again.found everywhere: in relationships, at work, at Some people think skin colour is a real meas-play, in ritual, in society. Whenever something ure of intelligence...but many do not. Some peo-dies and people refuse to recognise that it is ple think gender is a real measure of ability;dead, and cling to the lifeless husk of whatever many do not. Many people judge on appear-it was, then you find a Qlippah. The Qlippah of ances; some do not. There is clearly a differenceMalkhut is what you would get if the Sun went between a bottle of beer and a bottle of urine,out: stasis, life frozen into immobility. but is the colour of the bottle important? What is In keeping with the belief that matter is evil, important? What differences are real, and whatMalkhut has not one but two vices. The first vice differences matter? How much energy do weof Malkhut is Avarice, not only in the sense of devote to things which are “not real”. Should Itrying to acquire material things, but also in the care about “property” and “territory” and “sta-sense of being unwilling to let go of anything, tus”, and if I do care, to what extent. Where do Ieven when it has become dead and worthless. It start caring, and where do I stop caring (i.e.is common to find people who cling to the past drawing the line). Am I able to perceive howby surrounding themselves with artifacts and much I am being manipulated by a fixation onmemories, rather than living in the present. unreality? Are my goals in life “real”, or will The other vice of Malkhut is Inertia, in the they look increasingly silly and immature as Isense of “active resistance to motion; sluggish; grow older? For that matter, is Kabbalah “real”?disinclined to move or act”. It is visible in most Does it provide a useful model of reality, or is itpeople at one time or another, and tends to the remnant of a world-view which should havemanifest when a task is new, necessary, but not been put to sleep centuries ago?particularly exciting, when there is no excite- One of the primary exercises for an initiatement or “natural energy” to keep one fired up, into Malkhut is a thorough examination of theand one has to keep on pushing right to the fin- question “What is real?”. The ability to discrimi- 33
  • 42. Notes on Kabbalahnate, to find important differences which have from within, and is not dependent on buyingbeen glossed over, to ignore differences which the latest book or meeting a fashionable guru.are superficial and irrelevance, is absolutely The powers of Malkhut are invoked by meansvital to the kind of self-analysis which forms a of the names Adonai ha Aretz and Adonai Melekh,basis for the initiatory techniques described which mean “Lord of the World” and “Thelater in this book. Lord who is King” respectively. There is no easy way to acquire discrimina- The power is transmitted through the worldtion and there is no easy way to divide reality of Creation by the archangel Sandalphon, whointo the real and the unreal. One way is to study is sometimes referred to as “the Long Angel”,the mechanics of perception and cognition in because his feet are in Malkhut and his head inthe company of other people, to take common Keter, which gives him an opportunity to dis-beliefs such as “what goes up must come down” cuss the state of the Creation with Metatron, theor “all men are rapists”, and to try to under- Angel of the Presence.stand how we form internal models of the The angel order of Malkhut is the Ishim orworld from the information presented to us. It is Ayshim, sometimes translated as the “souls ofuseful to discuss this with other people, because fire”, supposedly the souls of righteous mentheir model of a situation will almost certainly and women.differ from your own. A possible written source In concluding this section on Malkhut, itis the work of Arthur Korzybski, usually worth emphasising that I have chosen deliber-labelled “General Semantics”, which attempts ately not to explore some major topics becauseto make people aware of the distinctions there are sufficient threads for anyone with anbetween their internal models of reality and the interest to pick up and follow for themselves.world on which they are based. There are The image of Malkhut as Mother Earth providesdoubtless other, equally useful ways of a link between Kabbalah and a numinous arche-approaching the problem of “what is real”. type with a deep significance for some. The The Spiritual Experience of Malkhut is vari- image of Malkhut as physical substance pro-ously the Knowledge and Conversation of the vides a link into the sciences, and it is the caseHoly Guardian Angel (HGA), or the Vision of that at the limits of theoretical physics one’sthe HGA, depending on whom you believe. I intuitions seem to be slipping and sliding on thewill place my money on the Vision of the HGA same reality as in Kabbalah. The image of Mal-in Malkhut, and the Knowledge and Conversa- khut as the sphere of the elements is the key to ation in Tipheret. large body of practical magical technique which What is the HGA? According to the Gnosti- varies from yoga-like concentration on the bod-cism of Valentinus, each person has a guardian ily elements, to nature-oriented work in theangel who accompanies that individual through great outdoors. Lastly, just as the design of atheir life and reveals the gnosis; the angel is in a building reveals much about its builders, sosense the “divine Self”. This belief is a part of Malkhut can reveal a great deal about Keter -the Kabbalistic tradition I received, so some part the bottom of the Tree and the top have much inof Gnosticism lives on. It is also a part of the common.Jewish tradition, which records many attemptsto contact a maggid, or spiritual teacher. Yesod The current tradition concerning the HGA Yesod means “foundation”, and the sephiraalmost certainly entered the Western Esoteric represents the hidden infrastructure wherebyTradition as a consequence of S.L. Mather’s the emanations from the remainder of the Treetranslation [28] of The Book of the Sacred Magic of are transmitted to the sephira Malkhut. Just as aAbramelin the Mage, which contains full details large building has its air-conditioning ducts,of a lengthy ritual to attain the Knowledge and service tunnels, conduits, electrical wiring, hotConversation of the HGA. This ritual has had an and cold water pipes, attic spaces, lift shafts,important influence on twentieth century magi- winding rooms, storage tanks, and a telephonecians; it is often attempted and occasionally exchange, so does the Creation; the external,completed. The purpose of contacting the HGA visible world of phenomenal reality rests (meta-is to establish a genuine and fulfilling link with phorically speaking) upon a hidden foundationa source of knowledge or wisdom which comes of occult machinery. 34
  • 43. The Sephiroth Meditations on the nature of Yesod tend to be When I talk about aethyr or the Astral Light, Ifilled with secret tunnels and concealed mecha- mean there is an ideoplastic substance which isnisms, as if the Creation was a Gothic mansion subjectively real to many magicians, and expla-with a secret door behind every mirror, a pas- nations of magic at the level of Yesod revolvesage in every wall, a pair of hidden eyes behind around manipulating this substance usingevery portrait, and a subterranean world of for- desire, imagination and will.gotten tunnels leading who knows where. For The fundamental nature of Yesod is that ofthis reason the Spiritual Experience of Yesod is interface; it interfaces the rest of the Tree of Lifeaptly named “The Vision of the Machinery of to Malkhut. The interface is bi-directional; therethe Universe”. are impulses coming down from Keter, and ech- Many Yesod correspondences reinforce the oes bouncing back from Malkhut. The idea ofnotion of a foundation, of something which lies interface is illustrated in the design of a compu-behind, supports and gives shape to phenome- ter system.nal reality. The magical image of Yesod is of “a A computer runs programs. You can load upbeautiful naked man, very strong”. An image a game program and interact with it as if it waswhich springs to mind is that of a man with the a little world in its own right, driving cars or fly-world resting on his shoulders, like one of the ing planes or blowing up bridges with air-to-misrepresentations of the Titan Atlas (who actu- ground missiles. If the monitor it switched off,ally held up the heavens, not the world). The the program continues to run. You can unplugangel order of Yesod is the Cherubim, the the joystick or the keyboard or the mouse, andStrong Ones; the archangel is Gabriel, the the program will still be there, but you cannotStrong or Mighty One of God, and the God- interact with it any more. People who have triedname is Shaddai el Chai, the Almighty Living to install computer software will know that itGod. The idea of a foundation suggests that often doesn’t work unless you install the correctthere is a substance which lies behind physical “drivers” to interface the program to yourmatter and “in-forms it” or “holds it together”, peripheral devices. A computer is nothing moresomething less structured, more plastic, more than a source of heat and repair bills unless itrefined and rarefied, and this “fifth element” is has peripheral interfaces and device drivers tooften called aethyr. interface the world outside the computer to the I will not attempt to justify aethyr in terms of world “inside” it; add a keyboard and a mousecurrent physics (the closest concept I have and a monitor and a printer, install the appro-found is the hypothesised Higgs field). It is a priate driver software, and you have opened theconvenient handle on a concept which has enor- door into another reality.mous intuitive appeal to many magicians, who, Our own senses have the same characteristicwhen asked how magic works, tend to think in of being a bi-directional interface throughterms of a medium which is directly receptive to which we experience the world, and for this rea-the will, something which is plastic and can be son the senses correspond to Yesod, and notshaped through concentration and imagination, only the five traditional senses; the “sixth sense”and which transmits their artificially created and the “second sight” are given equal status.forms into reality. Eliphas Levi called this Yesod is also the sphere of instinctive psychism,medium the “Astral Light”. It is also natural to of clairvoyance, precognition, divination and (toimagine that mind, consciousness, and the soul some extent) prophecy. It is also clear fromhave their habitation in this substance, and accounts of lucid dreaming (and the author’sthere are volumes detailing the properties of the personal experience) that we possess an ability“Etheric Body”, the “Astral Body”, the “Causal to perceive an inner world as vividly as theBody” [33], [34] and so on. It is always question- outer, and to Yesod belongs the inner world ofable whether one should take such ideas liter- dreams, daydreams and vivid imagination. Oneally, but there is value in working with the kind of the titles of Yesod is “The Treasure House ofof natural intuitions which occur spontaneously Images”.and independently in a large number of people - To Yesod is attributed Levanah, the Moon,there is often power in these intuitions. It is a and the lunar associations of tides, flux andmistake to invalidate them because they sound change, occult influence, and deeply instinctivecranky. and sometimes atavistic behaviour - possession, 35
  • 44. Notes on Kabbalahmediumship, lycanthropy. and its 90 shops will have to changed, Although Yesod is the foundation and it has right down to the yellow door handles.associations with strength, it is by no means a More than 50,000 employees are likely torigid scaffold supporting a world in stasis. need new uniforms or “image clothing”.Yesod supports the world in the same way that Note the emphasis on image. The company inthe sea supports all the life which lives in it, and question (British Telecom) is an ex-publicjust as the sea has its irresistible currents and monopoly with (at the time of writing) antides, so does Yesod. Yesod is the most “occult” appalling customer relations problem, so it isof the sephiroth, and next to Malkhut it is the repainting its vans and changing the colour ofmost magical, but compared with Malkhut its its door handles! This is Yesodic magic on amagic is of a more subtle, seductive, glamorous gigantic scale.and ensnaring kind. Magicians are drawn to Image manipulators gain most of their powerYesod by the idea that if reality rests on a hid- from the mass-media. The mass-media corre-den foundation, then by changing the founda- spond to two sephiroth: as a medium of com-tion it is possible to change the reality. The munication they belong in Hod, but as amagic of Yesod is the magic of form and appear- foundation for our perception of reality theyance, not substance; it is the magic of illusion, belong in Yesod. Today most people form theirglamour, transformation, and shape-changing. model of what the world (in the large) is like via The most commonplace but sophisticated the media. There are a few individuals whoexamples of this are to be found in modern mar- travel the world sufficiently to have a modelketing, advertising, image consulting, and in based on personal experience, but for most peo-what politicians refer to as “spin”. I do not jest. ple their model of what most of the world is likeMy tongue is not even slightly in my cheek. The is formed by newspapers, radio and television.following quote was taken from this morning’s That is, the media have become an extended (ifpaper [40], in an article about the importance of inaccurate) instrument of perception. Like ourcorporate image: “normal” means of perception the media are “The majority of people continue to mis- highly selective in the variety and content of understand and think that it is just a logo, information provided, and they can be used by rather than understanding that a corpo- advertising agencies and other manipulative rate identity programme is actually con- individuals to create foundations for new collec- cerned with the very commercial tive realities. For example an advertising agency objective of having a strong personality may attempt to manipulate your perception of a and single-minded, focused direction for product by manipulating its image. Some prod- the whole organisation, “ said Fiona Gil- ucts are nothing more than image. It is well more, managing director of the design company Lewis Moberly. “It’s like plant- known that the material cost of many very ing an acorn and then a tree grows. If you expensive perfumes is negligible:. What is being create the right foundation (my italics) then sold is image, and this is widely acknowledged. you are building a whole culture for the While on the subject of changing perception future of an organisation.” to assemble new realities, the following quote I don’t know what Ms. Gilmore studies in her by “Don Juan” [5] has a definite Kabbalistic fla-spare time, but the idea that it is possible to vour:manipulate reality by manipulating symbols “The next truth is that perception takesand appearances is entirely magical. place,” he went on, “because there is in each of us an agent called the assemblage Although the corporate changes are cosmetic, point that selects internal and externalthose responsible for creating a corporate image emanations for alignment. The particularargue that a redesign of a company’s uniform or alignment that we perceive as the world isname is just the visible sign of a much larger the product of a specific spot where ourtransformation. The same article on corporate assemblage point is located on ouridentity continues as follows: cocoon.” “The scale of the BT relaunch is colossal. One of the titles of Yesod is “The Receptacle of The new logo will be painted on more the Emanations”, and its function is precisely as than 72,000 vehicles and trailers, as well described above - Yesod is the assemblage point as 9,000 properties. The company’s 92,000 public payphones will get new decals, which assembles the emanations of the internal 36
  • 45. The Sephirothand the external. elemental magical work carried out in Malkhut In addition to the deliberate, magical manipu- [6].lation of foundations, there are other important Yesod has an important correspondence withareas of magic relevant to Yesod. Raw, innate the sexual organs. The correspondence occurs inpsychism is an ability which tends to improve three ways. The first way is that when the Treeas more attention is devoted to creative visuali- of Life is placed over the human body, Yesod issation, focused meditation (on Tarot cards for positioned over the genitals. The author of theexample), dreams (e.g. keeping a dream diary), Zohar is quite explicit about “the remainingand divination. Divination is an important tech- members of the Microprosopus”, to the extentnique to practice even if you feel you are terrible that the relevant paragraphs in S.L. Mather’sat it (and especially if you think it is nonsense), translation of “The Lesser Holy Assembly”because it reinforces the idea that it is permissi- remain in Latin to avoid offending Victorianble to “let go” and intuit meanings into any pat- sensibilities.tern. The second association of Yesod with the gen- Many people have difficulty doing this, feel- itals arises from the union of the Microprosopusing perhaps that they will be swamped with and his Bride. This is another recurring theme inunreason (recalling Freud’s fear, expressed to Kabbalah, and the symbolism is complex andJung, of needing a bulwark against the “black refers to several distinct ideas, from the relation-mud of occultism”), when in reality their minds ship between husband and wife, to a highlyare swamped with reason and could use a holi- metaphorical view of an internal process withinday. the body of God: e.g [29]. If Yesod is related to perception, then divina- “When the Male is joined with thetion is about perceiving something meaningful Female, they both constitute one completewhere others see random patterns. The future body, and all the Universe is in a state ofisn’t in the pattern of tea leaves, it is in the pat- happiness, because all things receive blessing from their perfect body. And thisterns triggered in our minds when the treasure- is an Arcanum.”house of images is stimulated. Divination is likeletting Yesod off the leash, free to run around or, referring to the Bride: “And she is mitigated, and receivethand sniff out rabbits. Any divination system can blessing in that place which is called thebe used, but systems which emphasise pure Holy of Holies below.”intuition are best (e.g. Tarot, runes, tea-leaves,flights of birds, patterns on the wallpaper, or, referring to the “member”: “And that which floweth down into thatsmoke - I heard of a Kabbalist who threw a place where it is congregated, and whichcushion into the air and carried out divination is emitted through that most holy Yesod,on the basis of the number of pieces of foam Foundation, is entirely white, and there-stuffing which fell out). fore is it called Chesed. Thence Chesed Because Yesod is a kind of aethyric reflection entereth into the Holy of Holies; as it isof the physical world, an image of and precur- written Ps. cxxxiii. 3 ‘For there Tetragram-sor to reality, mirrors are an important tool for maton commanded the blessing, even lifeYesodic magic. Quartz crystals are also used, for evermore.’”partly because of the traditional use of crystal It is not difficult to read a great deal into para-balls for divination, but also because quartz graphs like this, and there are many more in acrystal and amethyst have a peculiarly Yesodic similar vein. Suffice to say that the Microproso-quality in their own right. The average New pus is often identified with the sephira Tipheret,Age shop filled with crystals, Tarot cards, silver the Bride is the sephira Malkhut, and the pointjewellery (lunar association), perfumes, dreamy of union between them is obviously Yesod.music, and all the glitz, glamour and glitter of a A third and more abstract associationmagpie’s nest, is like a temple to Yesod. between Yesod and the sexual organs arises Mirrors and crystals can be used passively as because the sexual organs are a mechanism forfoci for receptivity, but they can also be used perpetuating the form of a living organism. Inactively for certain kinds of aethyric magic - order to come close to the abstract sense of whatthere is an interesting book on making and is happening in sexual reproduction it is neces-using magic mirrors which builds on the kind of sary to take an odd and seemingly irrelevant 37
  • 46. Notes on Kabbalahdiversion by asking the question “What is a language to another. This is the same as a novel,computer program?”. which can be written on paper, or inscribed on A computer program indisputably begins as sheets of metal, or baked into clay tablets. Aan idea: someone decides they want to write a novel obviously isn’t tied to any physical repre-program to do something. Like a story or a sentation either. What about the computer asong, a program is not a material thing, but it program runs on? Well, it could be a conven-can be written down in various ways; as an tional one made with electronic chips etc.....butabstract specification in set theoretic notation there are lots of different kinds and makes ofakin to pure mathematics, or as a set of recur- computer, and they can all run the same pro-sive functions in lambda calculus, or it could be gram. You can walk into a computer gameswritten in several different high level languages shop and buy the same computer game to run- Pascal, C, Prolog, LISP, ADA, BASIC etc. Are on several radically different types of computer.they all they same program? A story or a novel It is also quite practical to build computerscan be translated into several different lan- which don’t use electrons - you could useguages - French, German, Russian; do we accept mechanics or fluids or ball bearings - all youeach different translation as being “the same need to do is produce something with the func-story”? If I read a novel by Tolstoy in English, tionality of a simple abstract device called aam I reading the same story as a person who “Turing machine”, and that isn’t hard. So notreads the same novel in Russian? Most people only is a program not tied to any particularwould say “Yes”, despite the fact that the actual physical representation, but the same goes fortext is completely different. The same issue the computer itself, and what we are left with isarises with music: if I play “Amazing Grace” on two puffs of smoke. On another level this isa tin whistle and you play it with a mouth crazy; we know computers are real, they do realorgan, is it the same tune? Despite the fact that things in the real world, and the programsthe instruments sound different, most people which make them work are obviously realwould say yes. It is clear that we have defini- too....aren’t they?tions of identity which go much deeper that the We could now apply the same kind of scru-superficial appearances of a thing. tiny to living organisms, and the mechanism of Computer scientists have wrestled with this reproduction. We could take a good look atproblem of identity. They have tried to show nucleic acids, enzymes, proteins etc., and askthat versions of a program written in two differ- the same kind of questions. Where is the humanent languages are in some deep sense function- being in a strand of DNA? A human being isn’tally identical. It isn’t trivial to do this because it in the chemicals any more than the program isasks fundamental questions about language in its code or a novel is in the printed words: the(any language) and about meaning, but it is pos- form of the human being is somehow repre-sible in limited cases to produce two apparently sented by a pattern, and the chemicals in DNAdifferent programs written in different lan- are just one way of expressing that pattern. Theguages and assert that they are identical. What- technology now exists to read the pattern inever a program is, it seems to exist, like a novel DNA, encode it so that the pattern can be sentor a song or a story, independently of any par- down a telephone, and turned back into DNA atticular language. the other end. At some point the form of a So what is the program, and where is it? I human being was flying down a telephone wire.don’t know. We only recognise the existence of What I am suggesting is that if you try to getprograms or stories or song when we express close to what constitutes a living organism youthem in some way, by writing or singing. Sup- end up with another puff of smoke, and a hand-pose we write a program down. We could do it ful of chemicals which could just as well be ball-with a pencil. We could punch holes in paper. bearings or marks in clay or the notes from a tinWe could plant trees in a pattern in a field. We whistle....can line up magnetic domains. We can burn The thing (form) that is being perpetuatedholes in metal foil. I could have it tattooed on through sexual reproduction is something quitemy back. We can transform it into radically dif- abstract and immaterial; it is an abstract formferent forms by passing it through other pro- preserved and encoded in a particular pattern ofgrams designed to transform it from one chemicals. If I was asked which was more real, 38
  • 47. The Sephiroththe transient collection of chemicals used to source of income, a place to live, a vocation, per-encode our genetic information, or the abstract sonal power and influence etc, but at a deeperform itself, I would answer “the form”. level the foundation of personal identity is built But then, I am a Kabbalist, and I would say on a series of accidents, encounters and influ-that. I do find it astonishing that there are any ences which create the illusion of who we are,hard-core materialists left in the world. All the what we believe in, and what we stand for.important stuff seems to exist at the level of There is a warm, secure feeling of knowingpuffs of smoke, what Kabbalists call form. what is right and wrong, of doing the rightRoger Penrose, one of the most eminent mathe- thing, of living a worthwhile life in the servicematicians living has this to say [30]: of worthwhile causes, of having a uniquely “I have made no secret of the fact that my privileged vantage point from which to survey sympathies lie strongly with the Platonic the problems of life (with all the intolerance and view that mathematical truth is absolute, incomprehension of other people which accom- external and eternal, and not based on panies this insight). Conversely, there are feel- man-made criteria; and that mathematical ings of despair, depression, loss of identity, and objects have a timeless existence of their existential terror when a crack forms in the illu- own, not dependent on human society nor on particular physical objects.” sion, and reality shows through - what Cas- taneda calls “the crack in the world”. “Aha!” cry the materialists, “At least atoms The smug, self-perpetuating illusion whichare real.” Well, they are until you start pulling masquerades as personal identity at the level ofthem apart with tweezers and end up with a Yesod is the most astoundingly difficult thing toheap of equations which turn out to be the lin- shift or destroy. It fights back with all theguistic expression of an idea. As Einstein said, resources of the personality, and it will enthusi-“The most incomprehensible thing about the astically embrace any ally which will help toworld is that it is comprehensible”, that is, capa- shore up its defences - religious, political or sci-ble of being described in some linguistic form. entific ideology; psychological, sociological, I am not trying to convince anyone of the metaphysical and theosophical claptrap (e.g.“rightness” of the Kabbalistic viewpoint. What I Kabbalah); the law and popular morality; inam trying to do is show that the process fact, any beliefs which give it the power towhereby form is impressed on matter (the rela- retain its identity, uniqueness and integrity.tionship between Yesod and Malkhut) is not Because this parasite of the soul uses religionarcane, theosophical mumbo-jumbo; it is an (and its esoteric offshoots) to sustain itself theyissue which is alive and kicking. There are hard have little or no power over it and become aand unresolved philosophical questions about major part of the problem.the nature of form and its relationship to matter There are various ways of overcoming thiswhich have been ignored for too long. The personal demon (Carroll [4], in an essay on thecloser we get to “real things” (and that certainly subject, calls it Choronzon), and the two I knowincludes living organisms), the better the Kab- best are the cataclysmic and the abrasive.balistic model looks (that form precedes mani- The first method involves a shock so extremefestation, that there is a well-defined process of that it is impossible to be the same person again,form-ation with the “real world” as an out- and if enough preparation has gone before thencome). it is possible to use the shock to rebuild oneself. To return to where we left off, to the corre- In some cases this doesn’t happen. It isspondence between the sephira Yesod and the observable that many people with very rigidgenitals, sexual intercourse is about transferring religious beliefs talk readily about having suf-genetic information. Genetic information is the fered traumatic experiences, and the phenome-complete description of the form and function- non of hysterical conversion among soldiersing of an organism. It isn’t the bottle, but it is the suffering from war neuroses is well known. Inmould from which many bottles come. some cases the cataclysmic method is a valid method for bringing about initiation, but it may The Illusion of Yesod is security, the kind of produce severe trauma, depending on the per-security which forms the foundation of our per- son and the nature of the shock.sonal existence in the world. On a superficial The other method, the abrasive, is to wearlevel our security is built out of relationships, a 39
  • 48. Notes on Kabbalahaway the demon of self-importance, to grind it wholly kiss you.”into nothing by doing (for example) something E.E. Cummingsfor someone else for which one receives no The title of the sephira Hod is sometimesthanks, praise, reward, or recognition. The task translated as Splendour and sometimes ashas to be big enough and awful enough to Glory. The title of the sephira Netzach is usuallybecome a demon in its own right and induce translated as Victory, sometimes as Endurance,feelings of compulsion (I have to do this), help- and occasionally as Eternity. Although therelessness (I’ll never make it), indignation (what’s have been many attempts to explain the titles ofthe point, it’s not my problem anyway), rebel- this pair of sephiroth, I am not aware of a con-lion (I won’t, I won’t, not any more), more com- vincing explanation.pulsion (I can’t give up), self-pity (how did I get The two sephiroth correspond to the legs andinto this?), exhaustion (Oh no! Not again!), like the legs are normally taken as a pair and notdespair (I can’t go on), and finally a kind of sub- individually. They complement each other butmission when one’s demon hasn’t the energy to are not opposites any more than force and formput up a struggle any more and simply gives are opposites. This pair of sephiroth provide theup. Both techniques, the cataclysmic and the first example of the polarity of form and forceabrasive, are legitimate and time-honoured encountered when ascending back up the light-tools of initiation. ning flash from the sephira Malkhut. Form and The Virtue of Yesod is independence, the abil- force are thoroughly mixed together at the levelity to make our own foundations, to continually of Hod and Netzach: the force aspect repre-rebuild ourselves, to reject the security of com- sented by Netzach is differentiated (an examplefortable illusions and confront reality without of form) into a multitude of forces, and the formblinking. aspect represented by Hod acts dynamically (an The Vice of Yesod is idleness. This can be con- example of force) by synthesising new formstrasted with the inertia of Malkhut. A stone is and structures. Both sephiroth represent theinert because it lacks the capacity to change. plurality of consciousness at this level, and inPeople however can change ... and can’t be older texts they are referred to as the “armies”bothered. At least, not today. or “hosts”. To understand why they are referred Yesod has a dreamy, illusory, comfortable, to in this way it is necessary to look at an archaicseductive quality, as in the Isle of the Lotus Eat- aspect of Kabbalistic symbolism whereby theers - how else could we live as if death and per- Tree of Life is a representation of kingship.sonal annihilation only happened to other One of the titles of Tipheret is Melekh, orpeople? king. This king is the child of Chokhmah (Abba, The Klippotic aspect of Yesod occurs when the father) and Binah (Aima, the Mother) andfoundations are rotten and disintegrating and hence a son of God who wears the crown ofonly the superficial appearance remains Keter. The kingdom is the sephira Malkhut, atunchanged - Wilde’s story of Dorian Gray the same time queen (Malkah) and bridesprings to mind. We also see something like this (Kallah). In his right hand the king wields thein traumas where the brain is damaged and the sword of justice (corresponding to Gevurah),person is dead as far as their social existence is and in his left the sceptre of authority (corre-concerned, but the body remains and carries out sponding to Chesed), and he rules over thebasic instinctive functions. armies or hosts (Tzabaot), which are Hod and Organisations are just as prone to this as peo- Netzach.ple. The use of kingship as a metaphor to convey what the sephiroth mean obscures as much as it Hod & Netzach reveals, but it is an unavoidable piece of Kabba- “Objects contain the possibility of all situ- listic symbolism, and the attribution of Hod and ations. The possibility of occurring in Netzach to the “armies” does capture some- states of affairs is the form of an object. thing useful about the nature of consciousness Form is the possibility of structure.” at this level: consciousness is fragmented into Wittgenstein innumerable warring factions, and when there “Since feeling is first who pays any atten- is no rightful king ruling over the kingdom of tion to the syntax of things will never the soul (a common state of affairs), then the 40
  • 49. The Sephirotharmies elect a succession of leaders from the yet another domain over which it can carry outranks, who wear a lopsided crown and occupy further abstraction, and the subsequent newthe throne only for as long as it takes to find world of abstractions as another domain, and soanother claimant. I will have more to say about on indefinitely, giving rise to the principal defi-this. nition of “abstraction”: “to separate by the oper- A psychological interpretation of Hod is that ation of the mind, as in forming a generalit corresponds to the ability to abstract, to con- concept from consideration of particularceptualise, to reason, to communicate, and this instances”. As an example, suppose someonelevel of consciousness arises from the fact that in asks me to watch the screen of a computer andorder to survive we have evolved a nervous sys- to describe what I see. I have no idea what totem capable of building internal representations expect.of the world. “Hmmm...lots of dots moving around ran- I can drive around London in a car because I domly...different colour dots...red, blue, green.possess an internal representation of the Lon- Ah, the dots seem to be clustering...they’redon street system. I can diagnose faults in the forming circles...all the dots of each particularsame car because I have an internal representa- colour are forming circles, lots of little circles.tion of its mechanical and electrical systems and Now the circles are coming together to form ahow they might fail. I can type this document number...it’s 3. Now they’re moving apart andwithout looking at the keyboard because I know forming another number...its 15...now 12..9..14.where the keys are positioned, and your ability They’ve gone..........that was it..3, 15, 12, 9, 14. Isto read what I have written pre-supposes a it some sort of test? Do I have to guess the nextshared understanding about the meaning of number in the series? What are the numberswords and what they represent. supposed to mean? What was the point of it? Our nervous systems possess an absolutely Hmmm..the numbers might stand for letters ofbasic ability to create internal representations the alphabet...let’s see. C..O..L..I...N. It’s myout of the information we perceive through our name!”senses. It is also an absolutely basic characteris- The dots on the screen are real - there are real,tic of the world that it is bigger than my nervous discrete, measurable spots of light on the screen.system. I cannot possibly create accurate, inter- I could verify the presence of dots of light usingnal representations of the world, and one of the a light meter. The colours are synthesised in themeanings of the verb “to abstract” is “to remove retina of my eye; different elements in my eyequietly”. This is what the nervous system does: respond to different frequencies in the light andit quietly removes most of what is going on in give rise to an internal experience we labelthe world in order to create an abridged and “red”, “blue”, and “green”. The colours do notabstract representation of reality with all the exist in the light: they exist in my perception ofimportant (important to me) bits underlined in light, created by the eye itself. The circles do nothighlighter pen. This is the world “I” live in: not exist: given the nature of the computer outputin the “real” world, but an internal reality syn- on the screen, there are only individual pixels,thesised by my nervous system. and it is my nervous system which constructs There has been a lot of philosophising about circles. The numbers do not exist either: it isthis, and it is difficult to think about how our only because of my particular upbringingnervous systems might be distorting or even (which I share with the person who wrote themanufacturing reality without a feeling of computer program) that I am able to distinguishunease. I am personally reassured by the every- patterns standing for abstract numbers in pat-day observation that most adults can drive a car terns of circles e.gon a busy road at eighty miles per hour in rea-sonable safety. This suggests that while our syn-thetic internal representation of the world isn’taccurate, it isn’t at all bad. Abstraction does not end at the point of build-ing an internal representation of the externalworld. My nervous system is quite content totreat my internal representation of the world as 41
  • 50. Notes on Kabbalah And once I begin to reason about the meaning these things using language. In some cases, forof a sequence of numbers I have left the real example, a mathematical object, the thing isworld a long way behind: not only is “number” completely and unambiguously defined usinga complex abstraction, but when I ask a ques- language, while in other cases (for exampletion about the “meaning” of “a sequence of “good”, “sin”) there are no universally acceptednumbers” I am working with an even more definitions. Life is further complicated by a“abstract abstraction”. My ability to happily widespread lack of awareness that these inter-juggle numbers and letters and decide that there nal abstractions are internal. It is common tois an identity between the abstract number find people projecting internal abstractions ontosequence “3, 15, 12, 9, 14” and the character the world as if they were an intrinsic part of thestring “COLIN” is one of those commonplace fabric of existence, and as objectively real as thethings which any person might do. It illustrates particular cup and the particular table I referredhow easy it is to become completely detached to earlier. Marriage is no longer a contractfrom the external world and function within an between a man and a woman; it is an estateinternal world of abstractions which have been made in heaven. What is heaven? God knows.detached from anything in the world for so long And what is God? Trot out your definitions andthat they are taken as real without a second let’s have an argument - that is the way suchthought. questions are answered. In parallel with our ability to structure per- A third element which goes together withception into an internal world of abstractions abstraction and language to complete thewe possess the ability to communicate facts essence of the sephira Hod is reason, and rea-about this internal world. When I say “The cup son’s formal offspring, logic. Reason is the abil-is on the table”, another person is able to iden- ity to articulate and justify our beliefs about thetify in the real world, out of all the information world using a base of generally agreed facts andreaching their senses, something corresponding a generally agreed technique for combiningto the abstraction “table”, something corre- facts to infer valid conclusions.sponding to the abstraction “cup”, and confirm If reason is considered as one out of a numberthe relationship of “on-ness”. of possible processes for establishing what is Why are the “cup” and “table” abstractions? true about the world we live in, for establishingAre they not real? They are abstractions because which models of reality are valid and which arethe word “cup” (or table) does not uniquely not, then it has been phenomenally successful.specify any particular cup in the world. When I In its heyday there were those who saw reasonuse the word I am assuming the listener already as the most divine faculty, the faculty in human-possesses an internal representation of an kind most akin to God, and that legacy is stillabstract object “cup”, and can use that abstract with us - the words “unreasonable” and “irra-representation of a cup to identify a particular tional” are often used to attack and denigrateobject in the context within which my statement someone who does not (or cannot) articulatewas made. what they do or why they do it. We are not normally conscious of this process, There is of course no “reason” why we shouldand don’t need to be when dealing with simple have to articulate or justify anything, even topropositions about real objects in the real world. ourselves, but the reasoning machine within usI think I know what a cup is, and I think you do demands an “explanation” for every phenome-too. If you don’t know, ask someone to show non, and a “reason” for every action. This is ayou a few. characteristic of reason - it is an obsessive mode Life becomes a lot more complicated when we of consciousness. Another characteristic of rea-deal with complex abstractions that are defined son is that it operates on the “garbage-in, gar-purely by agreement with other people and bage-out” principle: if the base of givenhave no real-world referent. What is a “con- propositions a person uses to reason about aretract”, a “treaty”, a “loan”, “limited liability”, a garbage, so are the conclusions - witness what“set”, a “function”, “marriage”, a “tort”, “natu- two thousand years of Christian theology hasral justice”, a “sephira”, a “religion”, “sin”, achieved using sound dialectical principles“good”, “evil”, and so on (and on). inherited from Aristotle. We reach agreement about the definitions of 42
  • 51. The Sephiroth The sephira Hod on the Pillar of Form repre- toothpaste comes out; that is, we could say thatsents the active synthesis of abstract forms in there are three factors giving a form to the tooth-consciousness, and abstraction, language and paste (or life-energy).reason are prime examples. In contrast, the It may seem sloppy and unnecessarily meta-sephira Netzach on the Pillar of Force repre- physical to imply that all needs, wants and feel-sents affective states of consciousness that influ- ings are merely conditions of manifestation ofence how we act and react: these are variously something more basic, some “unconditioneddesignated as needs, wants, drives, feelings, force”, but Kabbalah is primarily a tool formoods and emotions. exploring internal states, and there are internal It is difficult to write about affective states, to states (certainly in my experience) where thisbe clear on the distinction between a need and a force is experienced directly with much less dif-want on one hand, or a feeling or a mood on the ferentiation, hence the need for clumsy meta-other. I find it particularly difficult because the phors involving toothpaste.essence of sadness is being sad, the essence of Textbooks on psychology define a need as anexcitement is the feeling of excitement, the internal state which results in directed behav-essence of desire is the aching, lusting, over- iour, and discuss needs such as thirst, hunger,whelming feeling of desire, and being too precise sex, stimulation, proximity seeking, curiousityabout defining feelings is in the essence of Hod, and so on. These things are interesting, but fornot Netzach. virtually everyone such basic and inherent These things are incommunicable. They can needs are in the nature of “givens” and don’tbe produced in another person, but they cannot provide much individual insight into the ques-be communicated. It is possible to be clinical tions “why do I behave differently from otherand abstract and precise about the sephira Hod people?”, or “should I change my behaviour?”,because an abstract clinical precision captures or more interesting still “to what extent do I (orthat aspect of consciousness perfectly, but when can I) influence my behaviour?”. In addition toattempting to communicate something about inherent needs it is useful also to look at needsNetzach one feels tempted to try to communi- which have been acquired (that is, learned), andcate the feelings themselves, a task more suited for convenience I will call them “wants”to a poet or a musician, an actor or a dancer. because people are usually conscious of “want-Please accept this unfortunate limitation in what ing” something specific.follows, a limitation not necessarily present To give some examples, a person might want:when Kabbalah is learned at first hand from • to buy a bar of chocolate.someone. • to go to the toilet. Netzach is on the Pillar of Force, but in reach- • to own a better car.ing Netzach the Lightning Flash has already • to have a sexual relationship with someone.passed through Binah and Gevurah on the Pillar • to live forever.of Form and so it represents a force conditioned • to be thinner (more muscular, taller, whiter,and constrained by form; when we talk about browner...).Netzach we are talking about the different ways • to read a book.force can be shaped and directed, like tooth-paste squeezed out of a tube. The toothpaste we • to gain social recognition within a particularare talking about is something I will call “life group.force” or “life energy”. As a rule, when I have a • to win in sport.lot of it I feel well and full of vitality, and when I • to go shopping.don’t have much I feel unwell, tired, and vul- • to go to bed.nerable. Not only are these “wants” the sort of thing To continue the somewhat phallic toothpaste many people want, but these “wants” can allmetaphor, the magnitude of pressure on the occur concurrently in the same person. Sometube corresponds to my vitality; the direction in wants may have been simmering away on awhich the toothpaste comes out corresponds to back burner for years, but there can be an aston-a need or a want; and the shape of the nozzle ishing variety of pots and pans waiting for ancorresponds to a feeling. All three factors, pres- immediate turn on the stove. The average per-sure, direction and nozzle determine how the son’s consciousness zips around the kitchen like 43
  • 52. Notes on Kabbalaha demented short-order cook, stirring this dish, me, a crowd of artificial elementals individuallyserving that one, slapping a pot on the stove for ensouled with enough of my energy to bringa few minutes only to take it off and put some- one particular desire to fruition. I cope with thething else on, throwing whole meals in the bin semi-chaotic result of mob rule by using the tra-only to empty them back into pots a few min- ditional remedy: public relations.utes later. The choice of which pot ends up on I put together internal press releases (variousthe hot plate depends largely on mood and acci- rationalisations and justifications) to convincedent. myself, and others if need be, that the mess was Some people may plan their lives like military either due to external circumstances beyond mycampaigns but most don’t. Most people have far control (I didn’t have time last night), the faultmore wants than there are hours in the day to of other people (you made me angry), or inevi-achieve them, and those which are actually sat- table (I had no choice, there was no alternative).isfied on a given day is more a function of acci- In cases where even my public relations don’tdent than design. Careers are thrown away work I erect a shrine to the gods of Guilt and(along with status and security) in a moment of make little offerings of sorrow and regret oversexual infatuation; the desire to eat struggles the years.against the desire to be slim; the writer retires to This is normal consciousness for most people.the country to write the great novel and does It is a kind of insanity. Every day new wants areeverything but write; the manager desperately kicked off in response to media advertising ortries to finish an urgent report but finds himself peer pressure, and old wants compete with eachdreaming about a car he saw in the car park; the other in a zero-sum game. Wants rush to and frostudent abandons an important essay on on the stage of consciousness like actors in theimpulse to go out with friends. closing scenes of Julius Caeser - alarums and A thread of energy is randomly cycled around excursions, bodies litter the stage, trumpets andan arbitrary list of needs and wants to produce battle shouts in the wings, Brutus falls on histhe mixed-up complexity of the average person. sword, Anthony claims the field - perhaps thisEach activity is quickly replaced by another as is why the sephira is called Victory!the person attempts to reconcile all his wants Having said this, I should point out that it isand drives. Unfortunately there is no require- not desire or wants or drives which create thement that wants should be internally consistent insanity - Kabbalah does not place the valueor complementary; some wants can be in direct judgement on desire that Buddhism does (thatopposition, such as the desire to smoke and the desire is the cause of suffering, and by infer-desire to give up smoking. ence, something to be overcome). The insanity Each want can be treated as a distinct mode of arises from mob-rule, from the bizarre internalconsciousness - I can eat a slap-up meal one day processes of justification, rationalisation andand thoroughly enjoy it, while the next day I can guilt, and from the identification of Self with thelook in the mirror and swear never to touch result. I will return to this when discussing theanother pizza again. It is as if two separate sephira Tipheret, as the mis-identification ofbeings inhabited my body, the one who loves Self with an arbitrary mob is a key element inpizzas and the one who wants to be thin, and the discussion on Tipheret.each makes plans independently of the other. It is worth noting that the idea that the humanOnly the magical glitter dust of unbroken mem- mind is a collective is increasingly the orthodoxory sustains the illusion that I am a single per- scientific position. This arises from a number ofson1. separate lines of enquiry. Researchers working When I view my own wants and actions dis- on artificial intelligence find this an appealingpassionately I can conclude that there is a host model, and this viewpoint has been expressedor army of independent beings jostling inside by Marvin Minsky, one of the most influential pioneers in the field, in his Society of Mind. The leading cognitive scientist Daniel Dennet also 1. If memory blackouts did occur, one might describes this idea in Consciousness Explained [9], quickly conclude that separate personali- which he terms the “Many Drafts” model of ties were present. Something of this nature consciousness, and contrasts it with the popular occurs in trance, possession and mediu- view which he terms the “Cartesian Theatre” mistic states. 44
