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Post: 384 of 387 From: (Colin Low) Newsgroups: alt.magick Subject: Notes on Kabbalah Part 4 (long) Date: 13 Jan 92 14:42:33 GMT Organization: Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Bristol, UK. Lines: 442 **************************************************************************** Notes on Kabbalah The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes. Release 2.0 Copy date: 12th. January 1992 Copyright Colin Low 1992 ( **************************************************************************** Chapter 4: The Sephiroth ======================== This chapter provides a detailed look at each of the ten sephiroth and draws together material scattered over previous chapters. Malkuth ------- Malkuth is the Cinderella of the sephiroth. It is the sephira most often ignored by beginners, the sephira most often glossed over in Kabbalistic texts, and it is not only the most immediate of the sephira but it is also the most complex, and for sheer inscrutability it rivals Kether - indeed, there is a Kabbalistic aphorism that "Kether is Malkuth, and Malkuth is in Kether, but after another manner". The word Malkuth means "Kingdom", and the sephira is the culmination of a process of emanation whereby the creative power of the Godhead is progressively structured and defined as it moves down the Tree and arrives in a completed form in Malkuth. Malkuth is the sphere of matter, substance, the real, physical world. In the least compromising versions of materialist philosophy (e.g. Hobbes) there is nothing beyond physical matter, and from that viewpoint the Tree of Life beyond Malkuth does not exist: our feelings of identity and self-consciousness are nothing more than a by-product of chemical reactions in the brain, and the mind is a complex automata which suffers from the disease of metaphysical delusions. Kabbalah is *not* a materialist model of reality, but when we examine Malkuth by itself we find ourselves immersed in matter, and it is natural to think in terms of physics, chemistry and molecular biology. The natural sciences provide the most accurate models of matter and the physical world that we have, and it would be foolishness of the first order to imagine that Kabbalah can provide better explanations of the nature of matter on the basis of a study of the text of the Old Testament. Not that I under-rate the intuition which has gone into the making of Kabbalah over the centuries, but for practical purposes the average university science graduate knows (much) more about the material stuff of the world than medieval Kabbalists, and a grounding in modern physics is as good a way to approach Malkuth as any other. For those who are not comfortable with physics there are alternative, more traditional ways of approaching Malkuth. The magical image of Malkuth is that of a young woman crowned and throned. The woman is Malkah, the Queen, Kallah, the Bride. She is the inferior mother, a reflection and realisation of the superior mother Binah. She is the Queen who inhabits the Kingdom, and the Bride of the Microprosopus. She is Gaia, Mother Earth, but of course she is not only the substance of this world; she is the body of the entire physical universe. Some care is required when assigning Mother/Earth goddesses to Malkuth, because some of them correspond more closely to the superior mother Binah. There is a close and deep connection between Malkuth and Binah which results in the two sephiroth sharing similar correspondences, and one of the oldest Kabbalistic texts [1] has this to say about Malkuth: "The title of the tenth path [Malkuth] is the Resplendent Intelligence. It is called this because it is exalted above every head from where it sits upon the throne of Binah. It illuminates the numinosity of all lights and causes to emanate the Power of the archetype of countenances or forms." One of the titles of Binah is Khorsia, or Throne, and the image which this text provides is that Binah provides the framework upon which Malkuth sits. We will return to this later. Binah contains the potential of form in the abstract, while Malkuth is is the fullest realisation of form, and both sephiroth share the correspondences of heaviness, limitation, finiteness, inertia, avarice, silence, and death. The female quality of Malkuth is often identified with the Shekhinah, the female spirit of God in the creation, and Kabbalistic literature makes much of the (carnal) relationship of God and the Shekhinah. Waite [7] mentions that the relationship between God and Shekhinah is mirrored in the relationship between man and woman, and provides a great deal of information on both the Shekhinah and what he quaintly calls "The Mystery of Sex". After the exile of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Kabbalists identified their own plight with the fate of the Shekhinah, and she is pictured as being cast out into matter in much the same way as the Gnostics pictured Sophia, the outcast divine wisdom. The doctrine of the Shekhinah within Kabbalah and within Judaism as a whole is complex and it is something I don't feel competent to comment further on; more information can be found in [3] & [7]. Malkuth is the sphere of the physical elements and Kabbalists still use the four-fold scheme which dates back at least as far as Empedocles and probably the Ark. The four elements correspond to four readily-observable states of matter: solid - earth liquid - water gas - air plasma - fire/electric arc (lightning) In addition it is not uncommon to include a fifth element so rarified and arcane that most people (self included) are pushed to say what it is; the fifth element is aethyr (or ether) and is sometimes called spirit. The amount of material written about the elements is enormous, and rather than reproduce in bulk what is relatively well-known I will provide a rough outline so that those readers who aren't familiar with Kabbalah will realise I am talking about approximately the same thing as they have seen before. A detailed description of the traditional medieval view of the four elements can be found in "The Magus" [2]. The hierarchy of elemental powers can be found in "777" [4] and in Golden Dawn material [5] - I have summarised a few useful items below: Element Fire Air Water Earth God Name Elohim Jehovah Eheieh Agla Archangel Michael Raphael Gabriel Uriel King Djin Paralda Nichsa Ghob Elemental Salamanders Sylphs Undines Gnomes It amused me to notice that the section on the elemental kingdoms in Farrar's "What Witches Do" [6] had been taken by Alex Saunders lock, stock and barrel from traditional Kabbalistic and CM sources. The elements in Malkuth are arranged as follows: South Fire East Zenith Aethyr+ West Air Nadir Aethyr- Water North Earth I have rotated the cardinal points through 180 degrees from their customary directions so that it is easier to see how the elements fit on the lower face of the Tree of Life: Tiphereth Fire Hod Yesod Netzach Air Aethyr Water Malkuth Earth It is important to distinguish between the elements in Malkuth, where we are talking about real substance (the water in your body, the breath in your lungs), and the elements on the Tree, where we are using traditional correspondences *associated* with the elements, e.g.: Earth: solid, stable, practical, down-to-earth Water: sensitive, intuitive, emotional, caring, fertile Air: vocal, communicative, intellectual Fire: energetic, daring, impetuous Positive Aethyr: glue, binding, plastic Negative Aethyr: unbinding, dissolution, disintegration Aethyr or Spirit is enigmatic, and I tend to think of it in terms of the forces which bind matter together. It is almost certainly a coincidence (but nevertheless interesting) that there are four fundamental forces - gravitational, electromagnetic, weak nuclear & strong nuclear - known to date, and current belief is that they can be unified into one fundamental force. On a slightly more arcane tack, Barret [2] has this to say about Aethyr: "Now seeing that the soul is the essential form, intelligible and uncorruptible, 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 excellent medium:- now such a medium is conceived to be the spirit of the world, or that which some call a quintessence; because it is not from the four elements, but a certain first thing, having its being above and beside them. There is, therefore, such a kind of medium required to be, by which celestial souls [e.g. forms] may be joined to gross bodies, and bestow upon them wonderful gifts. This spirit is in the same manner, in the body of the world, as our spirit is in our bodies; for as the powers of our soul are communicated to the members of the body by the medium of the spirit, so also the virtue of the soul of the world is diffused, throughout all things, by the medium of the universal spirit; for there is nothing to be found in the whole world that hath not a spark of the virtue thereof." Aethyr underpins the elements like a foundation and its attribution to Yesod should be obvious, particularly as it forms the linking role between the ideoplastic world of "the Astral Light" [8] and the material world. Aethyr is often thought to come in two flavours - positive Aethyr, which binds, and negative Aethyr, which unbinds. Negative Aethyr is a bit like the Universal Solvent, and requires as much care in handling ;-} Working with the physical elements in Malkuth is one of the most important areas of applied magic, dealing as it does with the basic constituents of the real world. The physical elements are tangible and can be experience in a very direct way through recreations such as caving, diving, parachuting or firewalking; they bite back in a suitably humbling way, and they provide CMs with an opportunity to join the neo-pagans in the great outdoors. Our bodies themselves are made from physical stuff, and there are many Raja Yoga-like exercises which can be carried out using the elements as a basis for work on the body. If you can stand his manic intensity (Exercise 1: boil an egg by force of will) then Bardon [9] is full of good ideas. Malkuth is often associated with various kinds of intrinsic evil, and to understand this attitude (which I do not share) it is necessary to confront the same question as thirteenth century Kabbalists: can God be evil? The answer to this question was (broadly speaking) "yes", but Kabbalists have gone through many strange gyrations in an attempt to avoid what was for many an unacceptable conclusion. It was difficult to accept that famine, war, disease, prejudice, hate, death could be a part of a perfect being, and there had to be some way to account for evil which did not contaminate divine perfection. One approach was to sweep evil under the carpet, and in this case the carpet was Malkuth. Malkuth became the habitation for evil spirits. If one examines the structure of the Tree without prejudice then it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that evil is quite adequately accounted for, and there is no need to shuffle evil to the periphery of the Tree like a cleaner without a dustpan. The emanation of any sephirah from Chokhmah downwards can manifest as good or evil depending on circumstances and the point of view of those affected by the energy involved. This appears to have been understood even at the time of the writing of the "Zohar", where the mercy of God is constantly contrasted with the severity of God, and the author makes it clear that one has to balance the other - you cannot have the mercy without the severity. On the other hand, the severity of God is persistently identified with the rigours of existence (form, finiteness, limitation), and while it is true that many of the things which have been identified with evil are a consequence of the finiteness of things, of being finite beings in a world of finite resources governed by natural laws with inflexible causality, it not correct to infer (as some have) that form itself is *intrinsically* evil. The notion that form and matter are *intrinsically* evil, or in some way imperfect or not a part of God, may have reached Kabbalah from a number of sources. Scholem comments: "The Kabbalah of the early thirteenth century was the offspring of a union between an older and essentially Gnostic tradition represented by the book "Bahir", and the comparatively modern element of Jewish Neo-Platonism." There is the possibility that the Kabbalists of Provence (who wrote or edited the "Sepher Bahir") were influenced by the Cathars, a late form of Manicheanism. Whether the source was Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, Manicheanism or some combination of all three, Kabbalah has imported a view of matter and form which distorts the view of things portrayed by the Tree of Life, and so Malkuth ends up as a kind of cosmic outer darkness, a bin for all the dirt, detritus, broken sephira and dirty hankies of the creation. Form is evil, the Mother of Form is female, women are definitely and indubitably evil, and Malkuth is the most female of the sephira, therefore Malkuth is most definitely evil...quod erat demonstrandum. By the time we reach the time of S.L. Mathers and the Golden Dawn there is a complete Tree of evil demonic Qlippoth *underneath* Malkuth as a relection of the "good" Tree above it. I believe this may have something to do with the fact that meditations on Malkuth can easily become meditations on Binah, and meditations on Binah have a habit of slipping into the Abyss, and once in the Abyss it is easy to trawl up enough junk to "discover" an averse Tree "underneath" Malkuth. This view of the Qlippoth, or Shells, as active, demonic evil has become pervasive, and the more energy people put into the demonic Tree, the less there is for the original. Abolish the Qlippoth as demonic forces, and the Tree of Life comes alive with its full power of good *and* evil. The following quotation from Bischoff [10] (speaking of the Sephiroth) provides a more rational view of the Qlippoth: "Since their energy [of the sephiroth] shows three degrees of strength (highest, middle and lowest degree), their emanations group accordingly in sequence. We usually imagine the image of a descending staircase. The Kabbalist prefers to see this fact as a decreasing alienation of the central primeval energy. Consequently any less perfect emanation is to him the cover or shell (Qlippah) of the preceeding, and so the last (furthest) emanations being the so-called material things are the shell of the total and are therefore called (in the actual sense) Qlippoth." This is my own view; the shell of something is the accretion of form which it accumulates as energy comes down the Lightning Flash. If the shell can be considered by itself then it is a dead husk of something which could be alive - it preserves all the structure but there is no energy in it to bring it alive. With this interpretation the Qlippoth are to be found everywhere: in relationships, at work, at play, in ritual, in society. Whenever something dies and people refuse to recognise that it is dead, and cling to the lifeless husk of whatever it was, then you get a Qlippah. For this reason one of the vices of Malkuth is Avarice, not only in the sense of trying to acquire material things, but also in the sense of being unwilling to let go of anything, even when it has become dead and worthless. The Qlippah of Malkuth is what you would get if the Sun went out: Stasis, life frozen into immobility. The other vice of Malkuth is Inertia, in the sense of "active resistance to motion; sluggish; disinclined to move or act". It is visible in most people at one time or another, and tends to manifest when a task is new, necessary, but not particularly exciting, there is no excitement or "natural energy" to keep one fired up, and one has to keep on pushing right to the finish. For this reason the obligation of Malkuth is (has to be) self-discipline. The virtue of Malkuth is Discrimination, the ability to perceive differences. The ability to perceive differences is a necessity for any living organism, whether a bacteria able to sense the gradient of a nutrient or a kid working out how much money to wheedle out of his parents. As Malkuth is the final realisation of form, it is the sphere where our ability to distinguish between differences is most pronounced. The capacity to discriminate is so fundamental to survival that it works overtime and finds boundaries and distinctions everywhere - "you" and "me", "yours" and "mine", distinctions of "property" and "value" and "territory" which are intellectual abstractions on one level (i.e. not real) and fiercely defended realities on another (i.e. very real indeed). I am not going to attempt a definition of real and unreal, but it is the case that much of what we think of as real is unreal, and much of what we think of as unreal is real, and we need the same discrimination which leads us into the mire to lead us out again. Some people think skin colour is a real measure of intelligence; some don't. Some people think gender is a real measure of ability; some don't. Some people judge on appearances; some don't. There is clearly a difference between a bottle of beer and a bottle of piss, but is the colour of the *bottle* important? What *is* important? What differences are real, what matters? How much energy do we devote to things which are "not real". Am I able to perceive how much I am being manipulated by a fixation on unreality? Are my goals in life "real", or will they look increasingly silly and immature as I grow older? For that matter, is Kabbalah "real"? Does it provide a useful model of reality, or is it the remnant of a world-view which should have been put to rest centuries ago? One of the primary exercises of an initiate into Malkuth is a thorough examination of the question "What is real?". The Spiritual Experience of Malkuth is variously the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA), or the Vision of the HGA (depending on who you believe). I vote for the Vision of the HGA in Malkuth, and the Knowledge and Conversation in Tiphereth. What is the HGA? According to the Gnosticism of Valentinus each person has a guardian angel who accompanies that individual throught their life and reveals the gnosis; the angel is in a sense the divine Self. This belief is identical to what I was taught by the person who taught me Kabbalah, so some part of Gnosticism lives on. The current tradition concerning the HGA almost certainly entered the Western Esoteric Tradition as a consequence of S.L. Mather's translation [11] of "The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage", which contains full details of a lengthy ritual to attain the Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA. This