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Introduction to Kabbalah

Subject: Introduction to Kabbalah

[from ]


If a chemist from the twentieth century could step into a time-machine
and go back two-hundred years he or she would probably feel a deep
kinship with the chemists of that time, even though there might be
considerable differences in terminology, underlying theory, equipment
and so on.  Despite this kinship, chemists have not been trapped in the
past, and the subject as it is studied today bears little resemblance to
the chemistry of two hundred years ago.

Kabbalah has existed for nearly two thousand years, and like any living
discipline it has evolved through time, and it continues to evolve.  One
aspect of this evolution is that it is necessary for living Kabbalists
to continually "re-present" what they understand by Kabbalah so that
Kabbalah itself continues to live and continues to retain its usefulness
to each new generation.  If Kabbalists do not do this then it becomes a
dead thing, an historical curiousity (as was virtually the case within
Judaism by the nineteenth century).  These notes were written with that
intention:  to present one view of Kabbalah as it is currently practised
in 1992, so that people who are interested in Kabbalah and want to learn
more about it are not limited purely to texts written hundreds or
thousands of years ago (or for that matter, modern texts written about
texts written hundreds or thousands of years ago).  For this reason
these notes acknowledge the past, but they do not defer to it.  There
are many adequate texts for those who wish to understand Kabbalah as it
was practised in the past.

These notes have another purpose.  The majority of people who are drawn
towards Kabbalah are not historians; they are people who want to know
enough about it to decide whether they should use it as part of their
own personal mystical or magical adventure.  There is enough information
not only to make that decision, but also to move from theory into
practice.  I should emphasise that this is only one variation of
Kabbalah out of many, and I leave it to others to present their own
variants - I make no apology if the material is biased towards a
particular point of view.

The word "Kabbalah" means "tradition".  There are many alternative
spellings, the two most popular being Kabbalah and Qabalah, but Cabala,
Qaballah, Qabala, Kaballa (and so on) are also seen.  I made my choice
as a result of a poll of the books on my bookcase, not as a result of
deep linguistic understanding.

If Kabbalah means "tradition", then the core of the tradition was the
attempt to penetrate the inner meaning of the Bible, which was taken to
be the literal (but heavily veiled) word of God.  Because the Word was
veiled, special techniques were developed to elucidate the true
meaning....Kabbalistic theosophy has been deeply influenced by these
attempts to find a deep meaning in the Bible.

The earliest documents (~100 - ~1000 A.D.)  associated with Kabbalah
describe the attempts of "Merkabah" mystics to penetrate the seven halls
(Hekaloth) of creation and reach the Merkabah (throne-chariot) of God.
These mystics used the familiar methods of shamanism (fasting,
repetitious chanting, prayer, posture) to induce trance states in which
they literally fought their way past terrible seals and guards to reach
an ecstatic state in which they "saw God".  An early and highly
influential document (Sepher Yetzirah) appears to have originated during
the earlier part of this period.

By the early middle ages further, more theosophical developments had
taken place, chiefly a description of "processes" within God, and a
highly esoteric view of creation as a process in which God manifests in
a series of emanations.  This doctrine of the "sephiroth" can be found
in a rudimentary form in the "Yetzirah", but by the time of the
publication of the book "Bahir" (12th.  century) it had reached a form
not too different from the form it takes today.  One of most interesting
characters from this period was Abraham Abulafia, who believed that God
cannot be described or conceptualised using everyday symbols, and used
the Hebrew alphabet in intense meditations lasting many hours to reach
ecstatic states.  Because his abstract letter combinations were used as
keys or entry points to altered states of consciousness, failure to
carry through the manipulations correctly could have a drastic effect on
the Kabbalist.  In "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism" Scholem includes a
long extract of one such experiment made by one of Abulafia's students -
it has a deep ring of truth about it.

Probably the most influential Kabbalistic document, the "Sepher ha
Zohar", was published by Moses de Leon, a Spanish Jew, in the latter
half of the thirteenth century.  The "Zohar" is a series of separate
documents covering a wide range of subjects, from a verse-by-verse
esoteric commentary on the Pentateuch, to highly theosophical
descriptions of processes within God.  The "Zohar" has been widely read
and was highly influential within mainstream Judaism.

A later development in Kabbalah was the Safed school of mystics headed
by Moses Cordovero and Isaac Luria.  Luria was a highly charismatic
leader who exercised almost total control over the life of the school,
and has passed into history as something of a saint.  Emphasis was
placed on living in the world and bringing the consciousness of God
through *into* the world in a practical way.  Practices were largely

Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Judaism as a whole
was heavily influenced by Kabbalah, but by the beginning of this century
a Jewish writer was able to dismiss it as an historical curiousity.
Jewish Kabbalah has vast literature which is almost entirely
untranslated into English.

A development which took place almost synchronously with Jewish Kabbalah
was its adoption by many Christian mystics, magicians and philosphers.
Renaissance philosophers such as Pico della Mirandola were familiar with
Kabbalah and mixed it with gnosticism, pythagoreanism, neo-platonism and
hermeticism to form a snowball which continued to pick up traditions as
it rolled down the centuries.  It is probably accurate to say that from
the Renaissance on, virtually all European occult philosophers and
magicians of note had a working knowledge of Kabbalah.

It is not clear how Kabbalah was involved in the propagation of ritual
magical techniques, or whether it *was* involved, or whether the ritual
techniques were preserved in parallel within Judaism, but it is an
undeniable fact that the most influential documents appear to have a
Jewish origin.  The most important medieval magical text is the "Key of
Solomon", and it contains the elements of classic ritual magic - names
of power, the magic circle, ritual implements, consecration, evocation
of spirits etc.  No-one knows how old it is, but there is a reasonable
suspicion that its contents preserve techniques which might well date
back to Solomon.

The combination of non-Jewish Kabbalah and ritual magic has been kept
alive outside Judaism until the present day, although it has been
heavily adulterated at times by hermeticism, gnosticism, neo-platonism,
pythagoreanism, rosicrucianism, christianity, tantra and so on.  The
most important "modern" influences are the French magician Eliphas Levi,
and the English "Order of the Golden Dawn".  At least two members of the
G.D.  (S.L.  Mathers and A.E.  Waite) were knowledgable Kabbalists, and
three G.  D.  members have popularised Kabbalah - Aleister Crowley,
Israel Regardie, and Dion Fortune.  Dion Fortune's "Inner Light" has
also produced a number of authors:  Gareth Knight, William Butler, and
William Gray.

An unfortunate side effect of the G.D is that while Kabbalah was an
important part of its "Knowledge Lectures", surviving G.D.  rituals are
a syncretist hodge-podge of symbolism in which Kabbalah plays a minor or
nominal role, and this has led to Kabbalah being seen by many modern
occultists as more of a theoretical and intellectual discipline, rather
than a potent and self-contained mystical and magical system in its own

Some of the originators of modern witchcraft drew heavily on medieval
ritual and Kabbalah for inspiration, and it is not unusual to find
witches teaching some form of Kabbalah, although it is generally even
less well integrated into practical technique than in the case of the

The Kabbalistic tradition described in the notes derives principally
from Dion Fortune, but has been substantially developed over the past 30
years. I would like to thank M.S. and the T.S.H.U. for all the fun.

Chapter 1.: The Tree of Life

     At  the root of the Kabbalistic view of the world are  three
fundamental  concepts and they provide a natural place to  begin.
The  three concepts are force,  form and consciousness and  these
words  are  used in an abstract way,  as the  following  examples

     -  high  pressure steam in the cylinder of  a  steam  engine
     provides a force.  The engine is a form which constrains the

     -  a  river runs downhill under the force  of  gravity.  The
     river channel is a form which constrains the water to run in
     a well defined path.

     - someone wants to get to the centre of a garden  maze.  The
     hedges  are a form which constrain that person's ability  to
     walk as they please.

     -  a  diesel engine provides the force which drives  a  boat
     forwards.   A  rudder  constrains  its  course  to  a  given

     -  a  polititian wants to change the  law.  The  legislative
     framework  of  the country is a form which he  or  she  must
     follow if the change is to be made legally.

     - water sits in a bowl. The force of gravity pulls the water
     down. The bowl is a form which gives its shape to the water.

     -  a stone falls to the ground under the force  of  gravity.
     Its  acceleration  is constrained to be equal to  the  force
     divided by the mass of the stone.

     - I want to win at chess.  The force of my desire to win  is
     constrained within the rules of chess.

     - I see something in a shop window and have to have it. I am
     constrained  by  the conditions of sale (do  I  have  enough
     money, is it in stock).

     - cordite explodes in a gun barrel and provides an explosive
     force on a bullet. The gas and the bullet are constrained by
     the form of the gun barrel.

     - I want to get a passport. The government won't give me one
     unless I fill in lots of forms in precisely the right way.

     - I want a university degree.  The university won't give  me
     a  degree unless I attend certain courses and  pass  various

In all these examples there is something which is causing  change
to  take  place ("a force") and there is something  which  causes
change to take place in a defined way ("a form").  Without  being
too pedantic it is possible to identify two very different  types
of example here:

     1.  examples of natural physical processes (e.g.  a  falling
     stone) where the force is one of the natural forces known to
     physics (e.g.  gravity) and the form is is some  combination
     of physical laws which constrain the force to act in a  well
     defined way.