  • 53. The Sephirothmodel. Studies of lesions in the brain have pro- nicate some aspect of it to another person is thatvided detailed evidence of the many bizarre it is possible to misrepresent reality, or to put itways in which cognition can be affected by bluntly, lie through your teeth.organic defects, and Oliver Sacks provides pop- The Illusion of Hod is order, in the sense ofular and moving observations from several case attempting to impose one’s sense of order uponhistories in The man Who Mistook his Wife for a the world. This is very noticeable in some peo-Hat [37]. Lastly, detailed evidence from a wealth ple - whenever something happens they willof neurophysiological studies using modern immediately pigeonhole it and declare withscanning equipment is providing precise maps great authority “it is just another example ofnot only of the localisation of brain function, but XYZ”. A surprising number of people whomany of the modular inter-relationships. claim to be rational will claim “there’s no such thing as (ghosts, telepathy, free lunches, Netzach also corresponds to our feelings, UFO’s)” without having examined the evidenceemotions and moods, because this background one way or the other. They are probably right,of “psychological weather” strongly conditions and I have no personal interest either way, but itthe way in which we think and behave. Regard- is not difficult to distinguish between someoneless of what I am doing, my energy will mani- who carefully weighs the pros and cons in anfest differently when I am happy than when I argument and readily admits to uncertainty,am not. Sometimes moods and emotions are and someone with a firm and orderly convictiontriggered by a specific event, and sometimes that “this is the way the world is”.they are not: free-floating anxiety and depres- The illusion of order occurs because peoplesion are common enough, and free-floating hap- confuse their internal representation of thepiness may be less common but it happens. world with the world itself, and whenever they There are hundreds of words for different are confronted with something from the realmoods, emotions and feelings, but most seem to world they attempt to fit it into their internalrefer to different degrees of intensity of the representation in a way that avoids having tosame thing, or the same feeling in different con- reorganise anything.texts, and the number of genuinely distinct The illusion of order (that everything in theinternal dimensions of feeling appears to be world can be neatly classified) relates closely tosmall. Depression, misery, sadness, happiness, the Klippot of Hod, which is rigidity, or rigiddelight, joy, rapture and ecstasy seem to lie order. As children we start out with an openalong the same axis, as do loathing, hate, dislike, view of what the world is like, and by the timeaffection, and love. It is an interesting exercise we reach our late teens or early twenties thisto identify the genuinely, qualitatively different view has set fairly solid, like cold porridge -feelings you can experience by actually conjur- there are few minds more full of certainties thaning up each feeling. I have tried the experiment that of an eighteen year old.with a number of people, and you will probably A good critical education sometimes has thefind there are less than 10 distinct feelings. effect of stirring the porridge into a lumpy The most immediate and personal corre- gruel, but it gradually starts to set again (unlessspondences for Hod and Netzach are the psy- the heavy hand of fate stirs it up), and by mid-chological correspondences: the rational, dle age most people have an inflexible view ofabstract, intellectual and communicative on one the world. It is generally recognised, particu-hand and the emotional, motivational, intuitive, larly in the sciences, that a deeply ingrainedaesthetic, and non-rational on the other. The sense of “how things are” is the greatest obsta-planetary and elemental correspondences mir- cle to progress. This is why computer geniusesror this: Hod corresponds to Kokab or Mercury, are often depicted as alienated adolescents - it isand the element of Air, while Netzach corre- a symbol of the need for intense adaptability insponds to Nogah or Venus, and the element one of the fastest changing and most complexWater. areas of technology. The Virtue of Hod is honesty or truthfulness, If you hear some kids listening to music andand its Vice is dishonesty or untruthfulness. find yourself thinking “I don’t know what theyOne of the consequences of being able to create find in that noise!” then it’s happening to youabstract representations of reality and commu- too. If find yourself looking back to a time when 45
  • 54. Notes on Kabbalaheverything was so much better than it is today Netzach, hence the attribution of selfishness toand find yourself declaring “nostalgia isn’t the Vice.what it used to be” then you will know that the The Vision of Netzach is the Vision of Beautyporridge has set very cold and very stiff. Rigid Triumphant. Whereas the Vision of Splendourorder is not only having a firm view of “how the corresponding to Hod is a vision of complexworld is”; it is also losing the capacity to change, abstract relationships, symmetry, and mathe-it is becoming frozen in a particular view of matical elegance, the Vision of Beauty Trium-things, like a fly trapped in amber. phant is purely aesthetic and firmly based in the The Vision of Hod is the Vision of Splendour. real world of textures, smells, sounds, and col-There is regularity and order in the world - it’s ours, an appropriate correspondence for Venus,not all an illusion - and when someone is able to the goddess of sensual beauty.appreciate natural order in its abstract sense, via Suppose two housebuyers go to look at amathematics for example, it can lead to a genu- house. The first is interested in the number ofinely religious, even ecstatic experience. The rooms, the size of the garage, the house’s posi-thirteenth century Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia tion relative to local amenities, the price, thedeveloped a rigorous system of Hebrew letter number of square metres in the plot, andmysticism based on the letters of the Hebrew whether the windows are double-glazed. Thealphabet, their symbolic meanings, and their second person likes the decoration in theabstract relationships when permuted into dif- lounge, the colour of the bathroom, the wisteriaferent “names of God”. Many hours of intense plant in the garden, the cherry tree, the curvingconcentration were spent combining letters shape of the stairs, and the sloping roof in one ofaccording to complex rules which generated the bedrooms. Both people like the house, buthighly abstract symbolic meanings and insights, the first likes various abstract properties associ-leading to ecstatic experiences. ated with the house, whereas the second likes The same sense of awe can come from mathe- the house itself. Suppose the same two peoplematics and science - the realisation that gravita- buy the house and decide to do ritual magic.tional dynamics in three dimensions is The first person wants white robes becausegeometry in four dimensions, that plants are liv- white is the colour of the powers of light anding fractals, that primes are the seeds of all other life. The second wants a green velvet robenumbers; these simple insights are just as likely because it feels and looks nice. The first readsto lead towards an intense vision of the splen- lots of books on how to carry out a ritual, whiledour of the world made visible through the eye the second sits under the cherry tree in the gar-of the rational intellect. den and does something which feels right at the The Virtue of Netzach is unselfishness, and time.its Vice is selfishness. Both the Virtue and the The first person has continued to makeVice are an attitude towards things-which-are- choices based on an abstract notion of what isnot-me, specifically, other people and living correct, while the second makes choices basedcreatures. on what feels right. Both are driven by an inter- If I was surrounded by a hundred square nal sense of “rightness”, but in the first case it ismiles of empty desert then my attitude to other based on abstract criteria, while in the second itliving things wouldn’t matter, but I am not, and is based on personal aesthetic notion of beauty.nothing I do is without some consequence; my The Vision of Beauty Triumphant has a com-own needs, wants and feelings invariably have pelling power. It is pre-articulate and inherentlyan effect on people, animals and plants, who all uncritical, and at the same time it is immenselywant to live and have some level of needs and biased. A person in its grip will pronouncewants and feelings too. Unselfishness is simply judgement on another person’s taste in art, liter-a recognition of others’ needs. Selfishness taken ature, clothes, music, decor or whatever, andto an extreme is a denial of life, because it denies will do it with such a profound lack of self-con-freedom and life to anything which gets in the sciousness that it is possible to believe goodway. Selfishness is the principle that my needs taste is ordained in heaven. This person willcome first. Netzach lies on the Pillar of Force mock those who surround themselves withand is an expression of life-energy, so to deny rules, regulations, principles, and analysis, thelife is a perversion of the force symbolised by “syntax of things” as E. E. Cummings puts it, 46
  • 55. The Sephirothand instead exhibit a whimsical spontaneity, a myself, and I was trying to find this ideal in eve-penetrating (so they believe) intuition, and a ryone else. Each one of these “templates” was afree spirit in tune with ebb and flow of life. living aspect of myself which I had chosen not There are those who might complain about to regard as “me”, and in compensation I spenttheir astounding arrogance, fickleness, unrelia- much of my time trying to find people to bringbility, and the never-ending flow of unshakable these parts to life, like a director auditioningand prejudiced opinions delivered with a mag- actors and actresses for a part in a new play. If aisterial authority, but those who complain are person previously identified as ideal failed to(clearly) anal-retentive nit-pickers and don’t live up to my notion of how they should be ide-count. For a total immersion in the nightmare of ally behaving then I would project a fault ona purely aesthetic vision one should read Oscar them: there was something wrong with them!Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey. Madness indeed. The Illusion of Netzach is projection. We all The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung recognisedtend to perceive feelings and characteristics in this phenomenon and gave these idealised andother people which we find in ourselves, and projected components of our psyche the titlewhen we guess right it is called “empathy” or “archetype”. Jung identified several arche-“intuition”. When we guess wrong it is called types, and it is worth mentioning the major and“projection”, because we are incorrectly ascrib- most influential, as they can often be found ining our feelings, needs, motives, or desires to cases of projection.another person and interpreting their behaviour The Anima is the ideal female archetype. Sheaccordingly. It is as if we were “projecting” our is part genetic, part cultural, a figure molded byown feelings onto the world like a film projec- fashion and advertising, an unconscious com-tor. posite of woman in the abstract. The Anima is Some level of projection is unavoidable, and common in men, where she can appear with riv-at best it can be balanced with a critical aware- eting power in dreams and fantasy, a projectionness that it can occur. Nevertheless, projection is brought to life by the not inconsiderable powerinsidious. Projection usually “feels right”, and of the male sexual drive. She might be meek andthe strength of feeling associated with a projec- submissive, seductive and alluring, vampishtion can easily overwhelm any intellectual and dangerous, a cheap slut or an unattainableawareness. goddess. There is no “standard anima”, but One of the most overwhelming forms of pro- there are many recognisable patterns whichjection accompanies sexual desire. Why do I have a powerful hold on particular men. Malefind one person sexually attractive and not sexual fantasy material (found on the top shelfanother? Why do I find some characteristics in a in newsagents for example) is amazingly pre-person sexually attractive but not others? In my dictable, cliched, and unimaginitive, and con-own case I discovered that when I put together tains a limited number of steroetyped views ofall the characteristics I found most attractive in a women which are as close to a “lowest commonperson a consistent picture emerged of an “ideal denominator anima” as one is likely to find.person”, and every person I had ever consid- The Animus is the ideal male archetype, andered as a possible sexual partner was instantly much of what is true about the Anima is true ofcompared against this template. In fact there the Animus. There are differences; the predomi-was more than one template, more than one nant quality in the Anima is her appearance andideal, but the number was limited and each tem- behaviour, while the predominant quality in theplate was very clearly defined, and most impor- Animus is social power and competence. In thetantly, each template was internal. My sexual interests of sexual equality it is worth mention-(and often many other feelings) about a person ing that female romantic fantasy material is alsowere based on an apparently arbitrary internal amazingly predictable, cliched and unimagin-template. itive, and contains a limited number of stereo- This was crazy. I found my sexual feelings type views of men which are as close to aabout a person would change depending on “lowest common denominator animus” as onehow they dressed or behaved, on how well they is likely to find.“matched the ideal”. It became obvious that The Shadow is the projection of “not-me” andwhat I was in love with did not exist outside of contains forbidden or repressed desires and 47
  • 56. Notes on Kabbalahimpulses. In most men the Anima is repressed things, becomes locked into patterns whichand in most women the Animus is repressed, repeat over and over again, then the life energy,and so both form a component of the Shadow. the force aspect of Netzach is withdrawn andHowever, the major part of the Shadow is com- what remains is the dead, empty shell of behav-posed of forbidden impulses, and the Shadow iour. Just as the Klippot of Hod is rigid order,forms a personification of evil. Much of what is the petrification of one’s internal representationconsidered evil is defined socially and the com- of reality, so the Klippot of Netzach is the petri-munal personification of evil as an external fication of behaviour.force working against humankind (such as The God Names of Hod and Netzach are Elo-Satan) is widespread. him Tzabaoth and Jehovah Tzabaoth respec- The Persona is the mask a person wears as a tively, which mean “God of Armies”, but inmember of a community where a large propor- each case a different word is used for “God”.tion of his or her behaviour is defined by a role The name “Elohim” is associated with all threesuch as doctor, teacher, manager, accountant, sephiroth on the Pillar of Form and represents alawyer or whatever. Projection occurs in two female (metaphorically speaking) tendency inways: firstly, someone may be expected to con- that aspect of God1.form to a role in a particularly rigid or stereo- The Archangels are Raphael and Haniel. Thetyped way, and so suffer a loss of individuality Archangel of Hod is sometimes given asand probably incur a degree of misplaced trust Michael, but many authors prefer Raphaelor prejudice. Secondly, many people identify (Medicine of God) by reason of the associationwith a role to the extent that they carry that role of Mercury with medicine and healing. Besides,into all aspects of their private lives. This “pro- Michael has perfectly good reasons for residingjection onto self” is a form of identification - see in Tipheret, as his name is often interpreted asthe section on Tipheret. “who is like unto God”, and Tipheret is a reflec- The archetype of Self at the level of Hod and tion of Keter.Netzach is usually projected as an ideal form of This sort of thing can give rise to an amazingperson: that is, someone will believe that he or amount of hot air when Kabbalists meet. Forshe is highly imperfect, but it is possible to those who wonder how far back the confusionattain an ideal state of being in which this same goes, Robert Fludd (1574-1607) plumped forperson is kind, loving, wise, forgiving, compas- Raphael, whereas two hundred years later Fran-sionate, in harmony with the Absolute, and cis Barrett, author of The Magus, preferedother pick’n’mix saintly attributes. This projec- Michael. The co-founder of the Golden Dawn,tion of perfection will fasten on a living or dead S.L. Mathers, went for both depending on whichperson, who then becomes a hero, heroine, text you read.guru, or master, with grossly inflated abilities. Kabbalah isn’t an orderly subject and those This projection may also fasten on a vision of who want to impose too much order on it are“myself made perfect”. The projected vision of falling into the illusion of ... I leave this as an“myself made perfect” is common (almost uni- exercise to the reader.versal) among those seeking “spiritual develop- The Angel Orders of the two sephiroth are thement”, “esoteric training”, and other forms of Beni Elohim, meaning Children of the Gods,self-improvement, and in almost every case it is and the Elohim, sometimes translated “Godsbased on an abstract ideal. The person affected and Goddess”. There is no suspicion of polythe-by this condition will probably insist that the ism here - the names reflect the idea of “Hosts”human ideal has actually existed in certain rare and the plurality of consciousness.individuals (usually long dead saints and gurus, The triad of sephiroth Yesod, Hod andor someone who lives a long way off), and that Netzach comprises the triad of “normal con-is the sort of person he or she wants to be. sciousness” as we normally experience it in our- It should be comical, but it isn’t. There is more selves and most people most of the time. Thisto say about this and it will keep till the sectionon Tipheret. 1. The elucidation of God Names can become The Klippot or shell of Netzach is habit and phenomenally complex and obscure, withroutine. When behaviour, with all its potential long excursions into gematria and textualfor new experiences and new ways of doing analysis of the Pentateuch, and this is a quagmire I have determined to avoid. 48
  • 57. The Sephirothlevel of consciousness is intensely magical; try is Devotion to the Great Work. What is thisto move away from it for any length of time and “Great Work”? The student is told solemnlyyou will discover the strength of the force and that in order to find the answer he or she shouldform sustaining it. obtain the Spiritual Experience of Tipheret, It is not an exaggeration to say that most peo- which is the Knowledge and Conversation ofple are completely unable to leave this state, the Holy Guardian Angel. So the student runseven when they want to, even when they des- off and duely reports (after some work in theperately try to. The sephira Tipheret represents library perhaps) that the Great Work is the rais-a state of being which unlocks the energy of ing of a human being to perfection. Or it is the“normal consciousness” and is the subject of the saving of the planet from industrial pollution.next section. Or it is the retrieval and perpetuation of knowl- edge, or perhaps it is the spiritual redemption of Tipheret humanity. The student then burns enough “Nothing is left to you at this moment but frankincense to pay off the Somalian national to burst out into a loud laugh” debt, records endless conversations with the From “The Spirit of Zen” by Alan Watts Holy Guardian Angel in his or her magical record, and impresses all and sundry with an unbending commitment to the Great Work. The sephira Tipheret lies at the heart of the This enthusiasm, commitment, personal sacri-Tree of Life, and like Rome, all paths lead to it. fice and sense of moral purpose leads to theAlmost. Tipheret has a path linking it to every development of a special kind of person: some-sephira with the exception of Malkhut. If the one who might be referred to colloquially as “aTree of Life is a map then the sephira titled complete arsehole”. A person thus afflicted canTipheret, Beauty, or Rachamin, Compassion, become pious, preaching, and judgemental, aclearly represents something of central impor- humble servant of the highest powers, but withtance. What does it represent? a blind spot of intolerance. Those who inhabit Can you imagine in your mind’s eye what it the vicinity of such moral incandescence maymight be? Do you feel anything within you have reason to recall that the Vice of Tipheret iswhen you contemplate Tipheret? If asked could self-importance and pride.you define what it stands for? Well, if you can A student might spend years running arounddo any or all of these things you are almost cer- in circles, bringing to the planet the benefits oftainly barking up the wrong Tree. As Alan advanced spiritual consciousness, and thisWatts comments [42]: seems to be a necessary exercise. People need to “The method of Zen is to baffle, excite, puzzle and exhaust the intellect until it is sweat various personal obsessions out of their realised that intellection is only thinking systems, and the empty room of Tipheret is an about; it will provoke, irritate and again excellent set on which to act out a personal exhaust the emotions until it is realised drama. If the devotion to the Work is genuine, that emotion is only feeling about, and and if Tipheret and the HGA are invoked with then it contrives, when the disciple has passion and determination, then sooner or later been brought to an intellectual and emo- the hand of fate intervenes and the student has tional impasse, to bridge the gap between the shit knocked out of him or her in a big way. second-hand conceptual contact with An attempt to penetrate the nature of Tipheret reality, and first-hand experience.” does seem to bring about that state which the The sephira Tipheret presents the student of Greeks called “hubris”, an overweening arro-Kabbalah with a conundrum. Whatever you say gance, self-importance and pride, and eventu-it is, it isn’t; whatever you imagine it to be it ally the inevitable happens and one’s life comesisn’t; whatever you feel it might be, it isn’t. It is crashing down around one’s ears.an empty room. There is nothing there. The The resulting mess varies from person to per-modes of consciousness appropriate to Hod, son. In some people every idea about what isYesod and Netzach respectively are not appro- important is turned upside down, while in oth-priate to something which is clearly and unam- ers an emotional attachment to habits, lifestyle,biguously shown on the Tree as being distinct possessions or relationships turns to dust. Thefrom all three. So what is it? daemon of the false self is dealt a massive blow The student is told that the Virtue of Tipheret 49
  • 58. Notes on Kabbalahand sent reeling, and in that moment there is a ies.chance for real change and the dawning of the The Golden Dawn Tipheret initiation was,golden sun of Tipheret. like most Golden Dawn rituals, a witch’s brew This is my personal interpretation the word of symbolism, but it was strongly based on the“Initiation”. There is a state of being repre- mysteries of the crucifixion and the resurrectionsented by the sephira Tipheret which is abso- - at one point the aspirant was actually lashed tolutely distinct from what most people a cross - and took place in a symbolic recon-experience as normal consciousness. Once struction of the vault and tomb of Christianattained, the change is irreversible and perma- Rosenkreutz. The following extract [35] givesnent and it causes a permanent change in the the flavour of the thing:way life is experienced. When it occurs it is rec- “Buried with that Light in a mysticalognised instantly for what it is ... as if every cell death, rising again in a mystical resurrec-in one’s body shouted simultaneously “So that’s tion, cleansed and purified through Himall there is to it!” our Master, O Brother of the Cross and the Rose. Like Him, O Adepts of all ages, This state has been widely documented in have ye toiled. Like Him have ye sufferedmany parts of the world, and Alan Watts’ book tribulation. Poverty, torture and death[42] is as guarded and explicit on the subject as have ye passed through. They have beenany worthwhile book is likely to be. but the purification of the Gold.” The symbolism of Tipheret is three-fold: a Gold is a Tipheret symbol, being the metal ofking, a sacrificed god, and a child. This three- Shemesh, the Sun, which also corresponds tofold symbolism corresponds to Tipheret’s place Tipheret. Gold is incorruptible and symbolises aon the Extended Tree (see Chapter 8), where it state of being which is not “base” or “corrupt”.appears as Keter of Assiah, Tipheret of Yetzirah, It is a symbol of initiation, of a state of beingand Malkhut of Briah, and to these three aspects compared to which normal consciousness is cor-correspond the king, the sacrificed god, and the ruptible dross.child respectively. I do not wish to go any further into this kind One interpretation of this symbolism is as fol- of symbolism - there is a great deal of it. It islows: if the kingdom is to be redeemed then the possible to write at great length and succeed inking (who is also the son of God - see below) doing little more than losing the reader in a webmust be sacrificed, and from this sacrifice comes of symbolism so dense and sticky that the innera rebirth as a child. This is a metaphor of initia- state one is pointing at becomes a sterile thing oftion. It is also markedly Christian in symbolism, words and symbols. I wanted to provide an ideaan aspect many Christian Kabbalists have not of how a large amount of exotic symbolism hasfailed to elaborate upon, but it would be a mis- accreted around Tipheret, but that is all. Thetake to make too much out of the apparent state indicated by Tipheret is real enough, andChristian symbolism. The king, the child and the lashing comfortably-off, middle-class aspir-the son are synonyms for Tipheret in the earliest ants to a cross in a wooden vault at the localKabbalistic documents (e.g. the Zohar), and the Masonic Hall and prattling on about poverty,introduction of divine kingship and the sacri- torture and death is somewhat wide of theficed god into modern Kabbalah probably owes mark.more to the publication of “The Golden Bough” In the traditional Kabbalah the sephira[14] in 1922 than it does to Christianity. Tipheret corresponds to something called Zoar The theme of death and rebirth is an impor- Anpin, the Microprosopus, or Lesser Counte-tant element in many esoteric traditions, and nance. There is also something called Arikprovides continuity between modern Kabbalah Anpin, the Macroprosopus, or Greater Counte-and the mystery religions and initiations of the nance, and this is often used as a synonym forMediterranean basin. The initiatory rituals of the sephira Keter. The symbology connectedthe Golden Dawn [35], an organisation which with the Greater and Lesser Countenances isdid much to reawaken interest in Kabbalah, extremely complex: the “Greater Holy Assem-were loosely inspired by the Eleusinian myster- bly”, one of the books of the Zohar, is largely aies of Demeter and Persephone - at least to detailed description of the cranium, the eyes,extent that the Temple officers were named after the cheeks, and the hairs in the beard of both thethe principal officers of the Eleusinian myster- Greater and Lesser Countenances. 50
  • 59. The Sephiroth In a crude sense the Macroprosopus is God, are with the totality of their beliefs and behav-and the Microprosopus is man made in God’s iours. Often they will defend the sanctity ofimage, hence the symbolism, but this is too sim- these beliefs and behaviours to the death - a per-ple. The Microprosopus is also the archetypal son might have behaviours which make theirman Adam Kadmon, a mystical concept which life an utter misery and still cling to them with ashould not be confused with a real human grip like a python. This inability to stand backbeing. Adam Kadmon is androgynous, male and see behaviour or beliefs in an impersonaland female, Adam-and-Eve in a pre-manifest, way produces a peculiar ego-centricity. Thepre-Fall state of divine perfection. The symbol- sense of personal identity is founded on a set ofogy of the Macroprosopus, Microprosopus, and beliefs and behaviours which are largely uncon-Adam Kadmon appears to exist independently scious (that is, a person may be unaware ofof the concept of sephirothic emanation, and it being grotesquely selfish, or pompous, or atten-is probably fair to say that the former was more tion-seeking) and at the same time seem to behighly developed during the Zoharic period of uniquely special and sacred.Kabbalah, while the latter is used almost exclu- When behaviour and beliefs are unconscioussively at the present time - I have yet to encoun- and incorporated into a sense of identity itter a modern Kabbalist with much practical becomes impossible for someone so afflicted toinsight into the thirteen parts of the beard of the make sense of other people. Such a person can-Macroprosopus. not take into account aspects of his or her Another rich set of symbols associated with behaviour that are unconscious, and so is una-Tipheret comes from the divine name of four ware of the impact on other people. For exam-letters YHVH, usually anglicised as Jehovah or ple, if I am selfish, but unaware of this, I willYahweh. The letter Yod is associated with the need to invent explanations for why other peo-supernal father Chokhmah, and the letter He is ple dislike me. I may need to fabricate a worldassociated with the supernal mother Binah. The of explanations to explain behaviour in otherletter Vov is associated with the son of the people which is a direct result of my (uncon-mother and father, and is both the Microproso- scious) selfishness.pus and the sephira Tipheret (sometimes Daat). The sense of identity becomes a kind ofThe final He is associated with the daughter “Absolute” against which everything is com-(and bride of the son), the sephira Malkhut. pared, and judgements about the world becomeTipheret is thus the “child” of Chokhmah and absolute and almost impossible to change, evenBinah, and also “the son of God”. In Hebrew the when we realise intellectually the subjectivity ofletter Vov can represent the number 6, and in our position.Kabbalah this refers to Chesed, Gevurah, Referring to this projection of the unconsciousTipheret, Netzach, Hod and Yesod, the six onto the world Jung [20] comments:sephiroth which correspond to states of human “The effect of projection is to isolate theconsciousness and hence also to the Micropro- subject from his environment, sincesopus. With a typical Kabbalistic flexibility they instead of a real relation to it there is nowcan also stand for the six days of Creation 1. only an illusory one. Projections change the world into one’s unknown face.” The illusion of Tipheret is Identification.When a person is asked “what are you”, they In summary, the illusion of Tipheret is a falsewill usually begin with statements like “I am a identification with a set of beliefs or behaviours.human being”, “I am a lorry driver”, “I am Fred It can also be an identification with a socialBloggs”, “I am five foot eleven”. If pressed fur- mask or Persona, something discussed in thether a person might begin to enumerate per- section on Netzach. So we return to the originalsonal qualities and behaviours: “I am question: “what are you?”. Is there an answer?trustworthy”, “I lose my temper a lot”, “I am If the answer is to be something which is not anafraid of heights”, “I love chessecake”, “I hate arbitrary collection of emphemera then you aredogs”. not your behaviours - behaviour can be It is common for people to identify what they changed; you are not your beliefs - beliefs can be changed; you are not your role in society - your role in society can change; you are not your 1. This symbolism was incorporated into the body - your body is continually changing. glyph on the title page of this book. Out of this comes a sense of emptiness, of hol- 51
  • 60. Notes on Kabbalahlowness. The intellect attempts to solve the koan human experience. Tipheret is a reflection ofof koans “Who or what am I?”, but has no Keter and represents the “image of God”, theanchor to hold on to. Is there no centre to my “God within”, whatever you take that to mean.being, nothing which is me, no axis in the uni- Tipheret is a symbol of centrality, balance,verse, no morality, no good, no evil? Do I live in and above all, wholeness. It can be an emptya meaningless, arbitrary universe where any room, a gaping emptiness, or it can be the heartbelief is as good as any other, where any behav- and blazing sun of the Tree. It is the symbol of aiour is acceptable so long as I can get away with human being who lives in full consciousness ofit? This sense of emptiness or hollowness is the the outer and the inner, who denies neither theKlippot or shell of Tipheret, Tipheret as the reality of the world nor the mystery of self-con-Empty Room with Nothing In It. The psycholo- sciousness, and who attempts to reconcile thegist C.G. Jung [21] provides a memorable and needs of both in a harmonious balance.moving description of how his father, a countryparson, was progressively consumed by this Gevurah and Chesedfeeling of hollowness and spiritual aridity. “The chief foundations of all states, newThere can be few fates worse than to devote a as well as old or mixed, are good laws andlife to the outward forms of religion without good arms; and because there cannot beever feeling one touch of that which gives it good laws where there are not good arms,meaning. and where there are good arms there The God Name of Tipheret is Jehovah Aloah must needs be good laws, I will omitva Daat, or simply Aloah va Daat. It is often speaking of the laws and speak of thetranslated as “God made manifest in the sphere arms.”of the mind”. The Archangel is sometimes given Machiavellias Raphael, but I prefer the attribution to “God is the great urge that has not yetMichael, long associated with solar fire. His found a body but urges towards incarna-name “Who is like God” reinforces the upper/ tion with the great creative urge.”lower relationship between Keter and Tipheret. D.H. LawrenceThe angel order is the Malachim, or Kings. The title of the sephira Gevurah is translated as “strength”, and sometimes as “power”. The To cover all of the traditional material related sephira is also referred to by its alternative titlesto Tipheret is to cover most of Kabbalah. of Din, “justice”, and Pachad, “fear”. The title ofTipheret is at the centre of a complex of six the sephira Chesed is translated as “mercy” orsephiroth which represent a human being. This “love”, and it is often called Gedulah, “majesty”is not a modern interpretation, an “initiated” or “magnificence”.interpretation of obscure medieval documents. Gevurah and Chesed lie on the Pillars ofKabbalah has always been deeply concerned Form and Force respectively, and possess awith the dynamics of the relationship between more definite and generally agreed symbolismGod and the Creation, between God and a than most of the sephiroth. Chesed stands forhuman being, and the descriptions of the Mac- expansiveness and the creation and building-uproprosopus and Microprosopus in the Zohar are of form, what can very appropriately bea bold attempt to grasp something ineffable referred to as anabolism, and Gevurah standsusing a language built from the most immediate for restraint and both the preservation of form,of metaphors: the human body. and the breaking-down (or catabolism) of form. According to both the Bible and to Kabbalah, a Within the symbolism of the Kabbalah thehuman being is in some sense a reflection of most explicit and concrete expression of formGod. To the extent that Kabbalah is an outcome occurs in Malkhut, the physical world, and as itof genuine mystical experience, it is a descrip- takes a conscious being (e.g. thee and me) totion of the dynamics of the relationship between comprehend the world in terms of forms whicha human being and God, and more importantly are built-up and broken down, so Chesed andit is a description of something real. Even if you Gevurah express something vital about our con-don’t like the look of the word “God” (I don’t) scious relationship with the external, materialKabbalah is trying to express something impor- world. When I see something beautiful beingtant about a relatively inaccessible dimension of created I may well think this is “good”, and 52
  • 61. The Sephirothwhen I see the same thing being wantonly seek what is good for the many, and the powerdestroyed, I would probably think this is “bad”. to judge and punish those opposed to the will of This type of thinking pervades early Kabbalis- the king. The following description of Margarettic writing. In his commentary on the Bahir, Thatcher comes from Nicholas Ridley, a minis-Aryeh Kaplan writes [23]: ter in her cabinet [36]: “The concept of Chesed-Love is that of “She governed with superb style, carry- freely giving, while that of Gevurah- ing every war into the enemy’s camp, Strength is that of restraint. When it is seeking to destroy rather than contain the said that Strength is restraint, it is in the opposition, and determined to blaze a sense of the teaching “Who is strong, he radical trail. But she never let power cor- who restrains his urge”. It is obvious that rupt her; nor did she ever fail to be com- man can restrain his nature, but if man passionate and kind as a human being.” can do so, then God certainly can. God’s Whether this description is accurate or not is nature, however, is to do good and there- irrelevant to this discussion. What it does do is fore, when He restrains His nature, the capture in two sentences something essential result is evil. The sephira of Gevurah- about the traditional image of a great leader: the Strength is therefore seen as the source of evil.” balance between power, strength and militancy on one hand, and humanitarianism, compassion The Zohar also contains many references to and caring on the other. This is very much athe “rigorous severity” of God (another syno- model of divine kingship (or queenship!): a kingnym for Gevurah) and its being the source of who loves and cares for his people and seeks toevil in the creation. However, when one consid- bring about “heaven on earth”, but at the sameers that the creation and uncontrolled growth of time punishes transgression, and fights for anda cancer would correspond to Chesed, and the preserves what is good and worth preserving.attempts of the immune system to contain and Kabbalists thought of God in this way. Goddestroy it would correspond to Gevurah, it loves us (so the argument goes), and the mercyshould be clear that it is not useful to consider and benignity of God is represented by thecreation and destruction purely in terms of sephira Chesed, but at the same time God hasgood and evil. It is useful to look at a living, made his laws known to humankind and willorganic system as a balance between these two judge and punish anyone who opposes theseopposed tendencies, and in Kabbalah the Crea- laws. Read the book of Proverbs in the Bible iftion is pictured as a living, organic system: the you want to enter into this view of reality.Tree of Life. Many modern Kabbalists have a more jaun- The most vivid metaphors for Chesed and diced view of leadership than medieval Kabba-Gevurah come from a time when European lists, and certainly do not see Chesed as purelysocieties were ruled by kings and queens, when, the love or mercy of God. In the twentieth cen-in principle at least, the ultimate authority and tury we have seen a succession of leaders har-power in society rested in a single individual. ness their vision, creativity and leadership toChesed corresponds to the creative aspects of the four Vices of Chesed, which are tyranny,leadership, and early texts are one-sided in bigotry, hypocrisy and gluttony. It takes ancharacterising this by love, mercy and majesty. uncommon skill and vision not only to contem-Gevurah corresponds to the conservative plate the annihilation of entire races, but to cre-aspects of leadership, to the power to preserve ate a structure in which this happens. Howthe status-quo, and the power to destroy any- many people would dream of a socialist utopiathing opposed to it. where traditional communities are forcibly bull- These two aspects go hand-in-hand. Try to dozed and replaced by dilapidated concretechange anything of consequence in society, and slums? How many people have the power tosomeone will invariably oppose that change. To make this happen?bring about change it is often necessary to have You may not like this kind of leadership, but itthe power to over-rule opposition. Consensus is is still leadership, and in its own way it isan impossibility in society - there will always be inspired. A leader may be inspired by a vision,someone whose opinions are at best ignored and may have the power to bring that visionand at worst suppressed. Chesed and Gevurah into reality, but it is also a fact that the result canrepresent respectively the kingly obligation to become a new definition of evil. Good and evil 53
  • 62. Notes on Kabbalahare not static qualities with fixed meanings; in oppression one can see a very human vulnera-every generation there are exemplars who bility, self-importance, vanity, folly, insecurity,define for the whole of society the meaning of and greed.the words in new contexts. Tamerlane may have The vices of Chesed are the vices of all thebuilt pyramids from human skulls, but what other sephiroth writ large - power magnifies adid he know about asset stripping? vice until it becomes a ravening monster. A man Tyranny, bigotry, hypocrisy and gluttony, the with rigid and unbending views on humanvices of Chesed, are the meat and drink of daily morality will do no harm if he has no audience,newspapers. Tyranny is leadership without but give him enough power and he will putauthority, an illegitimate or unconstitutional society in chains which might last a thousandleadership usually oiled with large helpings of years. A greedy man with enough power cancruelty, the Vice of Gevurah. loot an entire country. A petty and irrational Bigotry is a quick and easy way to drum up a bigot with enough power can enslave or annihi-power base: find a minority group in society, late whole races. They say power corrupts, butemphasise and magnify to grotesque propor- this is not so; corruption is already within all oftions the differences between them and the rest us, and we lack only the necessary authorityof society, and use the natural fear of the strange and power to unleash our own personal evil onor unfamiliar to do the rest. the world. Hypocrisy can be found in religious leaders The moral is that power needs to be temperedwho denounce normal human behaviour as a by mercy and love, and the correspondences forsin, sin comprehensively in private, and use Chesed emphasise this so strongly it is easy togenuine religious aspirations as in excuse to line for a novice to ignore the appalling negativetheir pockets. Hypocrisy can be found in those qualities of Chesed - power without restraint,who talk about the dictatorship of the proletar- indiscriminate destruction, everything in excess.iat in public and buy their luxury goods from The Virtue of Chesed is humility, the ideal ofexclusive party shops - the collapse of state leadership without self- importance and all itssocialism in Europe has revealed the full extent accompanying vices. The Spiritual Vision ofto which pious utterances about social equality Chesed is the Vision of Love, love and caring forwere a cover for almost limitless privileges for all living things, and the desire to find a way (bethe few. it ever so small - remember humility) to make Gluttony is over-consumption, an appetite the world a better place.well in excess of need, and one has only to There is a strong message in the positive cor-remember Imelda Marcos’s wardrobe to get the respondences for Chesed: without humility andidea. It is virtually a fashion among modern love, leadership and power become the instru-tyrants to siphon billions of dollars into Swiss ments of self-importance, and the petty vices ofbank accounts - the scale on which men like Idi human nature are transformed into monsters ofAmin Dada, Ferdinand Marcos, Baby Doc evil which terrorise the human race.Duvalier, Mengistu, and Saddam Hussein (to The illusion of Chesed is Right, in the sense ofname but a few) were able to beggar nations for “being right”. It is difficult to lead if one sits ontheir own personal advantage goes so far every fence and wavers on every question, butbeyond any rational measure of human need it no-one is ever right with a capital “R”, and any-is hard to comprehend. one who seeks the reassurance of Being Right is When one looks at the worst twentieth cen- evading the essence of responsibility.tury tyrants, men who were directly responsible The Klippot of Chesed is ideology, not in thefor the deaths of thousands or millions of peo- philosophical sense, but in the common-useple, it is hard to find any Einsteins of evil. One is sense of “political ideology”. The rationalestruck by the sheer ordinariness of these men. behind this is that it is very easy to take a creed,Clever, manipulative, politically adept, lucky, or a doctrine, or a dogma, or whatever, and useexceptional in their ability to climb to the top of it as a platform for leadership. When you see athe heap, successful in grasping and holding politician (or a religious leader) being inter-power, but not conscious, plotting allies of a ter- viewed on television, and the response to everyrible dark power. Behind the brutality, murder, question is just the same old empty jargon, thetorture, imprisonment, and the apparatus of same old formulae, the same old evasions, the 54
  • 63. The Sephirothsame old arguments and irrefutable assertions, knows.and you feel you have heard the same thing a Sometimes I think, in common with the earli-dozen times before out of a dozen different est Kabbalists, that Malkhut sits upon themouths, then you are listening to the dead, throne of Binah, and at no point will we find theempty shell of leadership. raw gloop of Malkhut. Someone will write The sephira Gevurah is as often misunder- down an equation and show the properties ofstood as the sephira Chesed. The planet associ- quarks and gluons are a natural consequence ofated with Chesed is (appropriately) Tzedek, the form of the equation, and the form of theJupiter, leader of the gods; the planet associated equation is one of those things beyond any pos-with Gevurah is Madim, Mars, the god of war sibility of explanation. “Look” we will say, “Theand destruction. The magical image of Gevurah form of all things is a potential outcome of thisis a king in a chariot, or conversely a mighty one equation. The mother of everything thatwarrior. exists can be written down on a piece of paper. Most novices (particularly young men) take Look, here it is!”this imagery at face value and envision Gevurah There is a deep mystery in form. The world isas a very forceful, violent and destructive not made of things, but of patterns. In oursephira, and cannot understand why it is posi- minds we accept the reality of these patterns,tioned on the pillar of form. Almost all novices and forget that the sweet, white stuff we put inwill attribute the emotion of anger to Gevurah. our tea and coffee is just one of an infiniteIt is worth recalling from Chapter 3. a tradi- number of patterns of carbon, hydrogen andtional Kabbalistic view [39]: oxygen. Carbon is just one of a large number of “It must be remembered that to the Kab- combinations of protons, neutrons and elec- balist, judgement [Din - judgement, a title trons, and so on. We forget that War and Peace is of Gevurah] means the imposition of lim- just one of an infinite number of combinations its and the correct determination of of letters of the alphabet. The patterns are our things. According to Cordovero the qual- reality, and I suspect that only the patterns are ity of judgement is inherent in everything real - there is nothing more real than patterns insofar as everything wishes to remain what it is, to stay within its bounderies.” waiting to be discovered. I have read graduate texts on quantum electrodynamics and quan- This is a statement about form. The form of tum chromodynamics, and I find no grey gloop1something determines what it is, in distinction mentioned anywhere.from everything else, and when it no longer has The view of reality in Wittgenstein’s Tractatusthat form, it no longer is. Take a table tennis ball [43] has a deeply Kabbalistic (if one-sided) fla-and squash it; it stops being a table tennis vour, the Vision of Splendour of Hod in a dis-ball...it stops being a ball. Something still exists tilled form:in the world, but its form as a ball has been “If I know an object I also know all itsdestroyed. Take these notes and randomly jum- possible occurrences in states of affairs.ble the letters; the letters still exist, but the notes (Every one of these possibilities must beare gone. These notes are contained in the form part of the nature of the object). A newof the letters; destroy the form of the letters and possibility cannot be discovered later. If Ithe notes are also destroyed. am to know an object, though I need not Everything in the world is its form. We cannot know its external properties, I must knowsee the natural substance of the world; we can- all its internal properties. If all objects arenot see atoms, and even if we could, we would given, then at the same time all possiblesee protons, neutrons and electrons arranged in states of affairs are also given. Each thing is, as it were, in a space of possible statesdifferent forms to create the chemical elements. of affairs. ........It has taken physicists most of this century to Objects contain the possibility of all situa-deduce that the protons, neutrons and electrons tions. The possibility of its occurring inare not the “true” stuff of the world, and under- states of affairs is the form of an object.”neath there might be “quarks”, “leptons” and“gluons” arranged in different forms to createthe fundamental particles. Is that the end? Are 1. My personal translation of the Greek wordquarks and gluons the “true stuff”, the raw, pri- hyle, the formless substance that embodiesmal gloop which carries all form? No-one form. 55