ritual has had an important influence on twentieth century magicians and it is often attempted and occasionally completed. The powers of Malkuth are invoked by means of the names Adonai ha Aretz and Adonai Melekh, which mean "Lord of the World" and "The Lord who is King" respectively. The power is transmitted through the world of Creation by the archangel Sandalphon, who is sometimes referred to as "the Long Angel", because his feet are in Malkuth and his head in Kether, which gives him an opportunity to chat to Metatron, the Angel of the Presence. The angel order is the Ashim, or Ishim, sometimes translated as the "souls of fire", supposedly the souls of righteous men and women. In concluding this section on Malkuth, it worth emphasising that I have chosen deliberately not to explore some major topics because there are sufficient threads for anyone with an interest to pick up and follow for themselves. The image of Malkuth as Mother Earth provides a link between Kabbalah and a numinous archetype with a deep significance for some. The image of Malkuth as physical substance provides a link into the sciences, and it is the case that at the limits of theoretical physics one's intuitions seem to be slipping and sliding on the same reality as in Kabbalah. The image of Malkuth as the sphere of the elements is the key to a large body of practical magical technique which varies from yoga-like concentration on the bodily elements, to nature-oriented work in the great outdoors. Lastly, just as the design of a building reveals much about its builders, so Malkuth can reveal a great deal about Kether - the bottom of the Tree and the top have much in common. References: [1] Westcott, W. Wynn, ed. "Sepher Yetzirah", many editions. [2] Barrett, Francis, "The Magus", Citadel 1967. [3] Scholem, Gershom G., "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism", Schocken 1974 [4] Crowley, A, "777", an obscure reprint. [5] Regardie, Israel, "The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic", Falcon, 1984. [6] Farrar, Stewart, "What Witches Do", Peter Davies 1971. [7] Waite, A.E, "The Holy Kabbalah", Citadel. [8] Levi, Eliphas, "Transcendental Magic", Rider, 1969. [9] Bardon, Franz, "Initiation into Hermetics", Dieter Ruggeberg 1971 [10] Bischoff, Dr. Erich, "The Kabbala", Weiser 1985. [11] Mathers, S.L., "The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage", Dover 1975. [RET] 350-387, Q)uit: Post: 385 of 387 From: (Colin Low) Newsgroups: alt.magick Subject: Notes on Kabbalah Part 5 (long) Date: 13 Jan 92 14:43:13 GMT Organization: Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Bristol, UK. Lines: 433 **************************************************************************** Notes on Kabbalah The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes. Release 2.0 Copy date: 12th. January 1992 Copyright Colin Low 1992 ( **************************************************************************** Chapter 4: The Sephiroth (continued) ======================== This chapter provides a detailed look at each of the ten sephiroth and draws together material scattered over previous chapters. Yesod ----- Yesod means "foundation", and that is what Yesod is: it is the hidden infrastructure whereby the emanations from the remainder of the Tree are transmitted to the sephira Malkuth. Just as a large building has its air-conditioning ducts, service tunnels, conduits, electrical wiring, hot and cold water pipes, attic spaces, lift shafts, winding rooms, storage tanks, a telephone exchange etc, so does the Creation, and the external, visible world of phenomenal reality rests (metaphorically speaking) upon a hidden foundation of occult machinery. Meditations on the nature of Yesod tend to be full of secret tunnels and concealed mechanisms, as if the Creation was a Gothic mansion with a secret door behind every mirror, a passage in every wall, a pair of hidden eyes behind every portrait, and a subterranean world of forgotten tunnels leading who knows where. For this reason the Spiritual Experience of Yesod is aptly named "The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe". Many Yesod correspondences reinforce this notion of a foundation, of something which lies behind, supports and gives shape to phenomenal reality. The magical image of Yesod is of "a beautiful naked man, very strong". The image which springs to mind is that of a man with the world resting on his shoulders, like one of the misrepresentations of the Titan Atlas (who actually held up the heavens, not the world). The angel order of Yesod is the Cherubim, the Strong Ones, the archangel is Gabriel, the Strong or Mighty One of God, and the God-name is Shaddai el Chai, the Almighty Living God. The idea of a foundation suggests that there is a substance which lies behind physical matter and "in-forms it" or "holds it together", something less structured, more plastic, more refined and rarified, and this "fifth element" is often called aethyr. I will not attempt to justify aethyr in terms of current physics (the closest concept I have found is the hypothesised Higgs field); it is a convenient handle on a concept which has enormous intuitive appeal to many magicians, who, when asked how magic works, tend to think in terms of a medium which is directly receptive to the will, something which is plastic and can be shaped through concentration and imagination, and which transmits their artificially created forms into reality. Eliphas Levi called this medium the "Astral Light". It is also natural to imagine that mind, consciousness, and the soul have their habitation in this substance, and there are volumes detailing the properties of the "Etheric Body", the "Astral Body", the "Causal Body" [1,2] and so on. I don't take this stuff too seriously, but I do like to work with the kind of natural intuitions which occur spontaneously and independently in a large number of people - there is power in these intuitions - and it is a mistake to invalidate them because they sound cranky. When I talk about aethyr or the Astral Light, I mean there is an ideoplastic substance which is subjectively real to many magicians, and explanations of magic at the level of Yesod revolve around manipulating this substance using desire, imagination and will. The fundamental nature of Yesod is that of *interface*; it interfaces the rest of the Tree of Life to Malkuth. The interface is bi-directional; there are impulses coming down from Kether, and echoes bouncing back from Malkuth. The idea of interface is illustrated in the design of a computer system: a computer with a multitude of worlds hidden within it is a source of heat and repair bills unless it has peripheral interfaces and device drivers to interface the world outside the computer to the world "inside" it; add a keyboard and a mouse and a monitor and a printer and you have opened the door into another reality. Our own senses have the same characteristic of being a bi-directional interface through which we experience the world, and for this reason the senses correspond to Yesod, and not only the five traditional senses - the "sixth sense" and the "second sight" are given equal status, and so Yesod is also the sphere of instinctive psychism, of clairvoyance, precognition, divination and prophecy. It is also clear from accounts of lucid dreaming (and personal experience) that we possess the ability to perceive an inner world as vividly as the outer, and so to Yesod belongs the inner world of dreams, daydreams and vivid imagination, and one of the titles of Yesod is "The Treasure House of Images". To Yesod is attributed Levanah, the Moon, and the lunar associations of tides, flux and change, occult influence, and deeply instinctive and sometimes atavistic behaviour - possession, mediumship, lycanthropy and the like. Although Yesod is the foundation and it has associations with strength, it is by no means a rigid scaffold supporting a world in stasis. Yesod supports the world just as the sea supports all the life which lives in it and sails upon it, and just as the sea has its irresistable currents and tides, so does Yesod. Yesod is the most "occult" of the sephiroth, and next to Malkuth it is the most magical, but compared with Malkuth its magic is of a more subtle, seductive, glamorous and ensnaring kind. Magicians are drawn to Yesod by the idea that if reality rests on a hidden foundation, then by changing the foundation it is possible to change the reality. The magic of Yesod is the magic of form and appearance, not substance; it is the magic of illusion, glamour, transformation, and shape-changing. The most sophisticated examples of this are to be found in modern marketing, advertising and image consultancies. I do not jest. My tongue is not even slightly in my cheek. The following quote was taken from this morning's paper [3]: Although the changes look cosmetic, those responsible for creating corporate image argue that a redesign of a company's uniform or name is just the visible sign of a much larger transformation. "The majority of people continue to misunderstand and think that it is just a logo, rather than understanding that a corporate identity programme is actually concerned with the very commercial objective of having a strong personality and single-minded, focussed direction for the whole organisation, " said Fiona Gilmore, managing director of the design company Lewis Moberly. "It's like planting an acorn and then a tree grows. If you create the right *foundation* (my itals) then you are building a whole culture for the future of an organisation." I don't know what Ms. Gilmore studies in her spare time, but the idea that it is possible to manipulate reality by manipulating symbols and appearances is entirely magical. The same article on corporate identity continues as follows: "The scale of the BT relaunch is colossal. The new logo will be painted on more than 72,000 vehicles and trailers, as well as 9,000 properties. The company's 92,000 public payphones will get new decals, and its 90 shops will have to changed, right down to the yellow door handles. More than 50,000 employees are likely to need new uniforms or "image clothing". Note the emphasis on *image*. The company in question (British Telecom) is an ex-public monopoly with an appalling customer relations problem, so it is changing the colour of its door handles! This is Yesodic magic on a gigantic scale. The image manipulators gain most of their power from the mass-media. The mass-media correspond to two sephiroth: as a medium of communication they belong in Hod, but as a foundation for our perception of reality they belong in Yesod. Nowadays most people form their model of what the world (in the large) is like via the media. There are a few individuals who travel the world sufficiently to have a model based on personal experience, but for most people their model of what most of the world is like is formed by newspapers, radio and television; that is, the media have become an extended (if inaccurate) instrument of perception. Like our "normal" means of perception the media are highly selective in the variety and content of information provided, and they can be used by advertising agencies and other manipulative individuals to create foundations for new collective realities. While on the subject of changing perception to assemble new realities, the following quote by "Don Juan" [4] has a definite Kabbalistic flavour: "The next truth is that perception takes place," he went on, "because there is in each of us an agent called the assemblage point that selects internal and external emanations for alignment. The particular alignment that we perceive as the world is the product of a specific spot where our assemblage point is located on our cocoon." One of the titles of Yesod is "The Receptacle of the Emanations", and its function is precisely as described above - Yesod is the assemblage point which assembles the emanations of the internal and the external. In addition to the deliberate, magical manipulation of foundations, there are other important areas of magic relevant to Yesod. Raw, innate psychism is an ability which tends to improve as more attention is devoted to creative visualisation, focussed meditation (on Tarot cards for example), dreams (e.g. keeping a dream diary), and divination. Divination is an important technique to practice even if you feel you are terrible at it (and especially if you think it is nonsense), because it reinforces the idea that it is permissible to "let go" and intuite meanings into any pattern. Many people have difficulty doing this, feeling perhaps that they will be swamped with unreason (recalling Freud's fear, expressed to Jung, of needing a bulwark against the "black mud of occultism"), when in reality their minds are swamped with reason and could use a holiday. Any divination system can be used, but systems which emphasise pure intuition are best (e.g. Tarot, runes, tea-leaves, flights of birds, patterns on the wallpaper, smoke. I heard of a Kabbalist who threw a cushion into the air and carried out divination on the basis of the number of pieces of foam stuffing which fell out). Because Yesod is a kind of aethyric reflection of the physical world, the image of and precursor to reality, mirrors are an important tool for Yesod magic. Quartz crystals are also used, probably because of the use of crystal balls for divination, but also because quartz crystal and amethyst have a peculiarly Yesodic quality in their own right. The average New Age shop filled with crystals, Tarot cards, silver jewelry (lunar association), perfumes, dreamy music, and all the glitz, glamour and glitter of a daemonic magpie's nest, is like a temple to Yesod. Mirrors and crystals are used passively as focii for receptivity, but they can also be used actively for certain kinds of aethyric magic - there is an interesting book on making and using magic mirrors which builds on the kind of elemental magical work carried out in Malkuth [5]. Yesod has an important correspondence with the sexual organs. The correspondence occurs in three ways. The first way is that when the Tree of Life is placed over the human body, Yesod is positioned over the genitals. The author of the Zohar is quite explicit about "the remaining members of the Microprosopus", to the extent that the relevant paragraphs in Mather's translation of "The Lesser Holy Assembly" remain in Latin to avoid offending Victorian sensibilities. The second association of Yesod with the genitals arises from the union of the Microprosopus and his Bride. This is another recurring theme in Kabbalah, and the symbolism is complex and refers to several distinct ideas, from the relationship between man and wife to an internal process within the body of God: e.g [6]. "When the Male is joined with the Female, they both constitute one complete body, and all the Universe is in a state of happiness, because all things receive blessing from their perfect body. And this is an Arcanum." or, referring to the Bride: "And she is mitigated, and receiveth blessing in that place which is called the Holy of Holies below." or, referring to the "member": "And that which floweth down into that place where it is congregated, and which is emitted through that most holy Yesod, Foundation, is entirely white, and therefore is it called Chesed. Thence Chesed entereth into the Holy of Holies; as it is written Ps. cxxxiii. 3 'For there Tetragrammaton commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.'" It is not difficult to read a great deal into paragraphs like this, and there are many more in a similar vein. Suffice to say that the Microprosopus is often identified with the sephira Tiphereth, the Bride is the sephira Malkuth, and the point of union between them is obviously Yesod. The third and more abstract association between Yesod and the sexual organs arises because the sexual organs are a mechanism for perpetuating the *form* of a living organism. In order to get close to what is happening in sexual reproduction it is worth asking the question "What is a computer program?". Well, a computer program indisputably begins as an idea; it is not a material thing. It can be written down in various ways; as an abstract specification in set theoretic notation akin to pure mathematics, or as a set of recursive functions in lambda calculus; it could be written in several different high level languages - Pascal, C, Prolog, LISP, ADA, ML etc. Are they all they same program? Computer scientists wrestle with this problem: can we show that two different programs written in two different languages are in some sense functionally identical? It isn't trivial to do this because it asks fundamental questions about language (any language) and meaning, but it is possible in limited cases to produce two apparently different programs written in different languages and assert that they are identical. Whatever the program is, it seems to exist independently of any particular language, so what is the program and where is it? Let us ignore that chestnut and go on to the next level. Suppose we write the program down. We could do it with a pencil. We could punch holes in paper. We could plant trees in a pattern in a field. We can line up magnetic domains. We can burn holes in metal foil. I could have it tattooed on my back. We can transform it into radically different forms (that is what compilers and assemblers do). It obviously isn't tied to any physical representation either. What about the computer it runs on? Well, it could be a conventional one made with CMOS chips etc.....but aren't there a lot of different kinds and makes of computer, and they can all run the same program. It is also quite practical to build computers which *don't* use electrons - you could use mechanics or fluids or ball bearings - all you need to do is produce something with the functionality of a Turing machine, and that isn't hard. So not only is the program not tied to any particular physical representation, but the same goes for the computer itself, and what we are left with is two puffs of smoke. On another level this is crazy; computers are real, they do real things in the real world, and the programs which make them work are obviously real too....aren't they? Now apply the same kind of scrutiny to living organisms, and the mechanism of reproduction. Take a good look at nucleic acids, enzymes, proteins etc., and ask the same kind of questions. I am not implying that life is a sort of program, but what I am suggesting is that if you try to get close to what constitutes a living organism you end up with another puff of smoke and a handful of atoms which could just as well be ball-bearings or fluids or....The thing that is being perpetuated