     2.  examples of people wanting something, where the force is
     some ill-defined concept of "desire",  "will",  or "drives",
     and  the form is one of the forms we impose  upon  ourselves
     (the rules of chess, the Law, polite behaviour etc.).

Despite  the  fact that the two different types  of  example  are
"only  metaphorically  similar",  Kabbalists see  no  fundamental
distiniction  between  them.  To the Kabbalist there  are  forces
which  cause  change  in  the  natural  world,   and  there   are
corresponding psychological forces which drive us to change  both
the world and ourselves,  and whether these forces are natural or
psychological they are rooted in the same  place:  consciousness.
Similarly,  there  are  forms which the component  parts  of  the
physical  world  seem  to  obey  (natural  laws)  and  there  are
completely  arbitrary forms we create as part of the  process  of
living (the rules of a game, the shape of a mug, the design of an
engine, the syntax of a language) and these forms are also rooted
in the same place:  consciousness. It is a Kabbalistic axiom that
there is a prime cause which underpins all the manifestations  of
force  and form in both the natural and psychological  world  and
that prime cause I have called consciousness for lack of a better
     Consciousness is undefinable.  We know that we are conscious
in different ways at different times - sometimes we feel free and
happy,  at other times trapped and confused,  sometimes angry and
passionate,  sometimes  cold  and restrained -  but  these  words
describe  manifestations  of consciousness.  We  can  define  the
manifestations  of  consciousness in terms of  manifestations  of
consciousness,  which is about as useful as defining an ocean  in
terms  of  waves  and  foam.   Anyone  who  attempts  to   define
consciousness  itself tends to come out of the same door as  they
went in. We have lots of words for the phenomena of consciousness
- thoughts,  feelings, beliefs, desires, emotions, motives and so
on  -  but few words for the states of consciousness  which  give
rise to these phenomena,  just as we have many words to  describe
the  surface  of a sea,  but few words to  describe  its  depths.
Kabbalah  provides  a  vocabulary  for  states  of  consciousness
underlying the phenomena,  and one of the purposes of these notes
is to explain this vocabulary,  not by definition,  but mostly by
metaphor  and analogy.  The only genuine method of  understanding
what  the  vocabulary  means is by attaining  various  states  of
consciousness in a predictable and reasonably objective way,  and
Kabbalah provides practical methods for doing this.
     A fundamental premise of the Kabbalistic model of reality is
that  there  is  a  pure,   primal,   and  undefinable  state  of
consciousness which manifests as an interaction between force and
form.  This is virtually the entire guts of the Kabbalistic  view
of  things,  and almost everything I have to say from now  on  is
based  on  this  trinity  of  consciousness,   force,  and  form.
Consciousness  comes first,  but hidden within it is an  inherent
duality;  there is an energy associated with consciousness  which
causes   change  (force),   and  there  is  a   capacity   within
consciousness  to constrain that energy and cause it to  manifest
in a well-defined way (form).

                       First Principle
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /                    \
                   /                      \
               Capacity                   Raw
               to take  ________________ Energy
                          Figure 1.

What do we get out of raw energy and an inbuilt capacity for form
and structure?  Is there yet another hidden potential within this
trinity waiting to manifest? There is. If modern physics is to be
believed we get matter and the physical world.  The  cosmological
Big  Bang  model of raw energy surging out from  an  infintesimal
point and condensing into basic forms of matter as it cools, then
into  stars and galaxies,  then planets,  and  ultimately  living
creatures,  has  many points of similarity with  the  Kabbalistic
model. In the Big Bang model a soup of energy condenses according
to  some  yet-to-be-formulated  Grand-Universal-Theory  into  our
physical  world.  What Kabbalah does suggest (and modern  physics
most  certainly does not!) is that matter and  consciousness  are
the  same  stuff,  and  differ only in the  degree  of  structure
imposed  -  matter  is consciousness so  heavily  structured  and
constrained  that  its behaviour becomes  describable  using  the
regular and simple laws of physics.  This is shown in Fig. 2. The
primal,  first principle of consciousness is synonymous with  the
idea of "God".

                       First Principle
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
               Capacity       |           Raw
               to take  _____________ Energy/Force
                Form          |
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                          The World

                          Figure 2

The glyph in Fig.  2 is the basis for the Tree of Life. The first
principle of consciousness is called Kether,  which means  Crown.
The  raw energy of consciousness is called Chockhmah  or  Wisdom,
and  the capacity to give form to the energy of consciousness  is
called Binah, which is sometimes translated as Understanding, and
sometimes  as  Intelligence.  The outcome of the  interaction  of
force and form,  the physical world,  called Malkuth or  Kingdom.
This  quaternery  is  a Kabbalistic  representation  of  God-the-
Knowable,  in the sense that it the most primitive representation
of God we are capable of comprehending;  paradoxically, Kabbalah
also  contains  a notion of God-the-Unknowable  which  transcends
this glyph,  and is called En Soph.  There is not much I can  say
about En Soph, and what I can say I will postpone for later.
     God-the-Knowable has four aspects,  two male and two female:
Kether and Chokhmah are both represented as male,  and Binah  and
Malkuth are represented as female.  One of the titles of Chokhmah
is Abba,  which means Father,  and one of the titles of Binah  is
Aima,  which means Mother,  so you can think of Chokhmah as  God-
the-Father,   and  Binah  as  God-the-Mother.    Malkuth  is  the
daughter, the female spirit of God-as-Matter, and it would not be
wildly  wrong to think of her as Mother Earth.  One of  the  more
pleasant things about Kabbalah is that its symbolism gives  equal
place to both male and female.
     And  what  of God-the-Son?  Is there also a  God-the-Son  in
Kabbalah?  There is, and this is the point where Kabbalah tackles
the interesting problem of thee and me.  The glyph in Fig. 2 is a
model of consciousness,  but not of self-consciousness, and self-
consciousness throws an interesting spanner in the works.

The Fall

     Self-consciousness  is like a mirror in which  consciousness
sees itself reflected.  Self-consciousness is modelled in Kabbalah
by making a copy of figure 2.

                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
              Consciousness   |      Consciousness
                   of  ________________   of
                  Form        |       Energy/Force
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                            of the

                          Figure 3

Figure 3.  is Figure 2. reflected through self-consciousness. The
overall  effect  of self-consciousness is to  add  an  additional
layer to Figure 2. as follows:

                       First Principle
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
               Capacity       |           Raw
               to take  _____________ Energy/Force
                Form          |
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
              Consciousness   |      Consciousness
                   of  ________________   of
                  Form        |       Energy/Force
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                            of the
                          The World

                          Figure 4

Fig.  2  is  sometimes  called "the Garden of  Eden"  because  it
represents a primal state of consciousness.  The effect of  self-
consciousness as shown in Fig.  4 is to drive a wedge between the
First Principle of Consciousness (Kether) and that  Consciousness
realised  as  matter and the physical world  (Malkuth).  This  is
called "the Fall",  after the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden
of Eden. From a Kabbalistic point of view the story of Eden, with
the  Tree  of Knowledge of Good and Evil,  the  serpent  and  the
temptation,  and the casting out from the Garden has a great deal
of   meaning   in  terms  of  understanding  the   evolution   of
     Self-consciousness    introduces   four   new   states    of
consciousness:  the  Consciousness  of  Consciousness  is  called
Tipheret,  which means Beauty;  the Consciousness of Force/Energy
is  called  Netzach,   which  means  Victory  or  Firmness;   the
Consciousness  of Form is called Hod,  which means  Splendour  or
Glory,  and  the Consciousness of Matter is called  Yesod,  which
means  Foundation.  These  four states  have  readily  observable
manifestations, as shown below in Fig. 5:

                           The Self
                     /        |         \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
                Language      |         Emotions
                 Reason       |         Feelings
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                      \   Perception   /

                           Figure 5

Figure 4.  is almost the complete Tree of Life,  but not quite  -
there  are  still two states missing.  The inherent  capacity  of
consciousness  to take on structure and objectify itself  (Binah,
God-the-Mother)  is  reflected through  self-consciousness  as  a
perception of the limitedness and boundedness of things.  We  are
conscious of space and time, yesterday and today, here and there,
you  and  me,  in and out,  life and  death,  whole  and  broken,
together and apart.  We see things as limited and bounded and  we
have a perception of form as something "created" and "destroyed".
My  car was built a year ago,  but it was  smashed  yesterday.  I
wrote an essay, but I lost it when my computer crashed. My granny
is dead. The river changed its course. A law has been repealed. I
broke  my  coffee  mug.  The world changes,  and  what  was  here
yesterday  is  not  here today.  This  perception  acts  like  an
"interface"   between  the  quaternary  of  consciousness   which
represents  "God",  and the quaternary which represents a  living
self-conscious  being,  and  two  new states  are  introduced  to
represent this interface. The state which represents the creation
of new forms is called Chesed,  which means Mercy,  and the state
which  represents  the destruction of forms  is  called  Gevurah,
which   means  Strength.   This  is  shown   in   Fig.   6.   The
objectification  of forms which takes place in  a  self-conscious
being,  and the consequent tendency to view the world in terms of
limitations and dualities (time and space,  here and  there,  you
and me,  in and out,  God and Man,  good and evil...) produces  a
barrier to perception which most people rarely overcome,  and for
this reason it has come to be called the Abyss. The Abyss is also
marked on Figure 6.