  • 64. Notes on Kabbalah (my italics) boundaries”. If Cordovero had the jargon he I have digressed this far into the nature of might have talked about “the immune system ofform because I do not believe it is possible to God”.understand either Chesed or Gevurah in depth The Virtues of Gevurah are courage andwithout understanding the importance of form energy. There is a saying among managers thatin Kabbalah, and when talking about form I am “any fool can manage when things are goingnot “talking mystical”. Modern science is well”. The acid test of management is to haveresponsible for the increasing primacy of form the courage to tackle, and essentially destroy,over substance, because form can be studied, organisations (forms) which no longer work,articulated, comprehended, while substance and to have the energy to keep going against theretreats into the dark shadows of the CERN inevitable opposition.accelerators and remains elusive. The Vice of Gevurah is cruelty. Power is Programmers work with form; they shape seductive, and destruction can be pleasurable.programs out of forms with the same inquisitive The spiritual experience of Gevurah is thedelight as a glass-blower handling a blob of Vision of Power, and the Illusion is invincibility.molten glass. They talk about objects, and I don’t think these need any explanation.behaviours, and classify objects in hierarchies The Klippot of Gevurah is bureaucracy, in theaccording to behaviour. They create new objects common-use sense of a system of rules and pro-with a given abstract behaviour; they leave cedures which has become an end in itself. Myunwanted objects to be tidied up by the “gar- most memorable experience of this was the timebage collector”. I went into a social security office to ask There is much more which can be said about whether they could issue me with a social secu-this, but as many people are not programmers rity number.and most programmers do not admit to being “You’ll have to take a ticket and wait,” saidKabbalists, I must leave this as a trail to be fol- the woman behind the counter.lowed. The important point is that when I talk “But you only have to tell me yes or no,” Iabout form I find similar thinking in chemistry, protested.physics, computer science, and Kabbalah; the “You’ll have to take a ticket and wait!” sheworld of human beings is perceived in terms of snapped.form, and form is created and destroyed. That is So I took a ticket and waited for twenty min-what Chesed and Gevurah represent. utes. When my turn came I asked the question The sephira Binah is the mother of form. That again. “Can you issue me with a social securityis, Binah contains within her womb the poten- number here?”tial of all form, just as woman in the abstract “No! Next please!”contains within her womb the potential of all This is probably not the best example of thebabies. The birth of form takes place in Chesed, dead hand of bureaucracy at work, as it containsand that is why Chesed corresponds to the a certain amount of intentional cruelty, but wevisionary. The preservation and destruction of have all encountered endless forms which haveform takes place in Gevurah, and that is why to be filled in, pointless procedures which haveGevurah corresponds to the warrior. to be observed, interminable delays and so on. In most societies a warrior takes second place The essence of bureaucracy is that there is realto the Law. The Law comes first, and the war- power behind it, otherwise we wouldn’t sufferrior swears to defend both the Law and the the indignities, but the power is locked up andcountry. This may sound a little idealistic, but if everyone is rendered impotent by the forms ofone takes the trouble to listen to a few oaths of bureaucracy.allegiance (e.g. British Police, British Army, Gevurah is a hard sephira to work with, asSoviet Army) one should find that the essence is Kabbalistic magicians often discover to theirto obey, uphold and defend. Nothing about vio- cost. There is absolutely no place for emotion,lence, destruction, mayhem or anger. The no place for excess, no place for ego. The war-essence of Gevurah is to uphold and defend - as rior works within the Law, and ignorance of theCordovero says, “the quality of judgement is Law is not an excuse. If you don’t know whatinherent in everything insofar as everything the Law is, don’t work with Gevurah. Most peo-wishes to remain what it is, to stay within its ple are sloppy in thinking about problems, and 56
  • 65. The Sephirothtake what appears to be the simplest and super- Annihilation myth. Both myths can be observedficially most convenient solution. Gevurah is in glorious, infinitely repetitive, and predictableclinically exact, and if you invoke Gevurah you detail in S&M fantasies.are invoking well above the level of emotion, The God name associated with Chesed is “El”,particularly your emotions, and as you judge, so or Almighty God. The archangel is Tzadkiel, thewill you be judged. When you invoke on the Pil- “Righteousness of God”. The angel order is thelar of Form cause and effect will follow without Chashmalim, or Shining Ones. In Ezekiel, chash-the slightest regard for your feelings. All com- mal is a substance which forms the splendour ofputer programmers who have sweated through- God’s countenance, and as chashmal is the mod-out the night with a programming error of their ern Hebrew word for electricity, I find it usefulown making know the truth of this in their to think of the Chashmalim in terms of cracklingbones. thunderbolts - this goes well with the Jupiter Associated with Chesed and Gevurah are correspondence.two tendencies which are so pronounced, read- The God name associated with Gevurah isily observed, and deeply rooted that I have Elohim Gibor. All the sephiroth on the Pillar ofcalled them the Power myth and the Annihila- Form use Elohim in their God names, and intion myth, where I use the word myth in the this case it is qualified by “gibor”, a word whichsense that there is pre-existent, archetypal script expresses the qualities of a great hero - strength,in which anyone can play the role of protago- might, and courage. The name is sometimesnist. translated as “God of Battles”. The archangel is The Power myth features a protagonist who is sometimes given as Kamiel/Camael, andseeks power because power means control. Eve- sometimes as Samael.rything is specified and controlled down to the Samael, the “Poison of God” is an angel with afinest detail to eliminate every possibility of dis- long history - see [16], and is essentially thecomfort, surprise or insecurity. The world Angel of Death. Samael is not the first choice ofbecomes an impersonal mechanism designed to angel to invoke when working Gevurah - workprovide for every demand. The natural world is on Gevurah is tricky at the best of times - anddestroyed to reduce its unpredictability and the Angel of Death does not mess around. Nei-untidiness. All knowledge is subverted to con- ther does Kamiel, but there is marginally moretrol. Personal relationships are restricted and scope for making mistakes! The angel order isformalised to minimise intrusion or any possi- the Seraphim, or Fiery Serpents.bility of personal hurt, and are modelled toincrease self-importance. Anyone who won’t Chesed and Gevurah are the sceptre andplay can be removed or suitably punished. The sword of a king. There are many statues ofprotagonist lives at the centre of the world. medieval kings in British cathedrals which In the Annihilation myth the protagonist lives show a king seated with the sceptre of legiti-for the Cause. The Cause is the most important mate authority in one hand and the sword ofthing in life. The protagonist prays to be temporal might in the other. In Kabbalah thereleased from the thrall of ego and self- impor- King corresponds to the sephira Tipheret, thetance that he may better serve the Cause with union of Chesed and Gevurah. This is a symbolevery atom of his soul. “Yea, I am nothing”, he of a human being in relationship to the world.whispers, “Less than the smallest worm in the At the bottom of all initiations is the full con-ground compared with the glory of the Cause. I sciousness that we are kings and queens withhumble myself before the Cause. I live only to the freedom and power to do anything weserve the Cause.” Pain, suffering and death are please, and total responsibility for the conse-mere adornments for the ever-lasting glory of quences of everything we do. Somewherethe Cause. The Cause might be the Beloved, the between the extremes of power and love eachRevolution, the Great Work, the Mistress or one of us has to find our own balance of rightMaster, or God (to name only a few). and wrong. Somewhere in a garden, a Tree of Examples of both these myths in practice are Knowledge of Good and Evil still grows, andlegion; two examples are the package-holiday still bears fruit.tourist as an example of the Power myth, andmany Christian mystics as an example of the 57
  • 66. Notes on Kabbalah Daat and the Abyss ments or shells (Klippot) of the shattered worlds were the result of unbalanced rigour, severity, “When you look into the abyss, the abyss or judgement they were considered evil, and the also looks into you” Abyss became a repository of evil spirits not Nietzsche dissimilar from the pit of Hell into which the “Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of rebellious angels were cast. One is also being - like a worm” reminded of the rebellious Titans in Greek Sartre mythology, who were buried as far beneath the In modern Kabbalah there is a well devel- Earth as the Earth is beneath the sky.oped notion of an Abyss between the three A story which contributed to the notion of thesupernal sephiroth of Keter, Chokhmah, and Abyss was the legend of the Fall. According to aBinah, and the seven lower sephiroth. When one Kabbalistic interpretation of the Biblical myth,examines the progress of the Lightning Flash at the conclusion of the act of Creation there wasdown the Tree of Life, then one finds that it fol- a pure state, denoted by Eden, where the pri-lows the path structure connecting sephiroth mordial Adam-and-Eve-conjoined existed in aexcept when it makes the jump from Binah to state of divine perfection. There are various eso-Chesed, reinforcing the idea of a “gap” or “gulf” teric interpretations about what the Fall repre-which has to be crossed. There is an implication sents, but all agree that after the Fall, Edenthat there is an aspect of the godhead which is became inaccessible, and Adam and Eve wereremote from normal human experience, and separated and took on bodies of flesh here in thethis inaccessibility is emphasised with a dark material world.divide. The Fall is a story about separation from an The notion of an Abyss is extremely old and ideal state, of separation from a world of near-has found its way into Kabbalah in several dif- ness-to-God, and it is natural to think of this asferent forms, some of which I will attempt to an exile into darkness. A similar myth of separa-disentangle, and in the course of time they have tion from God and exile in a world of matterbeen mixed together into the notion of “the (and by extension, limitation, finiteness, pain,Great Abyss”. The Great Abyss is one of those suffering, death - manifestations of the rigoursthings so necessary that like God, if it didn’t or evil inherent in God) precedes Kabbalah andalready exist, it would have to be invented. Like can be found in the Gnostic legend of Sophia,any limit or boundary it temps people to cross the divine Wisdom exiled in matter. This idea ofit, and it exerts a perennial fascination. separation or exile from divinity mirrors very One of the earliest intimations of the Abyss closely the way in which the Abyss divides thecomes from the Bible: sephiroth representing a human being (Yesod to “And the earth was without form, and Chesed) from the sephiroth representing God void; and darkness was upon the face of (Binah, Chokhmah and Keter). the deep.” Isaac Luria (1534 -1572) introduced a new ele- Kabbalists adopted the view that there was a ment into the notion of the Abyss with his noveltime before the creation characterised by Tohu development of the idea of tzimtzum or contrac-and Bohu, namely Chaos and Emptiness [16]; tion. Luria wondered how it was possible forthe significant point is that even before the crea- the En Soph, the hidden God, to create some-tion we have something that has the qualities of thing out of nothing if there wasn’t any nothingan Abyss. It is difficult to paint a picture with- to begin with. If the En Soph (no-end, the infi-out a canvas; it is difficult to shine a light with- nite) is everywhere, then how can we be distinctout darkness, and it is conceptually awkward to from the En-Soph? Luria argued that creationcreate a universe without an abysmal backdrop was only possible because a contraction in theof some kind. En Soph had created an emptiness where God Another idea mentioned several times in the was not, that En Soph had chosen to limit itselfZohar [28] is that there were several failed by a withdrawal, and this showed that the prin-attempts at creation before the present one. ciple of self-limitation was a necessary precur-These attempts failed because mercy and judge- sor to creation. Not only did this explain whyment (e.g. force and form) were not balanced. the Creation is separate from the hidden God,The resulting detritus of these failed attempts but it emphasised that the principle of limitationaccumulated in the Abyss. Because the frag- 58
  • 67. The Sephirothwas inherent in creation from the very begin- but malignant, in so far as it craves toning. become real. These forms swirl sense- Limitation and finiteness, the separation of lessly into haphazard heaps like dust dev-one thing from another, what early Kabbalists ils, and each chance aggregation asserts itself to be an individual and shrieks ‘I amreferred to as the severity or “strict judgement” I!’ though aware all the time that its ele-of God was a puzzling quality to introduce into ments have no true bond; so that thethe Creation, given that it is the source of suffer- slightest disturbance dissipates the delu-ing and evil in an abstract and impersonal sion just as a horseman, meeting a dustsense. Luria’s concept of tsimtsum suggested devil, brings it in showers of sand to thethat there was no possibility of creation without earth.”limitation, that the root of evil lies in the essen- I was struck when reading this by the similar-tial nature of the creative act. ity between Crowley’s description above and Luria elaborated on the Zoharic myth of prior the section on Hod and Netzach in which Iworlds with a description of shevira, the “break- described the chaos of a personality under theing of the vessels”. When the ray of creative control of the “hosts” or “armies” of those twolight came out of the En Soph and entered the sephira, where a host of forms of behaviourspace created by tzimtsum, it ignited the three compete for the right to be “me”. Crowley con-supernal sephiroth, and they were able to con- tinues:tain the force of the light; however, the seven “As soon as I had destroyed my personal-sephiroth below were shattered by the force, ity, as soon as I had expelled my ego, theand the shells (remembering that the sephiroth universe to which it was indeed a fright-are often depicted as garments or vessels, form ful and fatal force, fraught with everyenclosing force) fell into the abyss. Most of the form of fear, was only so in relation to thelight was able to return to its source, but some idea ‘I’; so long as ‘I am I’ all else mustfell with the shells into the abyss, where it seem hostile. Now that there was noremains to this day, trapped in the realm of the longer any ‘I’ to suffer, all these ideas which had inflicted suffering becameKlippot. innocent. I could praise the perfection of Pull together various ideas of the Great Abyss every part; I could wonder and worshipand one ends up with something like a vast, ini- the whole.”tially empty arena, like a Roman amphitheatre, Crowley appears to equate crossing the Abysswhere the drama of the Creation was enacted. with a loss of ego, a component of many mysti-The mysterious En Soph played a brief role as cal experiences. He suggests the Abyss is a placedirector from the imperial box, only to retire where consciousness becomes encapsulated andbehind a veil at the conclusion of the perform- separated from the rest of life, the point atance, leaving behind a huge power cord snaking which the duality of “me and not-me” occurs.in from the unknown region beyond the arena, Whether the word “crossing” is meaningfuland plugged-in to a socket at the rear of the when describing changes in awareness or con-sephira Keter. The lights of the sephiroth blaze sciousness, whether the mystic encounters oneout and illuminate the centre of this vast arena. Abyss or many, and whether Crowley’s inter-At the periphery of the arena, far from the lights pretation is a good and meaningful one, are allof manifestation, there is a deep darkness where questions which should not be taken forall the cast-off detritus and spoil of the creation granted. There are interpretations of the Treewas deposited by weary angels and left to rot. A where there are several “Abysses” (see Chapterstrange life lives there. 7), and in this interpretation it is possible to The situation was more-or-less as described define an abyss as “a discontinuous change inabove when in 1909 Aleister Crowley decided to consciousness”.“cross the Abyss” and added to the mythology Another twentieth-century Kabbalist whoof the Abyss with the following description [7]: added to the ever-expanding notion of the “The name of the Dweller in the Abyss is Abyss was Dion Fortune, in her theosophical Choronzon, but he is not really an indi- vidual. The Abyss is empty of being; it is work The Cosmic Doctrine [13]. The form of this filled with all possible forms, each equally work appears to have been inspired by H.P. Bla- inane, each therefore evil in the only true vatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, and certainly lives sense of the word - that is, meaningless up to Fortune’s claim that it was “designed to 59
  • 68. Notes on Kabbalahtrain the mind, not to inform it.” Kabbalistic writers agree that the Unmanifest is Fortune describes three processes arising out not nothing; on the contrary, it is the hiddenof the Unmanifest (i.e. En Soph). Ring Cosmos is wellspring of being, but as it is “not manifestan anabolic process underlying the creation of being” it combines the words “not” and “being”forms of greater and greater complexity. Ring in a conjunction which can be apprehended as aChaos is a catabolic process underlying the kind of abyss. Scholem [39] discusses this “noth-destruction and recycling of form. Ring-Pass- ingness” as follows:Not is a limit where catabolism turns back into “The primary start or wrench in whichanabolism. She visualised this as three great the introspective God is externalised andrings of movement in the Unmanifest, with the the light that shines inwardly made visi-motion associated with Ring Cosmos spiralling ble, this revolution of perspective, trans- forms En Soph, the inexpressible fullness,towards the centre, the movement of Ring into nothingness. It is in this mysticalChaos unwinding towards the periphery, and “nothingness” from which all the otherthe dead-zone of Ring-Pass-Not defining the stages of God’s gradual enfolding in theouter limit of Ring Chaos. The point at which Sefiroth emanate, and which the kabba-Ring Chaos is bounded by Ring-Pass-Not is the lists call the highest Sefira, or thepoint where everything is reduced to its sim- “supreme crown” of Divinity. To useplest components, an abyss of unbeing, a cosmic another metaphor, it is the abyss whichcompost heap where form is digested under the becomes visible in the gaps of existence.dominion of the Angel of Death and turned into Some Kabbalists who have developed thissomething fertile where new growth can take idea, for instance Rabbi Joseph ben Sha-place. lom of Barcelona (1300), maintain that in The similarity between Fortune’s description every transformation of reality, in every change of form, or every time the status ofof Ring Chaos and what in programming is a thing is altered, the abyss of nothingnesscalled a “reference-counting garbage collector” is crossed and for a fleeting mysticalis interesting, given that she was writing in the moment becomes visible.”1930’s. Many programming languages allownew programming structures to be created It should be clear from the previous examplesdynamically, thus allowing the creation of more that the Abyss is a metaphor for a number ofand more complex structures (forms). At the intuitions or experiences. It is useful to make thesame time there is a mechanism to reclaim following distinctions:unused resources so that the system does not • the Abyss of nothingnessrun out of memory or disc space, and the nor-mal scheme is that if a structure is not refer- • the Abyss of separation (from God)enced by any other structure, recycle it. In • the Abyss of knowledge (Daat)Fortune’s language, if you want to destroy • the Abyss of un-being (or un-becoming)something, you The perception that being and nothingness go “make a vacuum round it. You prevent hand-in-hand is something Sartre studied in opposition from touching it. Then, being great depth [38], and many of his observations unopposed, it is free to follow the laws of on the nature of consciousness and its relation- its own nature, which is to join the motion ship to negation or nothingness are among the of Ring Chaos.” most perceptive I have found. His arguments There is an intuition here that things which are lengthy and complex, and I do not wish toare not “connected” (in a metaphysical sense) to summarise them here other than to say that hethe rest of the universe are reclaimed by joining viewed nothingness as the necessary conse-the circulation of Ring Chaos and are recycled quence of a special kind of being he calls “being-back into the Unmanifest. This is the abyss of for-itself”, the kind of being we experience asun-being, the collapse of our individual Trees self-conscious human beings.back into Keter and the extinction of Keter in the The Abyss of separation can be experienced asunknowable voidness of the En Soph. a separation from the divine, but it can also be A final example of an abyss is one which dif- experienced quite acutely in one’s relationshipsfers from previous examples in that it brings to with others and with the physical world itself.the fore the relationship between us, the cre- Much of what we perceive about the world andated, and the Unmanifest, the En Soph itself. other people is an illusion created by the 60
  • 69. The Sephirothmachinery of perception. Strip away the trick, sion. According to the Zohar however, Daat hasYesod becomes Daat, and a yawning abyss a specific location in the Microprosopus, namelyopens up where one is conscious less of what in one of the three chambers of the brain, fromone knows than of what one does not, and it is where it mediates between the higherpossible to look at a close friend and see some- (Chokhmah and Binah) and the lower (the sixthing more alien, remote and unknown than the sephiroth or “chambers” of the Microprosopus -surface of Pluto. This experience is closely see the reference to Proverbs 24.3 above).related to the Abyss of knowledge, which is dis- I have often puzzled about the differencecussed in more detail in the discussion on Daat between wisdom, understanding and knowl-below. edge, and it was not clear to me why knowledge The Abyss of un-being is the direct perception is the natural outcome of wisdom and under-that at any instant it is possible to not-be. This standing. When I read Proverbs that I realisedperception goes beyond the contemplation or that wisdom was being used in the sense ofawareness of physical death; it is the direct something external, something which is receivedapprehension of what Dion Fortune calls “Ring from someone else.Chaos”, that un-being is less a state than a proc- As children we were told “do this” or “don’tess, that at every instant there is an impulse, a do that”, and often couldn’t question the wis-magnetic attraction towards total self-annihila- dom of the advice because we lacked the under-tion on every level possible. The closer one standing. I once had a furious row with mymoves towards the roots of being, the closer one father about building a liquid fuel rocket enginemoves towards the roots of un-being. The final in our house, using petrol and hydrogen perox-annihilation of the duality of being and nothing- ide as the propellant. In retrospect it does seemness brings one back to the mystery of the En like a remarkably well conceived plan for burn-Soph. ing down a house. My father flatly refused to let me do it. I couldn’t understand the problem - I Daat means “Knowledge”. In early Kabbalah was going to be careful.Daat was a symbol of the union of Wisdom I now know, because I understand the stupidity(Chokhmah) and Understanding (Binah). The of what I was trying to do, the wisdom of hisbook of Proverbs is rich mine of material on the refusal. His advice was wise; he understood thenature of these three qualities, material which nature of the risk far better than I did. I didn’tforms the basis of many ideas in the Zohar and understand the risk, so what now seems likeother Kabbalistic texts. For example, Proverbs good common sense seemed like uncompromis-3.13: ing obstruction. I didn’t know what I was doing “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, because I didn’t understand the risk, and so my and the man that getteth understand- father’s wisdom fell on deaf ears. Received wis- ing....She is a tree of life to them that lay dom cannot be integrated into oneself unless hold upon her: and happy is every one there is the capacity to understand it, and hav- that retaineth her. The Lord by wisdom ing understood, it becomes real knowledge hath founded the earth; by understanding which can be passed on again as wisdom to hath he founded the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and someone else. the clouds drop down the dew” For early Kabbalists the ultimate wisdom was external. It was the wisdom of God the Father as And Proverbs 24.3: “Through wisdom is an house builded; expressed in the Torah, and by attempting to and by understanding is it established: understand this wisdom (and that is what Kab- And by knowledge shall the chambers be balah was) they could arrive at the only knowl- filled with all pleasant and precious edge truely worth having. The story of my riches.” argument with my father is like the person who In the Bahir [23] and Zohar [29] Daat repre- struggles to come to terms with the wisdom of asents the symbolic union of wisdom and under- Holy Book, who rejects its commandmentsstanding, and is their offspring or child. The because they lack the wider understanding of lifeMicroprosopus, often symbolised by Tipheret, and the purpose of creation, and in consequenceis also the symbolic child of Chokhmah and is incapable of knowing God. Perhaps that isBinah, and there is some room here for confu- why Daat is not a sephira: the separation of wis- 61
  • 70. Notes on Kabbalahdom and understanding results in an absence of rapidly into deep trance, where theyknowledge of God. manipulate the imagery according to the One of the unattributable pieces of Kabbalah needs of the situation. Their experience ofI was taught was that Daat is the hole left it, however, is of a world they have come briefly to inhabit; not a world of their ownbehind when Malkhut fell out of the Garden of making, but a spirit world they are privi-Eden. If you examine the derivation of the Tree leged to visit.”of Life in Chapter 2. closely you will see that Ihave based some of it on this observation. The This will come as no surprise to anyone whodevelopment of the notion of Daat as a “hole” has read Michael Harner’s “The Way of the Sha- man” [18]. There on page 103 (plate 8) is a beau-appears to have originated this century. Gareth tiful picture of the tunnel vortex, complete withKnight, for example [25], provides a complete prisms. When I first saw this picture I was sur-set of correspondences for Daat, most of which I prised and recognised it instantly from my owndislike personally, but one at least is appropri- meditations. When I showed it to my wife herate: he gives the magical image of Daat as Janus, reaction was the same. The tunnel-vortexgod of doorways. Kenneth Grant [15], with his appears to be an important ingredient of magi-florid imagination, sees Daat as a gateway cal and mystical experience, and it appears in athrough to “outer spaces beyond, or behind, the very precise context. In Kabbalah the shamanicTree itself” dominated by Klippotic forces. tunnel would be attributed to the 32nd. path There is a deep correspondence between connecting Malkhut to Yesod; this path con-sephiroth in the lower face of the Tree and nects the real world to the underworld of thesephiroth in the upper face - this idea is devel- imagination and the unconscious, and is com-oped later in a chapter on the Four Worlds. If monly symbolised by a tunnel. However, usingyou examine the symmetries of the Tree, you the symmetry of the Tree, this path also corre-should see why Malkhut, Tipheret and Keter sponds to the path connecting Tipheret acrossare linked, why Hod and Binah are linked, why the Abyss, through Daat, to Keter. The tunnel/Chokhmah and Netzach are linked, and most vortex at this level is no longer subjective,importantly for the purposes of this discussion, because this level of the Tree corresponds to thethat there is a correspondence between Yesodand Daat. noumenal reality underpinning the phenomenal These are not just simple geometric sym- world, and links individual self-consciousnessmetries. They express some important relation- to something greater. Just as Yesod representsships which are experientially verifiable, and in the machinery of sense perception, so Daat can flip over to become the Yesod of another level ofterms of what makes most sense in Kabbalah perception, not sense perception, but somethingand what does not, these relationships are completely different that seems to operate outimportant. Daat and Yesod, at different levels, of the “back door” of the mind; this is objectiveare like two sides of the same coin. Jam the knowledge, what is sometimes called gnosis.machinery of perception as I said above, and To conclude this section I would like toYesod can become Daat. indulge in some speculation as to why there is a The following quotation is taken from an quasi-sephira called Knowledge located by con-bona-fide anthropological article [27] attempt- vention in the Abyss. Why?ing to explain some of the characteristic features As I programmer I am continually aware ofof cave art: “Moving into a yet deeper stage of trance the gulf between abstract ideas, such as the is often accompanied, according to labo- number two and its physical representations in ratory reports, by an experience of a vor- the world. Here are a few different ways of rep- tex or rotating tunnel that seems to resenting the same abstract idea: surround the subject. The external world is progressively excluded and the inner 2, II, .., two, deux, oo, blurg world grows more florid. Iconic images may appear on the walls of the vortex, The number two can be represented in an infi- often imposed on a lattice of squares, like nite number of ways. The final representation in television screens. Frequently there is a the list, “blurg”, is a way of writing “two” in a mixture of iconic and geometric forms. new language I have just invented. Now that I Experienced shamans are able to plunge have said this you can use it in your arithmetical 62
  • 71. The Sephirothcalculations. For example, 1+1 = blurg. edge. There is a gulf between the world where Only when you share some understanding of we make arbitrary physical marks to representmy language can you begin to guess that a par- abstract notions, and the abstract notions them-ticular mark in the world represents the number selves. You cannot know the contents of mytwo, and the situation is even worse than it mind by probing it with physical instruments.might seem. A basic theorem of information In Kabbalah this particular abyss is called thetheory states that the optimum way of express- abyss of Assiah; it is the first in a series ofing any piece of information is one where the abysses. The next abyss is the abyss of Yetzirah.symbols occur completely randomly. I could There are further abysses, and this should betake this paragraph, pass it through an optimal clearer when I discuss the Four Worlds and thetext compressor and the same piece of text Extended Tree. The Abyss and Daat go togetherwould be indistinguishable from random gar- because the Abyss sets a limit on what can bebage. Only I, knowing the compression proce- known from below the Abyss; the abyss is andure, could extract the original message from abyss of knowledge, and Daat is the hole we fallthe result. into when we try probe beyond. Can the nature Whatever we call information appears to exist of God be expressed in terms of anythingindependently of the physical world, and uses human? No. God is as human as a cockroach, asthe world of chalk marks, ink marks, magnetic human as a lump of stone, as human as a star, asdomains or whatever like a rider uses a horse. human as empty space. So how can you knowTo me the gulf between the abstraction (the anything about God? You have as much chancenumber 2) and its physical representation (the of finding God using the apparatus of reason asvarious marks I can make) is irreconcilable. the neurologist has of finding my mind with aBetween the physical world and the world of scalpel.the mind is an abyss. Only when Daat flips over to become the I do not believe I am indulging in “new phys- Yesod of another world can you know anythingics” or anything vaguely suspect - this is meat about it, but unfortunately the fiery speech ofand drink to the average programmer, who angels is like leprechaun’s gold: by the timespends most of his or her time transforming you’ve taken it home to show to your friends,abstractions from one symbol set to another. you’ve nothing but a purse of dried leaves. Let us take a slightly different approachwhich leads to the same place from the opposite Binah, Chokhmah, Keterdirection. There is a mathematical proof that The beginning of wisdom is the fear of thethere is no largest prime number. I know that Lordproof. No dissection of my brain will ever reveal The triad of Binah, Chokhmah and Keter are athe proof to someone who does not know it. Kabbalistic representation of the manifest God. I am prepared to bet a large quantity of alco- A discussion on this triad presents me with ahol that it is theoretically impossible to find this problem. The problem is that while I have usedinformation in my head; the proof that there is the word “God” in many places in these notes, Ino largest prime number will never be extracted have done so with a sense of unease, under-even if you assume a neurologist capable of standing that the word means so many differentmapping every atom in my brain. Evolution things to so many people that it is effectivelytends towards optimality, and I think the proof meaningless. I have chosen to use the wordof this theorem will be encoded optimally to “God” as a placeholder for personal experience,look like random garbage. Perhaps someone with the implicit assumption that the readerwill discover the chemical Rosetta Stone which understands that “God” is a personal experi-enables the perfect neurologist to decode the ence, and not an ill-defined abstraction oneinformation in my brain but it seems unlikely to “believes in”. This view is not novel, but thereme even in principle. The ideas in my head, like are still many people who are uncomfortablethe number 2, exist independent of the chemical with the idea of experiencing (as opposed tomarks used to represent them, and while I can “believing in”) God.tell you what they are, you will not find them in A second assumption implicit in the use of theyour microscope. word “God” as a placeholder, is that it stands There is an abyss here. It is an abyss of knowl- only for experience; your experience, and hence 63
  • 72. Notes on Kabbalahyour God, is as valid as mine, and as there are [32] in my possession devotes eight pages to theno formal definitions, there is no scope for theo- En Soph, twelve pages to the supernal trio oflogical debate or dispute. This leaves me with Keter, Chokhmah and Binah, and five pages tonothing more to say. the remaining seven sephiroth, a proportion However.....these notes were intended to pro- which seems relatively constant throughoutvide some insight into Kabbalah, and it would Kabbalistic literature.be odd, having begun to write them, to turn Briefly, the hidden God or En Soph crystal-around and say “sorry, I won’t say anything lised a point which is the sephira Keter. In mostabout the three supernal sephiroth”. versions (and this idea can be found as far back I think I have to say something. Balanced as the Bahir [23]) the En Soph “contracted”against this is my original intention, at every (tsimtsum) to “make room” for the creation, andstage in these notes, to relate the objects of dis- the crystallised point of Keter manifested withincussion to something real, to make a personal this “space”. The sephira Keter is like a seedcontribution by adding my own understanding planted in nothingness from which the creationto the subject rather than pot-boiling the same springs, and some Kabbalists draw the Tree ofold material. I cannot see how to put flesh on Life “upside down” to show Keter at the bottomthe bare bones of the supernal sephiroth with- of the Tree, rooted in the soil of the En Soph,out discussing my own conception of God and with the rest of the sephiroth forming the trunk,whatever personal experience I might have. branches and leaves. Another metaphor shows I am loth to do this. To begin with, it isn’t fair Keter connected to the En Soph by a “thread ofon those people who study and use Kabbalah light”, a metaphor I used somewhat whimsi-(many Jewish) who do not share my views, and cally in the section on “Daat and the Abyss”,secondly, remembering the parable of the blind where I portrayed the Tree of Life as a lit-upmen and the elephant, impressions of God tend Christmas tree with a power cord snaking out ofto be shaped by the part one grabs hold of, and the darkness of the En Soph and through thehow close to the bottom you are. abyss to Keter. Like it or not, my explanations of the supernal Like the Moon, Keter has two aspects, mani-sephiroth are going to be lacking in substance. I fest and hidden, and for this reason its magicalcan only ask you, the reader, to accept that the image is that of a face seen in profile: one side ofprimary purpose of Kabbalah has always been the face is visible to us, but the other side isthe direct, personal experience of the living turned forever towards the En Soph.God, a state Kabbalists have called devekut, or Keter has many titles: Existence of Existences,cleaving to God, and the way towards that Concealed of the Concealed, Ancient ofexperience comes, not from a studious examina- Ancients, Ancient of Days, Primordial Point, thetion of the symbolism of the supernals, but from Smooth Point, the Point within the Circle, thethe practical techniques of Kabbalah to be dis- Most High, the Inscrutable Height, the Vastcussed in a later chapter. Countenance (Arik Anpin), the White Head, the Head which is not, Macroprosopus. Taken The title of the sephira Binah is translated as together, these titles imply that Keter is the first,“understanding”, and sometimes as “intelli- the oldest, the root of existence, remote, and itsgence”. The title of the sephira Chokhmah most accurate symbol is that of a point. Ketertranslates as “wisdom”, and that of Keter trans- precedes all forms of existence, precedes all dif-lates as “crown”. These three sephiroth are ferentiation and distinction, precedes all polar-often referred to as the supernal sephiroth, or ity. Keter contains everything in potential, like asimply the supernals, and they represent that seed that sprouts and grows into a Tree, notaspect of God which is manifest in creation. once, but continuously. Keter is both root andThere is another aspect of God in Kabbalah, the seed. Because it precedes all forms and contains“real God” or En Soph. Although En Soph is all opposites it is not like anything. You can sayresponsible for the creation of the universe, En it contains infinite goodness, but then you haveSoph manifests to us only in the limited form of to say that it contains infinite evil. Wrapped upthe sephira Keter. in Keter is all the love in the world, and An enormous amount of effort has gone into wrapped around the love is all the hate. Keter is“explaining” this process: a book on Kabbalah an outpouring of purest, radiant light, but 64
  • 73. The Sephirothequally it is the profoundest stygian dark. equally becometh Male and Female. And it is none of these things; it precedes all ChKMH AB BINH AM: Chokhmah is theform or polarity, and its Virtue is unity. It is a Father and Binah is the Mother, andpoint without extension or qualities, but it con- therein are Chokhmah, Wisdom, andtains all creation within it as an unformed Binah, Understanding, counterbalancedpotential. The Zohar [29] is filled with references together in the most perfect equality of Male and Female.to Keter, and it is difficult to be selective, but thefollowing quote from the “Lesser Holy Assem- And therefore are all things established in the equality of Male and Female, forbly”, is clear, simple, and subtle: were it not so, how could they subsist! “He (Keter) hath been formed, and yet as it were He hath not been formed. He hath This beginning is the Father of all things; been conformed so that he may sustain all the Father of all Fathers; and both are things; yet is He not formed, seeing that mutually bound together, and the one He is not discovered. path shineth into the other - Chokhmah, Wisdom, as the Father; Binah, Under- When He is conformed He produceth standing, as the Mother. nine Lights, which shine forth from Him, from his conformation. It is written, Prov. 2.3: ‘If thou callest Binah the Mother.” And from Himself those Lights shine forth, and they emit flames, and they rush When They are associated together They forth and are extended on every side, like generate, and are expanded in truth. as from an elevated lantern the rays of And concerning the continuing act of procrea- light stream down on every side. tion: And those rays of light, which are “Together They (Chokhmah & Binah) go extended, when anyone draweth near forth, together They are at rest; the one unto them so that they may be examined, ceaseth not from the other, and the one is are not found, and there is only the lan- never taken away from the other. tern alone.” And therefore is it written, Gen 2.10: Polarity is contained within Keter in the form ‘And a river went forth from Eden’ - i.e.of Chokhmah and Binah, the Wisdom and properly speaking, it continually goethUnderstanding of God, and Kabbalists have forth and never faileth.”represented this polarity using the most obvi- A river or spring metaphor is often used forous of metaphors, that of male and female. Chokhmah, to emphasise the continuous natureChokhmah is Abba, the Father, and Binah is of creation. The primary metaphor is that of aAima, the Mother, and the entire world is seen phallus - Chokhmah is the phallus which ejacu-as the child of the continuous and never-ending lates continuously into the womb of Binah, andcoupling of this divine pair. The following pas- Binah in turn gives birth to phenomenal reality.sage is taken again from the “Lesser Holy Phallic symbols - a standing stone, a fireman’sAssembly”: hose, a fountain, a spear, belong to Chokhmah, “Come and behold. When the Most Holy and womb symbols - a cauldron, a gourd, a Ancient One, the Concealed with all Con- chalice, an oven, belong to Binah. In an abstract cealments (Keter), desired to be formed sense, Chokhmah and Binah correspond to the forth, He conformed all things under the first, primal manifestation of the polarity of form of Male and Female; and in such force and form. To repeat a metaphor I have place wherein Male and Female are com- used previously, Binah is a hot-air balloon, and prehended. Chokhmah is the roaring blast of flame which For they could not permanently exist keeps it in the air. save in another aspect of the Male and The metaphor is not completely accurate: Female (their countenances being joined Binah is not form: she is the Mother of Form - together). she creates the condition whereby form can And this Wisdom (Chokhmah) embrac- manifest. The colour of Binah is black, and she is ing all things, when it goeth forth and shi- neth forth from the Most Holy Ancient associated with Shabbatai (“rest”, from the One, shineth not save under the form of same root as Shabbat, the Sabbath), the planet Male and Female. Therefore is this Wis- Saturn. dom extended, and it is found that it The symbolism of Binah is twofold: on one 65
  • 74. Notes on Kabbalahhand she is Aima, the fertile mother of creation, sometimes invoked in a female form as Kali,and on the other hand she is the mother of Durga, Hecate, or the Morrigan, although itfiniteness, limitation, restriction, boundaries, must be said that all four goddesses alsotime, space, law, fate, and ultimately, death. In share some correspondences more appro-this form she is often depicted as Ama the priate to Binah.Crone, who broods (like many pictures of • Netzach has the planet Venus as a corre-Queen Victoria) in her black widow’s weeds on spondence, and its aspect of sensual pleas-the throne of creation. One of the titles of Binah ure, luxury, sexual love and desire isis Khorsia, the Throne. The magician and Kab- sometimes invoked through a goddess suchbalist Dion Fortune had a strongly intuitive as Venus or Aphrodite.grasp of Binah, not just as a sphere of a particu- The Spiritual Experience of Binah is thelar kind of emanation, but as the Great Mother Vision of Sorrow. As the Mother of Form Binahherself, as the following rhyme from her novel is also the Mother of finiteness and limitation, ofMoon Magic [11] shows: determinism, of cause and effect. Every quality “I am she who ere the earth was formed comes forth hand-in-hand with its opposite: life Was Rhea, Binah, Ge. and death, joy and despair, love and hate, order I am that soundless, boundless, bitter sea and chaos, so that it is not possible to find a firm Out of whose deeps life wells eternally. anchor in life. For each reason to live I can find, Astarte, Aphrodite, Ashtoreth - Giver of buried like a worm in an apple, a reason not to life and bringer in of death; live. The Vision of Sorrow is a vision of a life Hera in heaven, on earth Persephone; condemned to tramp along the circumference of Diana of the ways, and Hecate - All these a circle, forever denied a view of the unity of the am I, and they are seen in me. The hour of centre. At its most extreme the creation is seen the high full moon draws near; I hear the as an evil trick played by a malign demiurge, a invoking words, hear and appear - sick, empty joke, or a joyless prison with death Shaddai El Chai and Rhea, Binah, Ge - I the only release. The classic vision of sorrow is come unto the priest who calleth me - “ that of Siddhartha Gautama. Tolstoy records One of the oldest correspondences for Binah is [19] a terrible and enduring psychic experiencethe element of water, and she is called Marah, which contains most of the elements associatedthe bitter sea from which all life comes and must with the worst Binah can offer - it drove him toreturn. She is also the Superior or Greater the very edge of suicide.Mother; the Inferior or Lesser Mother is the The Illusion of Binah is death; that is, thesephira Malkhut, who is better symbolised by vision of Binah may be compelling, but it is one-nature goddesses of the earth itself - e.g. the sided, a half-truth, and the finiteness it reveals istrinity of Kore, Demeter, and Persephone. an illusion. Our own personal finiteness is an The Tree of Life has many goddess symbols, illusion.and it is not always easy to see where they fit: The Klippot of Binah is fatalism, the belief that • Binah is the Great Mother of All, with sym- we are imprisoned in the mechanical causality bols of space, time, fate, spinning, weaving, of form, and not only are we incapable of chang- cauldrons and other womb-like symbols. ing or achieving anything, but even if we could, • Malkhut is the Earth as the soil from which there wouldn’t be any point. Why try to be life springs, matter as the basis for life, the happy - happiness leads inexorably to sadness. spirit concealed in matter, best symbolised Why try to build and create - it all ends in decay by goddesses of this earth, fertility and veg- and ruin soon enough. As the fatalistic author of etation. Ecclesiastes says, all is vanity. • Yesod in its lunar aspect is the Moon, a hid- The Vice of Binah is avarice. Form is only one- den reality with the ebb and flow of secret half of the equation of life - change is the other tides, illusion, glamour, and sexual repro- half - and to try to hold onto and preserve form duction, and is sometimes in invoked in the at the expense of change would be the death of form of a lunar goddess - Selene, Artemis all life. etc. The Virtue of Binah is silence. Beyond form • Gevurah is on the Pillar of Form. The whole there are no concepts, ideas, abstractions, or Pillar has a female aspect, and Gevurah is words. 66
  • 75. The Sephiroth Chokhmah contains form (as Binah) in potential, The Spiritual Experience of Chokhmah is the and it is not correct to view Chokhmah as aVision of God Face-to-Face. The tradition I purely chaotic energy. It is an energy biasedreceived has it that one cannot have this vision towards an end - “God’s Will”, for lack of a bet-while incarnate; that is, one dies in the process. ter description.Perle Epstein [10] records the story of a Chasidic The Spiritual Experience of Keter is UnionRabbi whose custom it was to bid farewell to his with God. My comments on the Spiritual Expe-family each morning as if it was his last - he rience of Chokhmah apply also to Keter.feared he might die of ecstacy during the day. In The Illusion of Keter is attainment. We canthe Greater Holy Assembly [29], three Rabbis pass live, we can change, but there is nothing toaway in ecstacy, and in the Lesser Holy Assembly attain. Even Union with God is not attainment;the famous Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai passes we were always one with God, and knowing thataway at the conclusion. we are changes nothing of any consequence. So There is a fairly widespread belief that to look long as we live, there is no goal in life other thanon the naked face of God, or a God, means living itself. As the Kabbalist Rebbe Nachman ofdeath, but fortunately there is no historical evi- Breslov said [10]:dence to suggest that the majority of Kabbalists “No matter how high one reaches, theredied of anything other than natural causes. is still the next step. Therefore, we neverHaving said this, I would not like to underplay know anything, and still do not attain thethe naked rawness of Chokhmah; uncon- true goal. This is a very deep and mysteri- ous concept.”strained, unconfined, free of form, it is the crea-tive power which sustains the universe. It The Klippot of Keter is Futility. Perhaps thecontains, equally balanced, your life and your creation was a bad idea. Maybe the En Sophdeath, and as you have your life already, to talk should never have emanated the point-crown ofof death is not melodramatic. Keter. Perhaps the whole of creation, life, the The Illusion of Chokhmah is independence. entire, ghastly three-ring circus we are forced toAt the level of Binah we seem to be locked in endure is nothing more than a complete waste.form, separate and finite, but just as death is The En Soph should suck Malkhut back intoseen to be an illusion so ultimately is our inde- Keter, collapse the whole, crazy house of cards,pendence and free-will. We seem to be inde- and admit it was all a big mistake.pendent, and we seem to have free-will, but atthe level of Chokhmah we draw our water from The God-name of Binah is Elohim, a femininethe same well. noun with a masculine plural ending. When we The Virtue of Chokhmah is good, and the Vice read in the Bible “In the beginning createdis evil. Regardless of your definition of good or God...”, this God is Elohim. The name Elohim isevil, Chokhmah encompasses every possibility associated with all the sephiroth on the Pillar ofof action, circumstance and creation, and mod- Form, and is taken to represent the feminineern Kabbalists no longer try to believe God is aspect of God. The God-name of Chokhmah isonly Good, and Evil must reside elsewhere. Yah (YH), a shortened form of YHVH. The God-Medieval Kabbalists liked to hedge their bets, name of Keter is Eheieh, a name sometimesbut one has only to plumb the bottomless translated as “I am”, and more often as “I willdepths of personal good and evil to find they be”.spring from the same place. The archangel of Binah is Tzaphqiel. I have The Klippot of Chokhmah is arbitrariness. been told this means “Shroud of God”, but IThe raw, creative, unconstrained energy of God have not been able to verify this. If it does notat its most primal and dynamic can seem utterly mean “Shroud of God”, it most certainlyarbitrary and chaotic, and some authors [e.g. should! The archangel of Chokhmah is Ratziel,[4]] have seen it this way. This removes the the Herald of the Deity. According to tradition,“divine will” from the energy and leaves a the wisdom of God and the deepest secrets ofblind, directionless, and essentially mechanical the creation were inscribed on a sapphire whichforce which is unbiased in any direction - crea- is in the keeping of the archangel Ratziel, andtion and destruction, order and chaos, who this “Book of Ratziel” was given to Adam andcares? The Kabbalistic view is that this is not so. handed down through the generations [16]. A well-known medieval manuscript with this title 67