through sexual reproduction is something quite abstract and immaterial; it is an abstract form preserved and encoded in a particular pattern of chemicals, and if I was asked which was more real, the transient collection of chemicals used, or the abstract form itself, I would answer "the form". But then, I am a programmer, and I would say that. I find it astonishing that there are any hard-core materialists left in the world. All the important stuff seems to exist at the level of puffs of smoke, what Kabbalists call form. Roger Penrose, one of the most eminent mathematicians living has this to say [7]: "I have made no secret of the fact that my sympathies lie strongly with the Platonic view that mathematical truth is absolute, external and eternal, and not based on man-made criteria; and that mathematical objects have a timeless existence of their own, not dependent on human society nor on particular physical objects." "Ah Ha!" cry the materialists, "At least the atoms are real." Well, they are until you start pulling them apart with tweezers and end up with a heap of equations which turn out to be the linguistic expression of an idea. As Einstein said, "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible", that is, capable of being described in some linguistic form. I am not trying to convince anyone of the "rightness" of the Kabbalistic viewpoint. What I am trying to do is show that the process whereby form is impressed on matter (the relationship between Yesod and Malkuth) is not arcane, theosophical mumbo- jumbo; it is an issue which is alive and kicking, and the closer we get to "real things" (and that certainly includes living organisms), the better the Kabbalistic model (that form precedes manifestation, that there is a well-defined process of form-ation with the "real world" as an outcome) looks. The illusion of Yesod is security, the kind of security which forms the foundation of our personal existence in the world. On a superficial level our security is built out of relationships, a source of income, a place to live, a vocation, personal power and influence etc, but at a deeper level the foundation of personal identity is built on a series of accidents, encounters and influences which create the illusion of who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for. There is a warm, secure feeling of knowing what is right and wrong, of doing the right thing, of living a worthwhile life in the service of worthwhile causes, of having a uniquely privileged vantage point from which to survey the problems of life (with all the intolerance and incomprehension of other people which accompanies this insight), and conversely there are feelings of despair, depression, loss of identity, and existential terror when a crack forms in the illusion, and reality shows through - Castaneda calls it "the crack in the world". The smug, self-perpetuating illusion which masquerades as personal identity at the level of Yesod is the most astoundingly difficult thing to shift or destroy. It fights back with all the resources of the personality, it will enthusiastically embrace any ally which will help to shore up its defenses - religious, political or scientific ideology; psychological, sociological, metaphysical and theosophical claptrap (e.g. Kabbalah); the law and popular morality; in fact, any beliefs which give it the power to retain its identity, uniqueness and integrity. Because this parasite of the soul uses religion (and its esoteric offshoots) to sustain itself they have little or no power over it and become a major part of the problem. There are various ways of overcoming this personal demon (Carroll [8], in an essay on the subject, calls it Choronzon), and the two I know best are the cataclysmic and the abrasive. The first method involves a shock so extreme that it is impossible to be the same person again, and if enough preparation has gone before then it is possible to use the shock to rebuild oneself. In some cases this doesn't happen; I have noticed that many people with very rigid religious beliefs talk readily about having suffered traumatic experiences, and the phenomenon of hysterical conversion among soldiers suffering from war neuroses is well known. The other method, the abrasive, is to wear away the demon of self-importance, to grind it into nothing by doing (for example) something for someone else for which one receives no thanks, praise, reward, or recognition. The task has to be big enough and awful enough to become a demon in its own right and induce all the correct feelings of compulsion (I have to do this), helplessness (I'll never make it), indignation (what's the point, it's not my problem anyway), rebellion (I won't, I won't, not anymore), more compulsion (I can't give up), self-pity (how did I get into this?), exhaustion (Oh No! Not again!), despair (I can't go on), and finally a kind of submission when one's demon hasn't the energy to put up a struggle any more and simply gives up. The woman who taught me Kabbalah used both the cataclysmic and the abrasive methods on her students with malicious glee - I will discuss this in more detail in the section on Tiphereth. The virtue of Yesod is independence, the ability to make our own foundations, to continually rebuild ourselves, to reject the security of comfortable illusions and confront reality without blinking. The vice of Yesod is idleness. This can be contrasted with the inertia of Malkuth. A stone is inert because it lacks the capacity to change, but in most circumstances people can change and can't be bothered. At least, not today. Yesod has a dreamy, illusory, comfortable, *seductive* quality, as in the Isle of the Lotus Eaters - how else could we live as if death and personal annihilation only happened to other people? The Qlippothic aspect of Yesod occurs when foundations are rotten and disintegrating and only the superficial appearance remains unchanged - Dorian Gray springs to mind, or cases where the brain is damaged and the body remains and carries out basic instinctive functions, but the person is dead as far as other people are concerned. Organisations are just as prone to this as people. [1] A.E. Powell, "The Etheric Double", Theosophical Publishing House, 1925 [2] A.E. Powell, "The Astral Body", Theosophical Publishing House, 1927 [3] "It's the Image Men We Answer To", The Sunday Times, 6th. Jan 1991 [4] Castenada, Carlos, "The Fire from Within", Black Swan, 1985. [5] N. R. Clough, "How to Make and Use Magic Mirrors", Aquarian 1977 [6] S.L. Mathers, "The Kabbalah Unveiled", Routledge & Kegan Paul 1981 [7] Roger Penrose, "The Emperor's New Mind", Oxford University Press 1989 [8] Peter J. Carroll, "Psychonaut", Samuel Weiser 1987. Post: 386 of 387 From: (Colin Low) Newsgroups: alt.magick Subject: Notes on Kabbalah Part 6 (long) Date: 13 Jan 92 14:43:44 GMT Organization: Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Bristol, UK. Lines: 681 **************************************************************************** Notes on Kabbalah The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes. Release 2.0 Copy date: 12th. January 1992 Copyright Colin Low 1992 ( **************************************************************************** Chapter 4: The Sephiroth (continued) ======================== This chapter provides a detailed look at each of the ten sephiroth and draws together material scattered over previous chapters. Hod & Netzach ------------- "Objects contain the possibility of all situations. The possibility of occurring in states of affairs is the form of an object. Form is the possibility of structure." Wittgenstein "Since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you." E.E. Cummings The title of the sephira Hod is sometimes translated as Splendour and sometimes as Glory. The title of the sephira Netzach is usually translated as Victory, sometimes as Endurance, and occasionally as Eternity. Although there have been many attempts to explain the titles of this pair of sephiroth, I am not aware of a convincing explanation. The two sephiroth correspond to the legs and like the legs are normally taken as a pair and not individually. They complement another but are not opposites any more than force and form are opposites. This pair of sephiroth provide the first example of the polarity of form and force encountered when ascending back up the lightning flash from the sephira Malkuth. Neither quality manifests in a pure state, as form and force are thoroughly mixed together at the level of Hod and Netzach: the force aspect represented by Netzach is differentiated (an example of form) into a multitude of forces, and the form aspect represented by Hod acts dynamically (an example of force) by synthesising new forms and structures. Both sephiroth represent the plurality of consciousness at this level, and in older texts they are referred to as the "armies" or "hosts". To understand why they are referred to in this way it is necessary to look at an archaic aspect of Kabbalistic symbolism whereby the Tree of Life is a representation of kingship. One of the titles of Tiphereth is Melekh, or king. This king is the child of Chokhmah (Abba, the father) and Binah (Aima, the Mother) and hence a son of God who wears the crown of Kether. The kingdom is the sephira Malkuth, at the same time queen (Malkah) and bride (Kallah). In his right hand the king wields the sword of justice (corresponding to Gevurah), and in his left the sceptre of authority (corresponding to Chesed), and he rules over the armies or hosts (Tzaba), which are Hod and Netzach. The use of kingship as a metaphor to convey what the sephiroth mean obscures as much as it reveals, but it is an unavoidable piece of Kabbalistic symbolism, and the attribution of Hod and Netzach to the "armies" does capture something useful about the nature of consciousness at this level: consciousness is fragmented into innumerable warring factions, and if there is no rightful king ruling over the kingdom of the soul (a common state of affairs), then the armies elect a succession of leaders from the ranks, who wear a lopsided crown and occupy the throne only for as long as it takes to find another claimant - more on this later. The psychological interpretation of Hod is that it corresponds to the ability to abstract, to conceptualise, to reason, to communicate, and this level of consciousness arises from the fact that in order to survive we have evolved a nervous system capable of building internal representations of the world. I can drive around London in a car because I possess an internal representation of the London street system. I can diagnose faults in the same car because I have an internal representation of its mechanical and electrical systems and how they might fail. I can type this document without looking at the keyboard because I know where the keys are positioned, and your ability to read what I have written pre-supposes a shared understanding about the meaning of words and what they represent. Our nervous systems possess an absolutely basic ability to create internal representations out of the information we are capable of perceiving through our senses. It is also an absolutely basic characteristic of the world that it is bigger than my nervous system. I cannot possibly create *accurate*, internal representations of the world, and one of the meanings of the verb "to abstract" is "to remove quietly". This is what the nervous system does: it quietly removes most of what is going on in the world in order to create an abridged representation of reality with all the important (important to me) bits underlined in highlighter pen. This is the world "I" live in: not in the "real" world, but an internal reality synthesised by my nervous system. There has been a lot of philosophising about this, and it is difficult to think about how our nervous systems *might* be distorting or even manufacturing reality without a feeling of unease, but I am personally reassured by the everyday observation that most adults can drive a car on a busy road at eighty miles per hour in reasonable safety. This suggests that while our synthetic internal representation of the world isn't accurate, it isn't at all bad. Abstraction does not end at the point of building an internal representation of the external world. My nervous system is quite content to treat my internal representation of the world as yet another domain over which it can carry out further abstraction, and the subsequent new world of abstractions as another domain, and so on indefinitely, giving rise to the principal definition of "abstraction": "to separate by the operation of the mind, as in forming a general concept from consideration of particular instances". As an example, suppose someone asks me to watch the screen of a computer and to describe what I see. I have no idea what to expect. "Hmmm...lots of dots moving around randomly...different colour, blue, green. Ah, the dots seem to be clustering...they're forming circles...all the dots of each particular colour are forming circles, lots of little circles. Now the circles are coming together to form a's 3. Now they're moving apart and forming another number...its 12..9..14. They've gone..........that was it..3, 15, 12, 9, 14. Is it some sort of test? Do I have to guess the next number in the series? What are the numbers supposed to mean? What was the point of it? Hmmm..the numbers might stand for letters of the alphabet...let's see. C..O..L..I...N. It's my name!" The dots on the screen are real - there are real, discrete, measurable spots of light on the screen. I could verify the presence of dots of light using an appropriate light meter. The colours are synthesised by my retinas; different elements in my eye respond to different frequencies in the light and give rise to an internal experience we label "red", "blue", "green". The circles simply do not exist: given the nature of the computer output on the screen, there are only individual pixels, and it is my nervous system which constructs circles. The numbers do not exist either; it is only because of my particular upbringing (which I share with the person who wrote the computer program) that I am able to distinguish patterns standing for abstract numbers in patterns of circles e.g. oo o o o o o o o ooooo And once I begin to reason about the *meaning* of a sequence of numbers I have left the real world a long way behind: not only is "number" a complex abstraction, but when I ask a question about the "meaning" of "a sequence of numbers" I am working with an even more "abstract abstraction". My ability to happily juggle numbers and letters and decide that there is an identity between the abstract number sequence "3, 15, 12, 9, 14" and the character string "COLIN" is one of those commonplace things which any person might do and yet it illustrates how easy it is to become completely detached from the external world and function within an internal world of abstractions which have been detached from anything in the world for so long that they are taken as real without a second thought. In parallel with our ability to structure perception into an internal world of abstractions we possess the ability to communicate facts about this internal world. When I say "The cup is on the table", another person is able to identify in the real world, out of all the information reaching their senses, the abstraction "chair", the abstraction "cup", and confirm the relationship of "on-ness". Why are the cup and table abstractions? Because the word "cup" does not uniquely specify any particular cup in the world, and when I use the word I am assuming that the listener already possesses an internal representation of an abstract object "cup", and can use that abstract specification of a cup to identify a particular object in the context within which my statement was made. We are not normally conscious of this process, and don't need to be when dealing with simple propositions about objects in the real world. I think I know what a cup is, and I think you do too. If you don't know, ask someone to show you a few. Life gets a lot more complicated when dealing with complex internal abstractions: what is a "contract", a "treaty", a "loan", "limited liability", a "set", a "function", "marriage", a "tort", "natural justice", a "sephira", a "religion", "sin", "good", "evil", and so on (and on). We reach agreement about the definitions of these things using language. In some cases, for example, a mathematical object, the thing is completely and unambiguously defined using language, while in other cases (e.g. "good", "sin") there is no universally accepted definition. Life is further complicated by a widespread lack of awareness that these internal abstractions *are* internal, and it is common to find people projecting internal abstractions onto the world as if they were an intrinsic part of the fabric of existence, and as objectively real as the particular cup and the particular table I referred to earlier. Marriage is no longer a contract between a man and a woman; it is an estate made in heaven. What is heaven? God knows. And what is God? Trot out your definitions and let's have an argument - that is the way such questions are answered. Much of the content of electronic bulletin boards consists of endless arguments and discussions on the definition of complex internal abstractions (what is ritual, what is magic, what is karma, what is ki, what is...). A third element which goes together with abstraction and language to complete the essense of the sephira Hod is reason, and reason's formal offspring, logic. Reason is the ability to articulate and justify our beliefs about the world using a base of generally agreed facts and a generally agreed technique for combining facts to infer valid conclusions. If reason is considered as one out of a number of possible processes for establishing what is true about the world we live in, for establishing which models of reality are valid and which are not, then it has been phenomenally successful: in its heyday there were those who saw reason as the most divine faculty, the faculty in humankind most akin to God, and that legacy is still with us - the words "unreasonable" and "irrational" are often used to attack and denigrate someone who does not (or cannot) articulate what they do or why they do it. There is of course no "reason" why we should have to articulate or justify anything, even to ourselves, but the reasoning machine within us demands an "explanation" for every phenomenon, and a "reason" for every action. This is a characteristic of reason - it is an obsessive mode of consciousness. A second characteristic of reason is that it operates on the "garbage-in, garbage-out" principle: if the base of given facts a person uses to reason about are garbage, so are the conclusions - witness what two thousand years of Christian theology has achieved using sound dialectical principles taken from Aristotle. If the sephira Hod on the Pillar of Form represents the active synthesis of abstract forms in consciousness (and abstraction, language and reason are prime examples) then the sephira Netzach on the Pillar of Force represents affective states of consciousness which influence how we act and react: needs, wants, drives, feelings, moods and emotions. It is difficult to write about affective states, to be clear on the distinction between a need and a want on one hand, or a feeling or a mood on the other, and I find it particularly difficult because the essence of sadness is *being* sad, the essence of excitement is the *feeling* of excitement, the essence of desire is the aching, lusting, overwhelming *feeling* of desire, and being too precise about defining feelings is in the essence of Hod, *not* Netzach. These things are incommunicable. They can be produced in another person, but they cannot be communicated. It is possible to be clinical and abstract and precise about the sephira Hod because an abstract clinical precision captures that aspect of consciousness perfectly, but when attempting to communicate something about Netzach one feels tempted to try to communicate feelings themselves, a task more suited to a poet or a musician, an actor or a dancer. Please accept this unfortunate limitation in what follows, a limitation not necessarily present when Kaballah is learned at first hand from someone. Netzach is on the Pillar of Force, but in reaching Netzach the Lightning Flash has already passed through Binah and Gevurah on the Pillar of Form and so it represents a force conditioned and constrained by form; when we talk about Netzach we are talking about the different ways force can be shaped and directed, like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube. The toothpaste we are talking about is something I will call "life force" or "life energy", and as a rule, when I have a lot of it I feel well and full of vitality, and when I don't have much I feel unwell, tired, and vulnerable. To continue the somewhat phallic toothpaste metaphor, the magnitude of pressure on the tube corresponds to vitality, the direction in which the toothpaste comes out corresponds to a need or a want, and the shape of the nozzle corresponds to a feeling: all three factors, pressure, direction and nozzle determine how the toothpaste comes out; that is, we could say that there are three factors giving a *form* to the toothpaste (or life-energy). It may seem sloppy and unnecessarily metaphysical to imply that all needs, wants and feelings are merely conditions of manifestation of something more basic, some "unconditioned force", but Kaballah is primarily a tool for exploring internal states, and there are internal states (certainly in my experience) where this force is experienced directly with much less differentiation, hence the clumsy metaphor. Textbooks on psychology define a need as an internal state which results in directed behaviour, and discuss needs such as thirst, hunger, sex, stimulation, proximity seeking, curiousity and so on. These things are interesting, but for virtually everyone such basic and inherent needs are in the nature of "givens" and don't provide much individual insight into the questions "why do I behave differently from other people?", or "should I change my behaviour?", or more interesting still "to what extent do I (or can I) influence my behaviour?". In addition to inherent needs it is useful also to look at needs which have been acquired (i.e. learned), and for convenience I will call them "wants" because people are usually conscious of "wanting" something specific. To give some examples, a person might want: - to buy a bar of chocolate. - to go to the toilet. - to own a better car. - to have a sexual relationship with someone. - to live forever. - to be thinner (more musculer, taller, whiter, browner...). - to read a book. - to gain social recognition within a particular group. - to win in sport. - to go shopping. - to go to bed. Not only are these "wants" the sort of thing many people want these days, but these "wants" can all occur concurrently in the same person, and while some may have been simmering away on a back burner for years, there can be an astonishing variety of pots and pans waiting for an immediate turn on the stove. The average person's consciousness zips around the kitchen like a demented short-order cook stirring this dish, serving that one, slapping a pot on the stove for a few minutes only to take it off and put something else on, throwing whole meals in the bin only to empty them back into pots a few minutes later. The choice of which pot ends up on the hot plate depends largely on mood and accident: some people may plan their lives like military campaigns but most don't. Most people have far more wants than there are hours in the day to achieve them, and those which are actually satisfied on a given day is more a function of accident than design. Careers are thrown away (along with status and security) in a moment of sexual infatuation; the desire to eat wars with the desire to be slim; the writer retires to the country to write the great novel and does everything but write; the manager desperately tries to finish an urgent report but finds himself dreaming about a car he saw in the car park; the student abandons an important essay on impulse to go out with friends. One activity is quickly replaced by another as the person attempts to reconcile all his wants and drives, but unfortunately there is no requirement that wants should be internally consistent or complementary; like a multi-process operating system, a single thread of energy is randomly cycled around an arbitrary list of needs and wants to produce the mixed- up complexity of the average person. Each want can be treated as a distinct mode of consciousness - I can eat a slap-up meal one day and thoroughly enjoy it, while the next day I can look in the mirror and swear never to touch another pizza again. It is as if two separate beings inhabited my body, one who loves pizzas and one who wants to be thin, and each makes plans independently of the other, and only the magic dust of unbroken memory sustains the illusion that I am a single person. When I view my own wants and actions dispassionately I can conclude that there is a host or army of independent beings jostling inside me, a crowd of artificial elementals individually ensouled with enough of my energy to bring one particular desire to fruition. I cope with the semi-chaotic result of mob rule by using the traditional remedy: public relations. I put together internal press releases (various rationalisations and justifications) to convince myself, and others if need be, that the mess was either due to external circumstances beyond my control (I didn't have time last night), the fault of other people (you made me angry), or inevitable (I had no choice, there was no alternative). In cases where even my public relations don't work I erect a shrine to the gods of Guilt and make little offerings of sorrow and regret over the years. This is normal consciousness for most people. It is a kind of insanity. Wants rush to and fro on the stage of consciousness like actors in the closing scenes of Julius Caeser - alarums and excursions, bodies litter the stage, trumpets and battle shouts in the wings, Brutus falls on his sword, Anthony claims the field - perhaps this is why the sephira is called Victory! Every day new wants are kicked off in response to advertising or peer pressure, old wants compete with each other in a zero-sum game. Having said this, I should point out that it is not desire or wants or drives which create the insanity - Kaballah does not place the value judgement on desire that Buddhism does (that desire is the cause of suffering, and by inference, something to be overcome). The insanity arises from mob-rule, from the bizarre internal processes of justification, rationalisation and guilt, and from the identification of Self with the result - I will return to this when discussing the sephira Tiphereth, as the mis- identification of Self is a key element in the discussion on Tiphereth. Netzach also corresponds to our feelings, emotions and moods, because this background of "psychological weather" strongly conditions the way in which we think and behave: regardless of what I am doing, my energy will manifest differently when I am happy than when I am not. Sometimes moods and emotions are triggered by a specific event, and sometimes they are not: free-floating anxiety and depression are common enough, and perhaps free-floating happiness is too (I can't speak from experience there ;-). There are hundreds of words for different moods, emotions and feelings, but most seem to refer to different degrees of intensity of the same thing, or the same feeling in different contexts, and the number of genuinely distinct internal dimensions of feeling appears to be small. Depression, misery, sadness, happiness, delight, joy, rapture and ecstacy seem to lie along the same axis, as do loathing, hate, dislike, affection, and love. It is an interesting exercise to identify the genuinely, qualitatively different feelings you can experience by actually conjuring up each feeling. I have tried the experiment with a number of people, and you will probably find there are less than 10 distinct feelings. The most immediate and personal correspondences for Hod and Netzach are the psychological correspondences: the rational, abstract, intellectual and communicative on one hand and the emotional, motivational, intuitive, aesthetic, and non-rational on the other. The planetary and elemental correspondences mirror this: Hod corresponds to Kokab or Mercury, and the element of Air, while Netzach corresponds to Nogah or Venus, and the element Water. The Virtue of Hod is honesty or truthfulness, and its Vice is dishonesty or untruthfulness. One of the features of being able to create abstract representations of reality and communicate some aspect of it to another person is that it is possible to *misrepresent* reality, or to put it bluntly, lie through your teeth. The Illusion of Hod is order, in the sense of attempting to impose one's sense of order upon the world. This is very noticeable in some people; whenever something happens they will immediately pigeonhole it and declare with great authority "it is just another example of XYZ". A surprising number of people who claim to be rational will claim "there's no such thing as (ghosts, telepathy, free lunches, UFO's)" without having examined the evidence one way or the other. They are probably right, and I have no personal interest either way, but it is not difficult to distinguish between someone who carefully weighs the pros and cons in an argument and readily admits to uncertainty, and someone with a firm and orderly conviction that "this is the way the world is". The illusion of order occurs because people confuse their internal representation of the world with the world itself, and whenever they are confronted with something they attempt to fit it into their representation. The illusion of order (that everything in the world can be neatly classified) relates closely to the klippoth of Hod, which is rigidity, or rigid order. As children we start out with an open view of what the world is like, and by the time we reach our late teens or early twenties this view has set fairly solid, like cold porridge - there are few minds more full of certainties than that of an eighteen year old. A good critical education sometimes has the effect of stirring the porridge into a lumpy gruel, but it gradually starts to set again (unless the heavy hand of fate stirs it up), and it is generally recognised, particularly in the sciences, that a deeply ingrained sense of "how things are" is the greatest obstacle to progress. If you hear some kids listening to music and find yourself thinking "I don't know what they find in that noise!" then it's happening to you too. If find yourself looking back to a time when everything was so much better than it is today and find yourself declaring "nostalgia isn't what it used to be" then you will know that the porridge has gone very cold and very stiff. The Vision of Hod is the Vision of Splendour. There is regularity and order in the world - it's not all an illusion - and when someone is able to appreciate natural order in its abstract sense, via mathematics for example, it can lead to a genuinely religious, even ecstatic experience. The thirteenth century Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia developed a rigorous system of Hebrew letter mysticism based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, their symbolic meanings, and their abstract relationships when permuted into different "names of God"; many hours of intense concentration spent combining letters according to complex rules generated highly abstract symbolic meanings and insights which led to ecstatic experiences. The same sense of awe can come from mathematics and science - the realisation that gravitational dynamics in three dimensions is geometry in four dimensions, that plants are living fractals, that primes are the seeds of all other numbers, are just as likely to lead towards an intense vision of the splendour of the world made visible through the eye of the rational intellect. The Virtue of Netzach is unselfishness, and its Vice is selfishness. Both the Virtue and the Vice are an attitude towards things-which-are-not-me, specifically, other people and living creatures. If I was surrounded by a hundred square miles of empty desert then my attitude to other living things wouldn't matter, but I don't, and nothing I do is without some consequence; my needs, wants and feelings invariably have an effect on people, animals and plants, who all want to live and have some level of needs and wants and feelings too. Unselfishness is simply a recognition of others' needs. Selfishness taken to an extreme is a denial of life, because it denies freedom and life to anything which gets in the way; my needs must come first. Netzach lies on the Pillar of Force and is an expression of life-energy, so to deny life is a perversion of the force symbolised by Netzach, hence the attribution of selfishness to the Vice. The Vision of Netzach is the Vision of Beauty Triumphant. Whereas the Vision of Splendour corresponding to Hod is a vision of complex abstract relationships, symmetry, and mathematical elegance, the Vision of Beauty Triumphant is purely aesthetic and firmly based in the real world of textures, smells, sounds, and colours, an appropriate correspondence for Venus, the goddess of sensual beauty. Suppose two housebuyers go to look at a house. The first is interested in the number of rooms, the size of the garage, the house's position relative to local amenities, the price, the number of square metres in the plot, and whether the windows are double-glazed. The second person likes the decoration in the lounge, the colour of the bathroom, the wisteria plant in the garden, the cherry tree, the curving shape of the stairs, and the sloping roof in one of the bedrooms. Both people like the house, but the first likes various abstract properties associated with the house, whereas the second likes the house itself. Suppose the same two people buy the house and decide to do ritual magic. The first person wants white robes because white is the colour of the powers of light and life. The second wants a green velvet robe because it feels and looks nice. The first reads lots of books on how to carry out a ritual, while the second sits under the cherry tree in the garden with a flute and a blissful expression of cosmic love. The first person has continued to make choices based on an abstract notion of what is correct, while the second makes choices based on what *feels right*. Both are driven by an internal sense of "rightness", but in the first case it is based on abstract criteria, while in the second it is based on personal aesthetic notion of beauty. The Vision of Beauty Triumphant has a compelling power. It is pre-articulate and inherently uncritical, and at the same time it is immensely biased. A person in its grip will pronounce judgement on another person's taste in art, literature, clothes, music, decor or whatever, and will do it with such a profound lack of self-consciousness that it is possible to believe good taste is ordained in heaven. This person will mock those who surround themselves with rules, regulations, principles, and analysis, the "syntax of things" as E. E. Cummings puts it, and instead exhibit a whimsical spontaneity, a penetrating (so they believe) intuition, and a free spirit in tune with ebb and flow of life. There are those who might complain about their astounding arrogance, fickleness, unreliability, and the never- ending flow of unshakable and prejudiced opinions delivered with papal authority, but those who complain are (clearly) anal- retentive nit-pickers and don't count. For a total immersion in the aesthetic vision read Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Grey". The Illusion of Netzach is projection. We all tend to identify feelings and characteristics in other people which we find in ourselves and when we get it right it is called "empathy" or "intuition"; when we get it wrong it is called "projection", because we are incorrectly projecting our feelings, needs, motives, or desires onto another person and interpreting their behaviour accordingly. Some level of projection is unavoidable, and at best it can be balanced with a critical awareness that it can occur, but projection is insidious, and the strength of feeling associated with a projection can easily overwhelm any intellectual awareness. Projection usually "feels right". One of the most overwhelming forms of projection accompanies sexual desire. Why do I find one person sexually attractive and not another? Why do I find some characteristics in a person sexually attractive but not others? In my own case I discovered that when I put together all the characteristics I found most attractive in a person a consistent picture emerged of an "ideal person", and every person I had ever considered as a possible sexual partner was instantly compared against this template. In fact there was more than one template, more than one ideal, but the number was limited and each template was very clearly defined, and most importantly, each template was internal. My sexual (and often many other feelings) about a person were based