                       First Principle
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
               Capacity       |           Raw
               to take  _____________ Energy/Force
                Form          |            |
                  |\          |           /|
                  | \         |          / |
                  |   \       |        /   |
             Destruction      |        Creation
                 of_____\_____|_____ /____of
                Form     \    |     /    Form
                  | \     \   |    /    /  |
                  |  \     \  |   /    /   |
                  |   \ Consciousness /    |
                  |          of            |
                  |  /  Consciousness   \  |
                  | /         |          \ |
                  |/          |           \|
              Consciousness   |      Consciousness
                   of  ________________   of
                \ Form        |       Energy/Force
                 \ \          |           / /
                  \ \         |          / /
                  \  \        |         /  /
                   \    Consciousness     /
                   \         of           /
                    \     the World      /
                     \                  /
                      \       |        /
                       \      |       /
                        \     |      /
                          The World

                           Figure 6

The  diagram  in  Fig.   6  is  called  the  Tree  of  Life.  The
"constructionist"  approach I have used to justify its  structure
is  a little unusual,  but the essence of my presentation can  be
found  in  the "Zohar" under the guise of the  Macroprosopus  and
Microprosopus, although in this form it is not readily accessible
to  the average reader.  My attempt to show how the Tree of  Life
can be derived out of pure consciousness through the  interaction
of an abstract notion of force and form was not intended to be  a
convincing exercise from an intellectual point of view - the Tree
of  Life  is  primarily  a gnostic  rather  than  a  rational  or
intellectual  explanation  of consciousness and  its  interaction
with the physical world.
     The  Tree is composed of 10 states or  sephiroth  (sephiroth
plural,  sephira singular) and 22 interconnecting paths.  The age
of  this diagram is unknown:  there is enough information in  the
13th.  century "Sepher ha Zohar" to construct this  diagram,  and
the  doctrine of the sephiroth has been attributed to  Isaac  the
Blind in the 12th.  century,  but we have no certain knowledge of
its  origin.  It  probably originated sometime  in  the  interval
between the 6th.  and 13th.  centuries AD. The origin of the word
"sephira"  is unclear - it is almost certainly derived  from  the
Hebrew word for "number" (SPhR),  but it has also been attributed
to the Greek word for "sphere" and even to the Hebrew word for  a
sapphire (SPhIR).  With a characteristic aptitude for discovering
hidden meanings everywhere, Kabbalists find all three derivations
useful, so take your pick.
     In the language of earlier Kabbalistic writers the sephiroth
represented  ten primeval emanations of God,  ten  focii  through
which  the energy of a hidden,  absolute and unknown Godhead  (En
Soph)  propagated  throughout  the  creation,  like  white  light
passing  through  a prism.  The sephiroth can be  interpreted  as
aspects of God,  as states of consciousness,  or as nodes akin to
the  Chakras  in the occult anatomy of a human  being  .
     I  have left out one important detail from the structure  of
the  Tree.  There is an eleventh "something" which is  definitely
*not* a sephira,  but is often shown on modern representations of
the  Tree.  The Kabbalistic "explanation" runs as  follows:  when
Malkuth "fell" out of the Garden of Eden (Fig.  2) it left behind
a "hole" in the fabric of the Tree,  and this "hole",  located in
the centre of the Abyss,  is called Daath,  or Knowledge. Daath is
*not* a sephira; it is a hole. This may sound like gobbledy-gook,
and in the sense that it is only a metaphor, it is.
     The  completed  Tree of Life with the Hebrew titles  of  the
sephiroth is shown below in Fig. 7.

                           En Soph
                /                           \
               (            Kether           )
                       /   (Crown)    \
                      /       |        \
                     /        |         \
                    /         |          \
                Binah         |        Chokhmah
            (Understanding)__________  (Wisdom)
             (Intelligence)   |           |
                  |\          |          /|
                  | \       Daath       / |
                  |  \   (Knowledge)   /  |
                  |   \       |       /   |
               Gevurah \      |      /  Chesed
              (Strength)\_____|_____/__ (Mercy)
                  |      \    |    /    (Love)
                  | \     \   |   /     / |
                  |  \     \  |  /     /  |
                  |   \   Tipheret    /   |
                  |   /   (Beauty)    \   |
                  |  /        |        \  |
                  | /         |         \ |
                  |/          |          \|
                 Hod          |        Netzach
               (Glory) _______________(Victory)
              (Splendour)     |       (Firmness)
                 \ \          |           / /
                  \ \         |          / /
                  \  \        |         / /
                   \  \       |        /  /
                   \   \    Yesod     /  /
                    \    (Foundation)   /
                     \                 /
                      \       |       /
                       \      |      /
                        \     |     /

                           Figure 7

From  an historical point of view the doctrine of emanations  and
the  Tree  of  Life are only one small part of  a  huge  body  of
Kabbalistic speculation about the nature of divinity and our part
in  creation,  but it is the part which has  survived.  The  Tree
continues  to  be used in the Twentieth Century  because  it  has
proved  to be a useful and productive symbol for practices  of  a
magical,  mystical and religious nature.  Modern Kabbalah in  the
Western   Mystery  Tradition  is  largely  concerned   with   the
understanding and practical application of the Tree of Life,  and
the following set of notes will list some of the  characteristics
of each sephira in more detail so that you will have a "snapshot"
of  what each sephira represents before going on to  examine  the
sephiroth and the "deep structure" of the Tree in more detail.


Chapter 2.: Sephirothic Correspondences

     The correspondences are a set of symbols,  associations  and
qualities  which  provide  a handle on the  elusive  something  a
sephira represents.  Some of the correspondences are hundreds  of
years old, many were concocted this century, and some are my own;
some  fit very well,  and some are obscure - oddly enough  it  is
often  the most obscure and ill-fitting correspondence  which  is
most  productive;  like a Zen riddle it perplexes and annoys  the
mind  until  it arrives at the right place more in spite  of  the
correspondence than because of it.
     There  are  few  canonical  correspondences;   some  of  the
sephiroth  have  alternative  names,   some  of  the  names  have
alternative  translations,  the mapping from Hebrew spellings  to
the  English  alphabet varies from one author to  the  next,  and
inaccuracies  and  accretions  are handed down  like  the  family
silver. I keep my Hebrew dictionary to hand but guarantee none of
the English spellings.
     The correspondences I have given are as follows:

     1.  The  Meaning is a translation of the Hebrew name of  the

     2.  The  Planet in most cases is the planet associated  with
         the  sephira.  In some cases it is not a planet  at  all
         (e.g.   the  fixed  stars).   The  planets  are  ordered
         by   decreasing   apparent   motion  -   this   is   one
         correspondence which appears to pre-date Copernicus!

     3.  The Element is the physical element (earth,  water, air,
         fire,  aethyr) which has most in common with the  nature
         of  the Sephira.  The Golden Dawn applied an  excess  of
         logic to these attributions and made a mess of them,  to
         the  confusion  of  many.   Only  the  five  Lower  Face
         sephiroth have been attributed an element.

     4.  Briatic  colour.  This is the colour of the  sephira  as
         seen in the world of Creation,  Briah.  There are colour
         scales  for the other three worlds but I  haven't  found
         them to be useful in practical work.

     5.  Magical Image. Useful in meditiations; some are astute.

     6.  The  Briatic Correspondence is an abstract  quality
         which  says something about the essence of the  way  the
         sephira expresses itself.

     7.  The  Illusion characterises the way in which the  energy
         of the sephira clouds one's judgement;  it is  something
         which is *obviously* true.  Most people suffer from  one
         or more of these according to their temperament.

     8.  The  Obligation is a personal quality which is  demanded
         of an initiate at this level.

     9.  The  Virtue and Vice are the energy of the sephiroth  as
         it  manifests  in a positive and negative sense  in  the

     10. Qlippoth  is a word which means  "shell".  In  medieval
         Kabbalah  each sephira was "seen" to be adding  form  to
         the  sephira  which preceded it in the  Lightning  Flash
         (see Chapter 3.). Form was seen to an accretion, a shell
         around  the pure divine energy of the Godhead,  and each
         layer  or  shell hid the divine radiance  a  little  bit
         more, until God was buried in form and exiled in matter,
         the end-point of the process.  At the time attitudes  to
         matter  were  tainted  with the  Manichean  notion  that
         matter   was  evil,   a  snare  for  the   spirit,   and
         consequently the Qlippoth or shells were "demonised" and
         actually turned into demons.  The correspondence I  have
         given  here restores the original notion of a  shell  of
         form  *without* the corresponding force to activate  it;
         it  is the lifeless,  empty husk of a sephira devoid  of
         force,  and while it isn't a literal demon, it is hardly
         a bundle of laughs when you come across it.