  • 76. Notes on Kabbalahactually exists. The archangel of Keter is Meta- represent a sentient, self-conscious being;tron, the Archangel of the Presence. According the supernals represent the God of theto tradition Metatron was once the man Enoch, whole universe, God-in-the-Large.who was so wise he was taken by God and • Model B: the Tree of Life is a model ofmade a prince among the angels. human consciousness; the supernals repre- The angel orders of Binah, Chokhmah and sent the God within, God-in-the-Small.Keter can be derived directly from the vision of • Model C: the Tree of Life exists in the fourEzekiel. In the Biblical text, Ezekiel describes worlds of the creation, namely Atzilut,successively the Holy Living Creatures, then the Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah. When talkinggreat wheels within wheels, and lastly the of “the Tree”, we are talking about the treethrone-chariot (Merkabah) of God. The vision of of normal human experience, “the Tree ofEzekiel had a great influence on early Kabbalah, Yetzirah”; “The Abyss” is in fact “the Abyssand it is no coincidence that the angel order of of Yetzirah” only.Binah is the Aralim, or Thrones, the angel order All three models can be found in Kabbalisticof Chokhmah is the Auphanim or Wheels, and writing, and it is rarely clear which version anthe angel order of Keter is the Chiaoth ha author is using at any given time. I admit theQadesh, or Holy Living Creatures. The forms of fault myself. Model A differs radically fromthe Chiaoth ha Qadesh - lion, eagle, man and ox Models B and C. Model A is an all-embracing- have survived to this day in many Christian model of everything, whereas in Models B andchurches, and can be found on the “World” card C the Tree has been applied recursively to aof most Tarot packs. component of the whole, namely a human being considered a divine spark. This is a valid (if con- It is difficult to grasp the nature of Chokhmah fusing) Kabbalistic technique: take a whole, andand Binah from symbols alone, just as it is diffi- find a new Tree in each of its components andcult to grasp interstellar distances, or the heat apply the method recursively until you generateoutput of a star, or the number of stars in a gal- enough detail to explain anything. This idea isaxy, or the number of galaxies visible to us. The summed up in the aphorism: “there is a Tree inscale of the physical universe observed by every sephiroth”.astronomers is staggering; there are something Is it possible to experience the supernals inlike a hundred stars in our galaxy alone for every Model A? Is it possible to be at-one-ment withperson on this planet. the God of a billion, billion suns? I would say When I think of Chokhmah and Binah I that it is only possible to experience them at aattempt to think of them on this scale. The phys- remove via the paths crossing over the Abyssical universe where we have our home, consid- from Tipheret; that is, as a living, incarnateered as Malkhut, is vast, mysterious, and being my consciousness rises no further up thecontains inconceivable energies. To consider the Pillar of Consciousness than Tipheret (or Daat),Father and Mother of creation on any less a and it is only possible to apprehend the super-scale seems arrogant to me. Which brings us to nals via the linking paths. To experience thethe question “Can one experience, or be initi- consciousness of Binah in this model would beated into, the supernal sephiroth?”. tantamount to being able to modify the physical If the Kabbalah is to be considered as based constants of nature - Planck’s constant, theon experience, and not an intellectual construc- speed of light, the Gravitational constant, thetion, then the answer has to be “yes”. The super- ratio of masses of particles etc. - the conse-nals represent something real. What do they quences don’t bear thinking about! To experi-represent? Is it possible to “cross the Abyss”? ence Chokhmah would be to experience theThe answers to these questions depends on force which underpins a billion galaxies. I dowhich Kabbalistic model one chooses to use, not believe even the most arrogant twentiethand precisely how one interprets the Tree of century magician would claim to have achievedLife. For the sake of argument I have chosen either of these initiations - the continuing exist-three alternative models: ence of the planet is probably the best evidence • Model A: the sephira Malkhut represents for that! the whole physical universe; the sephiroth Model B is a model of the Microprosopus (e.g. from Yesod to Chesed (the Microprosopus) a human being) as a complete Tree. There is some 68
  • 77. The Sephirothevidence in the Zohar that the author thought What did strike me was the extent to which soabout Macroprosopus and Microprosopus in many of these books were written to makeprecisely this way, with references to “the human beings feel good about themselves.greater Chokhmah” and “the lesser There is a smug view permeating occult litera-Chokhmah”. Model C is substantially similar to ture that “spiritual” human beings are a little bitModel B, but cast in a slightly different mould. more “advanced” or “developed” than the With this interpretation it is certainly possible pack, that they are “moving along the Path”to consider “the lesser Chokhmah” as an acces- towards some kind of “enlightenment”, “cosmicsible state of consciousness, but “the Greater consciousness”, “union with God”, “divineChokhmah” remains as in Model A; that is, we love”, or one of many more fantastic and utterlycan experience the God within, “God-in-the- sublime goals. It is all so empowering andSmall”, and experience our essential unity with affirming and cosy. Even in the less starry-eyedall other living beings considered as “Gods-in- and gushy works the view is predominantly,the-Small”, but beyond that lies a greater mys- almost exclusively human- centred, and I foundtery, that of “God-in-the-Large”. We may each it difficult to avoid the impression that the uni-be a chip off the old block, but individually we verse was designed as a foam-padded play-are not identical with the old block. ground for human souls to romp around in. This discussion may seem arcane, but there is There is more than a little truth in Marx’s state-a natural tendency in people to exalt spiritual ment that religion is the opium of the people,experience to the highest level, which does and a cynic might justify a claim that occultismnothing more than inflate and devalue the cur- and esoteric religion are little more than a secu-rency of the language we use to describe these rity blanket for unfortunate people who cannotexperiences. The universe is too large, too mys- look reality in the face.terious, and too full of infinite possibilities of Where are the books which say:wonder for anyone to claim a full initiation into “You are an insignificant speck in a uni-Malkhut, far less Keter. verse so vast you cannot even begin to Lastly, it is worth asking “what is God?”. comprehend its scale.What does the Kabbalistic trinity of Keter, All human experience and knowledge isChokhmah and Binah represent in reality? I parochial, insignificant and largely irrele-have deliberately avoided mentioning an enor- vant on a universal scale, and your per- sonal contribution even more so.mous amount of Kabbalistic material on thesethree sephiroth because it is not clear whether it Your occult pretensions amount to noth- ing and are carefully designed to protectcontributes to a genuine understanding. How you from any experience of reality.useful, for example, is it to know that the name There are no Masters or Powers, no SecretBinah (BINH) contains not only IH (Yod, He), Chiefs, no Inner Plane Adepti, no Messi-the letters representing Chokhmah and Binah, ahs, and God does not love you.but also BN, Ben, the son? There is a level of The only thing you possess is your life,understanding Kabbalah which is intellectual, and with it the joy and mystery of livingand capable of almost infinite elaboration, but it in a universe filled to the brim with life,leads nowhere. where little is known and much remains What experience or perception does the word to be discovered.“God” denote? If there is nothing which is not When you die, you are dead.”God, why are so many people searching for I do not concur with this position in itsGod? Why do so many people feel apart from entirety, but it is a valid position to adopt, andGod? one which is not strongly represented in esoteric I was browsing in my local occult bookshop and occult literature. Why not? Perhaps peoplerecently, a shop which contains a catholic selec- do not want to buy books which say this.tion of books covering Eastern religions, astrol- I will venture an opinion which reflects myogy, Tarot, shamanism, crystals, theosophy, own experience; as such it has no general valid-magick, Celtic and Grail traditions, mythology, ity, but it is worth recording nevertheless.Kabbalah, witchcraft, and so on. I am not sure I believe that many of the religious, esotericwhat I was looking for, but despite a couple of and occult traditions currently extant are uncon-hours of browsing I certainly did not find it. sciously designed to protect human beings from 69
  • 78. Notes on Kabbalahexperiencing God and lead towards experienceswhich are valid in themselves but which arebiased towards feelings of love, protection,peace, safety, personal growth, community andempowerment, all wrapped up in a stronglyhuman-centred value system where positivehuman feelings and experiences are emphasised.Far from leading people into some kind of con-gruence with the reality of the world, religiousbeliefs can act in the opposite direction. I believethat people are apart from God by choice, thatthey cannot find God because they do not want to. It is difficult to justify this belief withoutresorting to an onion-skin model of the psyche,that underneath the surface, unsuspected andvirtually inaccessible, is a layer which does itsbest to protect us from the existential terror ofconfronting things as they really are. As a child I was terrified of the dark. The darkitself was not malign, but I was deeply afraid,and in my case it was fear which determined myrelationship with the dark, not any quality ofthe dark itself. So it is with God - it is our deeplyburied and unrecognised fear which determinesour relationship with God. We read books, go tothe cinema and theatre, argue, invent newthings, throw parties, play games, search forGod, live and love together, and bury ourselvesin all the distractions of human society in a fre-netic and unceasing effort to avoid layers of fear- fear of solitude, fear of rejection, fear of dis-ease, decay and disintegration, fear of madness,fear of meaninglessness, arbitrariness and futil-ity, fear of death and personal annihilation.When we avoid contact with the terrible emo-tions evoked, so we insulate ourselves fromgenuine experience. Like an audience in a cinema, we can live inthe absorbing fantasy world of twentieth cen-tury human society and forget that it is dark,cold and raining outside in the street. Like thecinema audience we will have to leave our seatssooner or later. Underneath all our fears is thefear of opening the door which conceals anawful truth: that we were never truly separatefrom God, that the Abyss is of our own making,and that we have wilfully, and with greatenergy and persistence, chosen not to know this. 70
  • 79. The Letters & the Paths 6 The Letters & the Paths According to the Sepher Yetzirah there are insights.thirty two paths of wisdom: these are the ten It is difficult to discuss the twenty two pathssephiroth and twenty-two paths. The twenty- without discussing the Sepher Yetzirah, becausetwo paths connect the sephiroth on the Tree of it is from the few enigmatic chapters of the Yetz-Life into a symmetrical lattice or network. It is irah that much of the material associated withnatural and intuitive to regard the sephiroth as the paths is drawn:“places” and the paths as “connections” or Ten Sefirot of Nothingness“transitions” between places, as if the Tree was And 22 Foundation Letters:a space-station-like structure of ten rooms and Three Mothers,twenty-two corridors. Seven Doubles Whether this simple intuition is accurate is And Twelve Elementals.open to question. The paths could equally well It was the Yetzirah which established thedenote relationships and symmetries between twenty two paths as the twenty two letters ofsephiroth, just as lines drawn between people the Hebrew alphabet, it was the Yetzirah whichcan be used to denote marriage or sexual part- grouped the letters into three, seven and twelveners, similar birth dates, or astrological signs, (like the paths on the Tree), and it was the Yetzi-food preferences, home towns or any one of a rah which established a large number of corre-large number of potential relationships between spondences traditionally associated with theindividuals. In a possible confirmation of this paths. The primary association of each path onview there are interpretations of the structure of the Tree of Life is a letter from the Hebrewthe Tree which emphasise groupings of three alphabet, and from the correspondences givensephiroth, usually referred to as “triads”, and in the Yetzirah a host of further correspond-larger-scale views of the Tree such as the Three ences follow. For this reason the study of thePillars and the two Faces also suggest that the traditional correspondences for the paths begins“paths as corridors” interpretation is not the with the Hebrew alphabet.whole story. In a volume devoted to the paths [25], Gareth The LettersKnight takes the intuitive view that “while aSephira stands primarily for an objective state, a The Hebrew alphabet is composed of twenty-Path is the subjective experience one undergoes two letters. Many Kabbalists believed (and stillin transferring consciousness from one Sephira, believe) these letters are the instruments usedor state, to another”. Dion Fortune [12] inter- by God to create the world. They are innatelyprets a path as the “equilibrium of the two sacred and contain within them all the myster-Sephiroth it connects”. Halevi [17] takes the ies of creation.view that as the Tree is a structure based on bal- According to Hebrew Legend as recorded inance, an impulse of imbalance causes changes to the Aggadah, the Torah (the first five books of thepropagate throughout the Tree, and the paths Bible) pre-dated the creation of heaven anddescribe how imbalances are propagated and earth and formed a kind of architectural blue-equilibrated, according to a process of thesis, print, written in letters of black fire on whiteantithesis, and synthesis. In his commentary on fire. In the Zohar there is a story told of how thethe Sepher Yetzirah, Kaplan [24] comments that letters of the Hebrew alphabet individually peti-early Kabbalists viewed the thirty two paths as tion God for the privilege of being the first letterdifferent states of consciousness. All of these in the Torah (the honour went to the letter Beth).views on the nature of the paths contain useful The mysterious and holy names of God, which 71
  • 80. Notes on Kabbalahrepresent the manifestations of God in the Crea- were saying something about language in gen-tion, can be expressed directly with this primor- eral, about a mystery they had comprehendeddial script. and experienced through the agency of the Devout Jews believe in the sacredness of the Hebrew alphabet. I wondered whether manyTorah as the revelation of God’s word, and it is a languages, not just Hebrew, conceal somethingsmall step from this to the belief that a person deeply magical and mysterious about the naturewho understood the power of the letters and of consciousness and our experience of thewho knew how to form the divine names in the world. This was a view I could sympathise withmind and on the tongue, had some measure of but in order to explain this I will need to make adivine power (although its use for personal gain digression into the world of the computer pro-was roundly condemned by Kabbalists in the grammer. Why computer programming?orthodox rabbinic tradition). To Kabbalists the Because computer programming is the mostletters glow with life and meaning, dancing in sophisticated method we have for building apatterns, combining and recombining to spell simulacrum of the world employing pure language.out the secrets of the hidden realm of the divine. Anyone who has played the computer gamesThe power of the divine name lives on in many readily available from any high street shop willpopular stereotypes of the mage, the sorcerer know how far programming has advanced inand the magician. providing a simulation of reality. For the price Can we take seriously the claim that the of a home computer anyone can experienceHebrew script is the original language of the many of the complexities of flying an aeroplane,creation? Must we leave this claim as a matter of driving a racing car, or commanding a tank. Thefaith, or can we look at it rationally? Should we versions available in the high street are onlycare whether a belief like this is rational - after games, but we know that highly advanced andall, reason is our servant, not our master. much more realistic simulators are used for For myself, I cannot accept this as a matter of training pilots, soldiers and astronauts.faith. We live on a planet with many cultures, This advance has been made within the lastmany religions, and many sacred scripts, some fifteen years, and there is no reason why pro-with an equal claim to being the original lan- grammers should not continue to provide moreguage of the creation (Sanskrit for example). It is and more sophisticated simulations, to the pointdifficult for a rational person to take this kind of where we may begin to have serious argumentsclaim seriously. How many original and divine about “reality”. The significant point is that welanguages of creation can there be? No doubt can build highly detailed and realistic simula-there are beings on a planet several dozen light tions of reality. That this should be possible isyears away who also believe something similar far from obvious. The more one thinks about it,about their script. It is not impossible that the the less obvious it becomes. How this is possi-script of a small tribe in Palestine might be the ble?original language of creation, but in the face of The original authors of this success weremany competing claims this does seem unlikely. physicists. Since the Renaissance individuals It is possible to try to ignore this issue by writ- have been slowly accumulating more and moreing-off Kabbalistic letter and word mysticism as information about the detailed physical proper-an historical dead-end, in the same way that we ties of the world. There is the apocryphal storyno longer believe that the world is flat and we about how Galileo climbed the Leaning Towerno longer believe the sun goes around the earth. of Pisa to find out whether a heavy object wouldThe problem with doing this is that Kabbalah is fall faster than a light object (it doesn’t). Tychoabsolutely permeated with a belief in the Brahe (who wrote an important text on magic)sacredness of the word; it is at the heart of Kab- spent years plotting the orbits of planets usingbalah. To take the sacredness of words and let- crude instruments. The slow accumulation ofters out of Kabbalah would be like pulling the information about the behaviour of fallingpetals off a flower. objects was codified by Isaac Newton (another For a long time I stuck my head in the sand, Hermetic Kabbalist) in his Laws of Motion.unwilling to admit the validity of letter mysti- Kepler (inspired by the mysticism of the Platon-cism, but as a result of some personal experi- ists) used Brahe’s data to show that planetaryences I began to wonder whether Kabbalists orbits were elliptical, and Newton went on to 72
  • 81. The Letters & the Pathsdeduce the Law of Gravity from Kepler’s work. behaves? It is sometimes assumed that the pri-Newton, and many others, studied how light mary purpose of language is social and itpropagates, how it reflects off surfaces and how evolved because a group that communicates isit refracts through glass. better at surviving. We can imagine a situation Physicists were able to provide compact two million years ago where a species of pri-descriptions of these phenomena using mathe- mates used their grunts and howls to coordinatematics, and most of the content of a modern uni- their hunting, and gradually evolved languageversity course in physics consists of learning because it made them better at doing thingshow the behaviour of the world can be than they were without language.expressed in a mathematical form, and how to It is a big step however, from being able to saypredict how things will behave in known cir- “my finger hurts” or “hand me my mammothcumstances. spear” to being able to simulate an aerial dog- You may not have thought that advanced fight using differential calculus and affine trans-mathematics was a language, but it is. formations. Why should a series of noises This is the foundation of computer simula- uttered my a tribe of jumped-up monkeys havetion. Programmers are able to incorporate the anything at all to do with the laws of the physi-mathematical descriptions of the real world into cal world? This fact is remarkable and it is soprograms to produce life-like graphics. Pro- remarkable that it has caught the attention ofgrammers purloin the mathematical transfor- most thoughtful physicists. Einstein was aston-mations used in perspective geometry, so that ished that we can describe the world with thesolid, three dimensional objects seen on a language of mathematics. To the novice the factgraphics display “look right” as they move that we can describe how the world behaves isaround. Programmers use the laws of motion to just one of those things. To the most famous anddescribe how objects move. Programmers use erudite physicists it is a genuine mystery. Mostthe laws of reflection and refraction to model things in life are like that: don’t bother them andthe effects of light sources, so that scenes have they won’t bother you, but once you start takingshadows and shading just as in real life. The a good hard look and ask why, the house ofresult of all this effort might be an aeroplane cards collapses.flight simulator program. There is a possibility, and I offer it as a What programmers do is to take existing hypothesis: that language and rationalitymathematical descriptions of how the world evolved because our brain and nervous systembehaves and use them in their programs. The are adapted to “the way the world is” in thefact that it works so well demonstrates that same way that a leopard has spots and a polarsomething essential about the appearance and bear is white. Like other animals we havebehaviour of the world has been captured in a lan- evolved a colouring appropriate to our environ-guage and communicated from one group of people ment, and this colouring is much more than(physicists and mathematicians) to another group skin-deep.(programmers). We know how well our bodies are adapted. The situation can be summarised as follows: The electro-optical system in my eyes is far 1. We can observe the world we live in and superior to the best broadcast quality television express certain regularities of behaviour cameras, and my liver routinely carries out (and the natural world is very regular) using chemical processes that would earn me a Nobel a the language of mathematics. prize if I knew how it did it. Our bodies are 2. We can use that language to recreate the warehouses of biochemical and physical knowl- behaviour of the world and so produce edge we have only begun to explore. The extent increasingly realistic computer simulations of our adaptation to the world goes far beyond which look like the world and behave like our current ability to comprehend. Why should the world. the extent of our adaptation stop at physiology This is extraordinary. It is remarkable that we and go no further? If our bodies (and our cells,should be capable of modelling the world, a and our genes) are a complex apparatuscapability as extraordinary as the fact of self- evolved to make sense of the world, and weconsciousness. Why should language have any- take for granted the excellence of the eye or thething to do with the way the world looks and ear or the liver in doing their jobs, then why not 73
  • 82. Notes on Kabbalahthe brain? If the eye is a survival adaptation to In the main, these men were the leading intel-light, and the ear a survival adaptation to lects in their communities. They were trained tosound, then what is language? What is self-con- read the Torah and to appreciate the arguments,sciousness? What is rationality? discussions and nuances of interpretation that My hypothesis is that language is something had accumulated over the centuries. As expertsmore than a series of grunts to expedite hunt- on law and tradition they were required to pro-ing, and perhaps, like the eye and the ear and vide judgements on fine points of law, andthe liver, it is an evolutionary adaptation to the developed a lawyer’s insight into the subtleties“way the world is”. But ... if we examine the of language. They were mystics whose livesevolutionary adaptations an animal has made were dominated by language. They believed inthen we can say something about its environ- the sacredness of their language and found ament. Perhaps there is something about the deep mystery in it, a mystery with its origin indeep structure of reality to which we have an the farthest roots of awareness.adaptation. Our senses are an adaptation to the Whether the Hebrew alphabet and languagephenomena of the world; are our minds are an have a particular and peculiar quality to beadaptation to a deeper structure, a form behind found in no other language must remain anthe appearance? open question. For myself I cannot take this sim- This might explain why physicists have had ply as a matter of religious belief. However, I noso much success in modelling how the world longer dismiss the possibility that Kabbalistsworks. My hypothesis is that human beings found deep secrets in their letter meditations, indeveloped linguistic ability for precisely the their practice of tzeruf (letter permutations), andsame reason that a leopard has spots, or a in their contemplations of the sacred names ofgiraffe has a long neck: abstraction, reason and God.language are the ultimate survival adaptations A physicist who studies the human eye canbecause they are the keys to something. At a unlock many of the secrets of optics, and it doessuperficial level they are the keys to unlock not seem unreasonable that a person who fol-technology - in the course of time physics lows the trail of language back to its source inbecomes engineering, and engineers build our the roots of consciousness might discover some-planes and our cars and our computers. But thing fundamental about the world itself. Withthere may be more. this interpretation the Biblical statement that I suspect that at the roots of language there is man is made in the image of God makes sense.something as deeply hidden as the pea under The words of the Emerald Tablet of Hermesthe forty mattresses of tired and restless prin- Trismegistus state something similar: “thatcess, something a rational mystic working which is below is like that which is above, andbeyond the limits of rational consciousness that which is above is like that which is below”.might grasp. Study the eye and one can learn The maxim that the microcosm is a reflection ofabout optics; study the roots of language at the the macrocosm no longer sounds like mysticalroots of consciousness, and what might one dis- mumbo-jumbo. It is stating something whichcover about the world? should be obvious: not only are our bodies Kabbalists were unusual mystics because they sophisticated instruments, but so are our minds,lived in the community and contributed to it. and our self-consciousness is a key whereby weThey were married men with families to sup- can comprehend the world1 by comprehendingport and businesses to run. Many were masters ourselves. It no longer seems to me to be anof Jewish law and tradition and responsible for unreasonable hypothesis to say that the mind issettling disputes in the community. At a timewhen books were rare and expensive, they were 1.I am treading on the toes of the famous German philoso-literate men who memorised vast tracts of the pher Hegel here, who argued that all history could beTorah and Talmud. Many were multi-lingual and viewed as an ongoing process of self-revelation withinwere as familiar with the literature of Islam as God. If the world and ourselves are an embodiment of God,they were with the literature of Christianity. a close inspection of either will lead us back to the same place. There are many points of contact between KabbalahSome (such as Nachmanides) were required to and Hegel, not least of which is his well known dialectic ofdefend their communities against hostile attack thesis, antithesis and synthesis. This was a well-knownin public “disputations” with leading scholars. technique of scriptural interpretation, and a process amply illustrated in the structure of the Tree of Life. 74
  • 83. The Letters & the Pathsan evolutionary adaptation to reality, and lan- the world, as if “formation” was a twenty-twoguage is a key to its comprehension. dimensional space with a letter allocated to each axis. They are classified according to the way in The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are all con- which they are shaped in the mouth. This sug-sonants. Even letters such as alef and ayin which gests (unsuprisingly) that the primary key toat first sight appear to be vowels are not. understanding the letters is in their sounds, The written language did not originally show individually and in combination. Each soundthe vowels; these were added between the sev- corresponds to an aspect of formation, andenth and tenth centuries by the Masorites, a when this is understood and the correct internalgroup which standardised the texts of the Bible. connections are made, the letters can be used inBecause the text was sacred and could not be various combinations in magical procedures.altered, the vowels were indicated by adding Each sound becomes a trigger for an aspect ofvarious dots and dashes above and below the consciousness which is active in determiningconsonants. the form of reality. The consonants represent different ways in A complex and dangerous exercise alongwhich the pure sound of the larynx is modu- these lines documented in Kabbalistic literaturelated by movements in the mouth and throat. is the formation of a golem, or artificial being.The vowels are shaped by the consonants. This The use of letter combinations and vowelresembles the duality of force and form which I sounds leads into complex, and by all accountspresented at in the first chapter as the basic dangerous, meditative and magical practicesduality underpinning the Kabbalistic world- called Chokhmah ha-Tzeruf, the science of letterview. If the vowels are the water in a river, then combinations. The leading exponent of thisthe consonants are the guiding riverbank. If the method was Abraham Abulafia (1240-1295),vowels represent the desire to win at chess, then who used these techniques to access a level ofthe consonants are the rules of the game. The ecstatic consciousness where prophecy occurs.letters of the Hebrew alphabet can be viewed as Abulafia is one of the most unusual and inter-twenty-two ways of shaping sound, as repre- esting of Kabbalists because he is one of the fewsentations of form. This view is given substance Kabbalists to leave (relatively) detailed accountsin the Yetzirah [24]: of practical meditative techniques, the publica- tion of which evoked considerable hostility Twenty-two Foundation letters: from his contemporaries, to the extent that Abu- He engraved them, He carved them, lafia was forced to move his residence on a He permuted them, He weighed them, number of occasions. Abulafia believed himself He transformed them, to be in possession of the same meditative tech- And with them, He depicted all that was niques used by the Biblical prophets and pro- formed and all that would be formed. duced several manuscripts containing Twenty-two Foundation letters inspirational material received while in high meditational states. He writes with authority He engraved them with voice and clarity, and the descriptions of altered states He carved them with breath and their characteristics to be found in his He set them in the mouth works (and in works of his disciples) have a In five places convincing stamp of authenticity. Alef Chet He Ayin in the throat Abulafia states that there are two principle Gimel Yud Kaf Kuf in the palate techniques in Kabbalah: meditations on the ten Dalet Tet Lamed Nun Tav in the tongue sephiroth, and a more powerful technique Zayin Samekh Shin Resh Tzadi in the based on the twenty-two letters. His technique teeth was the latter, and he appears to have been the Bet Vav Mem Peh in the lips. heir to an authentic tradition concerning the practical application of the Sepher Yetzirah. His In the Sepher Yetzirah the consonants were not techniques are complex and require a goodtreated as arbitrary tokens, as individually unin- knowledge of Hebrew and gematria, as well asteresting components of words. Each letter had the ability to sustain concentration throughouta unique role in the formation of everything in lengthy meditations; they are not appropriate 75
  • 84. Notes on Kabbalah: Aleph Ox 1 Beth House 2 Gimel Camel 3 Daleth Door 4 He Window 5 Vau Peg, nail 6 Zain Weapon 7 Cheth Fence 8 Teth Serpent 9 Yod Hand 10 Kaph Palm (of hand) 20 (500) Lamed Ox-goad 30 Mem Water 40 (600) Nun Fish 50 (700) Samekh Prop 60 Ayin Eye 70 Peh Mouth 80 (800) Tzaddi Fish-Hook 90 (900) Qoph Back of Head 100 Resh Head 200 Shin Tooth 300 Tau Cross 400 Table 12: The Hebrew Alphabet Mothers Doubles Elementals Aleph Beth He Mem Gimel Vau Shin Daleth Zayin Kaph Cheth Pe Teth Table 13: Yetziratic Groupings 76
  • 85. The Letters & the Paths Resh Yod Tau Lamed Nun Samekh Ayin Tzaddi Qoph Table 13: Yetziratic Groupings:: Mother Sound Element Season Body Aleph Breath Air Spring & Chest Autumn Mem Hum Water Winter Belly Shin Hiss Fire Summer Head Table 14: Mother Letters Dou- Planet Day Quality Body Direc- ble tion Beth Moon Sunday Wis- R. eye South dom Folly Gimel Mars Monday Wealth R. ear North Pov- erty Dalet Sun Tuesday Fertil- R. nos- East h ity Bar- tril reness Kaph Venus Wednes- Life L. eye Up day Death Pe Mer- Thurs- Domi- L. ear Down cury day nance Sub- mis- sion Resh Saturn Friday Peace L. nos- West War tril Table 15: Double Letters 77
  • 86. Notes on Kabbalah Tau Jupiter Saturday Grace Mouth Centre Ugli- ness Table 15: Double Letters: Ele- Foun- Zodiac Month Body Direc- mental dation tion He speech Aries Nissan R.foot Up.E Vau thoug Taurus Iyar R.kid- NE ht ney Zayin motio Gemini Sivan L.foot Lo.E n Cheth sight Cancer Tam- R.hand Up.S muz Teth hear- Leo Av L.kid- SE ing ney Yod action Virgo Elul L.hand Lo.S Lamed coi- Libra Tishrei gall Up.W tion bladder Nun smell Scorpio Chesh- intes- SW van tines Samek sleep Sagitta- Kilsev pan- Lo.W h rius creas? Ayin anger Capri- Tevet liver Up.N corn Tza- taste Aquar- Shevat stom- NW ddi ius ach Qoph laugh- Pisces Adar spleen Lo.N ter Table 16: Elemental Letters: Double Planet Beth Mercury Gimel Moon Daleth Venus Table 17: Golden Dawn Attributions 78
  • 87. The Letters & the PathsKaph JupiterPe MarsResh SunTau Saturn Table 17: Golden Dawn Attributions 79
  • 88. Notes on Kabbalahfor a beginner. The practical technique given in and 12 diagonals. Tradition (for example, thethese notes (ritual invocation of sephiroth attribution according to Isaac Luria) follows thisthrough the divine names of God, combined by matching mothers to horizontals, doubles towith meditation on the correspondences and verticals, and elementals to diagonals. Thetheir significance in everyday life) is simpler to Golden Dawn scheme does not.acquire but effective if persevered with. Given that the geometric structure of the Tree Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a appears to be a direct interpretation of the textnumeric value. Some letters have two numeric of the Yetzirah, this strikes me as somewhat per-values depending on whether they occur in the verse!middle or at the end of a word. Each letter also The Golden Dawn scheme has been muchhas a literal meaning (for example, the letter used, much written about, and one cannot deny`Shin’ literally means `a tooth’). These letters are that many people have found it useful, but it isgiven in Table 12. The Yetzirah groups the letters open to the criticism that something vital hasinto 3 mothers, 7 doubles, and 12 elementals as been lost along the way, and I think it would beshown in Table 13. In the Yetzirah the three a mistake to approach Kabbalah with the viewmothers have the correspondences shown in that the Golden Dawn attribution of letters toTable 14. paths is beyond question. The correspondences for the seven doubles Doubtless, many readers will have reached toare in Table 15. The seven doubles are also asso- point of asking (like the author!) “well, what isciated with seven universes, seven firmaments, the right answer!”.seven lands, seven seas, seven rivers, seven I do not know.deserts, seven weeks, seven days of creation, There are many possible answers. A tradi-seven years, seven sabbaticals, and seven jubi- tional attribution like that of Isaac Luria (Figurelees. 13) might seem like a safe bet, but in the absence The correspondences for the twelve elemen- of keys to these attributions they must remaintals are in Table 16. cryptic - it is a large step from the bare bones of Different versions of the Sepher Yetzirah con- an attribution to building a workable internaltain different correspondences for many letters; representation of that attribution, and there arethe correspondences above are from the Gra few pointers to help.version as listed by Kaplan [24], who should bereferred to for alternatives. The Paths It should be noted that the well-known There are two well-known schemes forGolden Dawn correspondences for the paths organising the paths on the Tree. The firstdiffer from all the sources listed by Kaplan scheme is the scheme used throughout thesewhen it comes to allocating the planets to the notes, and I will refer to it as the “normal”double letters. In the Golden Dawn scheme the scheme. It is the older of the two, and can bedouble letters were written in increasing numer- seen in Figure 12. The second scheme is attrib-ical order and allocated to the planets in order uted to the Safed school of Moses Cordoveroof increasing exaltation, as shown in Table 17. and Isaac Luria, and can be seen in Figure 13. This collection of correspondences is all very Both schemes differ only on the placing of twowell, but what do they tell us about the Tree of paths: in the “normal” scheme there are pathsLife? How do they fit on the paths as they are connecting Hod and Netzach to Malkhut, whiledrawn, and can we ascribe a meaning to them in the Lurianic scheme these paths do not exist,which complements the rich and well-devel- and instead there are paths from Chokhmah tooped correspondences associated with the Gevurah, and from Binah to Chesed.sephiroth? Herein, as the saying goes, lies a In both schemes there are three horizontalmystery. paths, seven vertical paths, and twelve diagonal A commonly accepted scheme is the Golden paths. Does the division into 3, 7 and 12 signifyDawn attribution of letters to paths (Figure 12), anything useful? What can we deduce purely bybut it suffers from a glaring deficiency: the looking at the Tree itself?Hebrew letters are divided into 3 mothers, 7 The three horizontal paths connect sephirothdoubles and 12 elementals, and the paths on the which (in a sense) represent polar opposites -Tree are divided into 3 horizontals, 7 verticals force and form (Chokhmah and Binah), creation 80
  • 89. The Letters & the Paths En Soph 1 Keter (Crown) 3 2 Binah Chokhmah (Understanding) (Intelligence) (Wisdom) Daat (Knowledge) 5 4 Gevurah Chesed (Mercy) (Strength) (Love) 6 Tipheret (Beauty) 8 7 Hod Netzach (Glory) (Victory) (Splendour) (Firmness) 9 Yesod (Foundation) 10 Malkhut (Kingdom) Figure 12: The Letters on the Tree The Tree of Emanation - Golden Dawn Attributionsand destruction (Chesed and Gevurah), and at a The diagonal paths connect a side pillar withlower level (Netzach and Hod), force and form the central pillar. Each path connects a balancedonce more. It is this division of unity into polar state to an unbalanced state, or vice versaopposites which energises the Tree. depending on the direction it is traversed. The seven vertical paths create the three verti- The following presentation on the paths iscal pillars of the Tree and communicate a qual- original and uses a method which is not oftenity of force, form or consciousness down the employed in modern Kabbalah, although some-appropriate pillar through levels of increasing thing similar can be found in some manuscriptsform. of the Sepher Yetzirah. The method is to examine 81
  • 90. Notes on Kabbalah En Soph 1 Keter (Crown) 3 2 Binah Chokhmah (Understanding) (Intelligence) (Wisdom) 5 4 Gevurah Chesed (Mercy) (Strength) (Love) 6 Tipheret (Beauty) 8 7 Hod Netzach (Glory) (Victory) (Splendour) (Firmness) 9 Yesod (Foundation) 10 Malkhut (Kingdom) Figure 13: The Letters on the Tree Isaac Luria’s Tree of Returnand describe the change in consciousness symbols in an attempt to describe, in moderncaused by traversing a path from one sephira to language, the essence of the sephira in as suc-another. This is well worth attempting as it can cinct a form as possible. This is not so difficult:clarify one’s understanding of the sephiroth, the Tree is profound, and like many profoundand it illustrates the dynamics of moving con- symbols (and much of modern physics), it cansciousness around the Tree. This is a practical be reduced to a remarkably simple form.exercise of great value, and rather than view my The next step was to meditate on the twoexposition as an attempt to be definitive (it is sephira at either end of a path, and to make thenot), you should view it as illustrative of a prac- transition in consciousness as many times as ittical meditative technique. took to capture the essence of the transition. The My first step was to strip each sephira from its nature of the transition depends on the direction 82
  • 91. The Letters & the Paths En Soph Unity Return Revealing Possibility of Phase Change Unconditioned Boundaries Creativity Loss Th of eI od Duality nte Self Inspiration G llig of ar ibl Fe e Response Turbulence Conditioned to Boundaries Creativity Preservation Innovation Given Self Authority Defense Consciousness Adulation - Right Re the fan -va Par luati tia o lity n Initiation Appreciation Choice Response of to Boundaries Creativity Ego Abstraction Action & & Classification Reaction s Mo lue del Va s Loss of Self Diversity Figure 14: The Pathsin which one traverses the path, and in the rothic powers as outlined in the chapter onexamples below I have tended to consider one Practical Kabbalah. If you want to carry out thisdirection only. kind of exercise yourself, I would recommend It is important in an exercise like this to have a using simple ritual and invocation of the sephi-deep familiarity with the sephiroth - not only roth as a precursor.with the symbols and correspondences, but The characterisation of the sephiroth is givenwith the underlying essence of a sephira as it in Figure 14.underpins consciousness. An awareness of thisessence is achieved by invocation of the sephi- Keter is Unity. 83
  • 92. Notes on Kabbalah Chokhmah is Unconditioned Creativity, the tions of Hod, and the treadmill of perception.divine creative emanation in its purest form. Consciousness spins a web to run around onAlthough Chokhmah is unconditioned, it con- and becomes trapped in the web of its owntains within it the possibility of structure as manufacture.Binah. Malkhut is Diversity, the culmination of a Binah is the Mother of Form and the possibil- process of differentiation and increasing struc-ity of boundaries. By boundary I mean the idea ture that begins with the Unity of Keter.of difference, differentiation, form or structurein the abstract. A boundary contains the idea of This characterisation of the sephiroth is suc-separation - The One becomes Many. Binah is the cinct but captures the essence of how the unitymost abstract root of differentiation. of Keter is broken up and expressed through a Chesed is Conditioned Creativity. It inherits process of formation, so that force is increas-the creative impulse of Chokhmah but cannot ingly constrained going down the pillar of force,depart from the constraints imposed by Binah. form becomes increasingly defined going downBinah limits what is possible, and the creativity the pillar of form, and consciousness increas-of Chesed must operate within these limits. ingly fragmented going down the pillar of con- Gevurah is Response to Boundaries. The pri- sciousness. When the Tree of Life is stripped ofmary Gevuric concern is transgression. Cross myth, allegory, symbol and a dense web of Bib-the line and according to tradition, the Severity lical allusion, this is what remains, and thisof God will find you. The boundaries are ever- essence can be found in the Kabbalah from thewhere: in the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of earliest times.Judaism, in criminal law, in accounting rules The motivation behind this exegesis is theand tax regulations, in social convention, and in idea of separation. The Kabbalist wishes to cleavethe rules of soccer. Break the rules, and a Gevu- to God, but is separate. Each morning the Kab-ric consciousness somewhere will call you to balist of old would declare that the God of Israelaccount. is One, but the world we live in clearly contains Tipheret is Self-Consciousness. The Unity of a plurality of forms. The structure of language,Keter is sundered into the plurality of individ- so vital to the Kabbalist, creates sharp bounda-ual consciousness. Because consciousness is ries where we might perceive a continuum. Theseparate, it becomes concerned with its own Kabbalist seeks to repair the fallen state of theboundaries, self-definition, unique identity. creation by carrying out unifications (yichudim).This narrative of identity coalesces and solidi- Everywhere one looks in the traditional Kabba-fies as the ego. lah one finds a constant awareness that the crea- Netzach is Response to Creativity. The crea- tion is a long way from the unity of God, thattive impulses of Chesed are evaluated at the things have become separated, and that thelevel of basic emotional reponse and accepted or process down the lightning flash to Malkhutrejected. John F. Kennedy’s proposal that the represents an increasing alienation from God.USA should place a man on the moon is an At the very limit of this alienation are theexample of how creative proposals and husks, the Klippot, the world of unclean shellsimpulses coming from Chesed can galvanise who embody in the meaning of the word Klippotthousands into saying “Yes - we will do that!”. (shell, husk, as in the covering of a nut) the idea Hod is Appreciation of Bounderies. Novels, of a separation.drama, dance, opera, music, fine art, law, cul- When I use the word “boundary” I am think-ture, myth, and the entire corpus of human sci- ing along these lines - a conceptual separation ofentific knowledge, provide domains for one thing from another.consciousness to explore and become absorbed An analogy I find useful is the breakup of ain, even lost in. It is the bounderies between smooth (laminar) fluid flow into a whirlingthings that define what a thing is, and as con- chaos of vortices that become increasinglysciousness chooses one thing over another so it detailed as the flow proceeds. Examples are thelearns to value and appreciate bounderies. flow of air over an aircraft wing, smoke from a Yesod is Ego. The Ego is differentiated from cigarette, or the flow of water out of a tap. ThereSelf by the inflexible affective responses of is only a smooth flow of air, and yet it spins intoNetzach, the unquestioning intellectual fixa- large vortices, and these into progressively finer 84
  • 93. The Letters & the Pathsvortices, until the air becomes a confused mess thing-in-itself. The philosopher Kant assertedof movement on every scale. As the doggerel that we could never perceive the thing-in-itself -goes: our experience of the world would be necessar- ily conditioned by fundamental “categories” of “Big whorls have little whorls perception, such as the perception of things That feed on their velocity, embedded in time and space. And little whorls have smaller whorls In addition to such basic categories of percep- And so on to viscosity.” tion there are models that are part of the social consensus at a given time. At the present time Nowhere is there anything but air (or water), these include “male”, “female”, “solid”, “liq-and yet the movement of one part relative to uid”, “global warming” and so on. Althoughanother creates structure, and when we look we these are approximations, such models are use-can see boundaries. The movement of a turbu- ful and so they persist until something betterlent fluid (for example, a rising plume of smoke) comes along.forms an excellent meditation. This is the best The initiation of this path is the consciousmetaphor I know of to illustrate how something awareness of what Korzybski called “awarenesscan be one and many at the same time. of abstraction”, the process of turning the diver- And now to the paths ..... sity of Malkhut into something the individual human consciousness finds tractable. Part ofYesod to Malkhut - Loss of Self this awareness is understanding the social cate- I find bookstores intimidating. Each book is a gories of perception we individually use tolarge investment in time, experience, and often pigeon-hole the world, and also how we com-identity - a person may encapsulate a lifetime in municate these personal models as “the truth”.one text. When I am faced with so many opin-ions (often contradictory), I experience a deep- Netzach to Malkhut - Valuesening sense of stress and nausea and oppression Value is a human construct. Malkhut isas waves of otherness erode my sense of self. devoid of values. The popular myth of RichardSomething similar happens in a large shopping the Third on the field of Bosworth, that he lostmall, where I can become so absorbed in exter- the battle because his horse lacked a horseshoenal variety I become unconscious of myself. nail, equates that one missing nail with the price Malkhut is otherness. Normally we experi- of an entire kingdom, hence Shakespeare’s “Myence it from the viewpoint of the ego, which kingdom for a horse!”.cushions the feelings of otherness by reducing The value of things depends on personal andthe external world to a manageable size - family, social circumstances. We have all experienceda few friends, the workplace, and a sprinkling of times when something insignificant - a safetybooks, films and TV programmes selected to pin, a piece of string, a drawing pin, a pair ofreduce the stress of the unfamiliar. tweezers, five more minutes, a nail, becomes Almost all of the world is outside of our- paramount.selves, but we cannot see it when it threatens This path is about the instantaneous feelingsthe autonomy of the ego. The historical parallel aroused by things. These feelings colour ourto this initiation was the switch from an anthro- experience of the world like a paint-by-numberspomorphic model of the universe, with man at kit - we unconsciously associate value with eve-the spiritual centre of creation, to the heliocen- rything we experience. Much behaviour followstric model where human beings are an accident on from this unconscious valuation, and so weof evolution. are motivated by forces that are often beyond This path is a Copernican revolution in con- our control. This is of course the basis for adver-sciousness. tising, which tries to create positive valuations for products and services.Hod to Malkhut - Models The structure of human perception makes it Hod to Yesod - Abstraction and Classificationdifficult to see things as they really are. This This path relates to the path from Hod to Mal-problem appears in philosophy as the problem khut, as both are about imposing structure uponof the “thing-in-itself” - what we see is a prod- an unknown world. The path from Hod to Mal-uct of a complex perceptual process, and not the khut attempts to see the world as it “really is”, 85