on an internal and apparently arbitrary internal template. This was crazy; I found my sexual feelings about a person would change depending on how they dressed or behaved, on how well they "matched the ideal". It became obvious that what I was in love with did not exist outside of myself, and I was trying to find this ideal in everyone else. Each one of these "templates" was a living aspect of myself which I had chosen not to regard as "me", and in compensation I spent much of my time trying to find people to bring these parts to life, like a director auditioning actors and actresses for a part in a new play. If a person previously identified as ideal failed to live up to my notion of how they should be ideally behaving then I would project a fault on them: there was something wrong with *them*! Madness indeed. The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung [1] recognised this phenomenon and gave these idealised and projected components of our psyche the title "archetype". Jung identified several archetypes, and it is worth mentioning the major and most influential. The Anima is the ideal female archetype. She is part genetic, part cultural, a figure molded by fashion and advertising, an unconscious composite of woman in the abstract. The Anima is common in men, where she can appear with riveting power in dreams and fantasy, a projection brought to life by the not inconsiderable power of the male sexual drive. She might be meek and submissive, seductive and alluring, vampish and dangerous, a cheap slut or an unattainable goddess - there is no "standard anima", but there are many recognisable patterns which can have a powerful hold on particular men. Male sexual fantasy material is amazingly predictable, cliched, unimaginitive and crude, and contains a limited number of steroetyped views of women which are as close to a "lowest common denominator anima" as one is likely to find. The Animus is the ideal male archetype, and much of what is true about the Anima is true of the Animus. There are differences; the predominant quality in the Anima is her appearance and behaviour, while the predominant quality in the Animus is social power and competence. In the interests of sexual equality it is worth mentioning that female romantic fantasy material is amazingly predictable, cliched, unimaginitive and crude, and contains a limited number of stereotype views of men which are as close to a "lowest common denominator animus" as one is likely to find. The Shadow is the projection of "not-me" and contains forbidden or repressed desires and impulses. In most men the Anima is repressed and in most women the Animus is repressed, and so both form a component of the Shadow. The major part of the Shadow however is composed of forbidden impulses, and the Shadow forms a personification of evil. Much of what is considered evil is defined socially and the communal personification of evil as an external force working against humankind (such as Satan) is widespread. The Persona is the mask a person wears as a member of a community when a large proportion of his or her behaviour is defined by a role such as doctor, teacher, manager, accountant, lawyer or whatever. Projection occurs in two ways: firstly, someone may be expected to conform to a role in a particularly rigid or stereotyped way, and so suffer a loss of individuality and probably a degree of misplaced trust or prejudice. Secondly, many people identify with a role to the extent that they carry that role into all aspects of their private lives. This "projection onto self" is a form of identification - see the section on Tiphereth. The archetype of Self at the level of Hod and Netzach is usually projected as an ideal form of person; that is, someone will believe that he or she is highly imperfect creature and it is possible to attain an ideal state of being in which the same person is kind, loving, wise, forgiving, compassionate, in harmony with the Absolute, or whatever. This projection will either fasten on a living or dead person, who then becomes a hero, heroine, guru, or master with grossly inflated abilities, or it fastens on a vision of "myself made perfect". The projected vision of "myself made perfect" is common (almost universal) among those seeking "spiritual development", "esoteric training", and other forms of self-improvement, and in almost every case it is based on an abstract ideal. The person will probably insist that the ideal has existed in certain rare individuals (usually long dead saints and gurus, or someone who lives a long way off whom they haven't met), and that is the sort of person they want to be. It should be comical, but it isn't. There is more to say about this and it will keep till the section on Tiphereth. The klippoth or shell of Netzach is habit and routine. When behaviour, with all its potential for new experiences, new ways of doing things, new relationships, becomes locked into patterns which repeat over and over again, then the life energy, the force aspect of Netzach is withdrawn and all that remains is the dead, empty shell of behaviour. Just as the klippoth of Hod is rigid order, the petrification of one's internal representation of reality, so the klippoth of Netzach is the petrification of behaviour. The God Names of Hod and Netzach are Elohim Tzabaoth and Jehovah Tzabaoth respectively, which mean "God of Armies", but in each case a different word is used for "God". The name "Elohim" is associated with all three sephiroth on the Pillar of Form and represents a feminine (metaphorically speaking) tendency in that aspect of God. The elucidation of God Names can become phenomenally complex and obscure, with long excursions into gematria and textual analysis of the Pentateuch and it is a quagmire I intend to avoid. The Archangels are Raphael and Haniel. The Archangel of Hod is sometimes given as Michael, but I prefer Raphael (Medicine of God) for no other reason than the association of Mercury with medicine and healing; besides, Michael has perfectly good reasons for residing in Tiphereth. This sort of thing can give rise to an amazing amount of hot air when Kabbalists meet; for those who wonder how far back the confusion goes, Robert Fludd (1574-1607) plumped for Raphael, whereas two hundred years later Francis Barrett prefered Michael. The co-founder of the Golden Dawn, S.L. Mathers, went for both depending on which text you read. Kabbalah isn't an orderly subject and those who want to impose too much order on it are falling into the illusion of...I leave this as an exercise to the reader. The Angel Orders are the Beni Elohim and the Elohim. The triad of sephiroth Yesod, Hod and Netzach comprise the triad of "normal consciousness" as we normally experience it in ourselves and most people most of the time. This level of consciousness is intensely magical; try to move away from it for any length of time and you will discover the strength of the force and form sustaining it. It is not an exaggeration to say that most people are completely unable to leave this state, even when they want to, even when they desperately try to. The sephira Tiphereth represents a state of being which unlocks the energy of "normal consciousness" and is the subject of the next section. [1] Jung, C.G, "Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self", Routledge & Kegan Paul 1974 Post: 393 of 396 From: (Colin Low) Newsgroups: alt.magick Subject: Notes on Kabbalah Part 7 (long Date: 15 Jan 92 16:30:26 GMT Organization: Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Bristol, UK. Lines: 321 **************************************************************************** Notes on Kabbalah The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes. Release 2.0 Copy date: 15th. January 1992 Copyright Colin Low 1992 ( **************************************************************************** Chapter 4: The Sephiroth (continued) ======================== This chapter provides a detailed look at each of the ten sephiroth and draws together material scattered over previous chapters. Tiphereth --------- "Nothing is left to you at this moment but to burst out into a loud laugh" From "The Spirit of Zen" The sephira Tiphereth lies at the heart of the Tree of Life, and like Rome all paths lead to it. Well, not all, but Tiphereth has a path linking it to every sephira with the exception of Malkuth. If the Tree of Life is a map then the sephira titled Tiphereth, Beauty, or Rachamin, Compassion, clearly represents something of central importance. What does it represent? Can you imagine in your mind's eye what it might be? Do you feel anything within you when you contemplate Tiphereth? If asked could you define what it stands for? Well, if you can do any or all of these things you are almost certainly barking up the wrong Tree. As Alan Watts comments [1]: "The method of Zen is to baffle, excite, puzzle and exhaust the intellect until it is realised that intellection is only thinking *about*; it will provoke, irritate and again exhaust the emotions until it is realised that emotion is only feeling *about*, and then it contrives, when the disciple has been brought to an intellectual and emotional impasse, to bridge the gap between second-hand conceptual contact with reality, and first-hand experience." The sephira Tiphereth presents the student of Kabbalah with a conundrum. Whatever you say it is, it isn't; whatever you imagine it to be it isn't; whatever you feel it might be, it isn't; it is an empty room. There is nothing there. The modes of consciousness appropriate to Hod, Yesod and Netzach respectively are not appropriate to something which is clearly and unambiguously shown on the Tree as being distinct from all three. So what is it? The student is told that the Virtue of Tiphereth is Devotion to the Great Work. What is this "Great Work"? The student is told solemnly that in order to find the answer he or she should obtain the Spiritual Experience of Tiphereth, which is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. So the student runs off and duely reports (after some work in the library perhaps) that the Great Work is the raising of a human being in every aspect to perfection. Or it is the saving of the planet from industrial pollution. Or it is the retrieval and perpetuation of knowledge, or perhaps it is the spiritual redemption of humanity. The student then burns enough frankincense to pay off the Somalian national debt, records endless conversations with the Holy Guardian Angel in the magical record, and impresses all and sundry with an unbending commitment to the Great Work. This enthusiasm, commitment, personal sacrifice and sense of moral purpose leads to the development of a special kind of person: pious, preaching, judgemental, a humble servant of the highest powers with a blind spot of intolerance. Those who inhabit the vicinity of such moral incandescence may have reason to recall that the Vice of Tiphereth is self-importance and pride. A student can spend years running around in circles, bringing to the planet the benefits of advanced spiritual consciousness, and this seems to be a necessary exercise. People need to sweat various personal obsessions out of their systems, and the empty room of Tiphereth is an excellent set on which to act out a personal drama. If the devotion to the Work is genuine, and if Tiphereth and the HGA are invoked with passion and determination, then sooner or later the hand of fate lends a hand and the student has the shit knocked out in a big way. An attempt to penetrate the nature of Tiphereth does seem to bring about that state which the Greeks called "hubris", an overweening arrogance, self-importance and pride, until eventually the inevitable happens and one's life comes crashing down around one's ears. The resulting mess varies from person to person; in some people every idea about what is important is turned upside down, while in others an emotional attachment to habits, lifestyle, possessions or relationships turns to dust. The daemon of the false self is dealt a massive blow and sent reeling, and in that moment there is a chance for real change and the dawning of the golden sun of Tiphereth. This is how I interpret the word "initiation": there is a state of being represented by the sephirah Tiphereth which is absolutely distinct from what most people experience as normal consciousness. Once attained the change is irreversible and permanent; it causes a permanent change in the way life is experienced. When it occurs it is recognised instantly for what it if every cell in one's body shouted simultaneously "So *that's* all there is to it!" This state has been widely documented in many parts of the world, and Alan Watts' book (referenced below) is as guarded and explicit on the subject as any worthwhile book is likely to be. The symbolism of Tiphereth is three-fold: a king, a sacrificed god, and a child. This three-fold symbolism corresponds to Tiphereth's place on the extended Tree (to be explained in a later chapter), where it appears as Kether of Assiah, Tiphereth of Yetzirah, and Malkuth of Briah, and to these three aspects correspond the king, the sacrificed god, and the child respectively. One interpretation of this symbolism is as follows: if the kingdom is to be redeemed then the king (who is also the son of God - see below) must be sacrificed, and from this sacrifice comes a rebirth as a child. This is a metaphor of initiation. It is also markedly Christian in symbolism, an aspect many explicitly Christian Kabbalists have not failed to elaborate upon, but it would be a mistake to make too much out of the apparent Christian symbolism. The king, the child and the son are synonyms for Tiphereth in the earliest Kabbalistic documents (e.g. the Zohar), and the introduction of divine kingship and the sacrificed god into modern Kabbalah owes a lot more to the publication of "The Golden Bough" [2] in 1922 than it does to Christianity. The theme of death and rebirth is an important element in many esoteric traditions, and provides continuity between modern Kabbalah and the mystery religions and initiations of the Mediterranean basin. The initiatory rituals of the Golden Dawn [3], an organisation which did much to reawaken interest in Kabbalah, were loosely inspired by the Eleusinian mysteries of Demeter and Persephone - at least to extent that the Temple officers were named after the principal officers of the Eleusinian mysteries. The Golden Dawn Tiphereth initiation was, like most Golden Dawn rituals, a witch's brew of symbolism, but it was strongly based on the mysteries of the crucifixion and the resurrection - at one point the aspirant was actually lashed to a cross - and took place in a symbolic reconstruction of the vault and tomb of Christian Rosenkreutz. The following extract [3] gives the flavour of the thing: "Buried with that Light in a mystical death, rising again in a mystical resurrection, cleansed and purified through Him our Master, O Brother of the Cross and the Rose. Like Him, O Adepts of all ages, have ye toiled. Like Him have ye suffered tribulation. Poverty, torture and death have ye passed through. They have been but the purification of the Gold." Gold is a Tiphereth symbol, being the metal of Shemesh, the Sun, which also corresponds to Tiphereth. Gold is incorruptible and symbolises a state of being which is not "base" or "corrupt"; again, it is a symbol of initiation, of a state of being compared to which normal consciousness is corruptible dross. I do not wish to go any further into this kind of symbolism - there is an awful lot of it. It is possible to write at great length and succeed in doing nothing more than losing the reader in a web of symbolism so dense and sticky that the inner state one is pointing at becomes a sterile thing of words and symbols. I wanted to provide an idea of how a large amount of exotic symbolism has accreted around Tiphereth, but that is all. The state indicated by Tiphereth is real enough, and lashing comfortably-off middle-class aspirants to a cross in a wooden vault at the local Masonic Hall and prattling on about poverty, torture and death is somewhat wide of the mark. In the traditional Kabbalah the sephira Tiphereth corresponds to something called Zoar Anpin, the Microprosopus, or Lesser Countenance. As might be expected, there is also something called Arik Anpin, the Macroprosopus, or Greater Countenance, and this is often used as a synonym for the sephira Kether. The symbology connected with the Greater and Lesser Countenances is extremely complex: the "Greater Holy Assembly" [4], one of the books of the Zohar, is largely a detailed description of the cranium, the eyes, the cheeks, and the hairs in the beard of both the Greater and Lesser Countenances. In a crude sense the Macroprosopus is God, and the Microprosopus is man made in God's image, hence the symbolism, but this is too simple. The Microprosopus is also the archetypal man Adam Kadmon, a mystical concept which should not be confused with a real human being. Adam Kadmon is androgynous, male and female, Adam-and-Eve in a pre-manifest, pre-Fall state of divine perfection. The symbology of the Macroprosopus, Microprosopus, and Adam Kadmon appears to exist independently of the concept of sephirothic emanation, and it is probably fair to say that the former was more highly developed during the Zoharic period of Kabbalah, while the latter is used almost exclusively at the present time - I have yet to encounter a modern Kabbalist with much insight into the thirteen parts of the beard of the Macroprosopus. Another rich set of symbols associated with Tiphereth comes from the divine name of four letters YHVH, usually written as Jehovah or Yahweh. The letter Yod is associated with the supernal father Chokhmah, and the letter He is associated with the supernal mother Binah. The letter Vov is associated with the son of the mother and father, and is both the Microprosopus and the sephira Tiphereth. The final He is associated with the daughter (and bride of the son), the sephira Malkuth. Tiphereth is thus the "child" of Chokhmah and Binah, and also "the son of God". In Hebrew the letter Vov can represent the number 6, and in Kabbalah this refers to Chesed, Gevurah, Tiphereth, Netzach, Hod and Yesod, the six sephiroth which correspond to states of human consciousness and hence also to the Microprosopus. With a typical Kabbalistic flexibility they can also stand for the six days of Creation. The illusion of Tiphereth is Identification. When a person is asked "what are you", they will usually begin with statements like "I am a human being", "I am a lorry driver", "I am Fred Bloggs", "I am five foot eleven". If pressed further a person might begin to enumerate personal