     11. The  Command  refers to the Four Powers of  the  Sphinx,
         with an extra one added for good measure.

     12. The Spiritual Experience is just that.

     13. The Titles are a collection of alternative names for the
         sephira; most are very old.

     14. The  God  Name  is a key to invoking the  power  of  the
         sephira in the world of emanation, Atziluth.

     13. The Archangel mediates the energy of the sephira in  the
         world of creation, Briah.

     14. The Angel Order administers the energy of the sephira in
         the world of formation, Yetzirah.

     15. The Keywords are a collection of phrases which summarise
         key aspects of the sephira.

Sephira: Malkuth                   Meaning: Kingdom
-------                            -------
Planet: Cholem Yesodeth            Element: earth
--------(the Breaker of            -------
         the Foundations, sphere of the elements, the Earth)

Briatic Colour: brown              Number: 10
------------- (citrine, russet-red,------
               olive green, black)

Magical Image: a young woman crowned and throned
Briatic Correspondence: stability
Illusion: materialism              Obligation: discipline
--------                           ----------
Virtue: discrimination             Vice: avarice & inertia
------                             ----
Qlippoth: stasis                   Command: keep silent
--------                           -------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel
Titles:  The Gate; Gate of Death; Gate of Tears; Gate of Justice;
------   The Inferior Mother;  Malkah,  the  Queen;  Kallah,  the
         Bride; the Virgin.
God Name: Adonai ha Aretz          Archangel: Sandalphon
--------  Adonai Malekh            ---------
Angel Order: Ishim
Keywords:the  real world,  physical  matter,  the  Earth,  Mother
         Earth,  the physical elements, the natural world, sticks
         & stones,  possessions,  faeces, practicality, solidity,
         stability, inertia, heaviness, bodily death, incarnation.

Sephira: Yesod                     Meaning: Foundation
-------                            -------
Planet: Levanah (the Moon)         Element: Aethyr
--------------                     -------
Briatic Colour: purple             Number: 9
-------------                      ------

Magical Image: a beautiful man, very strong (e.g. Atlas)
Briatic Correspondence: receptivity, perception
Illusion: security                 Obligation: trust
--------                           ----------
Virtue: independence               Vice: idleness
------                             ----
Qlippoth: zombieism, robotism      Command: go!
--------                           -------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of the Machinery of the Universe
Titles: The Treasure House of Images
God Name: Shaddai el Chai          Archangel: Gabriel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Cherubim
Keywords: perception, interface, imagination, image, appearance,
          glamour, the Moon, the unconscious, instinct, tides,
          illusion, hidden infrastructure, dreams, divination,
          anything as it seems to be and not as it is, mirrors
          and crystals, the "Astral Plane", Aethyr, glue,
          tunnels, sex & reproduction, the genitals, cosmetics,
          instinctive magic (psychism), secret doors, shamanic

Sephira: Hod                       Meaning: Glory, Splendour
-------                            -------
Planet: Kokab (Mercury)            Element: air
------                             -------
Briatic Colour: orange             Number: 8
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: an hermaphrodite
Briatic Correspondence: abstraction
Illusion: order                    Obligation: learn
--------                           ----------
Virtue: honesty, truthfulness      Vice: dishonesty
------                             ----
Qlippoth: rigidity                 Command: will
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Splendour
Titles: -
God Name: Elohim Tzabaoth          Archangel: Raphael
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Beni Elohim

Keywords: reason, abstraction, communication, conceptualisation,
          logic, the sciences, language, speech, money (as a
          concept), mathematics, medicine & healing, trickery,
          writing, media (as communication), pedantry,
          philosophy, Kabbalah (as an abstract system), protocol,
          the Law, ownership, territory, theft, "Rights", ritual

Sephira: Netzach                   Meaning: Victory, Firmness
-------                            -------
Planet: Nogah (Venus)              Element: water
--------------                     -------
Briatic Colour: green              Number: 7
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a beautiful naked woman
Briatic Correspondence: nurture
Illusion: projection               Obligation: responsibility
--------                           ----------
Virtue: unselfishness              Vice: selfishness
------                             ----
Qlippoth: habit, routine           Command: know
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Beauty Triumphant
Titles: -
God Name: Jehovah Tzabaoth         Archangel: Haniel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Elohim
Keywords: passion, pleasure, luxury, sensual beauty, feelings,
          drives, emotions - love, hate, anger, joy, depression,
          misery, excitement, desire, lust; nurture, libido,
          empathy, sympathy, ecstatic magic.

Sephira: Tipheret                  Meaning: Beauty
-------                            -------
Planet: Shemesh (the Sun)          Element: fire
--------------                     -------
Briatic Colour: yellow             Number: 6
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a king, a child, a sacrificed god
Briatic Correspondence: centrality, wholeness
Illusion: identification           Obligation: integrity
--------                           ----------
Virtue: devotion to the Great Work Vice: pride, self-importance
------                             ----
Qlippoth: hollowness               Command: dare
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Harmony

Titles: Melekh, the King; Zoar Anpin, the lesser countenance, the
------  Microprosopus; the Son; Rachamin, charity.

God Name: Aloah va Daath           Archangel: Michael
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Malachim
Keywords: harmony, integrity, balance, wholeness, the Self, self-
          importance, self-sacrifice, the Son of God, centrality,
          the Philospher's Stone, identity, the solar plexus,
          a King, the Great Work.

Sephira: Gevurah                   Meaning: Strength
-------                            -------
Planet: Madim (Mars)
Briatic Colour: red                Number: 5
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a mighty warrior
Briatic Correspondence: power
Illusion: invincibility            Obligation: courage & loyalty
--------                           ----------
Virtue: courage & energy           Vice: cruelty
------                             ----
Qlippoth: bureaucracy
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Power
Titles: Pachad, fear; Din, justice.
God Name: Elohim Gevor             Archangel: Kamael
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Seraphim
Keywords: power, justice, retribution (eaten cold), the Law (in
          execution), cruelty, oppression, domination & the Power
          Myth, severity, necessary destruction, catabolism,
          martial arts.

Sephira: Chesed                    Meaning: Mercy
-------                            -------
Planet: Tzadekh (Jupiter)
Briatic Colour: blue               Number: 4
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a mighty king
Briatic Correspondence: authority
Illusion: being right              Obligation: humility
--------  (self-righteousness)     ----------

Virtue: humility & obedience       Vice: tyranny, hypocrisy,
------                             ----  bigotry, gluttony
Qlippoth: ideology
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Love
Titles: Gedulah, magnificence, love, majesty
God Name: El                       Archangel: Tzadkiel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Chasmalim
Keywords: authority, creativity, inspiration, vision, leadership,
          excess, waste, secular and spiritual power, submission
          and the Annihilation Myth, the atom bomb, obliteration,
          birth, service.

Non-Sephira: Daath                 Meaning: Knowledge
-----------                        -------
Daath has no manifest qualities and cannot be invoked directly.

Keywords: hole, tunnel, gateway, doorway, black hole, vortex.

Sephira: Binah                     Meaning: Understanding,
-------                            -------
Planet: Shabbathai (Saturn)
Briatic Colour: black              Number: 3
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: an old woman on a throne
Briatic Correspondence: comprehension
Illusion: death
Virtue: silence                    Vice: inertia
------                             ----
Qlippoth: fatalism
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Sorrow
Titles:   Aima, the Mother; Ama, the Crone; Marah, the bitter
          sea; Khorsia, the Throne; the Fifty Gates of
          Understanding; Intelligence; the Mother of Form; the
          Superior Mother.

God Name: Elohim                   Archangel: Cassiel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Aralim
Keywords: limitation, form, constraint, heaviness, slowness, old-
          age, infertility, incarnation, karma, fate, time,
          space, natural law, the womb and gestation, darkness,
          boundedness, enclosure, containment, fertility, mother,
          weaving and spinning, death (annihilation).

Sephira: Chokhmah                  Meaning: Wisdom
-------                            -------
Planet: Mazlot (the Zodiac, the fixed stars)
Briatic Colour: silver/white       Number: 2
-------------   grey               ------

Magical Image: a bearded man
Briatic Correspondence: revolution
Illusion: independence
Virtue: good                       Vice: evil
------                             ----
Qlippoth: arbitrariness
Spiritual Experience: Vision of God face-to-face
Titles: Abba, the Father. The Supernal Father.
God Name: Jah                      Archangel: Ratziel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Auphanim
Keywords: pure creative energy, lifeforce, the wellspring.

Sephira: Kether                    Meaning: Crown
-------                            -------
Planet: Rashith ha Gilgalim (first swirlings, the Big Bang)
Briatic Colour: pure white         Number: 1
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a bearded man seen in profile
Briatic Correspondence: unity
Illusion: attainment
Virtue: attainment                 Vice: ---
------                             ----
Qlippoth: futility
Spiritual Experience: Union with God
Titles:   Ancient of Days, the Greater Countenance
          (Macroprosopus), the White Head, Concealed of the
          Concealed, Existence of Existences, the Smooth Point,
          Rum Maalah, the Highest Point.

God Name: Eheieh                   Archangel: Metatron
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Chaioth ha Qadesh
Keywords: unity, union, all, pure consciousness, God, the
          Godhead, manifestation, beginning, source, emanation.

Chapter 3: The Pillars & the Lightning Flash

     In  Chapter  1.  the  Tree of Life was  derived  from  three
concepts,  or  rather  one  primary concept  and  two  derivative
concepts which are "contained" within it. The primary concept was
called consciousness,  and it was said to "contain" within it the
two complementary concepts of force and form. This chapter builds
on  the idea by introducing the three Pillars of  the  Tree,  and
uses the Pillars to clarify a process called the Lightning Flash.
     The Three Pillars are shown in Figure 8. below.