  • 94. Notes on Kabbalahbut this path includes the internal world of the Netzach to Hod - Choiceimagination. It is considerably richer. There is a saying that “feelings tell us what to You are in bed at night and you are woken by think”. The justification for this is that a purelya noise. You strain to hear further sounds, and rational being would be incapable of makingyou do. Your fear of intruders latches on to choices in many real-life situations. Therethese noises, and you begin to construct a sce- would be too many choices, and too little datanario where an armed intruder is attempting to on which to evaluate these choices. One seesgain entry into the house. Each further noise this sometimes in the workplace - a very ana-adds weight to the developing narrative, and lytic person may be good at drawing up lists ofyou begin to react emotionally - breathing choices, each choice with its pros and cons, butquickens, heart pounds. may find it difficult to choose one option over We have all experienced fear in the night, and another. Someone with a more defined “gutthe last time it happened to me it was a badger feel” can skim through the list and say “we’ll gohunting for food down the side of the house. I with that one”.was prepared for a life-or-death struggle with a The future is only lightly constrained by thepotential assailant. I could have arrived at the present. At one time it was thought that thecorrect answer, but my senses had been filtered mechanics of the world were deterministic, thatthrough an imaginary scenario and I had con- the future could be predicted exactly from thestructed the wrong answer. present, but now we know that this is not so. The essence of this path is understanding how Complex systems tend to evolve on the edge ofperception is an active process, and our beliefs, chaos, where minute differences can make aimagination, prejudices, fears, desires and so on profound difference to their future state. At theinfluence how we construct the world from our level of human beings and human society, free-senses. will and choice determine the form of the world A large part of what we “know” is learned we live in.from other people. The mass-media functions as The path between Netzach and Hod is one ofa kind of giant, extended Yesod, feeding mil- the three horizontal paths corresponding to thelions simultaneously to create an artificial “con- three mother letters (aleph, mem, shin) in thesensus reality”. Much of what is received Hebrew alphabet. These paths express duality,through the media is accepted without question, the dynamics of force and form. The tension ofso when I hear that X is a dangerous terrorist, manifestation is expressed through these paths:my automatic response is to accept this informa- they are literally the “mothers of form”.tion. With increasing age I grow cynical and Whenever a person is presented with a choice,understand that most information is manipula- and chooses, he or she determines the future oftion, but I do not have time to deconstruct every the world.piece of information that comes my way, and Ido feel a need to be informed. Tipheret to Hod - Right What is important is not the search for objec- The consciousness associated with Tipherettive truth, but the realisation that we are not can observe the workings of the psyche withoutautomata, and we are not constituted for objec- being absorbed into its function. There is ativity. detachment of being from modes-of-being. When consciousness moves into Hod, thatNetzach to Yesod - Action and Reaction detachment is lost. Consciousness is dominated When someone you know well appears with a by the structure of things, by definitions, bynew hairstyle, there is a moment of unfamiliar- boundaries, by rules, by the articulation of whatity and surprise, and then a reaction. The proc- is and what is not.ess of evaluating and reacting to new stimuli is I could have named this path “articulation”,continuous and we are barely aware of it most but articulation is rarely a shopping list, and isof the time. The verbal awareness (whether hon- usually an articulation of what is. That is why Iest or not) comes later, and may take some time, called this path “right” - consciousness falls outas when tasting a new food, or smelling a per- of an uncommitted state into a state where itfume. articulates “what is”; that is, what is right or correct, and what is wrong, unfounded, mis- 86
  • 95. The Letters & the Pathsguided, irrational, incorrect. weight and so on. Even identical twins differ in many ways.Tipheret to Netzach - Re-evaluation, partiality This idea was not subscribed to in classical This path is the affective mirror of the path times. It does not resonate in many culturesfrom Tipheret to Hod. Consciousness ceases to today. Nevertheless, this idea has become per-observe the process of valuation and becomes vasive throughout the Western world.absorbed into it. It ceases to observe feelings In order to see human beings as equal weand experiences them directly. need to see each one as containing some essence There is a loss of consciousness. This is usu- that is more important than all the obvious dif-ally unavoidable. This is the point at which ferences between people. People like to be dif-many mystical systems come unstuck. It is eas- ferent, like to be unique. We need to ignore theier to be detached from emotional evaluation surface and focus on an identity that lies belowand partiality in highly controlled, highly iso- the surface.lated situations (e.g. in a monastery), but it is The assertion of human equality is groundedharder in domestic situations involving (for in religious perception, and is based not on theexample) one’s children. One has to care, has to equality of soma or psyche, but on the existencemake choices. For myself, I feel that detachment of a divine principle manifesting through eachis misguided, that making choices is the most one of us. It is this internal divinity that makesimportant thing we can do in our lives. What we us equal.can do, and should do, is make sure important I see the original articulation that “all humanchoices engage as much of our being as possible, beings are equal” as an example of movementthat we take our feelings back to Tipheret, once, from Tipheret to Chesed. A spiritual insight,twice, many times if we have the luxury of time, based on the direct perception of the spiritualto re-consider the value we place on things. We essence of each person, is declared publicly andshould do the same with our past actions, and in the course of time creates a massive shift inthat way we can learn to act with wisdom, and global human consciousness. Our human rightsnot from impulse. legislation is now rooted in this basic belief in human equality.Tipheret to Gevurah - Preservation Gevurah is God’s judgement and severity. It Tipheret to Binah - The Intelligibleis the energy which maintains and preserves, “The Intelligible” is a term that derives fromand corresponds to the immune system in the the Platonic school of philosophy that was cur-human body. rent in the classical world from the time of Plato If the movement from Tipheret to Hod is to the closure of the Platonic Academy in Ath-about articulating what is correct and incorrect, ens by the emperor Justinian nearly 1000 yearsright and wrong, reasonable and crazy, then the later.movement from Tipheret to Gevurah is a more It signifies that which can be apprehendedpronounced movement in a similar direction, to through the eye of the rational intellect.where these principles descend from the sphere The development of technology is the mostof the divine and are articulated and preserved tangible evidence that there is a substructure ofin society. constancy in the natural world which we can The movement from Tipheret to Gevurah is a learn through various investigative disciplines -commitment to preserving and defending physics, chemistry, biology, geology etc. Thissomething. If consciousness has been properly “substructure of constancy” is far from beingcentered in Tipheret then this commitment obvious, and it is only within the last few hun-might be something to do with (for example) dred years that we have begun to elucidate thehuman rights, equality, discrimination, fairness deep underlying principles.and so on. There is a view that science is a social con- struct, that the various theories and explana-Tipheret to Chesed - Innovation tions that compose science are the outcomes of The idea that human beings are equal is a social processes that maintain various groups inbizarre innovation. It certainly is not obvious, as positions of power and authority. There may behuman beings differ in almost every respect - some truth in this some of the time, but our abil-tone of voice, agility, knowledge, skills, height, 87
  • 96. Notes on Kabbalahity to create complex, almost magical artifacts Gevurah to Hod - Defencesuch as mobile telephones and computers This path is the transition from appreciatingshows how flawed this view can be. These arti- boundaries (Hod) to responding to them (Gevu-facts exist because our theories and explana- rah). Many important boundaries are definedtions are sufficiently congruent to nature at a socially. When someone tramples over thesevery deep level. boundaries they will discover that boundaries In other words, there does seem to be a con- are not only defined intellectually, they arestant world underpinning the fluctuating and maintained by force.often opaque phenomena of the natural world.To the scientist and mathematician there is a Chesed to Netzach - Adulation, the Fanreal sense of wonder and beauty in being able to This path is the emotional response to creativ-penetrate this world. In my own experience it ity, but it is creativity experienced at seconddoes feel like being in possession of another eye hand. We all know how it feels to experience thethat can see deep within nature. creativity of another person. The feeling is often This is one interpretation of the ancient associ- very intense, a wave of adulation that can beation of Malkhut (the inferior mother) and quite irrational.Binah (the superior mother), that Binah is thestructure of the Intelligible that gives rise to the Gevurah to Chesed - Turbulenceappearance of reality that we perceive as Mal- In the introduction to this description of thekhut. paths I used turbulence in a fluid as a metaphor At one level the experience of the Intelligible for emergent complexity, a metaphor of theoccurs as the Vision of Splendour in Hod. At process for how One can become Many.another level it is the kind of sublime mystical Turbulence also applies to the humanunion described by the more mystical of the Pla- domain, to the process of social change, which istonic philosophers, and it is this experience I balanced between forces which try to changehave associated with this path. the status-quo, and forces which try to keep things as they are.Tipheret to Chokhmah - Fear of God This path contains both ideas: at the higher In Proverbs it states that “The beginning of level it is the outflowing of Chokhmah intowisdom (chokhmah) is the fear of the Lord”. Binah; at the lower level it is this process as it Every person feels the power and immensity, takes place in human society.the unpredictability, the beauty and danger ofthe sea. How much more then can we experi- Binah to Gevurah - Dualityence the immensity of God’s outpouring? Binah is the mother of form, the root of dis- We are finite beings with small minds and tinction. Movement down this path is an aware-limited concerns. As one moves from the root of ness of separation, of the separation of one thingpersonal identity in Tipheret towards the fount from another, the root awareness of being dif-of cosmic manifestation, our personal frailty ferent and distinct.and insignificance becomes apparent. The development of this awareness is notica- ble in children as they become aware of siblings,Tipheret to Keter - Loss of Self possessions, and personal space. “It’s mine!” is Keter and Malkhut are duals by tradition, dif- the dominant cry. This path really is the “root offerent views of the same thing. Perception is all evil”.active, and it is an act of will whether one per-ceives One or Many. The Many is concealed Chokhmah to Chesed - Inspirationwithin the One, and the One is concealed within Genuine creativity feels divine. That is the ori-the Many. gin of the word inspiration - it means “breath- For this reason the path from Tipheret to Mal- ing into”, the sense that a divine force haskhut (through Yesod) and the path from intruded. There was a time when poets wouldTipheret to Keter (through Daat) are also duals. invoke the gods for inspiration.The experiences are superficially different, butwhen experienced in depth they are the same. Chokhmah to Binah- Phase Change I have used the metaphor of turbulence in a fluid to describe how One becomes Many. The 88
  • 97. The Letters & the Pathspath from Chokhmah to Binah is the root of all impact is distilled through consciousness andduality and manifestation. I imagine a hose returned. The act of living consciously and mor-pumping water into a swimming pool - ally achieves this purpose, the implication beingChokhmah is the hose (traditionally the image that living is its own purpose. The closer wewas a spring or fountain) and Binah is the pool raise our consciousness to the source, the more(traditionally the image was the sea, or supernal we can return our experience of life. This, morewaters). than anything, dignifies life, dignifies even the All metaphors are limited, and I have strug- worst suffering, and permits us to find great joygled to find a more eloquent metaphor for this even in pain, illness and death.path. There is a phenomenon well-known in thescience of complex systems known as emergent Keter to Chokhmah - Revealingorder. An example might be the growth of snow- The path from Keter to Chokhmah is theflakes, or frost patterns on a window, or ame- beginning of the revealing that is life. We cannotthyst crystals in a geode, or clouds in the sky. know all its mysteries. I suspect that God doesEmergent order tends to occur at a critical point not know either, that life is its own revealing,where a system is in transition from one state to the fabric of tomorrow woven from the threadsanother. This transition is known as a phase of today. Meaning and purpose are emergentchange. A phase change is usually characterised and transitory. They are ephemera we con-by chaos. struct, narratives we weave around our projects The advantage of emergent order, critical to sustain the ego.points and phase change as metaphors is that Our true dignity is in how we live, in how wethese are general concepts that have proven to reveal our own beings.be extraordinarily productive in science. I pro-pose them as clues for further investigation.They are probably as close as we can come intel-lectually at this time to comprehending the tran-sition from Chokhmah to Binah.Binah to Keter - Return A word often used in the mystical concept ofreturn is teshuvah. A Lubovitcher Rebbeexplains: “Teshuvah emphasises return. A Jew is inherently good and wishes to do good; it is only because of various reasons for which he is either not responsible or only partially responsible that he committed an evil act. But inherently he is good. And this is the essence of teshuvah, to return to one’s source and origin, to one’s inner self, and to reveal one’s inner self so that it will be the proprietor of one’s life. That is why teshuvah is applicable to all, even to the righteous. It means that the Tzaddik is also constantly trying to return to his inner self and to reveal it. And teshuvah is equally pertinent to the sinner, because no matter how low he has fallen he always has recourse to teshuvah since he does not have to create anything new but only to return to his innermost self.” There is also the sense that “God wishes toknow God”, and all revealing in manifestationreturns once more to the source. Each impulseof manifestation is reified in Malkhut, and its 89
  • 98. Notes on Kabbalah 90
  • 99. The Tarot and the Tree 7 The Tarot and the Tree The arguments concerning the relationship lah. This idea was given huge impetus by thebetween the Tarot and Kabbalah have produced highly influentual French occultist Alphonseso much heat it could keep the inhabitants of Louis Constant (1810 - 1875), who wrote underMoscow comfortable through a Russian winter. the pen-name Eliphas Levi. In his Dogme et Rit-The facts are relatively straightforward, but the uel de la Haute Magie, Levi provides his versionmyth is so compelling, it refuses to lie down and of the relationship between Tarot Trumps andbe dead. Hebrew letters as shown in Table 18. There are The myth, in its most basic form, is that the two things to note about this arrangement.Tarot cards are a repository of archaic occult Firstly, the Trumps are associated with the let-wisdom. This is not an immediately obvious ters according to the normal printed numberingpremise ... one could just as easily argue that the of the Trumps, and the normal lexicographiccards were primarily a form of entertainment ordering of Hebrew letters. The second thing isadapted to divination. that the Fool card, which is unnumbered, has The basic outline was proposed by a French been inserted between 20 (Judgement) and 21scholar Antoine Court de Gebelin, writing (The World).c.1780, who proposed that the cards were a relic Ten years after Levi’s death, the Hermeticof ancient Egyptian wisdom. With further elab- Brotherhood of the Golden Dawn was foundedorations, the following myth emerged (and it on the basis of mysterious cypher manuscripts,must be said that there is not the smallest shred which contained, among other things, an associ-of documentary evidence to support it). ation of Hebrew letters to the Tarot trumps as The sages of the ancient world were con- shown in Table 19. So what has changed? Wellcerned that occult knowledge would be lost to ... the Fool has been moved to the beginning ofhumankind forever. The profound secrets of the sequence, and all the Trumps (except theancient Egypt, font of esoteric wisdom, would World) bump up by one letter. The G.D.be lost. It was a difficult time - ignorant foreign- arrangement also interchanges Strength/Forti-ers were invading the Nile valley and using the tude with Justice to make the astrological corre-priceless scrolls in the library of Alexandria to spondences “fit”.warm bathhouses (or light cigarettes or roll There have been claims that the Levi schemejoints or whatever). is an exoteric scheme which deliberately con- These keepers and guardians of wisdom met ceals the true system, and the G.D. scheme isin a conclave and decided to conceal their part of an initiated tradition. Neither of theseknowledge in a form that would preserve it for arrangements can be considered rocket science.all time: as a pack of playing cards for entertain- Both schemes have strengths and weaknesses.ment and gambling. The cards were given to For example, in the traditional Marseille Tarot,nomadic folks, gypsies, who were believed to one of the figures falling from the Blasted Towercome from Egypt. The English name for Roma- is distinctly in the shape of an Ayin, and Levinies is in fact a contraction of Egyptian. The points this out. Several other correspondencesgypsy folk spread this knowledge around look very sound - the Chariot and ZainEurope and continue to use the cards for for- (weapon), Justice and Cheth (fence - separation,tune-telling and divination. division). Levi makes a strong case for his The myth was added to when another French- scheme, and it remains popular in France.man called Alliette observed that there are 22 The G.D. scheme also has strong arguments inTarot trump cards, and 22 letters in the Hebrew its favour. One of the strongest arguments isalphabet, and so the Tarot must contain the that some of the most influential Tarot packsecret keys to unravelling the wisdom of Kabba- designs, such as the Colman-Smith/Waite pack 91
  • 100. Notes on Kabbalah: : Table 18: Levi’s Attributions Table 19: Golden Dawn Attributions Trump Letter Meaning Trump Letter MeaningJuggler Aleph Ox Fool Aleph OxFemale Pope Beth House Magician Beth HouseEmpress Gimel Camel High Priestess Gimel CamelEmperor Daleth Door Empress Daleth DoorPope He Window Emperor He WindowVice & Virtue Vau Peg, nail Heirophant Vau Peg, nailChariot Zain Weapon Lovers Zain WeaponJustice Cheth Fence Chariot Cheth FenceHermit Teth Serpent Fortitude Teth SerpentWheel Yod Hand Hermit Yod HandStrength Kaph Palm (of hand) Wheel Kaph Palm (of hand)Hanged Man Lamed Ox-goad Justice Lamed Ox-goadDeath Mem Water Hanged Man Mem WaterTemperance Nun Fish Death Nun FishDevil Samekh Prop Temperance Samekh PropTower Ayin Eye Devil Ayin EyeStar Peh Mouth Tower Peh MouthMoon Tzaddi Fish-Hook Star Tzaddi Fish-HookSun Qoph Back of Head Moon Qoph Back of HeadJudgement Resh Head Sun Resh HeadFool Shin Tooth Judgement Shin ToothWorld Tau Cross World Tau Cross 92
  • 101. The Tarot and the Tree(also called the Rider/Waite pack) have been and the paths on the Tree can be divided into 3based on this system. A large number of books horizontals, 7 verticals, and 12 diagonals. I dohave been written “explaining” how marvel- not regard this as a trivial defect in the system.lously appropriate this scheme is. None of this would matter if it was not for the An example is Aleister Crowley’s Book of fact that the G.D. system has become the domi-Thoth, subtitled Egyptian Tarot, published in nant framework for modern Hermetic Kabba-1944 shortly before Crowley’s death. Crowley lah, and there are many, many books whichperpetuates the myth that the Tarot cards are explain Kabbalah in its terms. It is virtuallythe lost books of Thoth, god of occult wisdom, a canonical. The Tarot Trumps are highly elo-repository of occult lore handed down from quent and numinous symbols, and for manyancient Egypt. There is internal evidence that people the G.D. assignation of Trumps on theCrowley knows well that this is not the case, but Tree of Life define Kabbalah, so that Crowley’she goes on to state: point becomes self-fulfilling - the Tarot is an attempt, in pictorial form, to represent the doc- 1. The origin of the Tarot is quite irrelevant, trines of Kabbalah ... but it is a novel, ersatz even if it were certain. It must stand or fall as Kabbalah using reconstructed cards that sprang a system on its own merits. into existence at the turn of the 19th. century. More than anything this has created a substan- 2. It is beyond doubt a deliberate attempt to tial divergence between Kabbalah in the Jewish represent, in pictorial form, the doctrines of tradition, and what many people now refer to as the Qabalah. Qabalah, the modern G.D. variant. It is usually a mistake to lie down in front of a It must be said that the evidence becomes bandwagon, so I will say no more. What I willstronger as the cards are pictorially decon- say is that late Victorian enthusiasm for Tarot asstructed and reconstructed to fit the esoteric a repository of ancient occult wisdom owesoutlook of the author. Levi, Waite, Crowley, more to romanticism than fact. The earliestCase and many others have reconstructed the cards date from the mid 15th. century. The ideacards according to personal prejudice, so that that they encode the doctrines of Kabbalah doesthe “doctrines of the Qabalah” become exceed- not seem even vaguely credible in light of whatingly flexible, all-embracing and elastic. I have is know about the history of Kabbalah.provided a diagram of the Tree of Life with the The history of the Jews in Europe from theColman-Smith/Waite trumps superimposed, time of the Crusades until the Renaissance isand this can be found overleaf. one of relentless, violent, and often murderous In detail, the problem with the Golden Dawn persecution. The Nazis did not invent anti-interpretation of the Tarot is this. It depends semitism - they merely refined it. Jews wereheavily on the assignment of Hebrew letters to routinely denied civil rights, rights of residency,Tarot cards, astrological signs and planets to and participation in most forms of economicHebrew letters, and Hebrew letters to paths on activity. Murder, forced expropriation of prop-the Tree of Life. erty, theft, restrictions on movement, forced The assignment of cards to letters does not conversion, and expulsion were routine. Forhave universal agreement, and several schemes example, the Black Death was widely believedhave been proposed - Gareth Knight provides a to be caused by Jews poisoning water supplies,useful summary of several of these in Volume 2 and this was the cause of many massacres andof A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism. much torture. Volume IV of Graetz’s History of The assignment of Hebrew letters to astrologi- the Jews reads like a 400 year holocaust.cal signs and planets is based on the Sepher Yetz- Jewish culture, traditions, and religion wereirah, but this is a very old work with many despised to the point of total intolerance. Invariant editions, and the choice made by the response, Jews became self-protective. ThereG.D. is certainly not authoritative. was little mixing of cultures, and even some- Lastly, the G.D. assignment of Hebrew letters thing as important as the Hebrew language,to the Tree of Life is idiosyncratic and somehow which one might consider essential for studyingloses sight of a common factor in all traditional the Bible, was little studied in Christian institu-attributions: that the Hebrew letters are split tions, and Jews were reluctant to teach it. Studyinto 3 mothers, 7 doubles, and 12 elementals, 93
  • 102. Notes on Kabbalah 94
  • 103. The Tarot and the Treeand teaching of Kabbalah was limited even this kind of imaginative science. The Hermeticamong Jews. The idea that medieval Jews Kabbalah is one of the few places where it sur-would set down the doctrines of Kabbalah on vives.playing cards for public circulation, given the The Tree of Life, with all its many correspond-religious prohibition on graven images, is ences, is an excellent example of a memory thea-absurd. Completely barking mad. tre, and the Tarot greatly enriches it. The In his introduction to the Bison Books edition imaginative space that the combination of theof Johann Reuchlin’s De Arte Cabalistica, the Tarot and the Tree of Life provides is rich,prominent scholar Moshe Idel find no evidence detailed, immensely productive in analysingof a Christian tradition of Kabbalah before Gio- consciousness. What is important is to put thevanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), who horse before the cart, to avoid reconstructing thelived at approximately the same time and same Kabbalah in the image of a reconstructed Tarot.place (Northern Italy) as the emergence of the There are many productive ways to use thefirst Tarot decks. The reality is that the dissemi- Tarot in Kabbalah, and my intent is simply tonation of Kabbalah among a learned non-Jewish caution the reader against too much immersionelite in Renaissance Italy comes later than the in what has become a G.D. orthodoxy.first Tarot decks, with most of the substantial I would like to provide an example of theexegesis and translation taking place in the Tarot on the Tree which is valuable, intuitive,early part of the 16th. century. and does little violence to either the Kabbalah or However, there is the coincidence of time and the Tarot. The approach is essentially thatplace. We cannot rule out the possibility that a described by Dr. Alan Bain in his Keys to Kabba-Jewish convert with a knowledge of Kabbalah lah, and it is a method of using the Tarot on thewas involved at some level in the design of an Tree which I have used in my personal workearly Tarot deck. Converts such as Guglielmo over many years.Raimondo Moncada, a.k.a. Flavius Mithridates The purpose of this particular scheme is narra-(c. 1450 - 1489), and Paul Ricci were important tive: it describes the progress of a typical candi-as teachers and translators at the end of the date in the mysteries according to a reverse15th. and beginning of the 16th. century. lightning-flash progress up the Tree of Life. This I think the reasonable conclusion is that accords with the practical approach adopted inunsubstantiated claims about the hoary antiq- these Notes, that initiations into the sephirothuity of the Tarot should be taken with a pinch of are resolved during everyday life. That is, onesalt. If Tarot cards date prior to the 15th. cen- cannot claim to have understood the nature of atury, they almost certainly do not contain the specific sephira until one has experienced itsdoctrines of Kabbalah, and if they date from the effect on consciousness as part of going about15th. century (as reputable histories maintain), daily life.they may contain some Kabbalah, but probably This narrative provides an indication, often aat a superficial, dilettante level. remarkably good and accurate indication, of the kinds of mishap that can occur, and of the chal- This exercise of pouring cold water on the lenges that must be met in order to makemyth of the Tarot should not convince you that I progress up the Tree. It is a Kabbalistic Pilgrim’shave any anything against the combination of Progress, with the Tree of Life as the territory,the Tarot and Kabbalah. On the contrary - the the Tarot as the story, and the aspirant to theTarot provides a wonderful set of visual images mysteries as the pilgrim.in a (relatively) standard form. The Tarot Trumps are arranged on the Tree in There is a nearly forgotten science, a science of an ascending lightning flash order as shownthe imagination, described by the scholar Fran- overleaf, and the sephiroth are included in thiscis Yates in her acclaimed The Art of Memory, arrangement. The Fool is placed on Malkhut,which is based on systems of vivid and inter- and the Trumps ascend the lightning flash inrelated symbols. These systems are often traditional order. When there are pathsreferred to as “memory theatre.” Such systems descending from a sephira (e.g. Hod), thesewere common up to the time of the Renaissance, paths are filled in before proceeding along theand employed by many important thinkers, but lightning flash.the scientific reformation effectively eliminated This scheme will immediately raise the hack- 95
  • 104. The Tarot and the Tree 96
  • 105. The Tarot and the Treeles of anyone who thinks the Trumps belong bits and pieces which he believes (or is assured)only on the paths ... but it works, works well, will be efficacious. The card shows him stand-and contains several subtle and unexpected sur- ing proudly before a table covered with recentprises that are at least as illuminating as the acquisitions, totems of efficacy.G.D. version. Trust me. He hasn’t a clue what to do with them of The sequence begins with the Foolish Man in course.Malkhut. Not a divine fool, not a holy madman It is natural for many people to think of thefilled with the breath of the holy spirit. Just a magician as figure of power, control, authority.Foolish Man or Woman, the sort of person who These are precisely the words used in Hi-Fidoesn’t know important things and makes fool- magazines to sell speakers to men.This is theish mistakes because of this. This Foolish Per- vocabulary of the beta male looking to establishson, seeking relief from the trials of ignorance, is himself as an alpha. The things on the magi-the actor in the story which now begins. cian’s table are boy-toys, power totems. The joke is that the Magician has changed nothingMalkhut - Foolish Man within himself, and can only posture with his fine collection of artifacts. Look at the exact ana- Anyone who acts in ignorance of important logue of this card, The World. The figure isfacts is likely to make mistakes. It isn’t a good female, the totems on the table have become theidea to buy shares in a company which is about four elemental powers, and the woman dancesto announce that it is trading in the red - you in harmony with them. The contrast betweenwill lose money. external totems and internalised competence We all make mistakes in areas such as money, could not be greater.sexual partners, trust, vehicles, emotions and so The original title of this card was Le Bateleur,on. It virtually impossible not to. Teenagers a mountebank figure, a fairground trickster, aenter into adult life with an unshakable arro- sleight-of-hand artist. This is not a card ofgance and self-determination that means that power, control and authority; it is a card ofeach person is doomed to go through most of superficial illusions. The Foolish Man has pro-the standard repertoire of upsets and disap- gressed in understanding that there are thingspointments. In this we all begin adult life as he can use to improve his position, but they areFoolish People - there are too many important still external, and he lacks the understanding to“facts” about life we learn only through the do anything other than posture with them.experience of making mistakes. In this narrative Malkhut is the everyday Yesod - High Priestessworld of unchallenged assumptions, of habitsand routines, of unexamined ideas, all the clut- At some point the (aspiring) magician will tireter of the ages that leads us into folly. The Fool- of toys and tricks and look for a genuine tradi-ish Man or Woman who makes a conscious tion capable of real teaching. Whether he willchoice to leave behind this world must find a find a suitable tradition depends on luck andway to begin. judgement - there hundreds of groups and organisations offering inner knowledge, heal-Malkhut to Yesod - Magician ing, self-actualisation, and spiritual truths. The High Priestess is the outward face of Archimedes decided he could move the world occult knowledge - mysterious, glamorous, for-with a lever if only he could find a fulcrum. His bidding, hieratic. She sits between the two pil-problem was that the fulcrum was outside the lars of the Temple, and behind her is the veil ofworld ... so where was it? the Temple concealing the Holy of Holies1. In The problem with unexamined ideas is find- another reading, the veil is the veil of Isis, theing a perspective from where one can examinethem. Habits and routines need to be replaced 1. The “Holy of Holies” is also a kabbalisticwith something else. The problem facing the metaphor for the female sexual organs, anFoolish Man is peculiarly hard because he lacks association that is clear both in the cardeven the knowledge that would help him begin. and in the traditional correspondences forThe best he can do is put together a collection of Yesod. 97
  • 106. Notes on Kabbalahdivision between phenomenal and noumenal know what he has learned.reality, between the exoteric and the esoteric. At this point he will turn into the Hierophant, The High Priestess represents the first, outer preaching the gospel to all the other Foolishinitiation into a group or organisation. The Fool- Men and Women down there in Malkhut. Per-ish man or woman now enters into some kind of haps he will write a book, or give public lec-learning or training. tures, or appear on a TV chat show. If he has enough charisma he may appearYesod to Hod - Empress utterly convincing, completely in command of all the relevant concepts, able to cite chapter and The Empress represents fertility and growth. verse where necessary.The Foolish Man pulls back the veil to theunknown and is confronted with a new world Hod to Netzach - Loversthat awaits discovery. He goes to lectures, attends group meetings, The Foolish Man has now acquired a body ofsits at the feet of his guru, purchases books from new knowledge, but this knowledge is one-specialist occult suppliers, learns a new vocabu- sided. It is so one-sided, it would be better tolary, visits power sites, chants, meditates, prac- call it information - the Foolish Man istices arcane concentration exercises, masters the informed, but not truly knowledgable.footwork, goes on a vision quest, dances his ani- Being informed is useful when competing inmal, and meets many interesting people who quiz shows, or writing entries for an encyclope-give the impression of knowing a lot more than dia. It may be the foundation of a career inthey are prepared to tell. academia. There is an experiential dimension that is missing, like the schoolchild who canHod - Emperor recite all the yearbook facts about Argentina but has never visited the country. The Foolish Man is now a Very Knowledgable In Hebrew most nouns are derived from verbMan. He has acquired the vocabulary. roots. When, in the book of Genesis, it, states that The Emperor card does not represent real “Adam knew his wife Eve”, the word used forempire. The Very Knowledgable Man has no “knew” is yada (Yod, Dalet, Ayin), the verb rootempire - he has a vocabulary and a superficial for knowledge, Daat. There is an ambiguity hereunderstanding of various concepts, but looking between sexual intercourse and the moreback at himself as the Foolish Man he feels supe- abstract idea of knowledge. This is revealingrior to his old self, and he feels superior to all and fruitful ambiguity.the other Foolish Men and Women who have The path between Netzach and Hod is anot passed through the veil. reflection on a lower plane of the path between Inwardly he feels that the world would bene- Chokhmah and Binah (see the Extended Tree).fit from his newly acquired spiritual conscious- The interaction between Chokhmah and Binahness, and is already reappraising the world, is most commonly represented in traditionalthinking “I would do this” and “they should do Kabbalah as the sexual interaction between athat”. He feels like Solomon, feels that the world man and a woman, between Abba the Fathershould come before his throne seeking advice and Aima the Mother, the primordial lovers.and opinions, but does not recognise the super- The emanation of the union of Chokhmah andficiality of his new knowledge - that it is “head Binah is Daat, Knowledge, so the Biblical ambi-learning”, and ungrounded in deep experience. guity in the story of Adam and Eve is preserved in the upper face of the Tree of Life.Hod to Malkhut - Heirophant This is the secret of the Lovers card. The lov- ers are Adam and Eve, who have just eaten the The Emperor and Hierophant are two sides of fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and have beenthe same coin. As the Emperor, the Foolish Man initiated into the joy and misery of physicalhas mastered the vocabulary (and perhaps the existence. Their coupling, their “knowing” ofentire literary corpus) of a new discipline. He is each other, perpetuates physical existence.Solomon within the empire of his own head, The knowledge represented by Daat is notand at some point he will want let the world information; it is the dynamic, operational 98
  • 107. The Tarot and the Treeknowledge embodied in the experience of phys- sense of a universal order as understood byical existence, and is something infinitely richer himself is upset by the realisation this experi-than mere information. It is the difference ence is largely subjective and personal1.between a book on baby care, and a baby. Infor-mation is dead; Daat is living knowledge. One Netzach - Chariotshould recall that Daat is an upper plane reflec-tion of Yesod, the sphere of Shaddai el Chai, the The Greek philosopher Plato wrote a dia-Living God. logue, Phaedrus, where he likened the human The Lovers card is in many respects founda- soul to a chariot drawn by two winged horses.tional for an understanding of the Tree of Life, One horse is noble, and drawn to the spiritualas it represents the dynamics of separation, uni- realms of reason, truth and beauty, while thefication, polarity, and manifestation. The other horse is ignoble and drawn towards sen-dynamics are those of a boat moving through suality and base appetites.water, where the boat is Chokhmah, the water is Many modern Tarot packs have based theirBinah, and the turbulent, swirling wake that depiction of the chariot upon this allegory. Inremains is Daat. The experience of this path is the Colman-Smith/Waite pack the horses areone of the foundational initiatory experiences. two sedate-looking sphinxes coloured white Human beings are, to a greater or lesser and black to make the association with “good”extent, selfish and self-centered. The Foolish and “evil” impulses more apparent. Even theMan, in the guise of Emperor and Heirophant, much older Marseilles pack has dozy horses ofmay have become an information adept in some differing colour, so the association with Plato’sdomain, but this knowledge is detached from allegory may not be modern.the infinite swirling complexities of real life, The Foolish Man has now reached a pointwhere nothing is ever clear, precise or exact. The where he has begun to understand a fundamen-Foolish Man tries to make the world conform to tal truth of human nature - that feelings tell uswhat he has learned, and does not realise that what to think. There is no solution to any prob-he has become Procrustes, who invited travel- lem involving people that does not make allow-lers to sleep in his bed. If they were too short he ance for the mutable character of humanstretched them, and if they were too long he feelings and passions. Purely rational utopiastrimmed their legs to fit. are undone. A major source of dissonance is other people, This was the great initiation of the Loverswho may not give two figs for the Foolish Man path, and it is reinforced here as he tries to bringand his wonderful, intricately consistent knowl- the horses under control. He may retain rationaledge of existence. It may work for him, but not and utopian ideals, but he is conscious of thefor them. They see him trying to foist a load of near irresistible forces which condemn him (andnonsense on them, and tell him to go away. other people) to repeat the same old mistakes - There are many variations on this, but the smoking, dieting, relationships, greed and soessence of the situation is emotional conflict. on.Other people, in their near infinite variety, place The horses are not reined. He is all dressedthe Foolish Man in a position of conflict, and he up, but the chariot shows no signs of movingbegins to recognise the limitations of the one- very far.size-fits-all approach to knowledge. He is con-fronted with his emotional responses to other Netzach to Malkhut - Justicepeople, and their emotional responses to him,and perhaps for the first time he begins to real- The Foolish Man may be having difficulty inise the necessity to add other people to his balancing his own nature, but his awareness ofworldview - not just intellectually, but acknowl- imbalance makes it easy for him to spot imbal-edging that the difference between him and ance in others. He is struggling to bring histhem is an important and essential part of the horses to rein, so other people ought to be doingequation. To an extent the Emperor is unthroned - henow acknowledges, at a deep level, the exist- 1. This experience has been characterised inence and autonomy of others, and his invincible postmodern social theory as a “loss of nar- rative”. 99
  • 108. Notes on Kabbalahthe same thing. At this point he finds himself alone. This is This period is one of intensely judgemental often an intensely traumatic period of time. Hefeelings. The Foolish Man has come some way may have invested years in a philosophy,on the path, and can bring considerable experi- school, tradition, or group, and now it is allence to bear on the problems of other Foolish over. The dreams remain - the Hermit still car-Men and Women who are still down there in ries the light - but they are seen to be unattaina-Malkhut. He compares their blind fumblings ble with a particular group of people.with his own conscious strivings, and sees how It is a time for recovery, for reassessment, forclearly they would benefit from his experience. prioritising, for “chewing the cud”. Often it is aThe situation is similar to that of the Hierophant time for recrimination, for continued judg-(in a symmetric position) - he looks down into ments. There may be a feeling of being deeplyMalkhut, but whereas the Hierophant was con- burned and scarred. If the Foolish Man cantent to hold out the promise of hidden knowl- escape the tendency to blame others for every-edge, the Foolish Man now feels fully equipped thing that has happened then he may be able toto judge, to preside over situations like Solomon take the Death path to Tipheret. It is just asin his wisdom. likely that after a time alone he picks up the The problem at this point is that the Foolish pieces and starts once more in Yesod.Man is under the influence of the illusion ofNetzach, which is projection. He believes he is Yesod to Tipheret - Wheel of Fortuneseeing and judging objectively, but he is not. Onthe subject of projection the psychologist C.G. The Wheel is allocated to the path from YesodJung comments: to Tipheret, but shares Yesod with the High Priestess - it is, in a sense, “upper Yesod”. “While some traits peculiar to the shadow Buddhists use the Wheel of Samsara to sym- can be recognised without too much diffi- bolise the recurrence of situations through culty as one’s own personal qualities, in many, many lifetimes: births, deaths, weeping, this case (projection) both insight and pain, suffering, loss. In the tale of the Foolish goodwill are unavailing because the cause of the emotion appears to lie, beyond all Man the Wheel symbolises the recurrence of possibility of doubt, in the other person.” similar situations throughout a lifetime. The sit- uations recur because the foolish man is una- He also adds: ware how his personality shapes his “As we know, it is not the conscious sub- relationship with his environment (which ject but the unconscious which does the includes other people) and so must construct projecting. Hence one meets with projec- explanations for the things that happen that tions, one does not make them. The effect portray him as an innocent victim of circum- of projection is to isolate the subject from stance. his environment, since instead of a real An example is an alcoholic who finds himself relation to it there is now only an illusory in recurring situations - violence, debt, illness - one. Projections change the world into a because of his drinking, but who does not or replica of one’s own unknown face”. cannot change his behaviour. Something similar can happen with jealousy, greed, lust, selfish-Netzach to Yesod - Hermit ness, dishonesty and so on, but the more subtle the vice, the less willing the Foolish Man is to At some point the Foolish Man will estrange admit to it, and so he is condemned to suffer itsmany of his acquaintances through judgemental consequences.behaviour. When he began he was dazzled by It is not the vice that is the issue. It is thethe glamour of the High Priestess, but now he unwillingness to take responsibility for the situ-realises the people around him are not the foun- ations it causes. People use three primary mech-tains of occult wisdom he thought they were. anisms to evade responsibility: rationalisationThey are just people, with the moral confusion, (Hod), identification (Tipheret) and justificationemotional ambiguity, and personal shortcom- (Netzach) to evade responsibility.ings of people everywhere. What he thought Rationalisation is the process of providingwas attainment looks suspiciously like ego. seemingly rational explanations for behaviour 100
  • 109. The Tarot and the Treewhich is anything but rational. A person who is What is important is that a person begins tolate for work because they slept in after a night recognise that he or she is an accident, a fortui-on the tiles is hardly likely to admit it- they may tous collection of behaviours, opinions, excuses,explain the battery on the car had gone flat, or prejudices and knee-jerk responses which arethere was traffic congestion. This is more of an not necessary in any sense. If a person clings tountruth than a true rationalisation. this random collection of psychic flotsam and The mark of rationalisation is that the expla- jetsam he could continue to go around on thenations usually convince no-one other than the wheel for a lifetime, always seeking a spiritualperson doing the rationalising. Intractable hab- growth that never happens. It often takes aits often come with long and complex rationali- strong shock to bring about a major change to asations, and the person with the rational excuses person, a shock that acts as a catalyst for psychicmay become self-righteous and indignant when change and growth. Losing one’s job, a death,they are challenged. the end of a relationship, a furious row, ill- Justification tends to work by comparison - health - these are the catalysts that can cause thebehaviour is justified by another person’s Foolish Man to stop seeing his ego comforts asbehaviour. A good example is the elder child necessary.who has hit a younger sibling - “but he hit mefirst” is the usual cry. Tipheret - Strength Identification is the most insidious. The per-son justifies his or her behaviour on the basis of Tipheret to Hod - Hanged Manbelonging to a particular group or type. A manmight respond aggressively to a problem Tipheret to Netzach - Deathbecause he identifies so strongly with a stereo-type maleness that he cannot conceive of an Tipheret and the paths to Tipheret are dis-alternative. cussed together because it is difficult to discuss In each case behaviour is seen as necessary. the place without discussing the process. To anThere is no alternative. This the foundation of ego extent, Tipheret is process.conscious, an identification with behaviour. A In the section on Tipheret I explained thatchange of behaviour is equated to a loss of iden- Tipheret is difficult to describe because it is liketity and hence is fiercely resisted. an empty room. It is precisely because there is When core behaviour remains unchanged in nothing in it that Tipheret differs from otherthe face of so-called “spiritual development”, sephiroth.negative situations will continue to recur, and Yesod has something in it - that is why it is aeach time they do, a similar pattern of blame foundation, that is what gives it its strength.will occur, usually through rationalisation or Where would we be without some instincts,justification. drives, motivations to get us through the day? This is the Wheel. The Foolish Man spends Whether our drives are right or wrong is totime alone in the wilderness, meets another some extent irrelevant - at least we do something.glamorous High Priestess, becomes the The ego may be a random, historical collectionEmperor once more, full of new ideas, traverses of behaviours, but that is better than no behav-the Lovers path, fights to gain control of his iour.Chariot, spends more time as the Hermit in the The strength of Tipheret is utterly differentwilderness, and is dumped back into Yesod from that of Yesod, which is based on fixedagain. behaviours viewed as necessary behaviours. Some people go round and round this circuit There are no fixed points in Tipheret; behav-for years. These are the eternal aspirants, the iours are mutable and situational, and while the“joiners”, people who join groups, go through ego can ape this attitude, it is betrayed by itsthe full rinse and spin cycle, then fall out in acri- lack of fluidity in real predicaments. Themony. There is always something wrong with strength of Tipheret is appropriateness - behav-every system. iours are fluidly matched to situations, and not The Wheel is not entirely a static situation. the other way around (which is effectively whatEach time round brings some wisdom, some happens when rationalisation reconstructsinsight. events and rewrites history to satisfy the ego). 101