qualities and behaviours: "I am trustworthy", "I lose my temper a lot", "I am afraid of heights", "I love chessecake", "I hate dogs". It is extremely common for people to identify what they are with the totality of their beliefs and behaviours, and they will defend the sanctity of these beliefs and behaviours, often to the death - a person might have behaviours which make their life a misery and still cling to them with a grip like a python. This inability to stand back and see behaviour or beliefs in an impersonal way produces a peculiar ego-centricity: the sense of personal identity is founded on a set of beliefs and behaviours which are largely unconscious (that is, a person may be unaware of being grotesquely selfish, or pompous, or attention-getting) and at the same time seem to be uniquely special and sacred. When behaviour and beliefs are unconscious and incorporated into a sense of identity it becomes impossible to make sense of other people. If I am unaware that I regularly slip little put-downs into my conversation, and Joe takes umbrage at my sense of humour, then rather than change my behaviour (which is unconscious) I interpret the result as "Joe doesn't have a sense of humour; he needs to learn to laugh a little". There are many behaviours which may seem innocuous to the person concerned but which are irritating or offensive to others, and when the injured party reacts appropriately it is impossible for me to make sense of this reaction if my behaviour is unconscious and tightly bound to my sense of identity. Our sense of identity thus becomes a kind of "Absolute" against which everything is compared, and judgements about the world become absolute and almost impossible to change, even when we realise intellectually the subjectivity of our position. Referring to this projection of the unconscious onto the world Jung [5] comments: "The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one. Projections change the world into one's unknown face." In summary, the illusion of Tiphereth is a false identification with a set of beliefs or behaviours. It can also be an identification with a social mask or Persona, something discussed in the section on Netzach. So to return to the orginal question: "what are you?". Is there an answer? If the answer is to be something which is not an arbitrary collection of emphemera then you are not your behaviours - behaviour can be 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 body - your body is continually changing. Out of this comes a sense of emptiness, of hollowness. The intellect attempts to solve the koan of koans but has no anchor to hold on to. Is there no centre to my being, nothing which is *me*, no axis in the universe, no morality, no good, no evil? Do I live in a meaningless, arbitrary universe where any belief is as good as any other, where any behaviour is acceptable so long as I can get away with it? This sense of emptiness or hollowness is the Qlippoth or shell of Tiphereth, Tiphereth as the Empty Room with Nothing In It. Jung [6] provides a memorable and moving description of how his father, a country parson, was progressively consumed by this feeling of hollowness. There can be few fates worse than to devote a life to the outward forms of religion without ever feeling one touch of that which gives it meaning. The God Name of Tiphereth is Jehovah Aloah va Daath, or simply Aloah va Daath. It is often translated as "God made manifest in the sphere of the mind". The Archangel is sometimes given as Raphael, but I prefer the attribution to Michael, long associated with solar fire. His name "Who is like God" reinforces the upper/lower relationship between Kether and Tiphereth. The angel order is the Malachim, or Kings. To cover all of the traditional material related to Tiphereth is to cover most of Kabbalah. Tiphereth is at the centre of a complex of six sephiroth which represent a human being. This isn't a modern interpretation, an "initiated" interpretation of obscure medieval documents. Kabbalah has always been deeply concerned with the dynamics of the relationship between God and the Creation, between God and a human being, and the descriptions of the Macroprosopus and Microprosopus in the Zohar are a bold attempt to grasp something ineffable using a language built from the most immediate of metaphors, the human body. According to the Bible and Kabbalah, a human being is in some sense a reflection of God, and to the extent that Kabbalah is an outcome of genuine mystical experience it is a description of the dynamics of that relationship, and more importantly it is a description of something *real*. Even if you don't like the look of the word "God" (I don't) Kabbalah is trying to express something important about a relatively inaccessible dimension of human experience. Tiphereth is a reflection of Kether and represents the "image of God", the "God within", whatever you take that to mean; it is a symbol of centrality, balance, and above all, wholeness. It can be an empty room, a gaping emptiness, or it can be the heart and blazing sun of the Tree. It is the symbol of a human being who lives in full consciousness of the outer and the inner, who denies neither the reality of the world nor the mystery of self-consciousness, and who attempts to reconcile the needs of both in a harmonious balance. [1] Watts, Alan W., "The Spirit of Zen", John Murray 1936 [2] Frazer, J.G., "The Golden Bough, A Study in Magic and Religion", Macmillan 1976 [3] Regardie, I., "The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic", Falcon 1984 [4] Mathers, S.L., "The Kabbalah Unveiled", RKP 1981 [5] Jung, C.G., "Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self", RKP 1974 [6] Jung, C.G., "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", RKP 1963 Post: 394 of 396 From: (Colin Low) Newsgroups: alt.magick Subject: Notes on Kabbalah Part 8 (long) Date: 15 Jan 92 16:30:53 GMT Organization: Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Bristol, UK. Lines: 482 **************************************************************************** Notes on Kabbalah The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes. Release 2.0 Copy date: 15th. January 1992 Copyright Colin Low 1992 ( **************************************************************************** Chapter 4: The Sephiroth (continued) ======================== This chapter provides a detailed look at each of the ten sephiroth and draws together material scattered over previous chapters. Gevurah and Chesed ------------------ "The chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or mixed, are good laws and good arms; and because there cannot be good laws where there are not good arms, and where there are good arms there must needs be good laws, I will omit speaking of the laws and speak of the arms." Machiavelli "God is the great urge that has not yet found a body but urges towards incarnation with the great creative urge." D.H. Lawrence The title of the sephira Gevurah is translated as "strength", and sometimes as "power". The sephira is also referred to by its alternative titles of Din, "justice", and Pachad, "fear". The title of the sephira Chesed is translated as "mercy" or "love", and it is often called Gedulah, "majesty" or "magnificence". Gevurah and Chesed lie on the Pillars of Form and Force respectively, and possess a more definite and generally agreed symbolism than any other sephiroth: Chesed stands for expansiveness and the creation and building-up of form, what can very appropriately be referred to as anabolism, and Gevurah stands for restraint and both the preservation of form, and the breaking-down (or catabolism) of form. Within the symbolism of the Kabbalah the most explicit and concrete expression of form occurs in Malkuth, the physical world, and as it takes a conscious being (e.g. thee and me) to comprehend the world in terms of forms which are built-up and broken down, so Chesed and Gevurah express something vital about our conscious relationship with the external, material world. When I see something beautiful being created I may well think this is "good", but when I see the same thing being wantonly destroyed, I would probably think this is "bad", and this type of thinking pervades early Kabbalistic writing. In his commentary on "The Bahir", Aryeh Kaplan writes [1]: "The concept of Chesed-Love is that of freely giving, while that of Gevurah-Strength is that of restraint. When it is said that Strength is restraint, it is in the sense of the teaching "Who is strong, he who restrains his urge". It is obvious that man can restrain his nature, but if man can do so, then God certainly can. God's nature, however, is to do good and therefore, when He restrains His nature, the result is evil. The sephira of Gevurah-Strength is therefore seen as the source of evil." The Zohar also contains many references to the "rigorous severity" of God (another synonym for Gevurah) and its being the source of evil in the creation. However, when one considers that the creation and uncontrolled growth of a cancer would correspond to Chesed, and the attempts of the immune system to contain and destroy it would correspond to Gevurah, it should be clear that it is not useful to consider creation and destruction in terms of good and evil. It *is* useful to look at a living, organic system as a *balance* between these two opposed tendencies, and the manifest Creation in Kabbalah is very definitely pictured as a living, organic system (i.e. a Tree of Life). The most vivid metaphors for Chesed and Gevurah come from a time when European societies were ruled by kings and queens, when (in principle at least) the ultimate authority and power in society rested in a single individual. Chesed corresponds to the creative aspects of leadership, and early texts are one-sided in characterising this by love, mercy and majesty. Gevurah corresponds to the conservative aspects of leadership, to the power to preserve the status-quo, and the power to destroy anything opposed to it. These two aspects go hand-in-hand - try to change anything of consequence in society, and someone will invariably oppose that change. To bring about change it is often necessary to have the power to over-rule opposition. Consensus is an impossibility in society - there will always be someone whose opinions are at best ignored and at worst suppressed - and Chesed and Gevurah represent respectively the kingly obligation to seek what is good for the many (enlightened leadership of course!), and the power to judge and punish those opposed to the will of the king. The following description of Margaret Thatcher comes from Nicholas Ridley, a minister in her cabinet [2]: "She governed with superb style, carrying every war into the enemy's camp, seeking to destroy rather than contain the opposition, and determined to blaze a radical trail. But she never let power corrupt her; nor did she ever fail to be compassionate and kind as a human being." Whether this description is accurate or not is irrelevant to this discussion; what it does do is capture in two sentences something essential about a leader, the balance between power, strength and militancy on one hand, and humanitarianism, compassion and caring on the other. This is very much a model of divine kingship (or queenship!): a king who loves and cares for his people and seeks to bring about "heaven on earth", but at the same time punishes transgression, and fights for and preserves what is good and worth preserving. Kabbalists thought of God in this way: God loves us (so the argument goes), and the mercy and benignity of God is represented by the sephira Chesed, but at the same time God has made his laws known to humankind and will judge and punish anyone who opposes these laws. Read the book of Proverbs in the Bible if you want to enter into this view of reality. Many modern Kabbalists have a more jaundiced view of leadership than medieval Kabbalists, and certainly do not see Chesed as purely the love or mercy of God. In the twentieth century we have seen a succession of leaders harness their vision, creativity and leadership to the four Vices of Chesed, which are tyranny, bigotry, hypocrisy and gluttony. It takes an uncommon skill and vision not only to contemplate the annihilation of entire races, but to create a structure in which it happens. And how many people would dream of a socialist utopia where traditional communities are forcibly bulldozed and replaced by dilapidated concrete slums, and have the power to bring this about? You may not like this kind of leadership, but it is still leadership, and in its own way it is inspired. A leader may be inspired by a vision, and may have the power to bring that vision into reality, but it is unfortunately also the case that the result can become a new definition of evil. Good and evil are not static qualities with fixed meanings; in every generation there are exemplars who define for the whole of society the meaning of the words in new contexts. Tamerlane may have built pyramids from skulls, but what did he know about asset stripping? Tyranny, bigotry, hypocricy and gluttony, the vices of Chesed, are the meat and drink of daily newspapers. Tyranny is leadership without authority, an illegitimate or unconstitutional leadership usually oiled with large helpings of cruelty, the Vice of Gevurah. Bigotry is a quick and easy way to drum up a power base: find a minority group in society, emphasise and magnify to grotesque proportions the differences between them and the rest of society, and use the natural fear of the strange or unfamiliar to do the rest. Hypocrisy can be found in religious leaders who denounce normal human behaviour as a sin, sin comprehensively in private, and use genuine religious aspirations as in excuse to line their pockets. It can be found in those who talk about the dictatorship of the proletariat in public and buy their luxury goods from exclusive party shops - the collapse of state socialism in Europe has revealed to those who didn't already know it the full extent to which pious utterances about social equality were a cover for almost limitless privileges for the few. Gluttony is over-consumption, an appetite well in excess of need, and one has only to remember Imelda Marcos's wardrobe to get the idea. It is virtually a fashion among modern tyrants to siphon billions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts - the scale on which men like Idi Amin Dada, Ferdinand Marcos, Baby Doc Duvalier, Mengistu, and Saddam Hussein (to name but a few) were able to beggar nations for their own personal advantage goes so far beyond any rational measure of human need it is hard to comprehend. When one looks at the worst twentieth century tyrants, men who were directly responsible for the deaths of thousands or millions of people, it is hard to find any Einsteins of evil - one is struck by the sheer ordinariness of these men. Clever, manipulative, politically adept, lucky, exceptional in their ability to climb to the top of the heap, successful in grasping and holding power, but not conscious, plotting allies of a terrible dark power. Behind the brutality, murder, torture, imprisonment, and the apparatus of oppression one can see a very human vulnerability, self-importance, vanity, folly, insecurity, and greed. The vices of Chesed are the vices of all the other sephiroth writ large - power magnifies a vice until it becomes a ravening monster. A man with rigid and unbending views on human morality will do no harm if he has no audience, but give him enough power and he will put society in chains which might last a thousand years. A greedy man with enough power might loot an entire country. A petty and irrational bigot with enough power might enslave or annihilate whole races. They say power corrupts, but this is not so; corruption is already within all of us, and we lack only the necessary authority and power to unleash our own personal evil on the world. The moral is that power needs to be tempered by mercy and love, and the correspondences for Chesed emphasise this so strongly it is easy to for a novice to ignore the appalling negative qualities of Chesed - power without restraint, indiscriminate destruction, everything in excess. The Virtue of Chesed is humility, the ideal of leadership without self- importance and all its accompanying vices. The Spiritual Vision of Chesed is the Vision of Love, love and caring for all living things, and the desire to find a way (be it ever so small - remember humility) to make the world a better place. There is a strong message in the positive correspondences for Chesed: without humility and love, leadership and power become the instruments of self-importance, and the petty vices of human nature are transformed into the monsters of evil which terrorise the human race. The illusion of Chesed is Right, in the sense of "being right". It is difficult to lead without conviction, when one sits on every fence and wavers on every question, but no-one is ever right with a capital "R", and anyone who seeks the reassurance of Being Right is evading the essence of responsibility. The qlippoth of Chesed is ideology, not in the philosophical sense, but in the common-use sense of "political ideology". The rationale behind this is that it is very easy to take a creed, or a doctrine, or a dogma, or whatever, and use it as a platform for leadership. If you see a politian (or a religious leader) being interviewed on television, and the response to every question is just the same old empty jargon, the same old formulae, the same old evasions, the same old arguments and irrefutable assertions, and you feel you have heard the same thing a dozen times before out of a dozen different mouths, then this is the dead, empty shell of leadership. The sephira Gevurah is as often misunderstood as the sephira Chesed. The planet associated with Chesed is (appropriately) Tzedek, Jupiter, leader of the gods; the planet associated with Gevurah is Madim, Mars, the god of war and destruction. The magical image of Gevurah is a king in a chariot, or conversely a mighty warrior. Most novices take this imagery at face value and envision Gevurah as a very forceful, violent and destructive sephira, and cannot understand why it is positioned on the pillar of form. Almost all novices will (wrongly) attribute the emotion of anger to Gevurah. It is worth recalling from Chapter 3. the traditional Kabbalistic view [3]: "It must be remembered that to the Kabbalist, judgement [Din - judgement, a title of Gevurah] means the imposition of limits and the correct determination of things. According to Cordovero the quality of judgement is inherent in everything insofar as everything wishes to remain what it is, to stay within its