               Pillar      Pillar       Pillar
                 of          of           of
                Form    Consciousness   Force
             (Severity)  (Mildness)    (Mercy)

                       /   (Crown)    \
                      /       |        \
                     /        |         \
                    /         |          \
                Binah         |        Chokhmah
            (Understanding)__________  (Wisdom)
             (Intelligence)   |           |
                  |\          |          /|
                  | \       Daath       / |
                  |  \   (Knowledge)   /  |
                  |   \       |       /   |
               Gevurah \      |      /  Chesed
              (Strength)\_____|_____/__ (Mercy)
                  |      \    |    /    (Love)
                  | \     \   |   /     / |
                  |  \     \  |  /     /  |
                  |   \   Tipheret    /   |
                  |   /   (Beauty)    \   |
                  |  /        |        \  |
                  | /         |         \ |
                  |/          |          \|
                 Hod          |        Netzach
               (Glory) _______________(Victory)
              (Splendour)     |       (Firmness)
                 \ \          |           / /
                  \ \         |          / /
                  \  \        |         / /
                   \  \       |        /  /
                   \   \    Yesod     /  /
                    \    (Foundation)   /
                     \                 /
                      \       |       /
                       \      |      /
                        \     |     /

                           Figure 8

Not surprisingly the three pillars are referred to as the pillars
of  consciousness,  force and form.  The pillar of  consciousness
contains the sephiroth Kether,  Tiphereth, Yesod and Malkuth; the
pillar  of  force contains the  sephiroth  Chokhmah,  Chesed  and
Netzach; the pillar of form contains the sephiroth Binah, Gevurah
and Hod.  In older Kabbalistic texts the pillars are referred  to
as  the pillars of mildness,  mercy and severity,  and it is  not
immediately obvious how the older jargon relates to the  new.  To
the  medieval Kabbalist (and this is a recurring metaphor in  the
Zohar)  the  creation  as  an emanation  of  God  is  a  delicate
*balance* (metheqela) between two opposing tendencies:  the mercy
of  God,  the outflowing,  creative,  life-giving and  sustaining
tendency in God, and the severity or strict judgement of God, the
limiting,   defining,  life-taking  and  ultimately  wrathful  or
destructive tendency in God. The creation is "energised" by these
two tendencies as if stretched between the poles of a battery.
     Modern  Kabbalah makes a half-hearted attempt to remove  the
more  obvious  anthropomorphisms in the  descriptions  of  "God";
mercy and severity are misleading terms,  apt to remind one of  a
man with a white beard,  and even in medieval times the terms had
distinctly  technical meanings as the following  quotation  shows

     "It must be remembered that to the Kabbalist, judgement [Din
     - judgement,  another 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 boundaries."

     I understand the word "form" in precisely this sense - it is that
which  defines *what* a thing is,  the structure whereby a  given
thing is distinct from every other thing.
     As for "consciousness",  I use the word "consciousness" in a
sense so abstract that it is virtually meaningless, and according
to whim I use the word God instead,  where it is understood  that
both  words are placeholders for something which  is  potentially
knowable  in  the  gnostic  sense only  -  consciousness  can  be
*defined* according to the *forms* it takes, in which case we are
defining   the  forms,   *not*  the   consciousness.   The   same
qualification applies to the word "force". My inability to define
two  of  the three concepts which underpin the structure  of  the
Tree  is a nuisance which is tackled traditionally by the use  of
extravagent  metaphors,   and  by  elimination  ("not  this,  not
     The classification of sephiroth into three pillars is a  way
of  saying  that each sephira in a pillar partakes  of  a  common
quality  which is "inherited" in a progressively  more  developed
and  structured form from of the top of a pillar to  the  bottom.
Tipheret,  Yesod and Malkuth all share with Kether the quality of
"consciousness in balance" or "synthesis of opposing  qualities",
or but in each case it is expressed differently according to  the
increased degree of structure imposed. Likewise, Chokhmah, Chesed
and   Netzach   share  the  quality  of  force   or   energy   or
expansiveness,  and Binah,  Gevurah and Hod share the quality  of
form,  definition  and limitation.  From Kether down to  Malkuth,
force  and  form  are combined;  the symbolism of  the  Tree  has
something  in common with a production line,  with  molten  metal
coming  in one end and finished cars coming out  the  other,  and
with  that  metaphor we are now ready to describe  the  Lightning
Flash,  the process whereby God takes on flesh, the process which
created and sustains the creation.

     In  the beginning...was Something.  Or Nothing.  It  doesn't
really matter which term we use,  as both are equally meaningless
in this context. Nothing is probably the better of the two terms,
because  I can use Something in the  next  paragraph.  Kabbalists
call  this  Nothing "En Soph" which literally means "no  end"  or
infinity,  and  understand by this a hidden,  unmanifest  God-in-
     Out of this incomprehensible and indescribable Nothing  came
Something.  Probably more words have been devoted to this  moment
than  any other in Kabbalah,  and it is all too easy to make  fun
the effort which has gone into elaborating the indescribable,  so
I  won't,   but  in  return  do  not  expect  me  to  provide   a
justification for why Something came out of Nothing. It just did.
A  point  crystallised in the En Soph.  In some versions  of  the
story  the En Soph "contracted" to "make room" for  the  creation
(Isaac  Luria's  theory of Tsimtsum),  and this  is  probably  an
important clarification for those who have rubbed noses with  the
hidden  face of God,  but for the purposes of these notes  it  is
enough  that a point crystallised.  This point was the  crown  of
creation, the sephira Kether, and within Kether was contained all
the unrealised potential of the creation.
     An  aspect of Kether is the raw creative force of God  which
blasts into the creation like the blast of hot gas which keeps  a
hot air ballon in the air. Kabbalists are quite clear about this;
the creation didn't just happen a long time ago - it is happening
all  the time,  and without the force to sustain it the  creation
would crumple like a balloon. The force-like aspect within Kether
is  the sephira Chokhmah and it can be thought of as the will  of
God,  because  without it the creation would cease to  *be*.  The
whole of creation is maintained by this ravening, primeval desire
to  *be*,  to  become,  to  exist,  to  change,  to  evolve.  The
experiential distinction between Kether,  the point of emanation,
and Chokhmah,  the creative outpouring,  is elusive,  but some of
the  difference  is  captured  in  the  phrases  "I  am"  and  "I
     Force by itself achieves nothing;  it needs to be contained,
and the balloon analogy is appropriate again.  Chokhmah  contains
within it the necessity of Binah,  the Mother of Form. The person
who  taught  me Kabbalah (a woman) told me  Chokhmah  (Abba,  the
Father) was God's prick,  and Binah (Aima,  the mother) was God's
womb,   and  left  me  with  the  picture  of  one  half  of  God
continuously ejaculating into the other half.  The author of  the
Zohar  also makes frequent use of sexual polarity as  a  metaphor
to describe the relationship between force and form, or mercy and
severity  (although the most vivid sexual metaphors are used  for
the  marriage of the Microprosopus and his bride,  the Queen  and
Inferior Mother, the sephira Malkuth).
     The sephira Binah is the Mother of Form;  form exists within
Binah  as a potentiality,  not as an actuality,  just as  a  womb
contains  the  potential of a baby.  Without the  possibility  of
form,  no thing would be distinct from any other thing;  it would
be impossible to distinguish between things,  impossible to  have
individuality  or  identity  or  change.   The  Mother  of   Form
contains the potential of form within her womb and gives birth to
form  when a creative impulse crosses the Abyss to the Pillar  of
Force and emanates through the sephira Chesed.  Again we have the
idea of "becoming", of outflowing creative energy, but at a lower
level.  The  sephira  Chesed is the point at which  form  becomes
perciptible  to the mind as an inspiration,  an idea,  a  vision,
that  "Eureka!"  moment  immediately  prior  to  rushing   around
shouting  "I've got it!  I've got it!" Chesed is that quality  of
genuine  inspiration,   a  sense  of  being  "plugged  in"  which
characterises  the  visionary leaders who drive  the  human  race
onwards into every new kind of endeavour.  It can be for good  or
evil; a leader who can tap the petty malice and vindictiveness in
any  person  and  channel it into a vision of  a  new  order  and
genocide  is  just  as much a visionary as  any  other,  but  the
positive  side  of Chesed is the humanitarian leader  who  brings
about genuine improvements to our common life.
     No  change  comes easy;  as Cordova points  out  "everything
wishes to remain what it is". The creation of form is balanced in
the sephira Gevurah by the preservation and destruction of  form.
Any impulse of change is channelled through Gevurah, and if it is
not  resisted then something will be destroyed.  If you  want  to
make  paper you cut down a tree.  If you want to abolish  slavery
you have to destroy the culture which perpetuates it. If you want
to  change  someone's  mind you have  to  destroy  that  person's
beliefs about the matter in question.  The sephira Gevurah is the
quality  of strict judgement which opposes change,  destroys  the
unfamiliar,  and  corresponds  in many ways to an  immune  system
within the body of God.
     There has to be a balance between creation and  destruction.
Too much change,  too many ideas,  too many things happening  too
quickly  can have the quality of chaos (and can literally  become
that), whereas too little change, no new ideas, too much form and
structure and protocol can suffocate and stifle.  There has to be
a  balance  which  "makes sense" and this "idea  of  balance"  or
"making  sense" is expressed in the sephira Tiphereth.  It is  an
instinctive  morality,  and  it isn't present by default  in  the
human species.  It isn't based on cultural norms; it doesn't have
its roots in upbringing (although it is easily destroyed by  it).
Some people have it in a large measure,  and some people are  (to
all  intents and purposes) completely lacking in it.  It  doesn't
necessarily  respect conventional morality:  it may laugh in  its
face.  I  can't  say  what it is in any  detail,  because  it  is
peculiar  and individual,  but those who have it have  a  natural
quality   of integrity,  soundness of judgement,  an  instinctive
sense of rightness,  justice and compassion, and a willingness to
fight or suffer in defense of that sense of justice. Tiphereth is
a  paradoxical  sephira because in many people it is  simply  not
there.  It  can  be developed,  and that is one of the  goals  of
initiation,  but for many people Tiphereth is a room with nothing
in it.
     Having  passed through Gevurah on the Pillar  of  Form,  and
found its way through the moral filter of Tiphereth,  a  creative
impulse picks up energy once more on the Pillar of Force via  the
Sephira Netzach,  where the energy of "becoming" finds its  final
expression  in  the form of "vital urges".  Why do  we  carry  on
living?  Why bother?  What is it that compels us to do things? An
artist  may have a vision of a piece of art,  but  what  actually
compels the artist to paint or sculpt or write? Why do we want to
compete  and  win?  Why do we care what happens  to  others?  The
sephira  Netzach  expresses the basic vital creative urges  in  a
form we can recognise as drives,  feelings and emotions.  Netzach
is pre-verbal; ask a child why he wants a toy and the answer will
     "I just do".
     "But why," you ask,  wondering why he doesn't want the  much
more  "sensible" toy you had in mind.  "Why don't you  want  this
one here."
     "I just don't. I want this one."
     "But what's so good about that one."
     "I don't know what to say...I just like it."
This  conversation  is  not fictitious  and  is  quintessentially
Netzach.  The structure of the Tree of Life posits that the basic
driving  forces which characterise our behaviour  are  pre-verbal
and non-rational; anyone who has tried to change another person's
basic  nature or beliefs through force of rational argument  will
know this.
     After  Netzach we go to the sephira Hod to pick up our  last
cargo of Form.  Ask a child why they want something and they  say
"I  just  do".  Press  an adult and you will  get  an  earful  of
"reasons".  We  live  in a culture where it is  important  (often
essential) to give reasons for the things we do,  and Hod is  the
sephira  of form where it is possible to give shape to our  wants
in  terms  of reasons and explanations.  Hod is  the  sephira  of
abstraction,  reason,  logic,  language and communication,  and a
reflection  of the Mother of Form in the human mind.  We  have  a
innate  capacity  to  abstract,   to  go  immediately  from   the
particular  to  the general,  and we have an innate  capacity  to
communicate these abstractions using language,  and it should  be
clear    why   the   alternative   translation   of   Binah    is
"intelligence";  Binah  is  the "intelligence of  God",  and  Hod
underpins what we generally recognise as intelligence in people -
the ability to grasp complex abstractions, reason about them, and
articulate this understanding using some means of communication.
     The   synthesis  of  Hod  and  Netzach  on  the  Pillar   of
Consciousness  is  the sephira Yesod.  Yesod is  the  sephira  of
interface, and the comparison with computer peripheral interfaces
is an excellent one. Yesod is sometimes called "the Receptacle of
the  Emanations",  and it interfaces the emanations of all  three
pillars to the sephira Malkuth,  and it is through Yesod that the
final abstract form of something is realised in matter.  Form  in
Yesod  is  no  longer abstract;  it  is  explicit,  but  not  yet
individual  -  that last quality is reserved for  Malkuth  alone.
Yesod  is  like  the mold in a bottle factory -  the  mold  is  a
realisation  of  the  abstract  idea "bottle" in  so  far  as  it
expresses  the  shape  of a particular  bottle  design  in  every
detail, but it is not itself an individual bottle.
     The final step in the process is the sephira Malkuth,  where
God  becomes  flesh,  and  every abstract  form  is  realised  in
actuality,  in the "real world". There is much to say about this,
but I will keep it for later.
     The process I have described is called the Lightning  Flash.
The Lightning Flash runs as  follows:  Kether,  Chokhmah,  Binah,
Chesed,  Gevurah, Tiphereth, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malkuth, and if
you  trace the Lighning Flash on a diagram of the Tree  you  will
see  that  it has the zig-zag shape of  a  lightning  flash.  The
sephiroth are numbered according to their order on the  lightning
flash:  Kether  is  1,  Chokhmah is 2,  and so  on.  The  "Sepher
Yetzirah" [2] has this to say about the sephiroth:

     "When  you think of the ten sephiroth cover your  heart  and
     seal  the  desire of your lips to announce  their  divinity.
     Yoke your mind.  Should it escape your grasp,  reach out and
     bring it back under your control.  As it was said,  'And the
     living  creatures  ran and returned as the appearance  of  a
     flash  of  lightning,'  in such a manner  was  the  Covenant

The  quotation within the quotation comes from  Ezekiel  1.14,  a
text   which  inspired  a  large  amount  of  early   Kabbalistic
speculation,  and  it  is probable that the  Lightning  Flash  as
described  is  one  of the earliest components  of  the  idea  of
sephirothic emanation.
     The   Lightning  Flash  describes  the   creative   process,
beginning with the unknown, unmanifest hidden God, and follows it
through ten distinct stages to a change in the material world. It
can be used to describe *any* change - lighting a match,  picking
your  nose,  walking the dog - and novices are  usually  set  the
exercise   of analysing any arbitrarily chosen event in terms  of
the Lightning Flash.  Because the Lightning Flash can be used  to
understand  the inner process whereby the material world  of  the
senses  changes  and evolves,  it is a key to  practical  magical
work,  and because it is intended to account for *all* change  it
follows that all change is equally magical,  and the word "magic"
is   essentially   meaningless  (but  nevertheless   useful   for
distinguishing   between  "normal"  and  "abnormal"   states   of
consciousness, and the modes of causality which pertain to each).
     It also follows that the key to understanding our "spiritual
nature"  does  not belong in the  spiritual  empyrean,  where  it
remains  inaccessible,  but in *all* the routine  and  unexciting
little  things  in life.  Everything is is  equally  "spiritual",
equally  "divine",  and there is more to be learned from  picking
one's nose than there is in a spiritual discipline which puts you
"here" and God "over there". The Lightning Flash ends in Malkuth,
and it can be followed like a thread through the hidden  pathways
of  creation  until  one arrives back at  the  source.  The  next
chapter  will  retrace  the  Lightning  Flash  by  examining  the
qualities of each sephira in more detail.

[1]  Scholem,  Gershom  G.  "Major Trends in  Jewish  Mysticism",
                            Schoken Books 1974

[2]  Westcott, W. Wynn, ed. "Sepher Yetzirah". Many reprintings.

Chapter 4: The Sephiroth
     This  chapter  provides a detailed look at each of  the  ten
sephiroth  and  draws together material scattered  over  previous

     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

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]  &
     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
     The elements in Malkuth are arranged as follows:


             East          Zenith Aethyr+    West
             Air           Nadir  Aethyr-    Water


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:


             Hod           Yesod          Netzach
             Air           Aethyr          Water


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
     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.


[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.


     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
     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
     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

[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

[6] S.L.  Mathers, "The Kabbalah Unveiled", Routledge & Kegan Paul

[7] Roger Penrose,  "The Emperor's New Mind",  Oxford  University
                     Press 1989

[8] Peter J. Carroll, "Psychonaut", Samuel Weiser 1987.

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."

         "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.

   o  o

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
     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,
      - 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
     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
     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
     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
     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
     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

     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


     "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
     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 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
     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
     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

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."

     "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
     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
     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
     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
     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
     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
     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
     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
     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

Daath and the Abyss

     "When  you look into the abyss,  the abyss also  looks  into

     "Nothingness  lies  coiled in the heart of being  -  like  a

     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

     "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

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
     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

Binah, Chokmah, Kether

     Only man can fall from God
     Only man.

     No animal, no beast nor creeping thing
     no cobra nor hyaena nor scorpion nor hideous white ant
     can slip entirely through the fingers of the hands of god
     into the abyss of self-knowledge,
     knowledge of the self-apart-from-god.

     For the knowledge of the self-apart-from-God
     is an abyss down which the soul can slip
     writhing and twisting in all the revolutions
     of the unfinished plunge
     of self-awareness, now apart from God, falling
     fathomless, fathomless, self-consciousness wriggling
     writhing  deeper  and deeper in all the  minutiae  of  self-
               knowledge, downwards, exhaustive,
     yet  never,  never  coming to the bottom,  for there  is  no
     zigzagging down like the fizzle from a finished rocket
     the  frizzling,  falling fire that cannot go  out,  dropping
     neither can it reach the depth
     for the depth is bottomless,
     so it wriggles its way even further down, further down
     at last in sheer horror of not being able to leave off
     knowing itself, knowing itself apart from God, falling.