  • 110. Notes on Kabbalah The paths to Tipheret are major upsets. It usu- he cries. When endurance is appropriate, heally takes a significant shock to knock the ego endures.off the rails for long enough for the Foolish Man He can no longer salve his wounds withto see alternatives. rationalisation or justification. He is exposed to The path from Hod is the Hanged Man. Fixed his faults and failures. There is no retreat fromideas are turned on their heads. Grand intellec- his inadequacies. All he can do is review himselftual schemes turn to dust and ashes. What constantly, asking constantly “what is better”.appear to be irrefutable, universal truths sud- There is no best, but there is always somethingdenly lack substance, and their inverse proposi- different, something that might be better. Hetions seem just as valid. Rationality is betrayed. constantly re-invents himself in the light of The path from Netzach is Death. There is an changing situations.end to deep emotional attachments. The classic The Temperance card shows an angel pouringdivorce scenario, where a man loses his partner, a liquid from one container to another. Thechildren, home and even car is an example. Foolish Man is now fluid, lacking any definedLeaving an occult group can be almost as trau- sense of what or who he is. He adapts himself tomatic, as is the failure of a teacher-pupil rela- each new situation, and as circumstancestionship. change, he moulds himself, keeping what he Neither the Hanged Man or Death paths are likes, rejecting anything that serves no purpose.enough in themselves to sustain the massive re- This fluidity, this constant re-invention, willevaluation of values needed to leave ego seem threatening to people who understandbehind. It can take years of introspection and a that he is capable of attempting anything hewillingness to brave many novel emotional and chooses to. The only restraint is his innate moralintellectual circumstances before the strength of sense of right and wrong, the sense that otherTipheret appears. These are triggers only. The people matter, what Kant characterised in hisapparently indestructible vessel of the ego hits categorical imperative as treating people asan iceberg of circumstance and begins to ends, not as means. There are risks however ...founder. Unlike the Titanic, its sinking is not amathematical certainty, and the crew will per- Gevurah - Devilform impossible feats of valour to keep herafloat, creating vast rafts of rationalisation, justi- The Foolish Man has abandoned ego gamesfication and identification to buoy her up. and ego trips, abandoned petty politics and scheming, abandoned intrigue and emotionalTipheret to Gevurah - Temperance games. All of this now seems like social theatre, and the vanities of his personality are like Tipheret is process, not place or state. The flimsy stage sets, an illusion of substance that noFoolish Man learns to treat each novel situation longer has the power to convince.as an opportunity to remake himself. He no His motivations have changed. He works qui-longer has a fixed sense of identity, he no longer etly and steadily on his projects, and does what-identifies with his gender, his social group, his ever it takes to ensure their success. He willsocial roles, his nationality, his age, or any con- make the tea and coffee while others reap thevention that tells him what he ought to be. His glory if that is what it takes.identity is defined by moral purpose. He He may not notice that people have begun todecides what he believes to be the best possible look up to him in a way he has never experi-outcome for all concerned in each new situation enced before. He is so unconcerned with vanityhe finds himself in, and adapts himself to that he cannot see that people have begun toachieve that outcome. look to him for advice, for help, for praise. This is a difficult path. There are few guide- Some people can spend their whole liveslines, and each situation is handled as it comes. manoeuvring for power, but what they achieveThe Foolish Man uses all that he has learned so may be tawdry. They may be mocked, evenfar to deal with real life. When anger is needed despised behind their backs.he is angry. When compassion is needed, he is We know that behind the figureheads of anycompassionate. When reason is required, he is organisation are people who are the real hearts,reasonable. When tears are the only response, who are admired because they are good at what 102
  • 111. The Tarot and the Treethey do. These are people who excite a genuine, outcomes. This is a heady brew to drink. He is,unqualified, and often universal admiration in a very general sense, satanic. He has free-will,because of their skill, commitment, dedication and he is unencumbered by moral baggage. Heto the task, and essential humility. Sometimes is potentially a great power for good, or a terri-people like this lack the charisma and the knack ble power for evil. He is free to chose.for political intrigue, and take the rear seat by In traditional Kabbalah the sephira Gevurahchoice. The Foolish Man finds himself in a dif- is the root of the powers of the “left side”, andferent position. the seat of the “evil inclination”. Its angel is The Foolish Man senses his awakening often given as Samael, sometimes interpreted aspower, and accepts power as a new challenge. “poison of god”. If God is One, then the root ofHe never sought this power - it sought him, a evil is duality, the separation of that whichtruly novel situation. He finds that if he chooses should be united.to lead, people will follow him. It hard for us, living in a world of duality, to This is an important moment on the path. At know what is good and what is evil, or to actthe beginning of his path the Foolish Man without doing as much evil as good. The Fool-dressed in his robes and played at being the ish Man finds himself mired in uncertainty andmagician. He had no genuine power - it was a ambiguity - he thought he was acting for God,conceit. During his time on the Wheel he may but finds himself unwittingly chained to thehave intrigued and found a transitory sense of devil.importance, but there was little lasting satisfac-tion in it - the power that people grant can easily Gevurah to Hod - Blasted Towerbe taken away. There is always a deep insecu-rity. Now he is in a completely novel situation, The Foolish Man has chosen to play in high-because the power that comes from inner com- stakes card games. He finds that he is no longerposure can never be removed, except perhaps in a master of his own destiny ... he gave that upillness and death. when he stopped contemplating his navel, This marks the point at which solitary per- threw his chips down on the table, and pickedsonal development ends. The Foolish Man does up a hand of cards. The other players in thenot exist in isolation, and understands now that game are just as smart as he is.too much introspection is a kind of cowardice, Many people who look for occult trainingthat one can only grow so far in isolation from have no experience of the big games beingthe world. He understands that his personal played in this world, games which can deter-spiritual growth is linked to his ability to thrive mine the quality of life for millions of people. Itin larger situations, not only accepting power is easy to ignore Palestine or biotechnology orand responsibility, but using power in pursuit abortion or global warming or computer net-of his goals. working or disease or million other issues The idea of the solitary mage is more of a because they are not “spiritual”. Aren’t they? Ifschizoid fantasy than a reality. A person is free the entire universe is a manifestation of God,to act in isolation only to the extent to which he then in what way is human misery not a spirit-is ineffectual or harmless. The real power in this ual issue?world exists in extended social groups, and The Foolish Man finds that the problems ofalways has - an individual matters only so far as existence are not being solved by angels or spir-he has a congregation who will support his itual masters: they are being solved by himselfviews. and a host of other people, and not everyone The Foolish Man now comes into his full has risen above selfishness. It is a high-stakesinheritance of free-will, and its attendant prob- game, and bad things can happen.lem: what to do with it? In the past his psyche, The Foolish Man may come unstuck. It hap-its needs, and its goals, were an accident of his- pens. All rock climbers accept that they aretory and circumstance, but now he can no going to fall off the rock. All aeroplane pilotslonger hide behind the shield of “necessity”. He accept that they may crash. Motorcyclists fall offis aware that his decisions are made in full con- their bikes. We see politicians fall from gracesciousness, that other people look to him for with monotonous regularity. Politicians cannotguidance, and he takes full responsibility for all be venal; we must accept that many begin 103
  • 112. Notes on Kabbalahwith the best intentions, but are tempted in vari- longer dominated by hard boundaries, by divi-ous ways, and make mistakes. sions between things, by a clear sense of iden- The Blasted Tower is a terrible experience that tity, by strong feelings of right and wrong.can throw the Foolish Man back onto the Wheel. Neither is it moved by fixed sentiment, norIf he has retained his integrity he may climb swayed by transient emotion. His goals remainback swiftly, but if he has been corrupted by the clear, but his methods become inscrutable.experience of power, and many are, he may notrecover. Chesed - MoonGevurah to Chesed - Star If the Foolish Man reaches Chesed (and he may not) it will be because he is able to articu- A common metaphor in traditional Kabbalah late something that transcends himself. He findsis that of the river which waters the whole of a medium in which to express himself, and increation. It flows from a spring in Chokhmah doing so he captures something that can beand brings life to all the spheres. shared by many. He becomes a conduit. The Star card echoes this idea In its original He could be a writer, a demagogue, an artist,form in may have portrayed the yearly Nile a dancer, a poet, a businessman, a scientist, or aflood, associated with the goddess Isis and the guru. What matters is that for a time he is ablerising of the star Sothis (Sirius, the Dog Star). to grasp and articulate something unique. HeThe yearly flood brought water and fertile silt opens his mind to the unknown, and gives birthand enabled Egypt to become on of the great to something new.cradles of civilisation. The Moon card is downright spooky. It shows The card emphasises the inter-relatedness of two dogs howling at a huge moon raining dropslife, that no thing lives in isolation. We are all of liquid which have been interpreted as blood.dependent on external sources of sustenance. In the distance are two pylons forming a gate-We may not be able to draw precise lines of way with a clear road marked. In the fore-good and evil, but we do know that all life ground in a pool with a lobstery creatureneeds life, and no universal philosophy based emerging.on predation or destruction can possibly suc- In this interpretation the gateway is Daat, andceed in the long term. the moon belongs both to Daat and the overlap- The Foolish Man emerges from the struggles ping Yesod of Briah. The Foolish Man has tra-of Gevurah and finds reassurance in this versed a path which has led from the limitedinsight. For a time he despaired of finding any world of his Ego to the greater world of his Self.moral foundation for action. He began to ques- He has gone beyond himself and taken part intion the value of doing anything. Now he human society. Now he finds the path goesreturns to drink from the waters of life, and beyond the place where humanity currently is.replenish his soul. He finds himself on the edge of the abyss, star- The Foolish Man becomes aware of a larger ing into the congealing futures of the humanpicture. When his perceptions were dominated race and all living things. The possibilities forby dualities, by a profound sense of right and tomorrow unroll before him. This is a genuinelywrong, he was effective, but he was always scary place to be.exposed to rational doubt. The things he fought There are individuals who propel themselvesfor and the things he opposed were like lines to the boundaries of human thought anddrawn on the surface of water. expression. In many cases this happens through In the larger picture there is only life, and the circumstance rather than intent, and the lives ofneed to preserve as much of its balance and deeply creative people are often blighted withdiversity as possible. He begins to see both sides abusive relationships, loss, alienation, mentalof every issue, but is not longer paralysed by illness and drugs. By exploring beyond the cur-questions of “either this or that”. He sees that rency of thought and expression, these individ-truth is also process, an evolutionary dynamic uals are a driving force in the evolution ofthat never stands still in any one place. humanity - the novelty that they express The Foolish Man is now approaching a place becomes the commonplaces of the next genera-reached by few people. His consciousness is no tion. 104
  • 113. The Tarot and the Tree The Foolish Man is in the rare position of The Foolish Man has to know the right time todriving himself to the edge of the abyss by stand down. If he does not, he goes down theintent. He has chosen to be there. Whether he Sun path - there is a brutal inevitability at thishooks any large fish from the deeps depends on level. He has to clear his desk, pack his bag, sayhis talent and nerve. goodbye to chauffeur and the courtesy car, shake hands with the administrative staff, andChesed to Netzach - Sun join the undistinguished masses once more. This path is like the Hermit path below it, but The world is full of celebrities who had their many times more traumatic. Compared with theday of glory and who have been trying to milk public life he has lead, it really is a little death, athe moment for decades. Sustained creativity is sepulchre.unusual, but one-hit wonders are not. When the Foolish Man steps down he subjects Creativity is a bird that roosts where it will, himself to a stringent self-assessment. He has to:and at the smallest disturbance it flies off and Gevurah and Chesed are unbalanced extremespreens its feathers on another branch. This is and he will have done many things which, onhard for the Foolish Man; one moment he is reflection, he wishes he had not. This is the Lastbeing hailed for his unique contribution to Judgement - a balancing up as the centre ofhuman existence - he is in the papers, he is on gravity of his life returns to Tipheret.the lecture circuit, he appears on talk shows -and then he finds himself on the slow slide into Tipheret to Daat - Worldobscurity. The Sun card recalls the minor movie or thea- The Foolish Man may go around the Tipherettre celebrity who keeps his press clippings, his - Gevurah - Chesed - Tipheret loop many times.billboards, his autographed pictures, and all the This is a higher order analogue of the lowertangible proofs that he was “big in his day”. He Yesod - Hod - Netzach - Yesod cycle which Ilives in a declining circle of admirers who characterised as “being on the Wheel”. He mayremember. For decades he basks in the warm have many opportunities to experience theglow of his salad days. Blasted Tower or Wheel paths. If the Foolish Man tries to milk the creative If he is fortunate he will experience, just as hemoment he falls off the path and begins a long, did on the Wheel, a new possibility of con-slow descent back onto the Wheel and the warm sciousness. This is what Kabbalists callsentimental glow of Netzach. It can be a terrible neshamah, the divine part of a human being, thejourney - one should recall how Margaret part that according to tradition, survives death.Thatcher fell from being the dominant force in The path from Tipheret through Daat to KeterBritish politics into complete irrelevancy within on the Yetziratic tree corresponds to the patha couple of years. from Malkhut to Yesod on the Briatic tree. The Foolish Man is revealed once again as ... theChesed to Tipheret - Last Judgement Foolish Man, setting out to ascend the Tree of Life. At one level he has achieved everything, Business leaders at the top level of business but at another level he has achieved nothing.rarely stick around in one position for more This is characteristic of major changes of con-than four or five years. It is acknowledged that sciousness - all the insights and achievementseven the most creative leaders can make only a one has struggled for are revealed as pointlesslimited contribution for a limited time, and then or worthless or deluded or an artifact of blind-it is time to hand on the torch and let someone ness - “I once was blind but now can see” as theelse have a turn. Many of our most important song goes.institutions (such as government) acknowledge This path is the higher-level analogue of thethat particular people are right for a particular Magician path, but observe the differences. Themoment, and leaving the reins of power in the Magician is a static male figure, his props arehands of people who have gone past their crea- laid out on a table in front of him, and althoughtive best is asking for stagnation, complacency, he waves a wand, it appears to be more forand abuse of power - the vices of Chesed are show than anything else.tyranny, gluttony, hypocrisy and bigotry. The World card is a dancing female figure. 105
  • 114. Notes on KabbalahShe dances within the realm of the four ele- likewise shows the star of Keter (variously,ments, denoted by the bull-lion-eagle-man fig- Daat, as several modern writers have identifiedures at each corner. Daat with the star Sirius). Real knowledge cannot be laid out on a table. Another significant oddity is that the place-It is operational within the wholeness of the ment of the cards reflects the original Tarothuman psyche, and the dancing figure shows numbering when Justice was 8 and Strengthhow completely the lessons of the paths have was 11 - that is, the pre-Golden Dawn number-been absorbed and internalised to the point ing. The Golden Dawn numbering looks com-where the challenges of existence have become a pletely odd in this scheme, as interchangingflowing dance. Strength with Justice does considerable damage to the picture.Symmetries The cards do not cover every path, and this must seem to be an objection, but observe which This method of presenting the Tarot on the paths are not covered. This scheme operates upTree has a surprising narrative coherence, and it to the abyss, just where one would expect theis a narrative that seems to accord well with per- narrative to end. When one crosses the abysssonal experience. This is as much as one can one begins again as the Foolish Man in a newexpect from any narrative: that it tells a memo- world and on a new Tree. There is a natural cor-rable story, possesses internal coherence and respondence between this scheme for Tarot, andprovides a measure of subjective usefulness. the Extended Tree arrangement of the Four The idea that this scheme “fits well” onto the Worlds - they seem to be made for each other.Tree evokes some resistance in me, because I donot think any scheme is intrinsically better than Conclusionany other, for reasons given above. However ... Ido think this scheme fits well on the Tree, and I The use of Tarot in Kabbalah is a relativelyam not the first to have made this observation - modern innovation that can be traced to theDr. Alan Bain, in The Keys to Kabbalah, speculates 18th. century French occult revival. It is notthat the Colman-Smith/Waite pack may have present in the Jewish tradition. Given that onebeen designed with this scheme in mind, and understands that one is not dealing with ancientfinds internal evidence in the design of the cards knowledge, and that there are many variantto support this idea schemes, the Tarot is a useful addition to Kab- When the Tree is examined from Malkhut, the balah, and many people find it so. Much of theFoolish Man sees the Hierophant on the left, the reason for this lies in the vivid imagery of theHigh Priestess in front of him, and Justice to the cards - they are rich in symbols, and capable ofright of him. Each of these figures is seated generating many kinds of useful and memora-between two pillars and suggests that no ble narrative.approach is possible without passing through The debate over the “correct” attribution isthe pillars of the temple (a duality reflected in something of an artifact of a peculiar Victorianthe Tree itself). mentality, and should be ignored - we are all In the Magician card (Malkhut to Yesod) the postmodern now, and revel in multiple inter-tokens of the four elements are present on the pretations.table in front of the Magician. In the Wheel card(Yesod to Tipheret) they are now represented asfigures surrounding the wheel, suggesting thatthe Foolish Man has now become aware of theseforces in his environment, but is still subject totheir uncertainties. In the World card (Tipheret -Daat - Keter) contains the four elements as inthe Wheel, but the dancing figure suggests aharmonious and balanced relationship. Bain also notes that the Lovers card (Hod -Netzach) shows the sun of Tipheret over thetwo figures, and the Star (Gevurah - Chesed) 106
  • 115. The Four Worlds 8 The Four Worlds The sephirothic Tree of Life presents a meta- solution to the problem of irreconcilablephor where creation takes place in ten steps and extremes is to postulate a continuum, to makethere is the suggestion that ten potencies (or each extreme an end to the same piece of string.emanations, or vessels, or garments, or crowns) The four worlds represent an attempt to bridgeare involved. There is an alternative picture the gap, but in doing so they represent some-where the creation takes place in four steps; this thing more complex than a simple continuummodel is called “the Four Worlds”. The four connecting two extremes.worlds can be mapped onto the KabbalisticTree, and the two models have become comple- Atzilut - Emanationmentary. Atzilut is the world of pure emanation, the The four worlds are: outflowing light of God which we see refracted through the glass of consciousness as the ten • Atzilut - the world of emanation or nearness lights of the sephiroth. “To emanate” is to “flow • Briah - the world of creation out from”, and Atzilut is the world which flows • Yetzirah - the world of formation directly out of the infinite and unknowable En • Assiah - the world of making Soph. The word Atzilut can be derived from the root ezel, meaning “near by”, emphasising the The names of three of the four worlds can be closeness of this world to the hidden, unmani-found in Isaiah 43.7 where the Lord (speaking fest En Soph. Another term used to describe thethrough the mouth of the prophet) states: nature of the emanation is hamshakhah, “draw- ing out”, with the suggestion that the emantion “...for I have created him for my glory, I is only a part of something greater, just as we have formed him; yea, I have made him.” draw water from a well. The sephiroth, viewed as an expression of the It is interesting to compare the Kabbalistic Holy Names of God, are normally attributed tofour worlds with the Neoplatonic scheme of Aztiluth and this is an indication that early Kab-Plotinus [31], where we find a similar four-fold balists viewed the pure energies of the sephi-division into the One, the Divine Mind, the All- roth as being exceedingly remote, andSoul and the Sensible World. A comparison can inaccessible to normal consciousness. The worldalso be made with the “celestial hierarchies” of of Atzilut is remote from the world where it isthe gnostic Psuedo-Dionysus, where we find a possible to form representations of the sephi-super-celestial world of the Nous, the Real; a roth (Yezirah), and this tells us that the picturescelestial (and potentially hostile) world of the of the sephirothic Tree normally employed fordemiurge, guardians and Archons; and the sub- communication and instruction are representa-lunary world of the elements. tions of something unimaginable and incommu- The Kabbalistic model of four worlds shares nicable: we must constantly remember that thewith both of these alternative and older views map is not the territory.an attempt to bridge the gap between the per- Intellectually we know that sunlight is com-fection of a transcendent Godhead, and the posed of a spectrum of colours, and even youngfiniteness and imperfection of the material children can draw a picture of a rainbow, butworld - it would seem inevitable for metaphysi- we do not see the colours in sunlight directly.cal speculation to attempt to bridge the gap We do not see the colours until the light isbetween the two extremes. How can God be refracted in a shower of rain and it is worthperfect when the world is so patently flawed? A bearing this in mind when considering the 107
  • 116. Notes on Kabbalahimportance (or otherwise) of the sephirothic holding of God, and nowhere have I found acorrespondences. suggestion that an entity other than God was Atzilut is the world of closeness or nearness involved - there is no demiurge in Kabbalah.to God, the world where one is bathed in the The essence of the creative act was separation.undifferentiated light. In the terminology of the One becomes two, Keter becomes ChokhmahMerkabah mystics, it is the world of the Throne. and Binah, and in this primary duality can beThere is very little that one can usefully say found the root of all dualities.about it. When I first began thinking about Briah, and I tried to make sense of the word “creation”, I Briah - Creation assumed that something tangible was created, Briah is the world of creation, creation in the and I found I could not differentiate the endsense of “something out of nothing”. The author result from formation - a rose is a rose whetherof the Bahir makes the amusing observation that it is created out of nothing or grown in a garden.as light is an attribute of God, light did not have Does it matter whether I make a cake miracu-to be created, but was formed, “something out lously by conjuring it out of nowhere, orof something”; darkness, on the other hand, was whether I make it synthetically by mixing ingre-not a part of God and had to be created. This ties dients and baking them in an oven? I presumein with the Kabbalistic notion of contraction, or both cakes will taste the same. Synthetic crea-tzimtzum, the idea that for the creation to pro- tion, the creation of “something out of some-ceed there had to be a space where God was not. thing” is commonplace, but miraculous creationIf one also supposes that the ultimate nature of is not, and if Briah is not the world of syntheticGod is good, then one must also conclude that creation (which belongs properly in Yetzirah),evil was created, that the goodness, light and then what does it represent?peace of God were deliberately withheld in The creation which takes place in Briah is dif-some measure to create the universe, and this ferentiation; that is, Briah predicates the possibil-reflects the separation of Keter into Chokhmah ity of synthetic creation. The creation whichand Binah, the right and left sides of the mani- takes place in Briah is not the creation of any-fest God. thing tangible, but the creation of those neces- This is a key kabbalistic idea: the negative sary (but abstract and definitely intangible)qualities of existence, the rigour and severity of conditions which make synthetic creation possi-God as depicted by the lefthand Pillar of the ble. It is difficult to find a good example withoutTree of Life, are not the result of a malevolent resorting to abstract forms of theoretical physicsthird party - a diabolical anti-God fouling-up which also attempt to answer questions con-the works, a spiteful Satan wandering around cerning “why is the universe the way it is?”, butthe creation looking for trouble. They are the the nature of Briah is elusive unless the attemptvery essence of the creative act. is made, and so I will make the attempt. The suggestion that the fundamental creative Pottery is a creative activity, the creation ofact was the creation of evil1 is not (for obvious new and completely original forms out of clayreasons) given much prominance in Kabbalistic and it is clearly synthetic creation - clay is a pre-literature, but hints to this effect can be found requisite. A potter wants to make a jug to holdeverywhere. The Bahir uses the metaphor of water. Note the use of the word “make”; juggold and silver to make the point that the making is an activity which takes place inessence of the creative act was “holding back”. Assiah, the world of making. The potter mayThat which was held back was so much greater incorporate some novelty of design into the jugthan that which was given. The mercy of God in he or she is about to make, and if this novelty isthe creation is only a small part of God’s mercy, sufficiently unusual we might consider theand so corresponds to silver, because the more design itself to be creative - this is an example ofvaluable part was held back by the judgement Yetziratic creativity. The design is intangible; itor severity of God must be expressed in some way (using clay or The essence of the creative act was the with- whatever) but the thing we regard as creative isn’t the tangible jug, because anyone can make a rudimentary jug out of clay, but the design 1. Gnostics explicitly demonise the creator embodied in the jug. god for this reason. 108
  • 117. The Four Worlds Let us now go back through history to a example of an abstraction that people will killremote time in the past when there were no over. Criminal law is something clearly abstractjugs. Should the creation of the first jug be and synthetic in nature, but not something toregarded as truely creative in the Briatic sense, meddle with too often. Several times in theserather than synthetically creative in the Yetzi- notes I have attempted to point out the “real butratic sense? intangible” nature of mathematical objects, with I would say that the creation of the first jug computer programs being the most importantwould have been an evolution from past experi- examples. The development of virtual realityence; there must have been an experience of systems drives home the point that there is a“containment” which was almost certainly world of objects which are not real in the sensederived from cupping hands to drink water, or of being physical, but they are real in anotherfrom drinking water held in pools in rocks. The sense: they are real in the sense that they can beidea for the first pottery jug was almost cer- differentiated in some way, real in the sense oftainly derived from a prior experience of using a having specific properties and behaviour. Thevariety of artifacts to contain water, and all of world of intangible but differentiated objects isthese artifacts would have in common the qual- the world that Kabbalists call Yetzirah, and it isity of “containment”. Containment would not a world that spans thought, from slipperybe possible without the basic physical proper- abstractions like beauty and truth down toties of the world we live in, such as the existence something as specific and detailed as an engi-of individually identifiable objects extended in neering blueprint.space with a specific shape. The abstract physi- It is difficult to write about Yetzirah because itcal properties themselves would not be possible contains so much, because it contains the wholewithout...what? of human culture; our myths, legends, music, What was it that determined the most abstract poetry, law, cultural behaviour, literature, sci-properties of the world and made it possible for ences, games, and so on. These all fall into theus to conceive of containment as an abstract “intangible but real” category - things whichproperty? In the terminology of Kabbalah, this have no substance but which constitute ourtakes place in Briah. The world of creation cre- inheritance and define our experience of beingates the conditions for form by providing differ- human. It is a kind of “mind-space” where allentiation and identity. This is an abstract the forms ever conceived can be found, a spaceconcept, and difficult to grasp. Wittgenstein put where it is possible to interact with form.his finger on the problem when he observed One of the most interesting developments inthat the solution of the riddle of life in time and recent times is the realisation that it is becomingspace lies outside time and space. possible to bridge the gap between Yetzirah and Traditionally, Briah is the world of the arch- Assiah using computer technology, and theangels. The attributions of archangels to specific term “cyberspace” is widely used to describesephira vary greatly from one historical period this idea. Computer programs have become theto another, and from writer to writer. The medium for turning form into something thatauthor uses the attributions given in Chapter 3. can be shared. A program which defines a jug in all its respects allows us to share the form of the Yetzirah - Formation jug without any potter having to get her hands Yetzirah is the world of formation where dirty. It isn’t a real jug, and it won’t hold realcomplex forms are built synthetically, “some- water, but it can hold the form of water, thething out of something”, what I have previously Yetziratic representation of liquidity, and Icalled synthetic creation. We are not yet in the could pour Yetziratic “water” out of my Yetzi-world of tangible things; to use an analogy I ratic “jug”. The fact that we can share the formgave when describing the sephira Yesod, we are of an object without having to make it (and thismore in the world of bottle moulds than a world is increasingly the way industrial designersof glass bottles, and more accurately still, in the work today) means that humans will have theworld where one designs bottle moulds for ability to interact in Yetzirah, as magicians haveglass bottles. always done, without any form of magical train- Yetzirah is a curious world, because its con- ing.tents are both intangible and real. Money is an Writing was the first breakthrough in record- 109
  • 118. Notes on Kabbalahing the contents of Yetzirah and it gave the con- die when their environment changes. It is alsotents an independent (if static) existence. interesting to speculate whether life could existCyberspace will be an even greater break- in a more predictable world, and we must con-through in that it will not only record the con- sider the possibility that our world is unpredict-tents, it will enable us to bring them to life in a able in ways we do not appreciate because welimited way. Yetzirah is in the process of have no other experience to compare with.“becoming real”. Perhaps there are more predictable worlds The world of Yetzirah is traditionally the which are too predictable and mechanical forrealm of the Angel Orders, but like the Archan- life - I am reminded of the Zoharic myth of thegels, the attributions to specific sephiroth vary kings of Edom, the kingdoms of “unbalancedgreatly from writer to writer. force” which contained a preponderance of Din, judgement and were destroyed. If this is so, Assiah - Making then it is probable the properties of the Assiah Assiah is the world of making, the world we know and love are necessary in a deep andwhere forms “become real”. The essential qual- fundamental way. I have a somewhat mysticality of the “world of making” that permits us to perspective that the godhead, the root of exist-make things is stability, the fact that the mate- ence, had an urge to become conscious of itself,rial world has stable properties and behaves in a and the cosmogenic descriptions in Kabbalah, ofpredictable way. Our sciences are an outcome of which the “four worlds” model forms a part, arethis predictability - there would be no science if an attempt the show the necessary steps for thisthere were no stable properties. to take place, with Assiah being a final and nec- Our technology is an outcome of our scientific essary step.knowledge, and our ability to make increasingly The problems of living in a finite world suffer-complex artifacts is an outcome of our technol- ing the attendent ills of the flesh has lead toogy. If I make a chair at lunchtime, then (left to some prejudice against Assiah, but there isitself) it will still be a chair at dinnertime, and it nothing “wrong” with Assiah. What we per-won’t be a towel, a giraffe, or an igloo. An ounce ceive to be its imperfections are necessary com-of gold remains an ounce of gold. A pound of ponents of its perfection.lead weighs the same on each successive day of Everything is right with Assiah; if there is athe week. It is this stability and predictability flaw in the creation, it is that when “God wishedwhich allows us to have a shared experience of to behold God” and ate the fruit of the Tree ofthe world. If you place the pound of lead on the Knowledge it did not become conscious of itschair I made at lunchtime, then I will find the own nature. It was seduced by the beauty ofsame pound of lead on the same chair at dinner- Assiah, overwhelmed by the miracle of its owntime, and both of us can behave with some con- making, and the Yetziratic consciousness, whichfidence that this will indeed be the case. An should have united the worlds of Assiah andunstable world where you leave a pound of lead Briah, turned away from Briah and faced Assiahon a chair, and I find a hedgehog in a goldfish exclusively, creating the Abyss.bowl, and this happens in a completely unpre-dictable way would not, in my opinion, be a The Four Worlds & the Treeworld of shared experience - each person would The four worlds can be related to the sephi-have their own individual and private experi- rothic Tree, and there are many ways of doingence of the world, and we would have a world this. There is general agreement that Atzilut cor-more resembling Yetzirah than Assiah. responds to Keter, Briah to Chokhmah and The stability and predictability of Assiah Binah, Yetzirah to the next six sephiroth, andforms the rock on which we have build our Assiah to Malkhut. This is too simple however.material culture of “things” - millions of differ- The four worlds represent four distinctent types of thing - screws, nails, tools, books, “realms” of consciousness, and there is more inhairbrushes, trouser presses, shoes, pens, paper this idea than a simple attribution to sephiroth.... list goes on almost indefinitely. It is interest- Out of the many ways of presenting the fouring to ask whether any life could be sustained in worlds I will present two schemes which I con-a world with less stability given that we know sider to offer more in the way of real, usefulliving organisms have a distressing tendency to substance than other schemes I am familiar 110
  • 119. The Four Worldswith. There is no question of “rightness” or Keter and down as far as Tipheret, and takes in“wrongness” - any map, unless it is grossly or Chokhmah, Binah, Chesed and Gevurah. Themaliciously misleading, is bound to contain third circle, Yetzirah, is centred in Tipheret andsome useful information. It is a question of how reaches from Daat to Yesod, and includes Che-useful the map is, and in my opinion the follow- sed, Gevurah, Netzach and Hod, the six sephi-ing attributions of the four worlds to the Tree roth traditionally associated with Zoar Anpin,are outstandingly useful and enrich the basic the Lesser Countenance or Microprosopus. Thesephirothic Tree considerably. The first attribu- final circle is centred in Yesod and reaches fromtion relates the four worlds to a single Tree; the Tipheret to Malkhut, taking in the sephirothsecond makes use of four separate Trees and is Netzach and Hod. This is shown in Fig X.called “The Extended Tree”. Note that most sephira can be found in more The first attribution begins with a small than one world, and this is an important point:amount of simple geometry, and if you have not the worlds overlap. There is a subtle but real dis-done this before then it is well worth doing. tinction between Hod in Assiah and Hod inDraw a vertical line on piece of paper. At the Yetzirah. The sephira Tipheret can be experi-top of the line place the needle of a pair of com- enced in three distinct ways, depending onpasses and draw a circle with a diameter whether one’s vantage point is that of Assiah,approximately half that of the length of the line. Yetzirah or Briah. These are not intellectual dis- tinctions, and an example would be the ways in which one can experience Tipheret as the King of Assiah, as the Sacrificed God of Yetzirah, or as the Child of Briah (refer to the magical Atzilut images for Tipheret). The worlds overlap, but they are distinct, Briah almost like social strata which co-mingle but are nevertheless clearly defined. The upper middle- Yetzirah class nineteenth century household, with its “upstairs” and “downstairs”, is a good example of two completely distinct but co-mingling Assiah strata. There are ways of trying to articulate this, but they obscure as much as they reveal; I was taught that in going from one world to the next there is a “polarity switch”, so that one mightigure 15:The Tree and the Four World regard Assiah as negative, Yetzirah as positive, Briah as negative once more, and Atzilut as pos- itive. This idea can be related to the Tetragram-Without altering the compasses, draw a second maton, where the Yod can correspond tocircle where the first intersects the line. Repeat Atzilut, He to Briah, Vau to Yetzirah, and Hethis for the second circle, and then for the third. final to Assiah: this points a finger at the deepYou now have a line and four intersecting cir- relationship between Briah and Assiah1. Justcles. Label the centre of the first circle “Keter”, what a “polarity switch” might be I leave to thethe second “Daat”, the third “Tipheret”, and the reader to explore - there is no way I couldfourth “Yesod”. It should be obvious where to attempt to describe this.place Malkhut, and the rest of the sephiroth can The second scheme for representing the fourbe placed at the intersection points of the four worlds is based on the tradition that each of thecircles. four worlds contains its own Tree, and these are The four circles represent the four worlds. The sometimes shown strung out with the Keter offirst circle, Atzilut, is centred on Keter, reaches the world below intersecting the Malkhut of theup into the Unmanifest, takes in Chokhmah and world above. This is not a very illuminatingBinah, and reaches down to Daat. It is entirelyon the other side of the Abyss. The second cir- 1. Yod normally corresponds to Chokhmah, He to Binah, Vau tocle, Briah, is centred in Daat, reaches up as far as Tipheret and He to Malkhut - this gives another way to attribute the four worlds to the Tree.. 111
  • 120. Notes on Kabbalaharrangement, and there is an alternative useful Kabbalistic map you are likely to find. Itarrangement called “the Extended Tree” which provides a map of the four worlds, and arequires some draughtmanship to appreciate. method for representing the sephirothic corre- spondences for each world, and it shows how the worlds overlap and interpenetrate. The rep- resentation of the four worlds on a single Tree (given previously) is consistent with the Extended Tree, but the Extended Tree is consid- erably more useful in that it provides the Kab- balist with a powerful new map - it is like going from a large-scale map of a whole country to a series of detailed, overlapping small-scale maps. The worlds of overlap are Yetzirah and Briah, and in these worlds the sephira Hod overlaps the sephira Binah, the sephira Netzach overlaps the sephira Chokhmah, and the sephira Yesod overlaps Daat. When one makes the polarity switch from one world to the next, then one sephira becomes another; for example, Binah in Assiah, the “Intelligence” of the body, becomes the Hod of Yetzirah, the capacity for abstrac- tion. The mystery of Daat can be fathomed by flipping to the world above, where it becomes its Yesod. The king who wears the crown (Keter) of Assiah becomes the Sacrificed God of Yetzirah in Tipheret, and is reborn in the Mal- khut of Briah as the Child. It is essential to draw the diagram for yourself, study the overlaps, and think about the significance. There is too Figure 16:The Extended Tree much material for a series of introductory notes Use the “four circles” method for drawing a such as these.Tree described earlier, and draw four identical The four worlds should not be viewed as anTrees on clear acetate film; an even better arbitrary four-fold “graduation” of the Tree,method is to draw the Tree once and photocopy with little additional content. There is a greatit four times onto acetate - any copy bureau deal of experiential worth in this scheme, and itshould be able to do this. Now observe that the reflects real and important changes in con-Tree contains two diamond shapes which I will sciousness which can be observed in practice.call (incorrectly, as it happens, but it is a useful This is one of several holistic views of the Treeconvention) “the upper face” and “the lower that concentrates less on the sephiroth andface”. The upper face is bounded by the sephi- paths, and more on its deep structure.roth Keter, Chokhmah, Binah and Tipheret; the I must emphasise that the Extended Tree islower by the sephiroth Tipheret, Netzach, Hod not another piece of pretty Kabbalah for theand Malkhut. Now take your four identical armchair Kabbalist to indulge in, and I say thistransparencies, label them from Atzilut to because there is tendency for many who studyAssiah, and lay the lower face of Atzilut over Kabbalah to become lost in the pretty patterns.the upper face of Briah, the lower face of Briah The Vision of Splendour is the curse of thoseover the upper face of Yetzirah, and the lower who like pretty patterns. To use the Extendedface of Yetzirah over the upper face of Assiah. Tree effectively it is necessary to have inte-You should now have a single, large Tree, some- grated the model of the sephiroth into one’stimes called “Jacob’s Ladder” for reasons which internal awareness, and be capable of observingshould be obvious when you look at it (relatively) subtle changes in consciousness - it The Extended Tree makes clear the dynamics is pointless having an exceedingly detailed mapof the four worlds, and is probably the most of a region if one is too short-sighted to observe 112
  • 121. The Four Worldsthe countryside as it passes! For this reason I soul:will say no more about the extended Tree. “This heart is dependent on the outside world. If a man does not eat for one day The Souls even, it feels extremely uncomfortable. If it hears something terrifying, it throbs; if I have stated that the four worlds represented it hears something enraging it stops; if it is“realms of consciousness”, and in support of faced with death it becomes sad; if it seesthis view Kabbalah contains a view of the soul something beautiful it is dazzled.”which integrates with the four worlds. My inter- Note the close identification with the bodypretation of the word soul is firstly, that it is a and its feelings. Kabbalists believe the Nepheshvehicle for a particular kind of consciousness, comes into being when we are born, and itand secondly, it carries with it the connotation decays with the body when we die. Accordingof individuality or uniqueness, so that I can to widespread belief, women are more attunedimagine my souls as encapsulating, in different to the body soul than men, and the Nephesh isrealms, what is unique to me. sometimes depicted as being feminine; whether In Kabbalah there are five parts to the soul - this is simply sexual stereotyping must remainthe sephira Binah is the Mother of souls, the let- an open question. The Nephesh is associatedter associated with Binah is He, and the number with Assiah, the world of making, and thisassociated with He is five. The five souls are: emphasises its close link with the material world, and the body itself. • Yechidah - uniqueness The Ruach is the rational soul, and is associ- • Chiah - vitality ated with air or wind (the word literally means • Neshamah - breath, soul proper air), and with the world of Yetzirah. Tradition- • Ruach - wind-spirit, intellectual spirit ally, the Ruach was not seen as something that • Nephesh - soul, vital spirit, soul one was given automatically; in the words of Scholem, it was a “post-natal increment”. It is The attribution to the four worlds is: the case that some people live almost exclu- sively according to physical needs, and others Briah - Neshamah spend a great deal of time finding a rational Ruach - Yetzirah basis for their behaviour, but I do not think Nephesh - Assiah there is any evidence for a discontinuity, and I think we must assume that the Ruach is every- The precise difference between Yechidah, where present in some measure. What can beChiah and Neshamah is unclear; Kaplan [] gives said is that a level of consciousness representedthe following attribution: by Ruach exists in varying degrees from person to person - it is not present by default in equal Yechidah - Keter measure. Chiah - Chokhmah The Ruach is based on the ability to create Binah - Neshamah abstract models of the world in consciousness and reflect on them, so that while a hungry For practical purposes only the Nephesh, Nephesh might grab a whole pizza and con-Ruach and Neshamah need be considered, and sume it without a moments thought, the Ruachthe bulk of the discussion will refer to this trio. might reflect on the activity of pizza-eating in The Nephesh is the animal soul, the “soul of the context of “Do unto others...” and concludethe body”. Animals possess this soul, and as that sharing it might be a Good Thing. We seehuman beings are animals, we share this inher- here the basis for morality, the ability to make aitance. The Nephesh is concerned with the conscious choice between good and evil, and itneeds of the body - hunger, pleasure, rest, sex- is here that the Ruach is elevated above theual satisfaction, social status and so on. In many Nephesh in the eyes of traditional Kabbalah.cultures, if a person is asked where their soul This ignores the possibility that the Ruachresides, they will not point to their head: they might well knock the Nephesh over the headwill point to their heart. The Secret of the Golden (making an impeccable ethical case, wellFlower [22] provides a description of the animal argued, that the Nephesh has forfeited the pizza because no-one had said Grace, and besides, no- 113
  • 122. The Four Worldsone so greedy deserves a whole pizza) and not leaving a trail of destruction. It is the king thatonly grab the whole of the pizza, but attempt to needs to be slain, the god that must be sacri-corner the market in Mozarella. ficed. If we ignore the questionable value of beingable to reflect on the morality of our decisions, The Neshamah is the Breath of God. In thewe are still left with the ability to reflect; we Bible it states “And the Lord God formed manhave the ability to reflect on ourselves, perhaps of the dust of the ground, and breathed into hiseven to reflect ourselves, and create a “self- nostrils the breath of life; and man became a liv-image”. The Nephesh lacks this ability to reflect ing soul”. The “breath of life” is the Neshamah,upon itself - I have never seen an adult cat study and unlike the Nephesh and the Ruach it is aitself in a mirror. Some of the great apes do have gift from God, and the source of our ability tothis ability - they appear to be “self-aware”. intuit the realm of the divine. It is difficult to Because the Ruach can reflect upon itself, and write about the Neshamah. The Ruach tends tocreate a self image, it can become an entity in its idealise the Neshamah, and in the absence of aown right, perhaps even dissociating itself from genuine contact projects a distorted reflection ofthe body and its needs, producing someone itself. An attempt to describe the Neshamahwho feels guilt at indulging in the “sins of the encourages the creation of such reflections, so Iflesh”. We find the “spiritual” person who can- will desist.not accept their physicality and who rejects the A characteristic of the World of Briah, tobody and its “evil lusts” in favour of a purer, which the Neshamah is attributed, is that it is“more spiritual” existence. beyond space and time, and from the point of We have millions of people reflecting upon view of those living in space and time thethemselves and concluding that they are Neshamah has an eternal quality of being...just“wrong” in some way - the wrong shape, the being. It is the hub around which the wheel ofwrong size, the wrong colour, the wrong age. It personality turns. As we live our lives, weis unlikely that someone who thinks they are the change, but something at the centre of our beingwrong size is going to ever feel good about does not change. The magician Aleister Crowleythemselves so long as they view the body as a wrote about “True Will”, and while this conceptmeans to an end, a vehicle, a carriage which is no easier to grasp than the Neshamah, bothconveys them through life, a fashion accessory. refer to a part of us that exists outside of the ebbIn our culture there are strong taboos connected and flow of life in the mundane world. Writingwith anything which points too directly about the three souls, Crowley comments [7]:towards our physical and animal nature, which “The Neschamah is that aspiration whichcan be seen in attitudes to clothing, to death, to in most men is no more than a void and asex, to self-mutilation. voiceless longing. It becomes articulate My own view of the Ruach is profoundly neg- only when it compels the Ruach to inter- pret it. The Nephesch, or animal soul, isative. Our culture develops this single aspect of not the body itself; the body is excremen-consciousness to such an absurd degree that the tal, of the Klippot or shells. The NepheschRuach is incapable of forming a sensible notion is that coherent brute which animates it,concerning either the Nephesh or Neshamah, from the reflexes to the highest forms ofand turning its face away from both the lower conscious activity. These again are onlyand higher worlds, becomes obsessed with its cognizable when they translate them-own creations. The Ruach has a tendency to selves to the Ruach. The Ruach lastly isreduce the body to an object and often lives a the machine of the mind converging on alife completely at odds with the needs of the central consciousness, which appears toNephesh. Where there is a spiritual aspiration, be the ego. The true ego, is however,the Ruach produces a monstrous and bloated above Neschamah, whose occasional mes-reflection, “itself-made-perfect”, and aspires sages to the Ruach warn the human ego of the existence of his superior. Such com-towards this illusory caricature of itself. The munications may be welcomed orRuach is a patchwork monster, a grotesque resented, encouraged or stifled.”reflection of its creator, and it lurches about the The relationship between the Neshamah andworld trying to make sense of what is happen- the Holy Guardian Angel is unclear. What caning, sometimes playing like a child, sometimes be said is that in many cases, people approach 114