bounderies." This is a statement about *form*. The form of something determines what it *is*, in distinction from everything else, and when it no longer has that form, it no longer *is*. Take a table tennis ball and squash it; it stops being a table tennis stops being a ball. Something still exists in the world, but its form *as a ball* has been destroyed. Take these notes and randomly jumble the letters; the letters still exist, but the notes are gone. These notes are contained in the *form* of the letters; destroy the form of the letters and the notes are also destroyed. Everything in the world *is* its form. We cannot see the natural substance of the world; we cannot see atoms, and even if we could, we would see protons, neutrons and electrons arranged in different *forms* to create the chemical elements. It has taken physicists most of this century to deduce that the protons, neutrons and electrons are not the "true" stuff of the world, and underneath there might be "quarks", "leptons" and "gluons" arranged in different *forms* to create the fundamental particles. Is that the end? Are quarks and gluons the "true stuff", the raw, primal gloop which carries all form? No-one knows. Sometimes I think, in common with the earliest Kabbalists, that Malkuth sits upon the throne of Binah, and at no point will we find the raw gloop of Malkuth. Someone will write down an equation and show the properties of quarks and gluons are a natural consequence of the *form* of the equation, and the form of the equation is one of those things beyond any possibility of explanation. "Look" we will say, "The form of all things is a potential outcome of this one equation. The mother of everything that exists can be written down on a piece of paper. Look, here it is!" There is a deep mystery in form. The world is made not of things, but of patterns. In our minds we accept the reality of these patterns, and forget that the sweet, white stuff we put in our tea and coffee is just one of an infinite number of patterns of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Carbon is just one of a large number of combinations of protons, neutrons and electrons, and so on. We forget that "War and Peace" is just one of an infinite number of combinations of letters of the alphabet. The patterns are our reality, and I suspect that *only* the patterns are real - there is nothing more real than patterns waiting to be discovered. I have read graduate texts on quantum electrodynamics and quantum chromodynamics, and I find no grey gloop mentioned anywhere. These texts do not explain the world, but they predict it, often with astonishing accuracy, and something one does not find is a prediction that the world is founded on a formless gloop. As a programmer I have built realities out of pure mathematical forms - sets, functions, containers - and nowhere did I need any grey gloop; my worlds were the way they were because the objects within them behaved the way they did, and that behaviour was simply the structure or form I created. The view of reality in Wittgenstein's "Tractatus" [4] has a deeply Kabbalistic (if one-sided) flavour, the Vision of Splendour of Hod in a distilled form: "If I know an object I also know all its possible occurences in states of affairs. (Every one of these possibilities must be part of the nature of the object). A new possibility cannot be discovered later. If I am to know an object, though I need not know its external properties, I must know all its internal properties. If all objects are given, then at the same time all *possible* states of affairs are also given. Each thing is, as it were, in a space of possible states of affairs. ........ Objects contain the possibility of all situations. The possibility of its occuring in states of affairs is the *form* of an object." (my italics) I have digressed this far into the nature of form because I do not believe it is possible to understand either Chesed or Gevurah in depth without understanding the importance of form in Kabbalah, and when talking about form I am not "talking mystical". Programmers work with form; they shape programs out of forms with the same inquisitive delight as a glassblower handling a blob of molten glass. They talk about objects, and behaviours, and classify objects in hierarchies according to behaviour. They *create* new objects with a given abstract behaviour; they leave unwanted objects to be tidied up by the "garbage collector". There is much more which can be said about this, but as many people are not programmers and most programmers do not admit to being Kabbalists, I must leave this as a trail to be followed. The important point is that when I talk about form I find similar thinking in chemistry, physics, computer science, and Kabbalah; the world of human beings is perceived in terms of form, and form is created and destroyed. That is what Chesed and Gevurah represent. The sephira Binah is the mother of form. That is, Binah contains within her womb the potential of all form, just as woman in the abstract contains within her womb the potential of all babies. The birth of form takes place in Chesed, and that is why Chesed corresponds to the visionary; the preservation and destruction of form takes place in Gevurah, and that is why Gevurah corresponds to the warrior. In most societies even a warrior takes second place to the Law. The Law comes first, and the warrior swears to defend both the Law and the country. This may sound a little idealistic, but if one takes the trouble to listen to a few oaths of allegiance (e.g. British Police, British Army, Soviet Army) one should find that the essence is to obey, uphold and defend. Nothing about violence, destruction, mayem or anger. The essence of Gevurah is to uphold and defend - as Cordovero says, "the quality of judgement is inherent in everything insofar as everything wishes to remain what it is, to stay within its bounderies". If Cordovero had the jargon he might have talked about "the immune system of God". The Virtues of Gevurah are courage and energy. There is a saying among managers that "any fool can manage when things are going well". The acid test of management is to have the courage to tackle, and essentially destroy, organisations (forms) which no longer work, and to have the energy to keep going against the inevitable opposition. The Vice of Gevurah is cruelty - power is seductive, and destruction can be pleasurable. The spiritual experience of Gevurah is the Vision of Power, and the Illusion is invincibility. I don't think these need any explanation. The qlippoth of Gevurah is bureaucracy, in the common-use sense of a system of rules and procedures which has become an end in itself. My most memorable experience was the time I went into a social security office to ask whether they could issue me with a social security number. "You'll have to take a ticket and wait," the woman behind the counter said. "But you only have to tell me yes or no," I protested. "You'll have to take a ticket and wait!" she snapped. So I took a ticket and waited for twenty minutes. When my turn came I asked the question again. "Can you issue me with a social security number here?" "No! Next please!" This is probably not the best example of the dead hand of bureaucracy at work, as it contains a certain amount of deliberate cruelty, but we have all encountered endless forms which *have* to be filled in, pointless procedures which *have* to be observed, interminable delays and so on. The essence of bureaucracy is that there is real power behind it, otherwise we wouldn't suffer the indignities, but the power is locked up and everyone is rendered impotent by the *forms* of bureaucracy. Gevurah is a hard sephirah to work with, as Kabbalistic magicians often discover to their cost. There is absolutely no place for emotion, no place for excess, no place for ego. The warrior works within the Law, and ignorance of the Law is not an excuse. If you don't know what the Law is, don't work with Gevurah. Most people are sloppy in thinking about problems, and take what appears to be the simplest and superficially most convenient solution. Gevurah is clinically exact, and if you invoke Gevurah you are invoking well above the level of emotion, particularly *your* emotions, and as you judge, so will you be judged. Invoke on the Pillar of Form, and cause and effect will follow without the slightest regard for your feelings. All good programmers who have sweated throughout the night with a programming error of their own making know this in their bones. Associated with Chesed and Gevurah are two tendencies which are so pronounced, readily observed, and deeply rooted that I have called them the Power myth and the Annihilation myth, where I use the word myth in the sense that there is pre-existent, archtypal script in which anyone can play the role of protagonist. The Power myth features a protagonist who seeks power because power means control. Everything is specified and controlled down to the finest detail to eliminate every possibility of discomfort, surprise or insecurity. The world becomes an impersonal mechanism designed to provide for every demand. The natural world is destroyed to reduce its unpredictability and untidyness. All knowledge is subverted to control. Personal relationships are restricted and formalised to minimise intrusion or any possibility of personal hurt, and are modelled to increase self-importance. Anyone who won't play can be removed or suitably punished. The protagonist lives at the centre of the world. In the Annihilation myth the protagonist lives for the Cause. The Cause is the most important thing in life. The protagonist prays to be released from the thrall of ego and self- importance that he may better serve the Cause with every atom of his soul. "Yea, I am nothing", he whispers, "Less than the smallest worm in the ground compared with the glory of the Cause. I humble myself before the Cause. I live only to serve the Cause." Pain, suffering and death are mere adornments for the ever-lasting glory of the Cause. The Cause might be the Beloved, the Revolution, the Great Work, the Mistress or Master, or God (to name only a few). Examples of both these myths in practice are legion; two examples are the package-holiday tourist as an example of the Power myth, and many Christian mystics as an example of the Annihilation myth. Both myths can be observed in glorious, infinitely repetitive, and predictable detail in S&M fantasies. The God name associated with Chesed is "El", or Almighty God. The archangel is Tzadkiel, the "Righteousness of God". The angel order is the Chashmalim, or Shining Ones. In Ezekiel, Chashmal is a substance which forms the splendour of God's countenance, and as chashmal is the modern Hebrew word for electricity, I find it useful to think of the Chashmalim in terms of crackling thunderbolts - it goes well with the Jupiter correspondence. The God name associated with Gevurah is Elohim Gevor. All the sephiroth on the Pillar of Form use Elohim in their God names, and in this case it is qualified by "gevor", a word which expresses the qualities of a great hero - strength, might, and courage. The name is sometimes translated as "God of Battles". The archangel is is sometimes given as Kamiel, and sometimes as Samael. Samael, the "Poison of God" is an angel with a *long* history - see [5], and is essentially the Angel of Death. Samael is not the first choice of angel to invoke when working Gevurah - work on Gevurah is tricky at the best of times, and the Angel of Death does not mess around. Neither does Kamiel (which I have been told means "sword of God" - I cannot confirm this), but there is marginally more scope for interpretation! The angel order is the Seraphim, or Fiery Serpents. Chesed and Gevurah are the sceptre and sword of a king; there are many statues of medieval kings in British cathedrals which show a king seated with the sceptre of legitimate authority in one hand and the sword of temporal might in the other. In Kabbalah the King corresponds to the sephira Tiphereth, the union of Chesed and Gevurah. This is a symbol of a human being in relationship to the world - at the bottom of all initiations is the full consciousness that we are kings and queens with the freedom and power to do anything we please, and total responsibility for the consequences of everything we do. Somewhere between the extremes of power and love each one of us has to find our own balance, and somewhere in a garden a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil still grows, and still bears fruit. [1] Kaplan, Aryeh, "The Bahir", Samuel Weiser 1979 [2] Ridley, Nicholas, "My Style of Government: The Thatcher Years" Hutchinson 1991 [3] Scholem, Gershom G., "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism", Schocken 1974 [4] Wittgenstein, Ludwig, "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus", Routledge 1974 [5] Graves, R., and Patai, R., "Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis", Arena, 1989 Copyright Colin Low 1991 Post: 395 of 396 From: (Colin Low) Newsgroups: alt.magick Subject: Notes on Kabbalah Part 9 (long) Date: 15 Jan 92 16:31:33 GMT Organization: Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Bristol, UK. Lines: 475 **************************************************************************** Notes on Kabbalah The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes. Release 2.0 Copy date: 15th. January 1992 Copyright Colin Low 1992 ( **************************************************************************** Chapter 4: The Sephiroth (continued) ======================== This chapter provides a detailed look at each of the ten sephiroth and draws together material scattered over previous chapters. Daath and the Abyss ------------------- "When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you" Nietzsche "Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being - like a worm" Sartre In modern Kabbalah there is a well developed notion of an Abyss between the three supernal sephiroth of Kether, Chokhmah, and Binah, and the seven lower sephiroth. When one looks at the progress of the Lightning Flash down the Tree of Life, then one finds that it follows the path structure connecting sephiroth *except* when it makes the jump from Binah to Chesed, thus reinforcing this idea of a "gap" or "gulf" which has to be crossed. This notion of an Abyss is extremely old and has found its way into Kabbalah in several different forms, and in the course of time they have all been mixed together into the notion of "the Great Abyss"; the Great Abyss is one of those things so necessary that like God, if it didn't already exist, it would have to be invented. One of the earliest sources for the Abyss comes from the Bible: "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." Kabbalists adopted this view that there was a time before the creation characterised by Tohu and Bohu, namely Chaos and Emptiness [1]. Another idea mentioned several times in the Zohar [2] is that there were several failed attempts at creation *before* the present one; these attempts failed because mercy and judgement (e.g. force and form) were not balanced, and the resulting detritus of these failed attempts, the broken shells of previous sephiroth, accumulated in the Abyss. Because the shells (Qlippoth) were the result of unbalanced rigour or judgement they were considered evil, and the Abyss became a repository of evil spirits not dissimilar from the pit of Hell into which the rebellious angels were cast, or the rebellious Titans in Greek mythology who were buried as far beneath the Earth as the Earth is beneath the sky. Another theme which contributed to the notion of the Abyss was the legend of the Fall. According to the Kabbalistic interpretation of the Biblical myth, at the conclusion of the act of Creation there was a pure state, denoted by Eden, where the primordial Adam-and-Eve-conjoined existed in a state of divine perfection. There are various esoteric interpretations of what the Fall represents, but all agree that after the Fall Eden became inaccessible and Adam and Eve were separated and took on bodies of flesh here in the material world. This theme of separation from God and exile in a world of matter (and by extension, limitation, finiteness, pain, suffering, death - manifestations of the rigours or evil inherent in God) precedes Kabbalah and can be found in the Gnostic legend of Sophia exiled in matter. This idea of separation or exile from divinity mirrors very closely the use of the Abyss on the modern Tree to divide the sephiroth representing a human being from the sephiroth representing God. Isaac Luria (1534 -1572) introduced a new element into the notion of the Abyss with his idea of "tzimtzum" or contraction. Luria wondered how it was possible for the hidden God (En Soph) to create something out of nothing if there wasn't any nothing to begin with. If the En Soph (no-end, the infinite) is everywhere then how can we be distinct from the En-Soph? Luria argued that creation was possible because a contraction in the En Soph had created an emptiness where God was not, that En Soph had chosen to limit itself by a withdrawal, and this showed that the principle of self-limitation was a necessary precursor to creation; not only did this explain why the Creation is separate from the hidden God, but it emphasised that limitation was inherent in creation from the very beginning. Limitation, finiteness, the separation of one thing from another, what early Kabbalists referred to as the severity or "strict judgement" of God (what modern Kabbalists call "form") was a puzzling quality to introduce into the Creation given that it is the source of suffering and evil in the impersonal sense, what Dion Fortune calls "negative evil" [3]. Luria's notion of tsimtsum suggested that there was no possibility of creation without it, and provided a rather abstract explanation to one of the most persistent questions of all time, namely: "if God made the world and God is good, how come he made mosquitoes?". Pull together the various ideas of the Great Abyss and one ends up with a sort of vast, initially empty arena like a Roman amphitheatre where the drama of the Creation was enacted. The mysterious En Soph played a brief role as director from the imperial box, only to retire behind a veil at the conclusion of the performance leaving behind a huge power cord snaking in from the unknown region beyond the arena, and plugged-in to a socket at the rear of the sephira Kether. The lights of the sephiroth blaze out and illuminate the centre of this vast arena; this is Olam Ha-Nekudoth, "The World of Point Lights". At the periphery of the arena far from the lights of manifestation there