                                  "Only Man", D. H. Lawrence

     The  triad of Binah,  Chokmah and Kether are a  Kabbalistic
representation  of the manifest God.  A discussion on this  triad
presents me with a problem. The problem is that while I have used
the word "God" in many places in these notes, I have done so with
a  sense  of unease,  understanding that the word means  so  many
different  things  to  so  many people  that  it  is  effectively
meaningless.  I have chosen to use the word as a placeholder  for
personal experience, with the implicit assumption that the reader
understands  that "God" *is* a personal experience,  and  not  an
ill-defined abstraction one "believes in".  My view is not novel,
but  there are still many people who are uncomfortable  with  the
idea of experiencing (as opposed to "believing in") God. A second
assumption implicit in the use of the word "God" as a placeholder
is  that it stands *only* for experience;  your  experience,  and
hence your God,  is as valid as mine,  and as there are no formal
definitions, there is no scope for theological debate or dispute.
This leaves me with nothing more to say.
     However.....these  notes  were  intended  to  provide   some
insight into Kabbalah, and it would be odd, having begun to write
them,  to then turn around and say "sorry,  I won't say  anything
about  the  three  supernal sephiroth".  I think I  have  to  say
something.  Balanced  against this is my original  intention,  at
every stage in these notes,  to relate the objects of  discussion
to something real,  to make a personal contribution by adding  my
own  understanding to the subject rather than simply  pot-boiling
the same old material.  I cannot see how to put flesh on the bare
bones  of  the  supernal  sephiroth  without  discussing  my  own
conception of God and whatever personal experience I might  have.
I am loth to do this.  For a start, it isn't fair on those people
who  study  and use Kabbalah (many Jewish) who do  not  share  my
views, and secondly, remembering the parable of the blind men and
the  elephant,  impressions of God tend to be shaped by the  part
one grabs hold of,  and how close to the bum end one is standing.
     Like  it or not,  my explanations of the supernal  sephiroth
are  going to be lacking in substance.  I can only ask  you,  the
reader, to accept that the primary purpose of Kabbalah has always
been the direct,  personal experience of the living God,  a state
Kabbalists have called "devekuth",  or cleaving to God,  and  the
way   towards  that  experience  comes,   not  from  a   studious
examination  of  the symbolism of the  supernals,  but  from  the
practical  techniques  of  Kabbalah to be discussed  in  a  later

     The   title   of  the  sephira  Binah   is   translated   as
"understanding",  and sometimes as "intelligence".  The title  of
the sephira Chokmah translates as "wisdom",  and that of  Kether
translates as "crown".  These three sephiroth are often  referred
to as the supernal sephiroth,  or simply the supernals,  and they
represent that aspect of God which is manifest in creation. There
is another aspect of God in Kabbalah,  the "real God" or En Soph;
although En Soph is responsible for the creation of the universe,
En  Soph manifests to us only in the limited form of the  sephira
Kether.  An enormous amount of effort has gone into  "explaining"
this process:  one book on Kabbalah [1] in my possession  devotes
eight pages to the En Soph,  twelve pages to the supernal trio of
Kether,  Chokmah and Binah, and five pages to the remaining seven
sephiroth,   a   proportion  which  seems   relatively   constant
throughout Kabbalistic literature.
     Briefly,  the  hidden  God or En Soph crystallised  a  point
which is the sephira Kether.  In most versions (and this idea can
be found as far back as the "Bahir" [2]) the En Soph "contracted"
(tsimtsum) to "make room" for the creation,  and the crystallised
point  of Kether manifested within this "space".  Kether  is  the
seed planted in nothingness from which the creation springs -  an
interesting  metaphor  turns the Tree of Life "upside  down"  and
shows Kether at the bottom of the Tree, rooted in the soil of the
En  Soph,  with  the  rest of the sephiroth  forming  the  trunk,
branches and leaves.  Another metaphor shows Kether connected  to
the  En Soph by a "thread of light",  a metaphor I used  somewhat
whimsically  in  the section on "Daath and the  Abyss",  where  I
portrayed  the  Tree of Life as a lit-up Christmas  tree  with  a
power cord snaking out of the darkness of the En Soph and through
the  abyss  to Kether.  Like the Moon,  Kether has  two  aspects:
manifest  and hidden,  and for this reason its magical  image  is
that of a face seen in profile:  one side of the face (the  right
side,  as  it happens) is visible to us,  but the other  side  is
turned forever towards the En Soph.
     Kether has many titles:  Existence of Existences,  Concealed
of  the  Concealed,   Ancient  of  Ancients,   Ancient  of  Days,
Primordial Point,  the Smooth Point, the Point within the Circle,
the Most High, the Inscrutable Height, the Vast Countenance (Arik
Anpin),  the White Head,  the Head which is  not,  Macroprosopus.
Taken together,  these titles imply that Kether is the first, the
oldest,  the  root of existence,  remote,  and its most  accurate
symbol  is  that  of  a  point.  Kether  precedes  all  forms  of
existence,  all  differentiation and distinction,  all  polarity.
Kether contains everything in potential, like a seed that sprouts
and grows into a Tree, not once, but continuously. Kether is both
root  and seed.  Because it precedes all forms and  contains  all
opposites  it  is not *like* anything.  You can say  it  contains
infinite  goodness,  but  then you have to say that  it  contains
infinite evil. Wrapped up in Kether is all the love in the world,
and  wrapped  around  the love is all  the  hate.  Kether  is  an
outpouring  of  purest,  radiant light,  but equally  it  is  the
profoundest  stygian dark.  And it is none of  these  things;  it
precedes all form or polarity,  and its Virtue is unity.  It is a
point  without  extension  or  qualities,  but  it  contains  all
creation within it as an unformed potential.
     The "Zohar" [3] is packed with references to Kether,  and it
is  difficult to be selective,  but the following quote from  the
"Lesser Holy Assembly", is clear, simple, and subtle:

     "He  (Kether) hath been formed,  and yet as it were He  hath
     not  been  formed.  He hath been conformed so  that  he  may
     sustain all things;  yet is He not formed, seeing that He is
     not discovered.

     When He is conformed He produceth nine Lights,  which  shine
     forth from Him, from his conformation.

     And  from Himself those Lights shine forth,  and  they  emit
     flames,  and they rush forth and are extended on every side,
     like  as from an elevated lantern the rays of  light  stream
     down on every side.

     And  those rays of light,  which are extended,  when  anyone
     draweth near unto them so that they may be examined, are not
     found, and there is only the lantern alone."

Polarity  is contained within Kether in the form of  Chokmah  and
Binah,  the Wisdom and Understanding of God,  and Kabbalists have
represented  this polarity using the most obvious  of  metaphors,
that of male and female.  Chokmah is Abba,  the Father, and Binah
is Aima, the Mother, and the entire world is seen as the child of
the continuous and never-ending coupling of this divine pair. The
following passage is taken again from the "Lesser Holy Assembly":

     "Come  and  behold.  When the Most  Holy  Ancient  One,  the
     Concealed  with  all Concealments (Kether),  desired  to  be
     formed forth, He conformed all things under the form of Male
     and  Female;  and in such place wherein Male and Female  are

     For they could not permanently exist save in another  aspect
     of  the  Male and Female (their  countenances  being  joined

     And  this  Wisdom (Chokmah) embracing all  things,  when  it
     goeth  forth  and shineth forth from the Most  Holy  Ancient
     One,  shineth  not save under the form of Male  and  Female.
     Therefore is this Wisdom extended,  and it is found that  it
     equally becometh Male and Female.

     ChKMH  AB BINH AM:  Chokmah is the Father and Binah  is  the
     Mother,   and  therein  are  Chokmah,   Wisdom,  and  Binah,
     Understanding,  counterbalanced together in the most perfect
     equality of Male and Female.

     And therefore are all things established in the equality  of
     Male and Female, for were it not so, how could they subsist!

     This  beginning is the Father of all things;  the Father  of
     all Fathers;  and both are mutually bound together,  and the
     one path shineth into the other - Chokmah,  Wisdom,  as  the
     Father; Binah, Understanding, as the Mother.

     It  is  written,  Prov.  2.3:  'If thou  callest  Binah  the

     When  They are associated together They  generate,  and  are
     expanded in truth.

And concerning the continuing act of procreation:

     "Together They (Chokmah & Binah) go forth, together They are
     at rest;  the one ceaseth not from the other, and the one is
     never taken away from the other.

     And  therefore is it written,  Gen 2.10:  'And a river  went
     forth from Eden' - i.e.  properly speaking,  it  continually
     goeth forth and never faileth."

A  river  or  spring  metaphor is  often  used  for  Chokmah,  to
emphasise the continuous nature of creation. The primary metaphor
is  that of a phallus - Chokmah is the phallus  which  ejaculates
continuously  into  the womb of Binah,  and Binah in  turn  gives
birth to phenomenal reality.  Phallic symbols - a standing stone,
a fireman's hose, a fountain, a spear etc, belong to Chokmah, and
womb  symbols - a cauldron,  a gourd,  a chalice,  an  oven  etc,
belong  to  Binah.   In  an  abstract  sense, Chokmah  and  Binah
correspond to the first,  primal manifestation of the polarity of
force  and  form.  To repeat a metaphor I have  used  previously,
Binah is a hot-air balloon,  and Chokmah is the roaring blast  of
flame which keeps it in the air.  The metaphor is not  completely
accurate:  Binah is not form, but she is the Mother of Form - she
creates the condition whereby form can manifest.
     The  colour of Binah is black,  and she is  associated  with
Shabbatai ("rest"),  the planet Saturn. The symbolism of Binah is
twofold: on one hand she is Aima, the fertile mother of creation,
and  on  the  other  hand  she  is  the  mother  of   finiteness,
limitation,  restriction, boundaries, time, space, law, fate, and
ultimately,  death; in this form she is often depicted as Ama the
Crone,  who broods (like many pictures of Queen Victoria) in  her
black widow's weeds on the throne of creation - one of the titles
of Binah is Khorsia, the Throne.
     The  magician  and  Kabbalist Dion Fortune  had  a  strongly
intuitive  grasp of Binah,  not just as a sphere of a  particular
kind  of  emanation,  but as the Great  Mother  herself,  as  the
following rhyme from her novel "Moon Magic" [4] shows:

     "I am she who ere the earth was formed
     Was  Rhea, Binah, Ge.
     I am that soundless, boundless, bitter sea
     Out of whose deeps life wells eternally.
     Astarte, Aphrodite, Ashtoreth -
     Giver of life and bringer in of death;
     Hera in heaven, on earth Persephone;
     Diana of the ways, and Hecate -
     All these am I, and they are seen in me.
     The hour of the high full moon draws near;
     I hear the invoking words, hear and appear -
     Shaddai El Chai and Rhea, Binah, Ge -
     I come unto the priest who calleth me - "

One  of  the oldest correspondences for Binah is the  element  of
water,  and  she is called Marah,  the bitter sea from which  all
life comes and must return.  She is also the Superior or  Greater
Mother; the Inferior or Lesser Mother is the sephira Malkuth, who
is  better symbolised by nature goddesses of the earth  itself  -
e.g.  the trinity of Kore,  Demeter,  and Persephone. The Tree of
Life has many goddess symbols,  and it is not always easy to  see
where they fit:

     Binah  is the Great Mother of All,  with symbols  of  space,
     time, fate, spinning, weaving, cauldrons etc.

