Tag: Kabbalah

Sex Magic, Tantra and Tarot, by Christopher S. Hyatt and Lon Milo DuQuette

By Psyche | May 28, 2005 | Leave a comment

Sex Magic, Tantra and Tarot, by Christopher S. Hyatt and Lon Milo DuQuetteSex Magic, Tantra & Tarot: The Way of the Secret Lover, by Christopher S. Hyatt and Lon Milo DuQuette
New Falcon Publications, 1561840440, 191 pp. (incl. appendices), 1991, 1996, 2004

Sex Magic, Tantra & Tarot isn’t an introductory book on sex magick, nor is it about sex magick in general. Rather this work focuses on the aspects of sex magick relating more specifically to the theory and practice leading to one specific ritual, with an additional one thrown in for good measure. The principle purpose of this work leading towards the Ultimate Divination, a ritual using tarot to invoke one’s Holy Guardian Angel with ultimate purpose. Continue reading


Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, by Rachel Pollack

By Psyche | September 5, 2004 | Leave a comment

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot, by Rachel Pollack
0722535724, 354 pp (incl. bibliography and index), 1980, 1983, 1997

Previously, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom was comprised of two volumes, one tackling the major arcana, and the second the minor; this revised edition helpfully combines them into one hefty tome.

After a brief history lesson, Pollack begins to explore the major arcana in depth, guiding the reader along the Fool’s Journey. She compares and contrasts cards from several decks for many of the cards, drawing on a rich mythological background from various sources, Christian, Hindu, the quabalah and occult significance. Brief histories of the cards are described, also giving a divinatory upright and reversed meaning for each.

With the minor arcana, Pollack focuses on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, as it was among the first to use pictures of people in the cards in addition to the weapons. She takes direction primarily from Waite’s description and interpretation of the cards, while giving upright and reversed meanings.

Pollack also describes how to give a reading, outlines several spreads, including the familiar Celtic Cross, giving sample readings with each. She goes into more depth than most other works previous to it as she describes how to use Tarot, psychological readings, in meditation, spreads as mandalas, etc.

With Pollack’s clear, concise manner and style, it’s not surprising her Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is likely to be found among the books of any Tarot enthusiast – and rightly so. Whether using the Rider-Waite-Smith deck or one of it’s variations, this book is likely to be an invaluable tool to any student.


The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram

By Anonymous | February 3, 2004 | Leave a comment

From: [Name Removed Upon Request]
Subject: The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram
Date: Sun, 5 Dec 1993 06:43:43 GMT

The LBRP is called lesser because it acts lower on the Tree, in Malkuth. It utilizes the banishing pentagram of Earth, and no other Pentagrams. The Pentagram having four points corresponds to the four elements of Earth, plus a spirit point on the top. These pentagrams are derived from the Enochian tablets of the four elements laid out in a square (with the tablet of union above them). The banishing pentagram utilized here uses the point toward the Earth tablet, and banishes by drawing away from that point. These four elements are usually represented on the Tree of Life by drawing Malkuth with four parts. This ritual is traditionally taught in the first knowledge lecture where the candidate is preparing to enter the sephera of Malkuth.

The LBRP forms a multi-dimensional protective sphere around the person who resides in Malkuth. This sphere protects from all directions, including protection from astral or other attacks. This does not mean that walls of protection are appearing in other dimensions. The area of protection is around the person in Malkuth.

The SIRP and Hexagram rituals are called greater because they act higher on the Tree of Life. The points of the Hexagram representing the higher Sepheroth and planets other than Earth, with Tiphareth in the center. The invoking pentagrams utilize all four elemental pentagrams, not just Earth. They also use the active and passive spirit pentagrams, representing the invoking of the higher spiritual intelligences associated with the elements, rather than dealing with the elements themselves. These rituals are traditionally taught to the adept who has reached Tiphareth.


Chapter 4: The Sephiroth: Yesod

By Colin Low | April 14, 2002 | Leave a comment

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” 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:

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 pay phones 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” 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 visualization, focused 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 intuit 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 emphasize pure intuition are best (e.g. Tarot, runes, tea-leaves, flights of birds, patterns on the wallpaper, smoke. I heard of a Kabbalist ho 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.

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.

“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:

“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, 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. Organizations are just as prone to this as people.

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.


Chapter 4: The Sephiroth: Malkuth

By Colin Low | April 14, 2002 | Leave a comment

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 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 realization 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 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 &.

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 rarefied 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 realize 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”. The hierarchy of elemental powers can be found in “777”  and in Golden Dawn material – I have summarized 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” 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 has this to say about Aethyr:

“Now seeing that the soul is the essential form, intelligible and incorruptible, and is the first mover of the body, and is moved itself; but that the body, or matter, is of itself unable and unfit for motion, and does very much degenerate from the soul, it appears that there is a need of a more 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” 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 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 (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 recognize 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 through 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 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.

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.

Copyright Colin Low 1992 (cal@hplb.hpl.hp.com)


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