  • 123. The Four WorldsNeshamah through the medium of an entitywhich acts as an intermediary between theRuach and the Neshamah. There is no doubtthat in many cases the HGA is the Ruach’s ownidealised projection, but that does not invalidatethe notion that it is capable of linking the twolevels of consciousness. The HGA is associatedwith the sephira Tipheret, the point on the Pillarof Consciousness where Briah overlaps withYetzirah. The method of invoking the HGA as away of contacting the Neshamah is legitimate. A discussion of souls carries with it, far moreso than any of the Kabbalistic framework dis-cussed so far, the temptation to indulge in meta-physical speculation. Traditional Kabbalah isfilled with this, and there is much speculationon the origin of souls, the nature of souls, thefate of the soul, reincarnation, and so on. Thistraditional material is adequately presentedelsewhere. I feel public speculation on such top-ics is counterproductive as it simply providesmore material for the never-ceasing elabora-tions of the Ruach. In Kabbalah there is a view that if there is adefect in the creation, it is a result of separatingthat which should have been united. I havemade my views on the Ruach clear: here is alevel of consciousness which has turnedinwards and no longer carries out its task ofmediating between higher and lower. A trace ofthis attitude can be found in the quotation fromCrowley above, where one can detect a negativeattitude towards both the body and theNephesh. In the main, Kabbalah has a very pos-itive attitude towards living in the world, forthe world, far from being the “dead matter” ofthe Neoplatonists, is infused with the Shekhi-nah, the indwelling presence of God. In some traditions one sees people turningaway from the world and mundane life andseeking a “world of the spirit”. In Kabbalah theworld and God are two poles of the same thing,and the purpose of the Kabbalist is to bring Godinto the world, and take the world back to God.I say this to emphasise an important point: theNeshamah is not higher than the Nephesh, thebody is not something divorced from spirit.These are ideas which create the separation theKabbalist tries to overcome. The world, thesouls, and god are links in a circular chain, theOurouboros, and there is no higher or lower,there is no spiritual or mundane - they are allparts of the same thing. 115
  • 124. The Four Worlds 116
  • 125. The Great Work 9 The Great Work “For God doth know that in the day ye eat understand their true nature, or why the crea- thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, tion is flawed. It is unreasonable to expect sim- and ye shall be as gods, knowing good ple explanations for something which lies and evil.” outside the domain of intellectual speculation, and perhaps it is unreasonable to expect an The term “The Great Work” is not a term to be explanation of any kind, agreeing with Wittgen-found in the literature of traditional Kabbalah, stein that “the sense of the world must lie out-but it is a term which has come to be associated side the world”; those who go beyond the worldwith traditional Kabbalistic ideas. Two key cannot be expected to bring back answers whichideas underpinning the Great Work are: mean anything to those who are in it. Given this caveat, the following discussion on the Great • the universe we live in is not as it should be. Work is based on several traditional ideas, but In some way it is “damaged”, and only a the synthesis is mine. Those who wish to delve conscious and deliberate effort on the part into centuries of speculation within a strictly of the created will restore it to its intended Judaic tradition are referred to Scholem [39]. state. Also, as a consequence... A great deal of Kabbalistic speculation begins • we live in ignorance of our true estate. We with the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the know not what we are. In the words of the Garden of Eden. This story is not to be taken lit- poet W.B. Yeats, “Consume my heart away; erally; it is usually taken as an allegory to be sick with desire and fastened to a dying ani- interpreted within the context of general Kabba- mal, It knows not what it is...” listic ideas concerning the Creation. The Garden represents the Creation as it should be, the Cre- The Great Work is the attempt to undo the ation as it was before the Fall.damage, and it consists of two parts. The first Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were con-part is the preservation of knowledge and tech- scious, but not self-conscious - they did notniques which enable individual human beings know that they were naked. The sin of Adamto awaken and recover the knowledge of their and Eve was to eat from the Tree of Knowledgetrue nature. The second part is the deliberate of Good and Evil, and in doing so they becameefforts undertaken by these awakened individu- self-conscious; they understood what they hadals to restore the world to what it should have done, became afraid, and hid themselves frombeen. God. As a consequence God made coats of skin There is nothing explicitly Kabbalistic about to clothe them and they were ejected from thethis idea of the Great Work - similar ideas have Garden to become human beings - animals whooccurred at many times and places - but the idea join sexually to produce offspring, animals whothat the creation is not what it should have been die. The return to Eden and the Tree of Life wasis one of the key elements of Kabbalistic specu- barred.lation, and the belief that it is possible for indi- The Biblical story mentions two trees in thevidual human beings to help to repair the garden: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowl-damage and restore the creation was and is one edge of Good and Evil. For some Kabbalists theof the key motives underlying Kabbalistic prac- Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge weretice. one tree until Adam and Eve picked the fruit, The extent of Kabbalistic speculation has been causing the two to separate, so that the Tree ofso extensive that it is difficult to extract simple Life became the right pillar of the sephirothicexplanations for why human beings do not Tree, and the Tree of Knowledge became the 117
  • 126. Notes on Kabbalahleft, and the Tree of Life as we now see it is not and the beggar. Why does the beggar have sothe original Tree as it was before the fruit was little? The beggar has so little because there arepicked. The sin of Adam was the sin of separa- laws of property. Laws belong on the left sidetion, the sin of creating a division between (Hod). The beggar cannot take what is not hisknowledge and life. because there are authorities to uphold the law, The Biblical story can also be interpreted as a and they also belong on the left side (Gevurah).story of the growth of self consciousness. There There are well-defined procedures for transfer-was a time when humans lived unselfcon- ring property; work is one of these. These well-sciously among the animals, a time when defined procedures also belong on the left sidehumans were animals, and that state was shat- (Gevurah, Hod). If the beggar does not “fit-in”,tered by the growth of self-consciousness. The then he must take what comes by chance, or liveself-conscious creature, terrified by the naked outside the law.consciousness of the One, and in danger of slip- In every case we see what we would regard asping back into the One, hid itself away from an inequitable situation as being created andGod and the Cherubim who wielded fiery sustained by qualities associated with the leftswords were servants of its own making. The side of the Tree. Fortunately there are also lawsself-conscious creature, in an attempt to (left side) which provide some minimal provi-strengthen its fragile identity, anchored itself to sions for the poor, which is evidence that goodthe left side of the Tree, the Tree of Knowledge, is not completely divorced from evil. How didand set about building the structures and these laws come about? I believe that in mostabstractions which have resulted in our com- people the left and right pillars are not com-plex and confused society. pletely divorced; they meet on the middle pillar There is a relative unanimity among Kabba- to produce Rachamim, compassion.lists that the left side of the Tree is the source of In the previous example the evil of povertyevil. To be fair, it is also the source of good, as it was a side-effect of a structure of laws largelyis impossible to have one without the other, but designed to protect property. When one puts athe problem of evil was the major preoccupa- fly in a jar and seals the lid, then sooner or latertion. Let us suppose a rich man walks past a the fly will suffocate. The effect of confining thebeggar in the street. The rich man thinks: fly is that the fly dies. There is no evil in the jar, and if evil is to be found anywhere it is in the “If I give to this person, then logically I hand that screws the lid tight, or in the mind ought to give to all equally poor people, that conceives of ways of killing. In the same for all are equally miserable and equally way, the left side of the Tree provides the struc- deserving. I do not have enough money to ture for evil, it is not in itself evil. Structure pro- feed every poor person, and my poverty vides the means for people such as you and me will not solve the problem of poverty, so to create evil, but there is no suggestion that really there is no point in giving.” some kind of metaphysical evil is involved. Some Kabbalists have gone further and sug- This kind of rational thinking belongs on the gested just that. The suggestion that powers ofleft side of the Tree. Suppose the wealthy man evil exist is usually based on the belief that thedecides to give something. How much should Creation involved, or even required, an excesshe give? Everything he has? This unlikely. He of the quality of Din or Judgment. In the Zoharwill give a little and hold back the rest. This the first attempts at creation were unbalanced,“holding back” is the quality of Din, Judgement, and the power of Din overflowed and shatteredand Kabbalists have seen God as the wealthy the worlds. The fragments fell into the Abyss toman who gives a little and holds-back much. In become the realm of the Klippot, powers whichthe Bahir the left side of the Tree was associated are the result of unbalanced Din, and hence evilwith gold, and the right side with silver, to in the sense that unbalanced Judgement andmake the point that God gave silver, but held Severity are evil. Isaac Luria further dramatisedback something more valuable. The Creation these events with extraordinary elaborations:could not stand the full force of God’s light, and the first three sephiroth were able to contain theso it was held back, and as a consequence each light of God, but the remaining seven were shat-one of us has inherited the ability to hold back. tered in an event known as “the breaking of the Let us continue with the story of the rich man 118
  • 127. The Great Workvessels”, and in the catastrophe some of the Tree of Life. So long as Malkhut only takes fromlight was carried into the Abyss and became Keter, and does not give back, it is not like God.trapped in the realm of the Klippot. The four Once Malkhut begins to give back to Keter, aworlds were dislocated, and Assiah slipped into continuous loop of impulse and reflection is cre-the realm of the Klippot. In Luria’s view we are ated, Malkhut will become like God, and “Godimmersed in a world where evil has a primor- will know God”. It is our role, as creatures ofdial origin. matter, to create this bridge and make the crea- Other Kabbalists have stressed that, regard- tion self-conscious. In Jewish Kabbalah thisless of the catastrophic origin of evil, its contin- process is called “tikkun” or reintegration, andued existence is based on an unbalanced flow of is best known from complex speculations ofenergy down the left side of the Tree, and it is Isaac Luria.this steady drip of unbalanced force which Scholem states [39]:nourishes the Sitra Achara, or Other Side. It ishuman evil which creates this unbalance. In a “The object of this human activity, whichdefinition reminiscent of the classic definition of is designed to complete the world ofdirt, Gikatilla defined evil as an entity which tikkun, is the restoration of the world ofwas not in its rightful place - sand is fine on a Asiyyah to its spiritual place, its complete separation from the world of the kelippot,beach, but not in engine oil - and there are pow- and the achievement of a permanent,ers which have a rightful place in the world but blissful state of communion betweenwhich are evil in the wrong context. Kabbalistic every creature and God which the kelip-views of evil cover the entire spectrum, from the pot will be unable to disrupt or prevent.”surprisingly sophisticated view of evil as astructural and necessary part of creation, to a This all sounds very grand. It is an enterpriselow superstitious belief in a hierarchy of evil which appeals to those with an idealistic anddemons. crusading temperament. Unfortunately, one The exact nature of the Great Work is no sim- cannot repair the design faults in machine bypler to explain than the problem of evil itself, giving it a fresh coat of paint. The Tree ofand if one takes it to be the attempt to restore a Knowledge is not going to be reunited with thedefect in the creation, then its nature will Tree of Life unless it is re-united in ourselves,depend on what one believes that defect to be. and when one looks at conditions in the worldThere is no simple view of the Great Work, but today one sees an ever-accelerating dive into thethere are a number of clear threads to follow. knowledge of Assiah and a disregard for the The first thread is to re-unite what has become condition of the human soul.separate, and the place to begin is in one’s own This section on the Great Work may seemnature. When one re-unites the elements of more than a little metaphysical, lacking in con-one’s being, then one becomes capable of trans- crete ideas, and this is intentional. If conven-mitting, of acting as an agent between the tional religion has a fault, it is that it tends tohigher and the lower. This is an important Kab- produce relatively homogeneous and oftenbalistic idea. The purpose of Kabbalah is not a politically active groups of people who are con-personal quest for self-realisation; it is a con- vinced they know what is good and what is evil,scious decision to play a part in uniting the what is right and what is wrong. Great tyran-higher and the lower, not only in oneself, but nies can and do arise from this. People want tomore importantly still, in the world. If it is part know what life is about, and latch onto anythingof the essential nature of God to give, then which gives their life a greater meaning, and itsomeone who only receives and does not give is dangerous to be prescriptive about the Greatcannot be like God or understand the nature of Work because this feeds the messianic urge inGod. To know God one must not only receive, most of us to make the world “a better place”.but give out in direct measure. Likewise, if For one person to supply to another person a“God wished to know God” as some authors reason for living is the antithesis of the Greathave maintained, then one must fulfil the pur- Work, which is to understand it for oneself. Ifpose of creation by making this possible. each of us is a little piece of God, and “God There is a tradition that Keter and Malkhut wishes to know God”, then the whole is to beplay a complementary role in sustaining the found in the sum of the parts, and each part has 119
  • 128. Notes on Kabbalahits own role to play. No-one has the authority todefine the Great Work for another. 120
  • 129. The Klippot 10 The Klippot The word “qlippah” or “klippah” (plural ity of this topic. I will indicate some of the prin-“Klippot”) means “shell” or “husk”. ciple themes. The idea of a covering or a garment or a vessel The Zohar attributes the primary cause of evilis common in Kabbalah, where it used, at vari- to the act of separation. The act of separation isous times and with various degrees of subtlety, referred to as the “cutting of the shoots”. Whatto express the manner in which the light of the was united becomes divided, and the boundaryEn Soph is “encapsulated”. For example, the between one thing and another can be regardedsephiroth, in their capacity of recipients of light, as a shell. The primary separation was the divi-are sometimes referred to as kelim, “vessels”. sion between the Tree of Life (Pillar of Mercy)The duality between the container and the con- from the Tree of Knowledge (Pillar of Severity).tained is one of the most important in Kabbalis- In normal perception the world is clearlytic explanations of the creative moment. characterised by divisions between one thing The word “klippah” is an extension of this and another, and in this technical sense onemetaphor. A klippah is also a covering or a con- could say that we are immersed in a world oftainer, and as each sephira acts as a shell or cov- shells. The shells, taken by themselves as anering to the sephira preceding it in the order of abstraction divorced from the original, undi-emanation, in a technical sense we can say the vided light (making another separation!) are theKlippot are innate to the Tree of Life. Cut a slice dead residue of manifestation, and can be iden-through a tree and one can see the growth rings, tified with dead skin, hair, bark, sea shells, orwith the bark on the outside. The Tree of Life shit. They have been referred to as the dregshas 10 concentric rings, and sometimes the klip- remaining in a glass of wine, or as the residuepah is equated to the bark. The word is com- left after refining gold. According to Scholemmonly used to refer to a covering which [39], the Zohar interprets evil as “the residue orcontains no light: that is, an empty shell, a dead refuse of the hidden life’s organic process”; evilhusk. is something which is dead, but comes to life It is also the case that the Klippot appear in because a spark of God falls on it; by itself it isKabbalah as demonic powers of evil, and in try- simply the dead residue of life.ing to disentangle the various uses of the word The skeleton is the archetypal shell. By itself itit becomes clear that there is an almost continu- is a dead thing, but infuse it with a spark of lifeous spectrum of opinion, varying from the tech- and it becomes a numinous and instantly recog-nical use where the word hardly differs from nisable manifestation of metaphysical evil. Thethe word “form”, to the most anthropomorphic shell is one of the most common horror themes;sense, where the Klippot are evil demonesses in take a mask, or a doll, or any dead representa-a demonic hierarchy responsible for all the evil tion of a living thing, shine a light out of its eyes,in the world. and becomes a thing of evil intent. The powers One reason why the word “klippah” has no of evil appear in the shape of the animate dead -simple meaning is that it is part of the Kabbalis- skulls, bones, zombies, vampires, phantasms.tic explanation of evil, and it is difficult to The following list of correspondences followsexplain evil in a monotheistic, non-dualistic reli- the interpretation that the Klippot are emptygion without incurring a certain complexity.... shells, form without force, the covering of a sephira: If God is good, why is there evil? Keter Futility No short essay can do justice to the complex- Chokhmah Arbitrariness 121
  • 130. Notes on Kabbalah Binah Fatalism (GASh Ga’ash - shake, quake KLH, khalah - Chesed Ideology complete destruction, annihilation) Gevurah Bureaucracy Gevurah Golachab: Flaming Ones (unclear) Tipheret Hollowness Tipheret Tagiriron: Litigation (probably Netzach Routine, repetition, habit from GVR, goor - quarrel) Hod Rigid order Netzach Orev Zarak: Raven of Dispersion Yesod Zombieism, robotism (ARV, orev - raven ZRQ, zaraq - scatter) Malkhut Stasis Hod Samael: False Accuser (SMM, samam - poison) A second, common interpretation of the Klip- Yesod Gamaliel: Obscene Ass (GML,pot is that they represent the negative or averse gamal - camel? alt. ripen?)aspect of a sephira, as if each sephira had a Mr. Malkhut Lilith: Woman of the Night (LeilahHyde to complement Dr. Jekyll. - Night) There are many variations of this idea. One ofthe most common is the idea that evil is caused Most of these attributions are obvious, othersby an excess of the powers of Din (judgement) are not. The Twins of God replace a unity with ain the creation. The origin of this imbalance may warring duality. The Hinderers block the freebe innate, a residue of the moment of creation, expression of the God’s will. The Concealerswhen each sephira went through a period of prevent the mother from giving birth to theimbalance and instability (the kingdoms of child - the child is stillborn in the womb. Theunbalanced force), but another version Breakers in Pieces are the powers of authorityattributes this imbalance to humankind’s pro- gone berserk - Zeus letting fly with thunder-pensity for the Tree of Knowledge in preference bolts in all directions. The Flaming Ones refer toto the Tree of Life (a telling and precognitively the fiery and destructive aspect of Gevurah.inspired metaphor if ever there was one...). Lilith is the dark side of the Malkah or queen of The imbalance of the powers of Din “leaks” Malkhut.out of the Tree and provides the basis for the Why Samael is placed in Hod is unclear,sitra achra, the “other side”, or the “left side” unless he has been christianised and turned into(referring to pillar of severity), a quasi or even the father of lies. In Kabbalah he is almostfully independent kingdom of evil. This may be always attributed to Gevurah, sometimes as itsrepresented by a full Tree in its own right, archangel. Yesod is associated with the genitalssometimes by a great dragon, sometimes by and the sexual act, but why Gamaliel is unclearseven hells. The most lurid versions combine to me. I could easily concoct fanciful and per-Kabbalah with medieval demonology to pro- haps even believable explanations for the attri-duce detailed lists of demons, with Samael and butions to Tipheret and Netzach, but I preferLilith riding at their head as king and queen. not to. A version of this survives in the Golden Dawn In “777” Crowley also gives Klippot for manytradition on the Klippot. The Klippot are given of the 22 paths. If the transliterations and trans-as 10 evil powers corresponding to the 10 sephi- lations are as accurate as those for the sephiroth,roth. I referred to G.D knowledge lectures and I would be tempted to reach for my lexicon.also to Crowley’s “777” [8] and found several The G.D. teachings on the Klippot are mini-inconsistencies in transliteration and transla- mal in the material in my possession, but a greattion. Where possible I have reconstructed the deal can be deduced from those fascinatingoriginal Hebrew, and I have given a corrected repositories of Kabbalistic myth, the twin pic-list. tures of the Garden of Eden before and after the Fall. There are so many mythic themes in theseKeter Thaumiel: Twins of God (TAVM, pictures that it is difficult to disentangle them,tom - a twin) but they seem strongly influenced by the ideasChokhmah Ogiel: Hinderers (? OVG - to draw of Isaac Luria, and it is now time to describe thea circle) third major interpretation of the Klippot.Binah Satariel: Concealers (STR, satar- to Luria’s ideas have probably received morehide, conceal) elaboration than any others in Kabbalah. TheChesed Gash’khalah: Breakers in Pieces man left little in a written form, and his disci- 122
  • 131. The Klippotples did not concur in the presentation of whatwas clearly a very complex theosophical system Shape without form, shade without col-- this is a subject where no amount of care will our,ensure consistency with anyone else. Paralysed force, gesture without motion;” Luria made the first step in the creation a Those who have crossedprocess called “tzim tzum” or contraction. This With direct eyes, to death’s other King-contraction took place in the En Soph, the limit- domless, unknown, and unknowable God of Kabba- Remember us - if at all - not as lost,lah. God “contracted” in a process of self- Violent souls, but onlylimitation to make a “space” (in a metaphorical As the hollow mensense, of course) for the creation. In the next The stuffed men.step the light entered this space in a jet to fill theempty vessels of the sephiroth, but all but thefirst three were shattered by the light. Thisbreaking of the vessels is called shevirah. Theshards of the broken vessels fell into the abysscreated by contraction, and formed the Klippot.Most of the light returned to the En Soph, butsome of it remained in the vessels (like a smearof oil in an empty bottle) and fell with the Klip-pot. Scholem [39] describes the shevirah and theexpulsion of the Klippot as cathartic; not a blun-der, an architectural miscalculation like an inad-equately buttressed Gothic cathedral, but as acatharsis. Perhaps the universe, like a new baby,came attached to a placenta which had to beexpelled, severed, and thrown out into thenight. One way of looking at the shevirah is this: theself contraction of tzim tzum was an act of Din,or Judgement, and so at the root of the creativeact was the quality which Kabbalists identifywith the source of evil, and it was present insuch quantity that a balanced creation becamepossible only by excreting the imbalance. Theshevirah can be viewed as a corrective action inwhich the unbalanced powers of Din, the bro-ken vessels, were ejected into the abyss. Whether cathartic or a blunder, the shevirahwas catastrophic. Nothing was as it should havebeen in an ideal world. The four worlds of Kab-balah slipped, and the lowest world of Assiahdescended into the world of the shells. This canbe seen in the G.D. picture of the Eden after theFall. Much of Lurianic Kabbalah is concernedwith corrective actions designed to bring aboutthe repair or restoration (tikkun) of the creation,so that the sparks of light trapped in the realmof the shells can be freed. The final word on the shells must go to T.S.Eliot, who had clearly bumped into them in oneof his many successful raids on the inarticulate: 123
  • 132. Notes on Kabbalah 124
  • 133. Practical Kabbalah 11 Practical Kabbalah “But just as I was going to put my feet clear from the variety of approaches that prac- into the water I looked down and saw that tice grew as much out of the temperament of the they were all hard and rough and wrin- individual Kabbalist as it did from a long histor- kled and scaly just as they had been ical tradition. From time to time an outstanding before. Oh, that’s all right said I, it only teacher would appear, and a school would means I had another smaller suit on form, but these schools tended to be short-lived, underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore and one is struck more by the diversity and again and this underskin peeled off beau- individuality of the different approaches, than tifully and out I stepped and left it lying by (what is often presumed) a chain of masters beside the other one and went down to handing down the core of a secret tradition the well for my bathe. “ through the centuries. “Well, exactly the same thing happened A problem with trying to find an authentic again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, tradition of Kabbalistic practice is not only is it how ever many skins have I got to take difficult to identify just what such a tradition off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So might be (given the diversity of approaches I scratched away for the third time and over the centuries), but more importantly, the got off a third skin, just like the two oth- keys to many of the practical techniques have ers, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I been lost. In her book on Kabbalah [10], Perle looked at myself in the water I knew it Epstein makes a number of wry comments had been no good. “Then the lion said - about the state of Kabbalah in Judaism today, but I don’t know if it spoke - “You will have to let me undress you.” I was afraid and regrets the loss of a practical mystical tradi- of his claws, I can tell you, but I was tion. pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay Outside of Judaism the situation is little bet- flat down on my back and let him do it.” ter. Kabbalah has become an element in the syl- “The very first tear he made was so deep labus of many traditions, but its practical that I thought it had gone right into my application is often limited to exercises such as heart. And when he began pulling the pathworking. It is instructive to examine the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve Golden Dawn initiation rituals [35] as an exam- ever felt. The only thing that made me ple of what happens when Kabbalah is boiled able to bear it was just the pleasure of feel- up with a mixture of ingredients drawn from ing the stuff peel off.” Greek, Egyptian, Rosicrucian and Enochian C.S. Lewis sources - there is a pervasive smell of Kabbalah throughout, but it rarely amounts to a meal. From an historical and traditional perspective The following description of Kabbalistic prac-the practical techniques of Kabbalah include tice makes no attempt to be comprehensive; ontechniques of mysticism and (to a lesser extent) the contrary, I have chosen only those practicesmagic to be found the world over, and include with which I am personally familiar. This willcomplex concentration and visualisation exer- be unsatisfactory to those readers with an aca-cises, meditation, breath control, prayer, ritual, demic or historical interest, but these notes werephysical posture, chanting and singing, absti- intended to have a practical value, and I see nonence, fasting, mortification and good works. value in trying to describe techniques I have not Many different combinations of practice have used. For the reader who wishes to take abeen used at different times and places over a broader view, Perle Epstein provides a usefulperiod of nearly two thousand years, and it is introduction to the breadth of Kabbalistic prac- 125
  • 134. Notes on Kabbalahtice, and the personalities that have shaped Kab- comprise our own natures, by going far enoughbalistic thought. inside ourselves to understand the energy and I am fully aware there will be those who dynamics operating within our own conscious-would not wish to associate the name “Kabba- ness, so we touch the same energies operating inlah” with the practices I am about to describe - the universe. When we have touched these ener-although I am not Jewish, I respect the beliefs of gies we can call on them and influence the flowthose who are - but at the same time there is a of creative energy. A name for this process isgreat deal of variety in nearly two thousand “magic”. I prefer “theurgy”, as there is noyears of Kabbalah, and one living tradition is power that comes from anywhere but God.worth at least as much as several dead tradi- Traditionally these energies are called upontions. There is no right or canonical tradition of by name, and are characterised in concrete waysKabbalistic practice, and never has been1. - because we are human beings there is a natural The practice of Kabbalah as I will describe it is tendency to anthropomorphise these energiesunderpinned by the theosophical structure I and call upon them in the form of ‘angels’ orhave outlined previously in these notes. First other supernatural beings. The list of corre-and foremost comes the belief that there is a spondences given in Chapter 4 of these notesGod. The ultimate nature of God is neither provides some ideas as to how these energiesknown nor manifest to us, but just as light can are likely to be observed at a level where we arebe passed through a prism to produce a rain- most likely to observe them.bow of colours, so God manifests in the creation The Kabbalistic Tree of Life is an abstract rep-as ten divine lights or emanations, usually resentation or map describing the creativereferred to as sephiroth. energy of God and the process of manifestation. Each of one of us is a part of God, a micro- The Kabbalist learns to use this map to under-cosm, a complete and functioning simulacrum stand the dynamics of creative energy; from thisof the whole, and so God similarly manifests point of view it is a key to applied magicalwithin us as ten divine lights. Because we can work.look in the mirror of our own being and see the And that is it, in essence. How literally youreflection of the macrocosm, it follows that self- take these assumptions is up to you. My attitudeknowledge shades imperceptibly into knowl- resembles that of the engineer Oliver Heavy-edge of God; and also, as the whole of creation side, who didn’t care whether his self- inventedis an emanation of God, so self-knowledge mathematical methods made sense to mathema-moves the centre of consciousness away from a ticians (they didn’t), as long as his calculationssubjective awareness of reality towards an produced the right answers (they did). I willobjective and non-dualistic union with every- talk about angels and archangels and names ofthing that is. God, powers and sephiroth and invocations, The second key idea is that the emanations or and leave it to you to make your own sense of it.sephiroth are aspects of the creative power of But to return to the discussion of practicalGod. On a macrocosmic scale, the creation is Kabbalah ... one can identify two major kinds ofseen as the continuing outcome of a dynamic practical work arising out of the assumptionsprocess in which creative energy manifests pro- above.gressively through the sephiroth; at a microcos- From the idea that we are made in the imagemic and personal level the same process is at of God we can conclude that by knowing our-work, and this is the Kabbalistic interpretation selves we can (in some degree) know God; thisof the notion that we are “made in God’s leads to practical work designed to increase self-image”. By understanding the elements which knowledge to the greatest degree possible, a process I will refer to as initiation. The emphasis of initiation is primarily mystical. 1. The popularisation of Kabbalah within From the idea that we can call upon aspects of Judaism is often carried out today by ultra- the creative energy of God to change reality we orthodox Chassidim. I appreciate and arrive at practices intended to increase personal respect their perspective, but their presen- power, practices which many people continue to tation and emphasis is not always historic refer to as magic. or representative. Many are not familiar Kabbalah has divided along these two paths, with the long history of Hermeticism. 126
  • 135. Practical Kabbalahand I believe it is accurate to say that traditional should I live?”, “is there a God?”, and “how canJewish Kabbalah is predominantly mystical, I become rich, famous and sexually attractivewith the emphasis on union with God, while without expending any effort?”.non-Jewish Kabbalah is predominantly magical. It happens (for no obvious reason) that there It is easy to sit in judgement of these two are many people who cannot escape the nag-approaches, and many authors have done so. To ging conviction that some or all of these ques-seek for union with God is to seek to do God’s tions can be answered, and the same people arewill. The world-wide mystical agenda is com- determined to wring the answers out of some-posed largely of the subjugation of ego and the body or something. The situation resembles areplacement of personal wilfulness with divine cat in a new house. The poor creature will notunion. Magic is seen to be predominantly wil- rest until it has explored every nook and crannyful, and so shares the original Satanic impulse of from the attic to the crawlspace. So it is with cer-pride and rebellion against the divine will. It is tain people; they look out on the world witheasy to conclude that mystical union (devekut, or cat’s eyes, and metaphysical and philosophical“cleaving to God”) is the true goal, and magic questions are like dark openings into the atticsan “egocentric” and wilful aberration of con- and crawlspaces which lie behind the phenome-sciousness. nal world of the senses. It is difficult to provide a rational counter to It happens that every question, when fol-this argument: to be rational is to fail to appreci- lowed with enough determination, leads back toate the ineffability of mystical insight, and to the questioner. What is the precondition forargue is to demonstrate Satanic wilfulness - one knowing anything? Our own souls are the atticsis condemned out of one’s own mouth. and crawlspaces of existence, and so in the end Nevertheless, there is a middle way between we forced to look within, and know ourselves.the two extremes, and in what follows the mys- This is the first aspect of initiation, the belieftical process of initiation is combined with the that we can find answers to difficult existentialuse of magical techniques in a blend which I questions by increasing our self-knowledge.believe captures the best of both approaches. There is another aspect to initiation. The firstThe approach is primarily theurgic. Although aspect is the desire to know oneself. The otherthe trappings of ceremonial magic are used, the aspect is the desire to be something else. Initiationultimate power behind all invocation is God. is also the beginning of a process of self-trans-The manifestations of God’s creative power formation, a process of becoming somethingmay be imagined as sephiroth, angels, or spirits, else. Become what? Answers vary, but in thebut this is a conscious decision not to fight the main, people have a vision of “myself made per-all too human need for concrete symbols. There fect”, and if they believe in saints, they want tois only God. be saintly; if they believe in God, they want to I have chosen to describe the process of initia- be united with God. Some want to be moretion first because I have a romantic notion that powerful, and some want to be rich, famous,an ethical sense grows out of self-knowledge. I and sexually attractive. Two easily observablefollow that with a discussion of some general characteristics of people looking for mystical ormagical techniques. magical training are a lust for knowledge and a desire to be something other than what they Initiation currently are. A bizarre situation indeed; not One of the meanings of the word “initiation” only do people seek to know what they are andis “the process of beginning something”. What why they are, but even before they know theis one beginning? One is committing oneself to answers, they want to be something else!find answers to certain questions. What ques- Kabbalistic initiation is a process of increasingtions? The questions vary, but they are usually self-knowledge, and an accompanying processfundamental questions about the nature of life of change, and it is based on a practical experi-and personal existence: “why is the world the ence of the sephiroth. If each of us is potentiallyway it is?”, “why am I alive, and what is the a simulacrum of God, and if the creative energypurpose of being alive?”, “what lies behind the of God can be described in terms of the dynam-phenomenal world?”, “why should I continue ics of the ten sephiroth, then by understandingliving?”, “what is good and what is evil?”, “how the dynamics of the sephiroth within us we can 127
  • 136. Notes on Kabbalahbegin to understand the nature of the God limited abstraction) then one touches the rawwithin, and by extrapolation, the nature of God substance of becoming, and it is on the power toin the absolute. The learning process (like most manipulate the “becoming” of reality that magiclearning) mirrors the alchemical operation of is based. The closer one tries to get to the energy“solve et coagula” - that is, before we can reach of a sephira, the more one must abandon thethe new stage in knowledge and understanding artificial restrictions of personality. The mystical(“coagula”) it is necessary to break down what quest for self-knowledge and the magical questalready exists into its component parts for personal power unite in the same place.(“solve”). There are many ways to investigate the The “solve” and “coagula” can be observed nature of the sephiroth, but one of the simplestwhenever we attempt to learn a new skill. We and most direct is to ask God, through the pow-begin the process in a state of unconscious com- ers of the sephiroth, for help. In principle all onepetence where we can do many tasks without has to do is call upon the powers of a sephira,difficulty, but when we try a new skill we find and ask to be instructed.that our old habits are a positive obstacle. We There are three potential problems with thisbecome unconsciously incompetent - we procedure. The first is that it is like asking to beapproach a new task in an old way and make a dropped in a wilderness; you may learn to sur-mess of it. When we have made enough messes vive, or you may not. The second possible prob-either we give up, or we realise the necessity of lem is that people tend to have a natural affinitychange, drop the old habits as a prerequisite for for some sephiroth and not others, and left toacquiring new habits (solve), and become con- themselves tend to develop their knowledge insciously incompetent. Finally, with enough a lop-sided manner. Lastly, many people do notpractice (coagula), we develop our new skills to know how to call upon the powers - you can’tthe point where they become routine and return ask Gabriel to help you if you don’t knowonce more to a state of unconscious competence, Gabriel, and you don’t know how to contactready to begin the cycle one more time. Gabriel. But, if you knew someone who knew The process of kabbalistic initiation leading to Gabriel....increased self-knowledge begins with the sephi- The time-honoured method of initiation intoroth, and each sephira contains within it a world the nature of a particular sephira is to ask some-of “solve et coagula”, a world where one may one who has had that experience to invoke toalready function with limited unconscious com- powers of the sephira on your behalf. The per-petence. To reach a new level of understanding son chosen as initiator would use the techniquesand competence one must go through the fire of ritual magic to invoke the powers of a sephiraand experience the energy of the sephira delib- with the intention that you should receiveerately and consciously. instruction and insight into the nature of that What advantage is there in understanding the sphere.nature of a sephira? What “things” are there to It works. Metaphysical theories may bebe learned? impossible to prove or disprove, supposed mag- In answer, there are no “things” to be learned. ical powers evaporate in the physics laboratory,A sephira is not a particular manifestation of but people who undergo this kind of initiationconsciousness (e.g. pleasure), or a particular can change visibly and even claim to havebehaviour (e.g. being honest, being kind). The learned something. One can argue about thesephiroth underpin manifestations of con- objective reality of the Archangel Gabriel andsciousness, they are the earth in which behav- the Powers of the sephira Yesod, but it is diffi-iours (and their opposites) are rooted, and by cult to dispute the validity of initiation whenunderstanding a sephira one burrows under- someone changes his or her outlook on realityneath the phenomena of consciousness and and actually does things differently as a conse-grasps an abstract state of becoming (or emana- quence.tion) which gives rise to phenomena. I would like to clarify some possible misun- This is a magical procedure; when one ceases derstandings. This kind of initiation is not a cer-to identify with the shopping list of qualities, emony with a fixed and lengthy script, like thebeliefs and behaviours which can be mistaken masonic-type rituals which have become sofor personal identity (a necessarily fixed and closely associated with magical initiations. The 128
  • 137. Practical Kabbalahinitiation ritual I am describing is a challenge. It are many ordinary real-life situations which areis a one-to-one encounter between an initiatee, extremely challenging to one’s beliefs, lifestyle,and an initiator who acts as agent for the self-importance, fears, and so one. Joining aninvoked powers. If there is a script it is minimal; amateur dramatic group as a conscious andthe purpose of the ritual is not to impart secrets, deliberate magical exercise is an example whichor impose a view of the world, but to challenge might provide some of the raw input needed,the initiatee to demonstrate a personal and indi- and provide lots of stress, friction, and chal-vidual understanding relevant to the initiation. lenges to one’s personal world view. It is easy to The success of the initiation depends on the think up other examples. What is important isinitiator’s ability to invoke and channel the not to treat practical Kabbalah as somethingpowers, and on the initiatee’s willingness to be separate from normal life, but to use normal lifechallenged at a deeply personal level in an as the stimulus to put Kabbalah into practice -atmosphere of trust. The challenge aspect of ini- this is a traditional Kabbalistic idea. If you can’ttiation is a vital part of its success; it creates a do it in ordinary life, you can’t do it.catalytic stress which can act to bring about sud- It is easy to mystify initiation and pretend itden and sometimes dramatic changes in per- leads somewhere different from the “school ofspective. The initiation is also a challenge for the hard knocks”. It doesn’t. Ordinary life is a per-initiator; each initiatee is different and fectly adequate initiator, and people do changeapproaches the same place from a different in many ways (sometime dramatically) as theydirection. grow older. At most initiation may go further. It This kind of initiation is not a lightweight pro- can and should accelerate the process of acquir-cedure. It is easy to abuse it. The purpose of ini- ing self-knowledge and (in theory at least) leadtiation is not to select initiatees for conformity to to someone who has explored their personalthe beliefs of the initiator (quite the opposite), microcosm in a broader, deeper and more sys-but it must be said that it is easy for an initiator tematic way than someone who has had to suf-to use an initiation to enhance his or her per- fer “the slings and arrows of outrageoussonal power at the expense of the person being fortune” in the patchy and random sequenceinitiated. This is an unfortunate problem in eso- that is our common lot.teric systems which use an apprenticeship sys- The Kabbalist should be able to go further intem and is not unique to this particular form of exploring and analysing the extremes of con-initiation. sciousness, boundless steppes in the shadow- Self-initiation is possible and may be the only land of “not-me”, where daemons ofoption for many people. It suffers from a “otherness” threaten the fragile ghost of per-number of disadvantages: sonal identity. • people are naturally self-important and endow their opinions, attitudes and preju- Much of what an initiator does is to ask ques- dices with far more importance than tions. If you want to carry out a self-initiation another person would. Working with you will have to ask your own questions. I will another person produces beneficial friction. use the sephiroth of Hod and Netzach as exam- • it is easy to make excuses to yourself which ples to show how the sephirothic correspond- you wouldn’t make to another person. ences can be used to ask questions. Their presence is a challenge to make an Suppose you want to identify those behav- effort, or do things differently. iours and attitudes in your personality which • magical work can produce dramatic are underpinned by Hod and Netzach. Read the changes in behaviour. An observer can pro- correspondences in Chapter 5 for Hod and vide useful feedback. Netzach and try to decide. Are you impulsive? • most of Kabbalah isn’t “facts”; it is “ways of Do you do what you want to do and ignore peo- being”, and an excellent method of learning ple who warn you of the consequences? Do you is to let someone else demonstrate. It is easy have strong passions for things, people, places. to reinvent the wheel when working by If asked why you are doing something, how do oneself. you explain yourself - do you give elaborate rationalisations, or do you say things like “I None of these difficulties are insurmountable. haven’t any choice”, or “you made me do it”, orThe essence of initation is challenge, and there 129
  • 138. Notes on Kabbalah“I just want to”, or “I can’t explain why”. Do communicate information about the worldother people tell you to stop being irrational? automatically brings with it the power to misrep-Do you find it hard to suppress your emotions, resent what is going on. How often are you dis-do you think you are transparent to others? Are honest? With yourself? With others? In whatyou furious one minute, miserably sad the next, situations do you sanction dishonesty? Whatdo your moods and feelings change on the fly? value do you perceive in dishonesty? Are you On the other hand, you might be someone capable of giving a purely factual account of awho is concerned with the protocol of relation- failed, close relationship without rationalisingships and situations (you worry whether it is your own behaviour? Try it, and ask a goodright to kiss on the first date!). You like to talk friend to score the attempt.about things and have definite ideas about the I must emphasise that there is no moral intentright and wrong way to conduct a discussion - in this dissection of personal honesty - it is anyou might refer to this as “being rational”. You exercise designed to expose the way in whichanalyse your conduct in some detail according we represent events so as to make ourselves feelto a constantly developing set of rules, and you comfortable. The sephira Hod underpins thedream up hypothetical situations to test your ability to create structure and abstract represen-ability to apply these rules - you don’t want to tations; an initiation into Hod is the understand-make mistake. You are skilled at handling prob- ing of how your sense of identity has beenlems with many rules, and may be adept at created out of arbitrary structures and abstrac-cheating the rules. You have a clear grasp of tions.high-level abstractions and might work in law, The illusion of Hod is Order, and the klippahmedicine, finance, science, or engineering, or shell of Hod is Rigid Order. It is easy towhere you can use your ability to apply rule- observe during discussions and arguments howbased knowledge. You might feel uncomforta- people try to defend and preserve the structureble with a display of emotion in another person, (or form) of their beliefs. Do you know anyoneparticularly when it cuts across your sense of with an unshakeable view of the world? Does itprotocol, and you keep a tight rein on your own annoy you that no matter how ingenious youemotions. Other people may find you sharp but are in finding counter-examples to his or herclinical, able to communicate verbally but poor view, this person will always succeed in “fit-at responding to real-life situations involving ting” your example into their world view? Whatemotional conflict, poor at any problem where about yourself? Do you collect evidence whichthere is insufficient information, where varia- reinforces your beliefs like someone collectingbles cannot be quantified, or where there is no stamps? Are you conscious of trying to “fit” andabstract model. “interpret” the evidence to support your The first set of behaviours is appropriate to beliefs? Why are your beliefs important? WhatNetzach, while the second set is appropriate to is their actual value to you. What would happenHod. Few people are purely one thing or to you if you gave them up?another, and behaviours change according to You can do the same thing with the sephiracircumstance - drinking alcohol tends to shift Netzach. The illusion of Netzach is projection,people from Hod-type behaviours to Netzach- the averse face of empathy, the tendency totype behaviours. A person might sustain a Hod incorrectly attribute to others the same feelingspersona at work, then go to a bar in the evening and motives as I have. Suppose I am sexuallyand become the complete opposite. A Hod/ attracted to someone; I look at this person andNetzach joke concerns the (real) couple who they smile in return. What does that smile meanwere asked which of the two sephiroth they had to me at that instant? How many different mis-the greatest affinity to. The man responded takes might I have made? Suppose I say to“Well, I feel I’m Hod”, and the woman replied someone “I know how you feel”, and they retort“I think I’m definitely Netzach”. angrily “No you bloody well don’t!”. One of the The analysis can be taken further. Suppose fastest ways of alienating someone is to consist-you have identified a large number of Hod-type ently misinterpret how they feel. Are you con-behaviours in yourself. The virtue of Hod is stantly puzzled why people don’t share yourhonesty or truthfulness, and its vice is dishon- taste in clothes, music, literature, films, art, oresty - the power of language to represent and decor? Do you feel that if only their eyes were 130