is a deep darkness where all the cast-off detritus and spoil of the creation was deposited by weary angels and left to rot. A strange life lives there. The situation was more-or-less as described above when in 1909 Aleister Crowley decided to "cross the Abyss" and added to the mythology of the Abyss with the following description [4]: "The name of the Dweller in the Abyss is Choronzon, but he is not really an individual. The Abyss is empty of being; it is filled with all possible forms, each equally inane, each therefore evil in the only true sense of the word - that is, meaningless but malignant, in so far as it craves to become real. These forms swirl senselessly into haphazard heaps like dust devils, and each chance aggregation asserts itself to be an individual and shrieks `I am I!' though aware all the time that its elements have no true bond; so that the slightest disturbance dissipates the delusion just as a horseman, meeting a dust devil, brings it in showers of sand to the earth." I was struck when reading this by the similarity between Crowley's description above and the section on Hod and Netzach in which I described the chaos of a personality under the control of the "hosts" or "armies" of those two sephira, where a host of forms of behaviour compete for the right to be "me". Crowley's experience has far more in common with the rending of the Veil of Paroketh separating Yesod and Tiphereth, and further comments by Crowley add weight to this: "As soon as I had destroyed my personality, as soon as I had expelled my ego, the universe to which it was indeed a frightful and fatal force, fraught with every form of fear, was only so in relation to the idea `I'; so long as `I am I' all else must seem hostile. Now that there was no longer any `I' to suffer, all these ideas which had inflicted suffering became innocent. I could praise the perfection of every part; I could wonder and worship the whole." This is a very recognisable description of someone who has been released from the demon of the false self and the imprisoning triad of Hod, Netzach and Yesod, and moved through the Paroketh towards Tiphereth. Crowley's experience is valid as it stands, but what it might mean to "cross the Abyss", and the absurdity of Crowley's belief that he had achieved this, will be examined in the following section on Binah and Chokhmah. A twentieth-century Kabbalist who did succeed in adding something useful to the ever-expanding notion of the Abyss was Dion Fortune, in her theosophical work "The Cosmic Doctrine" [3]. The form of this work appears to have been inspired by Blavatsky's "The Secret Doctrine", and certainly lives up to Fortune's claim that it was "designed to train the mind, not to inform it." Fortune describes three processes arising out of the Unmanifest (i.e. En Soph). Ring Cosmos is an anabolic process underlying the creation of forms of greater and greater complexity. Ring Chaos is a catabolic process underlying the destruction and recycling of form. Ring-Pass-Not is a limit where catabolism turns back into anabolism. She visualised this as three great rings of movement in the Unmanifest, with the motion associated with Ring Cosmos spiralling towards the centre, the movement of Ring Chaos unwinding towards the periphery, and the dead-zone of Ring-Pass-Not defining the outer limit of Ring Chaos as an abyss of unbeing, a cosmic compost heap where form is digested under the dominion of the Angel of Death and turned into something fertile where new growth can take place. The similarity between Fortune's description of Ring Chaos and what in programming is called a "reference-counting garbage collector" is remarkable, given that she was writing in the 30's. Many programming languages allow new programming structures to be created dynamically, thus allowing the creation of more and more complex structures. At the same time there is a mechanism to reclaim unused resources so that the system does not run out of memory or disc space, and the normal scheme is that if a structure is not referenced by any other structure, recycle it. In Fortune's language, if you want to destroy something, you "make a vacuum round it (i.e. remove all references). You prevent opposition from touching it. Then, being unopposed, it is free to follow the laws of its own nature, which is to join the motion of Ring Chaos." "Cosmic Doctrine" is a valiant attempt to say something quite profound; at an intellectual level it fails "abysmally", and I cannot read it without squirming, but it still has more raw Kabbalistic and magical insight at an intuitive level than just about anything else I have read. The idea of a cosmic reference- counting garbage collection process and an abyss of unbeing which is not so much a state as a process of unbecoming is something not easily forgotten once touched. A final example of an abyss is one which differs from the previous examples in that it brings to the fore the relationship between us, the created, and the Unmanifest, the En Soph itself. Kabbalistic writers agree that the Unmanifest is not nothing; on the contrary, it is the hidden wellspring of being, but as it is "not manifest being" it combines the words "not" and "being" in a conjuction which can be apprehended as a kind of abyss. Scholem [6] discusses this "nothingness" as follows: "The primary start or wrench in which the introspective God is externalised and the light that shines inwardly made visible, this revolution of perspective, transforms En Soph, the inexpressible fullness, into nothingness. It is in this mystical "nothingness" from which all the other stages of God's gradual enfolding in the Sefiroth emanate, and which the kabbalists call the highest Sefira, or the "supreme crown" of Divinity. To use another metaphor, it is the abyss which becomes visible in the gaps of existence. Some Kabbalists who have developed this idea, for instance Rabbi Joseph ben Shalom of Barcelona (1300), maintain that in every transformation of reality, in every change of form, or every time the status of a thing is altered, the abyss of nothingness is crossed and for a fleeting mystical moment becomes visible." It should be clear by now that the Abyss is a metaphor for a number of intuitions or experiences. I do not know how many different kinds of abyss there are, but there are some distinctions which can be made: - the Abyss of nothingness - the Abyss of separation - the Abyss of knowledge - the Abyss of un-being (or un-becoming) The perception that being and nothingness go hand-in-hand is something Sartre studied in great depth [7], and many of his observations on the nature of consciousness and its relatationship to negation or nothingness are among the most perceptive I have found. His arguments are lengthy and complex, and I do not wish to summarise them here other than to say that he viewed nothingness as the necessary consequence of a special kind of being he calls "being-for-itself", the kind of being we experience as self-conscious human beings. The Abyss of separation can be experienced as a separation from the divine, but it can also be experienced quite acutely in one's relationships with others and with the physical world itself. Much of what we perceive about the world and other people is an illusion created by the machinery of perception; strip away the trick, Yesod becomes Daath, and a yawning abyss opens up where one is conscious less of what one knows than of what one does not; it is possible to look at a close friend and see something more alien, remote and unknown than the surface of Pluto. This experience is closely related to the Abyss of knowledge, which is discussed in more detail in the discussion on Daath below. The Abyss of un-being is the direct perception that at any instant it is possible to not-be. This perception goes beyond the contemplation or awareness of physical death; it is the direct apprehension of what Dion Fortune calls "Ring Chaos", that un- being is less a state than a process, that at every instant there is an impulse, a magnetic attraction towards total self- annihilation on every level possible. The closer one moves towards the roots of being, the closer one moves towards the roots of un-being. Daath means "Knowledge". In early Kabbalah Daath was a symbol of the union of Wisdom (Chokhmah) and Understanding (Binah). The book of Proverbs is rich mine of material on the nature of these three qualities, material which forms the basis of many ideas in the Zohar and other Kabbalistic texts; e.g. Proverbs 3.13: "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding....She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her. The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he founded the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew" And Proverbs 24.3: "Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding is it established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all pleasant and precious riches." In the "Bahir" [8] and "Zohar" [e.g. 2] Daath represents the symbolic union of wisdom and understanding, and is their offspring or child. As the Microprosopus, often symbolised by Tiphereth, is also the symbolic child of Chokhmah and Binah, there is some room for confusion. According to the Zohar however, Daath has a specific location in the Microprosopus, namely in one of the three chambers of the brain, from where it mediates between the higher (Chokhmah and Binah) and the lower (the six sephiroth or "chambers" of the Microprosopus - see the reference to Proverbs 24.3 above). I have often puzzled as to why knowledge is the natural outcome of wisdom and understanding. It was only recently when I read Proverbs that I realised that wisdom was being used in the sense of something *external*, something which is received from someone else. As children we were told "do this" or "don't do that", and often couldn't question the wisdom of the advice because we lacked the understanding. I once had a furious row with my father about building a liquid fuel rocket engine in the house using petrol and hydrogen peroxide. He flatly refused to let me do it. I couldn't understand the problem - I was going to be careful. I now *know*, because I *understand* the stupidity of what I was trying to do, the *wisdom* of his refusal. Received wisdom cannot be integrated into oneself unless there is the capacity to understand it, and having understood, it becomes real knowledge which can be passed on again as wisdom to someone else. For early Kabbalists the ultimate wisdom was the wisdom of God as expressed in the Torah, and by attempting to understand this wisdom (and that is what Kabbalah was) they could arrive at the only knowledge truely worth having. Knowledge of God was the union between the higher and lower, and perhaps this is why Daath was never a sephiroth, something which manifests positively; since the Fall that knowledge has been lost. One of the unattributable pieces of Kabbalah I was taught was that Daath is the hole left behind when Malkuth fell out of the Garden of Eden. If you examine my derivation of the Tree of Life in Chapter 1. closely you will see that I have based some of it on this very astute observation. The notion of Daath as a "hole" appears to have originated this century. Gareth Knight, for example [9], provides a complete set of correspondences for Daath, many of which happen to be negative Tiphereth correspondences or misplaced correspondences borrowed from other sephiroth, but one at least is appropriate: he gives the magical image of Daath as Janus, god of doorways. Kenneth Grant [10], with his usual florid imagination, sees Daath as a gateway through to "outer spaces beyond, or behind, the Tree itself" dominated by Qlippothic forces. There is a deep correspondence between sephiroth in the lower face of the Tree and sephiroth in the upper face: look at the symmetry of the Tree and you should see why Malkuth, Tiphereth and Kether are linked, why Hod and Binah are linked, why Chokhmah and Netzach are linked, and most importantly for the purposes of this discussion, that there is a correspondence between Yesod and Daath. These are not just simple geometric symmetries; they express some important relationships which are experientially verifiable, and in terms of what makes most sense in Kabbalah and what does not, these relationships are important. Daath and Yesod, at different levels, are like two sides of the same coin. Jam the machinery of perception I said above, and Yesod can become Daath. The following quotation is taken from an bona-fide anthropological article [11] attempting to explain some of the characteristic features of cave art: "Moving into a yet deeper stage of trance is often accompanied, according to laboratory reports, by an experience of a vortex or rotating tunnel that seems to surround the subject. The external world is progressively excluded and the inner world grows more florid. Iconic images may appear on the walls of the vortex, often imposed on a lattice of squares, like television screens. Frequently there is a mixture of iconic and geometric forms. Experienced shamans are able to plunge rapidly into deep trance, where they manipulate the imagery according to the needs of the situation. Their experience of it, however, is of a world they have come briefly to inhabit; not a world of their own making, but a spirit world they are privileged to visit." This will come as no surprise to anyone who has read Michael Harner's "The Way of the Shaman" [5]. There on page 103 (plate 8) is a beautiful picture of the tunnel vortex, complete with prisms. When I first saw this picture I was astonished and recognised it instantly, prisms and all; when I showed it to my wife her reaction was the same. The tunnel vortex appears to be one of the constants of magical/mystical experience, and it appears in a very precise context. In Kabbalah the shamanic tunnel would be attributed to the 32nd. path connecting Malkuth to Yesod; this path connects the real world to the underworld of the imagination and the unconscious, and is commonly symbolised by a tunnel [eg.9]. However, using the symmetry of the Tree, this path also corresponds to the path at another level connecting Tiphereth across the Abyss, through Daath, to Kether. The tunnel/vortex at this level is no longer subjective, because this level of the Tree corresponds to the noumenal reality underpinning the phenomenal world, and links individual self- consciousness to something greater. Just as Yesod represents the machinery of sense perception, so Daath can flip over to become the Yesod of another level of perception, not sense perception, but something completely different that seems to operate out of the "back door" of the mind; this is objective knowledge, what used to be called gnosis. To conclude this section on Daath and the Abyss, it is worth asking what the relationship between the two ideas is. As I programmer I am continually aware of the gulf between abstract ideas, such as the number two and its physical representations in the world: 2, II, .., two etc. The number two can be represented in an infinite number of ways, and it is only when you share some understanding of my language that you can *begin* to guess that a particular mark in the world represents the number two. The situation is even worse than it might seem; a basic theorem of information theory states that the optimum way of expressing any piece of information is one where the symbols occur completely randomly. I could take this paragraph, pass it through an optimal text compressor and the same piece of text would be indistinguishable from random garbage. Only I, knowing the compression procedure, could extract the original message from the result. Whatever we call information appears to exist independently of the physical world, and uses the world of chalk marks, ink marks, magnetic domains or whatever like a rider uses a horse. To me, the gulf is irreconcilable; between the physical world and the world of the mind is an abyss, and I am not indulging in "new physics" or anything vaguely suspect - this is meat and drink to the average progammer, who spends most of his or her time transforming abstractions from one symbol set to another. To take a slightly different approach, there is a mathematical proof that there is no largest prime number. I know that proof. No dissection of my brain will ever reveal the proof to someone who does not know it. I am prepared to bet a large quantity of alcohol that it is theoretically impossible to discover; the proof that there is no largest prime number will never be extracted even if you assume a neurologist capable of mapping every atom in my brain. Evolution tends towards optimality, and I think the proof will be encoded optimally to look like random garbage. There is an abyss here; there is knowledge which can never be attained. In Kabbalah this particular abyss is called the abyss of Assiah; it is the first in a series of abysses. The next abyss is the abyss of Yetzirah, and it is this abyss I have been discussing for most of this section. There are further abysses, and this should be clearer when I discuss the Four Worlds and the Extended Tree. The Abyss and Daath go together because the Abyss sets a limit on what can be *known* from below the Abyss; the abyss is an abyss of knowledge, and Daath is the hole we fall into when we try probe beyond. Can the nature of God be expressed in terms of anything human? No. God is as human as a cockroach, as human as a lump of stone, as human as a star, as human as empty space. So how can you *know* anything about God? Only when Daath flips over to become the Yesod of another world can you *know* anything, but unfortunately the fiery speech of angels is like leprecaun's gold: by the time you've taken it home to show to your friends, you've nothing but a purse of dried leaves. [1] Robert Graves & Raphael Patai, "Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis", Arena 1989 [2] Mathers, S.L., "The Kabbalah Unveiled", RKP 1981 [3] Fortune, Dion, "The Cosmic Doctrine", Aquarian 1976 [4] Crowley, Aleister, "The Confessions of Aleister Crowley", Bantam 1970 [5] Harner, Michael, "The Way of the Shaman", Bantam 1982 [6] Scholem, Gershom G., "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism", Schocken 1974 [7] Sarte, Jean-Paul, "Being and Nothingness", Routledge 1989 [8] Kaplan, Aryeh, "The Bahir Illumination", Weiser 1989 [9] Knight, Gareth, "A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism", Vols 1 & 2, Helios 1972 [10] Grant, Kenneth, "Cults of the Shadow", Muller 1975 [11] Lewin, Roger, "Stone Age Psychedelia", New Scientist 8th. June 1991 Copyright Colin Low 1991


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