  • 139. Practical Kabbalahopened, they might? Do you ever try to convert Life and the correspondences. The sephiroth arepeople to your taste? How do react when they explored by using ritual magic to invoke thearen’t impressed? Do you make secret judge- powers of the sephiroth for the purposes of ini-ments which affect the way you treat them? tiation. Incidents in ordinary life are interpretedHave you ever discounted someone because as challenges or learning experiences suppliedtheir taste offended yours? What value does by the powers. Major steps in the process of ini-your personal aesthetic have to you? What tiation are marked by observable changes in thewould happen if you gave it up? initiatee, and confirmed by an initiator whose As you can see, this is not a procedure where role is primarily that of a catalyst.anyone (barring yourself) is going to provide This technique of initiation has been used foranswers. Questions, yes; lots of questions, but at least one hundred years, but its execution hasno answers. Asking the right questions isn’t tended to be marred by a good deal of superflu-easy. We tend to have a peculiar blindness ous dross - elaborate ceremonials and scripts,about our own behaviour, beliefs, and attitudes, pompous and often meaningless grades andand that translates into an unconsciousness of titles, and magical systems so vastly elaboratewhat we are. One of the oldest jokes that chil- that the would-be initiate spends more timedren play is to stick a notice on someone’s back looking at the finger than at the moon.saying “Kick Me”. The poor unfortunate walksaround and wonders why his acquaintances are Ritualbehaving oddly - tittering, sneaking up behind, The Kabbalistic ritual technique I am about toand so on. From his point of view, other people describe is based on an assumption which mayare behaving oddly. He can’t see what other or may not be valid, but which gives the tech-people can see clearly, and he hasn’t the power nique a characteristic style. The assumption isto understand (and possibly influence) their “form precedes manifestation”; that is, anythingbehaviour until he does see. which manifests in the real, physical world is Suppose an “initiator” walks up and says: preceded by a process of “formation”, a process“Have you looked at your back recently?” described in its general outline by the doctrine“Ahhhh....!” says the victim in a sudden flash of of sephirothic emanation and the Kabbalisticinsight. Tree of Life. According to folk wisdom, asking questions is This premise is not so odd or metaphysical asa dangerous business. Asking yourself ques- it might seem. Every object in the room I am sit-tions certainly is. It hurts. It has no obvious ben- ting in is a product of human manufacture. Theefit. You may find yourself hating yourself as mug I am drinking my tea out of was once clay,you penetrate layers of self-deception and dis- and its form existed in someone’s mind before ithonesty only to discover a fear (or terror) of was turned into a shape in fired clay. The housechanging, and pious resolutions and commit- I live in was once an architect’s design, andments fall apart in the face of that fear. You take before that, an abstract object in a land devel-off the first skin, and then you take off the next oper’s scheme for making money. Every objectskin, and then you take off the skin under that. of human manufacture originally existed as anThen you get stuck. You can’t go any further by idea or form in someone’s mind, and each ideayourself - you haven’t the courage to do it - and went through a process of development, fromat the same time you can’t go back to what you inspiration to manufacture - I have describedwere. A blind and deaf man can stand happily much of this elsewhere in these notes. It is not ain the middle of a busy road, but give him sight large step to conceive of the whole universe asand hearing for only a second and that happi- the product of mind, so that every form of sub-ness is gone. It is at this point where it helps to stance - the physical elements, each species ofhave a faith in a power greater than yourself - plant and animal - are the result of a process ofyour Holy Guardian Angel, God, Aslan the formation occurring in mind.Lion, whatever. Pray for help. There is a place Where are these abstract minds? They com-within us which hears prayers of this kind. pose a whole which the Kabbalist conveniently In summary, the process of kabbalistic initia- labels “God”, and the parts (if we want to refertion described above is based in detail on the to them separately as subordinate components)map of consciousness provided by the Tree of we call “archangels”, and “angels” and “spir- 131
  • 140. Notes on Kabbalahits”, and “elementals” and “devils”. Each of the bus in a desired direction. Perhaps boththese minds or intelligences holds a portion of interpretations are valid. In either case, if onethe archetypal form of the world in place, and accepts the simile, then it should be clear thateach mind is a form in its own right. Each of magic is rarely about certain outcomes. In boththese archetypal intelligences can be compre- cases the magician must have a clear notion ofhended as a part of Binah, the Intelligence of direction, what is usually called intention. TheGod and Mother of all form. bus isn’t going to go anywhere you want it to if When I drop a stone, it falls to the ground. It you don’t know what you want in the firstdoes this because the spirit of matter inhabiting place.the stone uses messenger spirits (or angels) Formation is a process of increasing limitationcalled gravitons to communicate with the spirit or constraint. Once something is manifest it isof matter inhabiting the Earth. It turns out that constrained or limited by what it is at thatthe curvature of space-time (its form) is deter- instant. Suppose I want to make a film. It couldmined by the Lords of Matter in an intricate but be a film about anything. Once I have a script Icompletely exact way according to the distribu- am more limited, but have a lot of scope intion of mass-energy - the details can be summa- directing the film - choice of actors, sets, loca-rised in an equation first written down by tions etc. Once I have the rushes my choices areAlbert Einstein. even more constrained, but I still have some It may seem absurd and retrograde (and Wil- freedom in the editing. Finally, once the film isliam of Occam would certainly turn in his released, I have no more freedom to change it,grave) to suggest that what we call the laws of unless, like some directors, I choose to re-editphysics are forms maintained in the minds of and re-issue it.archetypal intelligences, but as Einstein himself Intention is a limitation: it is a limitation ofstated, “The most incomprehensible thing about will. I chose to make a film, but I could havethe world is that it is comprehensible”; that is, it chosen to write a book, or chosen to take a holi-can be described using language. There are day. In choosing to make a film I limited myabstract forms which describe change in the free-will. I could of course abandon the filmphysical world, and they can be comprehended project, but a life of incomplete, abandonedby mind, and although it is a large step to pro- projects is not very satisfactory to most people,pose that mind takes primacy over matter, it is a so my will to complete (i.e. to bring into mani-view attractive to the practising magician. It is a festation) sustains my intention and I have toview completely consistent with Kabbalah. learn to live with this fairly considerable limita-When I call upon a spirit to modify the law of tion on my theoretical free-will. The limitationgravity at a specific time and place, I am not vio- of will and the formation of the film go hand-in-lating a physical law ... I am changing it at its hand. I can’t just intend to make a film. I have tosource. intend to get a script, find some money, borrow If “form precedes manifestation”, then practi- the equipment, recruit some actors and a crew.cal magic is about understanding how the The formation of the film is driven by a frag-future is formed out of the present. The seeds of mentation of my original intention into manymany futures are planted in the present, and components and sub-components as the taskaccessible to the magician as the forms of the proceeds, and activity and intention feed offfuture. The forms of the future are being pro- each other until, knee-deep in the details of filmgressed by many minds, and where they over- making, I might find myself thinking “I’d givelap, there is conflict and inconsistency, a anything if we could get this scene in the cansituation resembling a bus where each passen- and knock off for a beer.”ger has a steering wheel providing an unknown We have gone from a person with theoreti-and variable input to the eventual direction of cally unlimited free-will to someone who cannotthe vehicle. In one interpretation (“primacy of take the time out to go for a beer. Most peoplewill”) the magician is the person with the most who go to work and attempt to bring up a fam-powerful steering wheel; in another interpreta- ily are in this situation of being so limited bytion (Taoist nudging) the magician is a person previous choices and past history that they havewho understands the dynamics of steering suffi- very little actual free-will or uncommittedciently well to use opportune moments to move energy, a situation which has to be understood 132
  • 141. Practical Kabbalahin some detail before attempting serious magi- Magicians and mystics the world over are rela-cal work. tively unanimous in insisting that the normal To summarise: if magic is about making everyday consciousness of most human beingsthings happen, then the magician might want to is a severe limitation on the potential of con-understand the process of formation which pre- sciousness, and it is possible, through variouscedes manifestation, and understand not only disciplines, to extend consciousness into newthe forms which other people are intending, regions. From a magical point of view the per-forms which may be competitive, but also the sonality, the ego, the continuing sense of indi-detailed relationship between formation and vidual “me-ness”, is a magical creation, anintention. artificial elemental or thoughtform which con- You don’t have to understand these things; sumes our magical power in exchange for themany people like magic to be truly “magical” kind of limitation necessary to survive, and in(i.e. without causality or mechanism), but I order to work magic it is necessary to divertthink it is a mistake to confuse a lack of con- energy away from this obsession with personalsciousness of mechanism with a lack of mecha- identity and self-importance.nism, just as someone might look at a clock and Now, consider the following problem: youassume that it goes round “by magic”. Kabbalah have been imprisoned inside a large inflateddoes provide a theoretical model for magical plastic bag. You have been given a sledgham-work (the lightning flash on the Tree) which mer and a scalpel. Which tool will get you outmany have found to be useful, so I’d like to say faster? The answer I am obviously looking for issomething more about the concept of limitation, the scalpel. The key to getting out of large,a concept essential to understanding the ritual inflated, plastic bags is to apply as much forceframework I am going to describe. as possible to as sharp a point as possible. Magi- We are limited beings. Our lives are limited to cians agree on this principle - the key to success-some tens of years, our bodies are limited in ful ritual is a “single-pointed will”. A mystictheir physical abilities, and compared to the dif- may try to expand consciousness in all direc-ferent kinds of life on this planet we are clearly tions simultaneously, to encompass more andvery specialised compared with the potential of more of the One, to embrace the One, perhapswhat we could be if we had the free choice of even to transcend the One, but this is hard, andbeing anything we wanted. Even as human most people aren’t up to it in practise.beings we are limited, in that we are all quite Rather than expand in all directions simulta-distinct from each other. We limit ourselves to a neously, it is much easier to limit an excursionsmall number of behaviours, attitudes and of consciousness in one direction only, and thebeliefs and guard that individuality and unique- more precise and well-defined that limitation toness as an inalienable right. We limit ourselves a specific direction, the easier it is to get out ofto a few skills because of the effort and talent the plastic bag. Limitation of consciousness isrequired, and only in exceptional cases do we the trick we use to cope with the complexities offind people who are expert in a large number of life in modern society, and as long as we aredifferent skills - most people are happy if they forced to live under this yoke we might as wellare acknowledged as being an expert in one make a virtue out of a necessity, and use ourthing. It is a fact that as the sum total of knowl- carefully cultivated ability to concentrate atten-edge increases, so people (particularly those tion on minutiae to burst out of the bag.with technical skills) are forced to become more We find the concept of limitation appearing inand more specialised. the process of formation which leads to mani- This idea of limitation and specialisation has festation; in the limitation of will which leads tofound its way into magical ritual because of a intention; now I suggest that a focused limita-magical (or mystical) perception that, although tion of consciousness is one method to releaseall consciousness in the universe is One, and magical energy. Limitation is the key to under-that Oneness can be perceived directly, it has standing the structure of magical ritual asbecome limited. There is a process of limitation described in these notes, and the key to success-(formation) in which the One (God, if you like) ful practice.becomes progressively structured and con-strained until it reaches the level of thee and me. 133
  • 142. Notes on Kabbalah Essential Ritual Steps be anywhere: indoors, outdoors, top of a hill, a cellar. It could be an imaginary place, the ritual I decided against giving the details of any rit- carried out in a lucid dream for example.uals. All the rituals I have taken a part in were Most often a ritual will take place in a room inwritten by one or more of the people present. a house, and the first magical ability the magi-Even though these were effective rituals at the cian develops is the ability to turn any place intotime, I do not think any would be worth pre- a temple. I like to prepare a room with someserving for their literary or poetic content. On kind of cleaning, and clear enough floor spacethe other hand, the majority of the rituals I have for a real or visualised circle. I secure the roomtaken a part in have conformed to a basic struc- against access as far as possible, take the phoneture which has rarely varied; this structure we off the hook, tell anyone else in the house that Icalled “the essential steps”. am unavailable, and so on. There is never going to be agreement about The Circle is the first important magical limit:what is essential in a ritual and what is not, any it creates a small area within which magicalmore than there will ever be agreement about work takes place. The magician tries to controlwhat makes a good novel. That does not mean everything which takes place within the Circlethere is nothing worth learning. The steps I have (limitation), and so a circle half-a-mile across isenumerated below are suggestions which were impractical. The Circle marks the boundaryhanded down to me, and considerable insight between the rest of the world (going on its way(not mine) has gone into them. They conform to as normal), and a magical space where thingsa Western magical tradition which has not are most definitely not going on as normal (oth-changed in its essentials for thousands of years, erwise there wouldn’t be any point in carryingand I hand them on to you in the same spirit as I out a ritual in the first place).received them. There is a dislocation: the region inside the These are the essential steps: circle is separated from the rest of space and is free to go its own way. There are some types of 1. Open the Circle magical work where it may not be sensible to 2. Open the Gates have a circle (e.g. working with the natural ele- 3. Invocation to the Powers ments in the world at large) but unless you are 4. Statement of Intention and Sacrifice working with a power already present in the 5. Main Ritual environment in its normal state, it is best to 6. Dismissal of Powers work within a circle. 7. Close the Gates The Circle may be a mark on the ground, or 8. Close the Circle something more intangible still; my own prefer- ence is an imagined line of blue fire drawn inStep 1: Open the Circle the air. It is in the nature of consciousness that anything taken as real and treated as real will The Circle is the place where magical work is eventually be accepted as Real - the idea ofcarried out. It might literally be circle on the “money” is a good example of this.ground, or it could be a church, or a stone ring, From a ritual point of view the Circle is a realor a temple, or it might be an imagined circle boundary, and if its usefulness is to be main-inscribed in the aethyr, or it could be any spot tained it should be treated with the same respecthallowed by tradition. as an electrified fence. Pets, children and casual In some cases the Circle is created specifically onlookers should be kept out of it. Whateverfor one piece of work and then closed, while in procedures take place within the Circle shouldother cases (e.g. a church) the building is conse- only take place within the Circle and in no othercrated and all the space within the building is place, and conversely, your normal life shouldtreated as if it was an open circle for a long not intrude on the Circle unless it is part of yourperiod of time. intention that it should. I do not want to deal too much in generalities, From a symbolic point of view, the Circleand so I will deal with the common case where a marks a new “circle of normality”, a circle dif-circle is created specifically for one piece of ferent from your usual “circle of normality”,work, for a period of time typically less than one making it possible to keep the two “regions ofday. The place where the circle is created could 134
  • 143. Practical Kabbalahconsciousness” distinct and separate. The magi- reasons for keeping the two activities separate.cian leaves everyday life behind when the Circle Firstly, it is convenient to be able to open ais opened, and returns to it when the Circle is Circle without going into magical conscious-closed, and for the duration adopts a discipline ness. Despite what I said about not bringingof thought and deed which is specific to the normal consciousness into the Circle, rules aretype of magical work being undertaken; this made to be broken, and there are times whenprocedure is not so different from that in many something unpleasant and unwanted intrudeskinds of laboratory where scientists work with on normal consciousness, and a Circle can behazardous materials. used to keep it out - this is like pulling blankets Opening a Circle usually involves drawing a over your head at night.circle in the air or on the ground, accompanied Secondly, opening the Gates as a separateby an invocation to guardian spirits, or the ele- activity means they can be tailored to the spe-mental powers of the four quarters, or the four cific type of magical consciousness you are try-watchtowers, or the archangels, or whatever. ing to enter.The well known Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram Thirdly, just as bank vaults and ICBMs have[35] can be used as a basis for a Kabbalistic cir- two keys, so it is prudent to make the entry intocle-opening. The precise method is less impor- magical consciousness something you are nottant than practising it until you can do it in your likely to do on a whim, and the more distinctsleep. steps there are, the more conscious effort is There is a question of attitude: what attitude required.should you adopt while opening a Circle? I sug- Lastly - and it is an important point - openinggest that Circle-opening should be carried out the Circle is best done with a martial attitude,with the same attitude as a soldier on formal and it is useful to have a breathing space toguard duty outside a public building. The kind switch out of that mood and into the moodof ritual I am describing is formal. Much of its needed for the invocation. Opening the Gateseffectiveness derives from its formality and pre- provides an opportunity to make that switch.cision. For example, I never at any time turn or There are many ways to open the Gates, andmove in an anti-clockwise direction within the many Gates you could open. I imagine the gatescircle. When I work in a group one of the most in front of me, and I physically open them,important officers is the sword-bearing sentinel, reaching out with both arms. I visualise differ-responsible for procedure and discipline within ent gates for different sephiroth, and sometimesthe circle. When you create a circle you are different gates for the same sephira.establishing a perimeter under the watchful“eyes” of whatever guardians you have Step 3: Invocation to the Powersrequested to keep an eye on things, and a mar- The invocation to the Powers is normally antial attitude and sense of discipline and preci- excuse for some of the most leaden, pompous,sion creates the correct psychological mood. grandiose and turgid prose ever written or When working in a group it is helpful if the recited. Tutorial books on magic are full of thisperson opening the circle announces “the circle stuff. If you are invoking Saturn during a wax-is now open” because there should be no doubt ing moon you might be justified in going on likeamong those present about whether the open- Brezhnev addressing the Praesidium of theing has been completed to the satisfaction of the Soviet Communist Party, but as in every otherperson carrying it out, and the sacred space has aspect of magic, the trick isn’t what you do, butbeen established. how you do it, and interminable invocations are not the answer. At a practical level, reading aStep 2: Open the Gates lengthy invocation from a sheet of paper in dim The Gates in question are the boundary candlelight will require so much consciousbetween normal and magical consciousness. effort that it is hard to “let go”; it is better toJust as opening the Circle limits the ritual in keep things simple and to the point, so that youspace, so opening the Gates limits the ritual in can do an invocation without having to thinktime. Not everyone opens the Gates as a sepa- about it too much, and that will leave room forrate activity as opening a Circle can be consid- the more important “consciousness changing”ered a de-facto opening of Gates, but there are aspect of the invocation. 135
  • 144. Notes on Kabbalah When I do sephirothic work I use the sephi- intuitive and bubbles out of a very deep well.rothic God name, Archangel, Angel Order and The whole process of ritual effectively bypassessephira names as part of my invocation, and put the rational mind, so expecting the outcome of amy effort into the intonation of the names, ritual to obey the dictates of reason is com-rather than memorising lengthy invocations. pletely irrational! The image of a horse is appro- You have probably had the same experience priate: anyone can get on the back of a wildas I have, of buying a ticket in a train station, mustang, but getting to the point where horsethen wandering around innumerable platforms and rider go in the same direction at the samewondering where your train is. An invocation is time takes practice. The process of limitationlike a ticket for a train: if you can’t find the train described in these notes can’t influence the nat-there isn’t much point in having the ticket. ural waywardness of the animal, but at least it is Invocations learned from books or written by a method of ensuring the horse gets a clear mes-others may work for you or they may not. sage.Opening the Gates gets you to the doorstep ofmagical consciousness, but it is the invocation Step 4: Statement of Intention and Sacri-which gets you onto the train and propels you ficeto the right place, and that isn’t something If magical ritual is not to be regarded as awhich “just happens” unless you have a natural form of bizarre entertainment carried out for itsaptitude for the aspect of consciousness you are own sake, then there is usually a reason forinvoking. doing it - healing, divination, personal develop- It does happen that way however; people ment, initiation, and the like. If it is healing, thentend to begin their magical work with those it is usually healing for one specific person, andareas of consciousness where they feel most at then again, it is not just healing in general, buthome, so they may well have some initial suc- healing for some specific complaint, withincess. Violent, evil people do violent and evil some period of time.conjurations. Loving people invoke love. Most The statement of intention is the culminationpeople begin their magical work with “a free of a process of limitation which begins when theticket”, but in general, invoking takes practice, Circle is opened, and to return to the analogy ofand the power of the invocation comes from the plastic bag, the statement of intention is likepractice, not from deathless prose. the blade on the scalpel - the more precise the I can’t give a prescription for entering magical intention, the more the energy of the ritual isconsciousness. Well devised rituals, practised applied to a single point.often, have a way of shifting consciousness The observation that rituals work better ifwhich is surprising and unexpected. I don’t their energy is focused by intention is in accordknow why this happens; it just does. I suspect with our experience in everyday life. Anythe peculiar character of ritual, the way it change, no matter how small or insignificant,involves every sense, occupies mind and body tends to meet with opposition. If you want toat the same time, its numinous and exotic sym- change the brand of coffee in the coffeebolism, the intensity of preparation and execu- machine, or if you want to rearrange the furni-tion, the formality of procedure, involve ture in the office, someone will object. If youdormant parts of the mind, or at least engage want to drive a new road through the country-the normal parts in an unusual way1. side, local people will object. If you want to raise Using ritual to cause marked shifts in con- taxes, everyone objects. The more people yousciousness is not difficult; obtaining the results involve in a change, the more opposition youyou want, and avoiding unexpected and unde- will encounter.sired side-effects is harder. Ritual is not a The same principle holds in magic, becauserational procedure. The symbolism of magic is from a magical point of view the whole fabric of the universe is held in place by an act of collec- 1. There is now good evidence that our olfac- tive intention involving everything from God tory system is deeply wired into the mem- downwards. When you perform a ritual you are ory part of the brain - using the correct setting yourself up against that collective will to incense really does propel you to a special keep most things the way they are, and your rit- place. ual will succeed only if certain things are true: 136
  • 145. Practical Kabbalah weeks, so, as a last resort, fearing she would die 9. You are a being of awesome will (you have of starvation, I carried out a ritual to restore her the biggest steering wheel on the bus). appetite, and as a sacrifice I ate nothing for 24 10.You have allies (lots of people on the bus hours. I used my (very real) hunger to drive the want to get to the same place as you). intention, and she began eating the following 11.You limit your intention to minimise oppo- day. sition (Taoist nudging); another analogy is The idea of “self-sacrifice” may seem some- the diamond cutter who exploits natural what quaint in this day and age, as it is not a lines of cleavage to split a diamond. fashionable component of most magical work or textbooks, and there are bound to be those who Regardless of which is the case, I will suggest will object that “I don’t sacrifice in my magicalthat precision and clarity of intention will gen- work, and I still get results”. This may be so, buterally produce better results. Here is a non-mag- look at it like this: any sacrifice which hurtsical example which occurs almost every day. An enough engages a deep impulse inside us toextreme political organisation wants to make a make the hurt go away, and the magician canpoint, and plants a bomb in a car. The explosion use that impulse to bring about magical changekills two young children. Is this likely to by linking the removal of the pain to the accom-increase the level of public sympathy for their plishment of the intention.cause? Many magicians assume that the world Most of us are creatures of habit who findwill change because they want it to. It doesn’t, comfort and security by living our lives in a par-because in the main, they are outvoted. ticular way, and any change to that habit and And so to sacrifice. This presents many magi- routine will cause some discomfort and ancians with a problem. The problem arises from opposing desire to return to the original state;the perception that in magic you don’t get that desire can be used. Just as a ritual intends tosomething for nothing, and if you want to bring change the world in some way, so a sacrificeabout change through magic you have to pay forces us to change ourselves in some way, andfor it in some way. So far so good. The question that liberates magical energy.is: what can you give in return? If you want to heal someone, don’t just do a You can’t legitimately sacrifice anything ritual and leave it at that; become involved inwhich is not yours to give, and so the answer to caring for them in some way, and that activethe question “what can I sacrifice” lies in the caring will act as a channel for the healinganswer to the question “what am I, and what do power you have invoked. If you want to useI have to give?”. If you don’t make the mistake magic to help someone out of a mess, provideof identifying yourself with your possessions them with active, material help as well. Con-you will see that the only sacrifice you can make versely, if you can’t be bothered to provideis yourself, because that is all you have to give. material help, your ritual will be infected withEvery ritual intention requires that you sacrifice that same inertia and apathy. “True will, willsome part of yourself, and if you don’t make the out”, and in many cases our true will is to dosacrifice willingly then either the ritual will fail, nothing at all.or the price will be exacted without your con- From a magical perspective each one of us is asent. magical being with a vast potential of power, You don’t have to donate pints of blood or but that is denied to us by an innate, fanatical,your kidneys. Each person has a certain amount and unbelievably deep-rooted desire to keep theof what I will call “life energy” at their disposal world in a regular orbit serving our own needs.- Casteneda calls it “personal power” - and you Self-sacrifice disturbs this equilibrium and letscan sacrifice some of that energy to power the out some of that energy, and this may be whyritual. What that means in ordinary down-to- the egoless devotion and self- sacrifice of saintsearth terms is that you promise to do something has a reputation for working miracles.in return for your intention, and you link thesacrifice to the intention in such a way that the Step 5: The Main Ritualsacrifice focuses energy along the direction of After invoking the Powers and having statedyour intention. To give a straightforward exam- the intention and sacrifice, there would seem tople, my cat was ill and hadn’t eaten for three be nothing more to do, but most people like to 137
  • 146. Notes on Kabbalahprolong the contact with the Powers to carry out drawal of consciousness back to its pre-ritualsome kind of symbolic ritual for a period of time state.varying from minutes to days. Ritual as I havedescribed it so far may seem like a fairly cut- Step 7: Close Gates/Close Circleand-dried exercise, but it isn’t; it is more of an The final steps are closing the Gates (thusart than a science, and once the Circle and Gates sealing off the altered state of consciousness)are opened, and the Powers are in attendance, and closing the Circle (thus returning to the eve-whatever science there is gives way to the art. ryday world). The Circle should not be closed if Magicians operate in a world where ordinary there is a suspicion that the withdrawal fromthings have deep symbolic meanings or corre- the altered state has not been completed. It isspondences, and they use a selection of conse- sensible to carry out a sanity check betweencrated implements or “power objects” in their closing the Gates and closing the Circle.work. The magician can use this palette of sym- It sometimes happens that although the magi-bols in a ritual to paint of picture which signifies cian goes through the steps of closing down, thean intention in a non- verbal, non-rational way, attention is not engaged, and the magicianand it is this ability to communicate an intention remains in the altered state. This is not a goodthrough every sense of the body, through every idea. The energy of that state will continue tolevel of the mind, which gives ritual its power. manifest in every intention of everyday life, andHere are a few suggestions: all sorts of unplanned (and often unusual) • each sephira has a corresponding number things will start to happen. which can be used as the basis for knocks, A related problem (and it is not rare) is that gestures, chimes, stamps etc. every magician will find sooner or later an • each sephira has a corresponding colour altered state which compensates for some of his which can be used throughout the working or her perceived inadequacies (in the way that area: altar cloth, candle(s), banners, flowers, some people like to get drunk at parties). They cords etc. will not want to let go of this state because it • many occult suppliers make sephirothic makes them feel good, so they come out of the incenses. The quality is so variable that it is ritual in an altered state without realising they best to try a few suppliers and apply com- have failed to close down correctly. This is mon sense. sometimes called obsession, and it is a difficulty • each sephira has corresponding behaviours of magical work. which can be used during the central part of Closing down correctly is important if you the ritual. don’t want to end up like a badly cracked pot. If • if you are working with several people then you don’t feel happy that the Powers have been they can take their roles from the sephira, completely dismissed and the Gates closed cor- and wear corresponding colours etc. For rectly, go back and repeat the steps again. example, a sentinel would use Gevuric cor- respondences, a scribe would use Hod cor- Using the Sephiroth in Ritual respondences. The sephiroth can be invoked during a ritual • each sephira has ritual weapons or “power singly or in combination. This provides a vast objects” which can be used in a symbolic palette of correspondences and symbols to work way. with, and one of the most difficult aspects of • each sephira has a wide range of individual planning this kind of ritual is deciding which correspondences which can be used on spe- sephiroth are the key to the problem. It is an cific occasions e.g. a ritual of romantic love axiom of Kabbalistic magic that every sephira is in Netzach might use a rose incense, roses, a involved somewhere in every problem, and it is copper love cup, wine, a poem or song ded- sometimes difficult to avoid the conclusion that icated to Venus, whatever gets you going... all ten sephiroth should be invoked. There is nothing wrong with doing this, but if one goesStep 6: Dismissal of Powers the whole hog with colours, candles etc., then Once the ritual is complete the Powers are the temple begins to look like an explosion in athanked and dismissed. This begins the with- paint factory, and this tends to dilute the focus of rituals if done regularly. 138
  • 147. Practical Kabbalah A ritual would involve typically one to three one thing to write a book, it is another thingsephiroth. An important consideration is bal- to get it printed, published, and read.ance: when invoking sephiroth on either of the • when invoking Gaia, Mother Earth.side pillars of the Tree one is creating or correct-ing in imbalance, and it is worthwhile to con- Yesodsider the balancing sephira. For example, when The sephira Yesod is useful for the followingusing Gevurah destructively, what fills the vac- magical work:uum left behind? When using Chesed crea- • for divination and scrying; to increase psy-tively, what gives way for the new? The same chism - telepathy, clairvoyance, precogni-principle applies to the pairs of Hod/Netzach tion.and Binah/Chokhmah. The Tree is naturallyarranged in many triads, or groups of three • when changing the appearance of some-sephiroth, and after one has gained an under- thing, for works of transformation, forstanding of individual sephira it is natural to go shape changing (e.g. marketing and adver-on to investigate the triads. From the point of tising!)view of balance there is a great deal to be said • when trying to manipulate the foundationfor initiation into triads of sephiroth rather than of something, the form behind the appear-individual sephira. ance. The sephiroth are interconnected by paths, • for works concerning the sexual urge, theand again, the paths can be investigated by sexual organs, fornication, instinctiveinvoking pairs of sephiroth. This further behaviours, atavism.extends the palette of correspondences and rela- • for intentions involving images of reality -tionships, and over time the Tree becomes a liv- painting, photographs, cinema, televisioning tool which can be used to analyse situations etc.in great depth and detail. Unless one works • for lucid dreaming, astral projection.closely with a group of people over a period oftime the Tree must remain largely a personal Hodsymbol and vocabulary, but if one does work The sephira Hod is useful for the followingclosely with other people it becomes a shared magical work:vocabulary of great expressive and executive • for healing and medicine (Raphael is thepower - ideas which would otherwise be inex- healer of God).pressible can be translated directly and fairly • when dealing with spoken or written com-precisely into shared action via ritual magic. munication. Clues as to when to invoke a given sephira • the media, particularly newspapers andcan found in the correspondences, but for the radio.sake of example I have given an indication in alist below: • propaganda, lying, misinformation. • teaching and learning.Malkhut • philosophy, metaphysics, the sciences as intellectual systems divorced from experi- The sephira Malkhut is useful for the follow- ment.ing magical work: • computers and information technology. • where you want to increase the stability of a • the nervous system. situation. Particularly useful when every- thing is in a turmoil and you want to slow • protocol, ceremony and ritual. things down. • the written law, accounting. • when you want to earth unwanted or unwelcome energy. Also useful for shield- Netzach ing and warding (think of a castle). The sephira Netzach is useful for the follow- • when working with the four elements in the ing magical work: physical world. • when working with the emotions. • when you want an intention to materialise • the endocrine system. in the physical world; when it is essential • when nurturing or caring for someone or that an intention “really happens”. e.g. it is something. Charity and unselfishness, 139
  • 148. Notes on Kabbalah empathy. Suggestions for a Malkhut Ritual • for works involving pleasure, luxury, As stated earlier in this chapter, I decided not romantic love, friendships etc. (e.g. parties). to be prescriptive about rituals, but I appreciate • anything to do with aesthetics and taste: that many people feel apprehensive about their decor, art, cinema, dress, fashion, literature, first ritual and usually question many points of drama, poetry, gardens, song, dance etc. detail. I have provided some suggestions to • for expression. demonstrate that ritual is very much a matter of common sense. The suggestions relate to Mal-Tipheret khut, because that is where novice Kabbalists The sephira Tipheret is useful for the follow- normally begin their work.ing magical work: • work involving integrity, wholeness and The Temple & Equipment balance. “Home is where the heart is”, and a Kabba- • work involving the Self (the Jungian arche- list’s temple is where he or she makes it. On type), self-importance, self-sacrifice, devo- occasions I have had the “luxury” of working in tion, compassion. a place dedicated and reserved specifically for • overall health and well-being. ritual work, but I would not rate this a high pri- • communion with your Holy Guardian ority. Any place can become a temple; when one Angel. starts working with ritual this realisation strikes • the union of the microcosm and the macro- home with great force. It is the power invoked that cosm. makes the temple. It is enough to clear a space for working. YouGevurah will need an altar; a small table will do. An up- ended cardboard box will do if you can find The sephira Gevurah is useful for the follow- nothing else! You will also need the followinging magical work: items: • active defense. • a brown altar cloth. It is worth making a set • destruction. of altar cloths for the sephiroth you will be • severance. working - brown for Malkhut, purple for • justice and lawful retribution. Yesod, orange for Hod etc. A white cloth can be used for any sephira, as can a whiteChesed candle if there is nothing else available. The sephira Chesed is useful for the following • a brown candle. A candle holder.magical work: • Malkhut incense, self-igniting charcoal • growth and expansion. blocks and something to burn incense in. A • vision, leadership and authority (e.g. in censor is good if you have one; if not, it is business management, in politics). not difficult to devise something. A brass • inspiration and creativity. bowl with three brass chains attached is quite functional. The sephiroth Gevurah and Chesed are best • Matches, or a gas lighter.considered as a pair, since any work concerning • Your magical record and a pen.one usually requires consideration of the other. The candlestick and candle go in the centre ofFor example, if you want something to grow the altar, the censor, incense and matches on theand expand (Chesed), will it grow at the south side.expense of something else (Gevurah)? Your choice of clothing depends on personal The supernal sephiroth of Binah, Chokhmah circumstances. When working out of doors Iand Keter can be invoked, but I would not rec- usually wear normal clothes. When workingommend doing so until you have considerable indoors I either work naked or in a white robe.experience of invoking the other sephiroth - The white robe is traditional and should beeither nothing will happen, or the scope of the made by yourself, emphasising that the Greatresults may go well beyond your intention. Work is personal and cannot be done by anyone other than yourself. 140
  • 149. Practical KabbalahProcedure Powers of Malkhut are real. This raises the question of approach. The Pow- 1. Lock the door, take the phone off the hook, ers of Malkhut are a legitimate and intrinsic etc. aspect of Creation. Like the sea, they are neither 2. Sit down and write out your intention and good nor evil, and like the sea, they need to be sacrifice in your magical record. Think treated with respect. No-one would think of about them carefully, and memorise. threatening the sea, or banishing the sea. If you 3. Practise the ritual until you have every step want to deal with the sea, you have to deal with memorised. You can speak the Names it on its own terms, and no sailor, no matter while rehearsing, but do not vibrate them. how experienced, would ever believe that he or 4. Approach the altar, kneel, and pray to God. she had mastered the sea. 5. Open the Circle. Each sephira has its own approach. Malkhut 6. Open the Gates. Light the candle to show is the sephira where form is manifest, and it is that the Temple is now open. characterised by limitation, boundedness, finite- 7. Invoke in the names Adonai Melekh, Adonai ness, stability, inertia. The magical image is that ha Aretz, call upon the mighty archangel of a great queen on the throne of her Kingdom, Sandalphon, the hosts of the Ishim, and all a kingdom where change comes slowly within the powers of the sephira Malkhut. The the context of the existing order. Imagine your- names are quietly intoned or vibrated with self trying to approach a great queen in a king- great intensity. dom where tradition and stability are 8. State your intention and sacrifice. Ask paramount. whether either is unacceptable. Another, different approach to Malkhut is to 9. Perform the main part of the ritual. approach her as a mother, a staunchly protec- 10.Thank and dismiss the powers of Malkhut, tive and conservative mother. Binah is the great the hosts of the Ishim, the archangel Sandal- Superior Mother on the Tree of Life, but she can phon, in the names Adonai Melekh, Adonai ha be approached in the form of the Inferior Aretz. Repeat vibration as per step 7. Note Mother, the sephira Malkhut. that sephirotic powers are never banished; Do not expect a Malkhut ritual to feel the they are thanked and dismissed. same as a Netzach ritual or a Tipheret ritual. A 11.Close the Gates. Malkhut ritual might have a “heavy” or formal feel to it. If you feel jangled and out of balance 12.Patrol each quarter of the Circle. If you feel before such a ritual, you should come out of it unhappy with the dismissal and gate-clos- feeling stable and balanced. You shouldn’t come ing, repeat until satisfied. out of it feeling like you want to change the 13.Clap your hands loudly, blow out the can- world - that isn’t Malkhut. dle, and declare firmly “The Temple is Do not expect your rituals to produce closed!”. “strange happenings”. There is a tendency for 14.Record anything of note in your magical people to expect something very gross and tan- record. gible to happen, and if Sandalphon doesn’t put The ritual as described may seem very simple, in a personal appearance then something mustvery basic. It isn’t complexity as such that have gone wrong.makes for a successful ritual; it is concentration, Learning to use ritual is like learning to tastepractise, discipline, and above all, the profound wine; at first it is difficult to tell the differenceintensity which comes from the belief that you between one red wine and another, but gradu-really are invoking the powers at the root of the ally one learns to make a multitude of subtle butcreation, the power of a Living God. real distinctions. Treat your own awareness or consciousness as a wine, and learn to observeAttitude the subtle changes and distinctions. While it is permissible even for a Kabbalist tohave intellectual reservations about the literal Other Practical Workexistence of archangels and angels, it is best to The sephirothic ritual technique describedkeep these reservations out of your rituals. can be used to design an enormous variety ofWhen I open a Circle, I enter a world where the rituals quickly and easily, as the basic format 141
  • 150. Notes on Kabbalahcan remain the same. A ritual involving Yesodshould have an utterly different feel and effectfrom a ritual involving Tipheret, and yet thebasic construction of the two rituals can be iden-tical. The props will change, the intention willdiffer, and the attitude will differ, but the basicsteps remain the same. Because a ritual can be quickly carried out(not necessarily easily, but certainly quickly),sephirothic ritual can be used to add clout toother magical and mystical techniques, such asmeditation, divination, scrying, oath-making,prayer, concentration and visualisation, medi-umship and so on. Sephirothic ritual is a tool which functionswithin a well-developed and very broad frame-work; the beginner has very little to learn ini-tially, but that little is sufficient to accomplish agreat deal. 142
  • 151. In Conclusion 12 In Conclusion I wanted to provide in these notes approxi- essential to learn about the Four Worlds, or themately the same information as I was given four parts of the soul, or the beard of Arikwhen I began to study Kabbalah. The person Anpin or whatever, then learn about them, but Iwho gave me this information said “You don’t don’t think it is essential to know these things toneed to read lots of books, just go off and do it.” begin with, and there are better and quickerThis was sound advice. When you want to learn ways of learning Kabbalah than running off andhow to build a bridge, you should read books buying the Zohar.about building bridges, but if you want to learn If you trust in yourself, you will learn whatabout yourself, the largest library in the world you need to know at the rate at which you canisn’t going to help a great deal. learn it. Kabbalah is only a map (but for the “Doing It” consists of invoking the sephiroth record I believe it is an accurate and usefuland asking to be instructed. It consists of jump- map), and the entrance to the territory liesing in with both feet when something new within you. In my experience the sephirothiccomes along. It involves trusting your intuition magical rituals are the key to everything else. Ifand conscience. It requires you to question eve- you want to continue to study Kabbalah, by allrything. It also requires countless meditations, means go out and buy other books, but do notconcentration and visualisation exercises, self- imagine that the quality of the information youexamination, rituals, dream-recording, prayer, will receive will be higher than what you willwhatever you want. learn if you simply invoke God through the There is no prescription for this, and each per- Powers of Malkhut and ask them for instruc-son tends to find their own balance. As a tion.chronic reader I found the advice about not If you are afraid of ritual that is fine ... lots ofreading books on magic and Kabbalah hard to people are. If you make mistakes in your rituals,take, but I took it, and for something like ten that is not an unusual problem, because every-years I lost the habit completely. I’m glad I did, body does. If you are afraid of ritual but youbecause I developed the self-confidence to trust invoke the Powers with the attitude and respectmy own intuition and found for myself the tech- that is their due, and you are not afraid to giveniques best suited to my temperament and dis- freely for what you get, then you will get a greatposition. What works splendidly for one person deal, and almost certainly a great deal moremay be totally inappropriate for another. than you would have expected. There is almost enough information in thesenotes to go off and “just do it”. The informationI have withheld I have done so deliberately, as itconsists of little things which any person with asmall amount of common sense, initiative andtrust in themselves can work out. For example,you don’t need to learn other peoples’ rituals:trust your own imagination and creativity, how-ever insufficient they might seem, and writeyour own. You need to trust yourself, and that is why Ihaven’t provided a detailed prescription. If youthink Kabbalah should be more complicated,then make it more complicated. If you think it is 143
  • 152. Notes on Kabbalah 144