     Malkuth  is the Earth as the soil from which  life  springs,
     matter  as  the  basis for life,  the  spirit  concealed  in
     matter,   best  symbolised  by  goddesses  of  this   earth,
     fertility, vegetation etc.

     Yesod in its lunar aspect is the Moon, a hidden reality with
     the ebb and flow of secret tides,  illusion, glamour, sexual
     reproduction etc, and is sometimes in invoked in the form of
     lunar goddesses - Selene, Artemis etc.

     Gevurah  is on the Pillar of Form;  the whole Pillar  has  a
     female aspect,  and Gevurah is sometimes invoked in a female
     form as Kali,  Durga,  Hecate,  or the Morrigan, although it
     must  be  said that all four goddesses also  share  definite
     Binah-type correspondences.

     Netzach  has the planet Venus as a correspondence,  and  its
     aspect of sensual pleasure,  luxury,  sexual love and desire
     is  sometime  invoked  through a goddess such  as  Venus  or

     The  Spiritual Experience of Binah is the Vision of  Sorrow:
as the Mother of Form Binah is also the Mother of finiteness  and
limitation,  of determinism,  of cause and effect.  Every quality
comes forth hand-in-hand with its opposite:  life and death,  joy
and despair,  love and hate,  order and chaos,  so that it is not
possible  to find an anchor in life.  For every reason to live  I
can  find you,  buried like a worm in an apple,  a reason not  to
live;  the  Vision of Sorrow is a vision of a life  condemned  to
tramp along the circumference of a circle while forever denied  a
view of the unity of the centre. At its most extreme the creation
is  seen as an evil trick played by a malign  demiurge,  a  sick,
empty joke,  or a joyless prison with death the only release. The
classic  vision  of sorrow is that  of  Siddhartha  Gautama,  but
Tolstoy  records [5] a terrible and enduring  psychic  experience
which  contains  most of the elements associated with  the  worst
Binah can offer - it drove him to the very edge of suicide.
     The Illusion of Binah is death; that is, the vision of Binah
may be compelling,  but it is one-sided,  a half-truth,  and  the
finiteness it reveals is an illusion. Our own personal finiteness
is an illusion.
     The  Qlippoth of Binah is fatalism,  the belief that we  are
imprisoned in the mechanical causality of form,  and not only are
we  incapable of changing or achieving anything,  but even if  we
could,  there  wouldn't  be  any point.  Why try to  be  happy  -
happiness  leads  inexorably to sadness.  Why try  to  build  and
create - it all ends in decay and ruin soon enough. As the author
of "Ecclesiastes" says, all is vanity.
     The Vice of Binah is avarice.  Form is only one-half of  the
equation  of  life  - change is the other half - and  to  try  to
hold onto and preserve form at the expense of change would be the
death of all life.  The Virtue of Binah is silence.  Beyond  form
there are no concepts, ideas, abstractions, or words.

     The  Spiritual  Experience of Chokmah is the Vision  of  God
Face-to-Face.  The  tradition I received has it that  one  cannot
have  this vision while incarnate i.e.  one dies in the  process.
One  Hasidic  Rabbi  liked to bid farewell  to  his  family  each
morning as if it was his last - he feared he might die of ecstacy
during the day.  In the "Greater Holy Assembly" [3], three Rabbis
pass away in ecstacy,  and in the "Lesser Holy Assembly" [3]  the
famous  Rabbi  Simeon ben Yohai passes away  at  the  conclusion.
There  is  a fairly widespread belief that to look on  the  naked
face of God,  or a God,  means death, but fortunately there is no
historical  evidence to suggest that the majority  of  Kabbalists
died of anything other than natural causes.  Having said that,  I
would  not  like  to  underplay the  naked  rawness  of  Chokmah;
unconstrained, unconfined, free of form, it is the creative power
which   sustains  the  universe,   and  talk  of  death  is   not
     The  Illusion of Chokmah is independence;  at the  level  of
Binah we seem to be locked in form, separate and finite, but just
as  death  is  seen  to  be an  illusion  so  ultimately  is  our
independence and free-will.  We *seem* to be independent,  and we
*seem* to have free-will, but at the level of Chokmah we draw our
water from the same well.
     The  Virtue  of  Chokmah is good,  and  the  Vice  is  evil.
Regardless   of  your  definition  of  good  or   evil,   Chokmah
encompasses  every  possibility  of  action,   circumstance   and
creation,  and modern Kabbalists no longer try to believe God  is
good,  and evil must reside elsewhere.  Medieval Kabbalists liked
to  hedge their bets,  but one has only to plumb  the  bottomless
depths  of  personal good and evil to find they spring  from  the
same place.
     The Qlippoth of Chokmah is arbitrariness. The raw, creative,
unconstrained  energy of God at its most primal and  dynamic  can
seem utterly arbitrary and chaotic,  and some authors [e.g.  [6]]
have  seen it this way.  This removes the "divine will" from  the
energy  and  leaves  a  blind,   directionless  and   essentially
mechanical  force which is unbiased - creation  and  destruction,
order and chaos,  who cares? The Kabbalistic view is that this is
not so:  Chokmah contains form (as Binah) *in potential*,  and it
is not correct to view Chokmah as a purely chaotic energy.  It is
an  energy biased towards an end - "God's Will",  for lack  of  a
better description.

     The  Spiritual Experience of Kether is Union  with  God.  My
comments  on  the Spiritual Experience of Chokmah apply  also  to
Kether. The Illusion of Kether is attainment. We can live, we can
change, but there is nothing to attain. Even Union with God is no
attainment;  we were always one with God,  and *knowing* that  we
are  changes  nothing of any consequence - as long  as  we  live,
there  is  no  goal in life other  than  living  itself.  As  the
Kabbalist Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said [7]:

     "No  matter how high one reaches,  there is still  the  next
     step.  Therefore,  we never know anything,  and still do not
     attain  the true goal.  This is a very deep  and  mysterious

The  Qlippoth of Kether is Futility.  Perhaps the creation was  a
bad idea. Maybe the En Soph should never have emanated the point-
crown of Kether. Perhaps the whole of creation, life, the entire,
ghastly three-ring circus we are forced to endure is nothing more
than  *a complete waste*.  The En Soph should suck  Malkuth  back
into Kether,  collapse the whole, crazy house of cards, and admit
the mistake.

     The  God-name  of Binah is Elohim,  a feminine noun  with  a
masculine  plural  ending.  When  we read in the  Bible  "In  the
beginning created God...", this God is Elohim. The name Elohim is
associated with all the sephiroth on the Pillar of Form,  and  is
taken  to represent the feminine aspect of God.  The God-name  of
Chokmah is Yah (YH),  a shortened form of YHVH.  The God-name  of
Kether is Eheieh, a name sometimes translated as "I am", and more
often as "I will be".
     The archangel of Binah is Tzaphqiel;  I have been told  this
means "Shroud of God",  but I have not been able to verify  this.
If  it does not mean "Shroud of God",  it most certainly  should.
The  archangel of Chokmah is Ratziel,  the Herald of  the  Deity.
According to tradition, the wisdom of God and the deepest secrets
of  the  creation were inscribed on a sapphire which  is  in  the
keeping of the archangel Ratziel,  and this "Book of Ratziel" was
given  to Adam and handed down through the generations  [8].  The
archangel of Kether is Metatron,  the Archangel of the  Presence.
According to tradition Metatron was once the man Enoch,  who  was
so wise he was taken by God and made a prince among the angels.
    The angel orders of Binah,  Chokmah and Kether can be derived
directly  from  the  vision of Ezekiel.  In  the  Biblical  text,
Ezekiel  describes successively the Holy  Living  Creatures,  the
great  wheels  within  wheels,   and  lastly  the  throne-chariot
(Merkabah) of God. The vision of Ezekiel had a great influence on
early Kabbalah,  and it is no coincidence that the angel order of
Binah is the Aralim,  or Thrones,  the angel order of Chokmah  is
the  Auphanim  or Wheels,  and the angel order of Kether  is  the
Chiaoth  ha Qadesh,  or Holy Living Creatures.  The forms of  the
Chiaoth ha Qadesh - lion,  eagle,  man and ox - have survived  to
this  day  in many Christian churches,  and can be found  on  the
"World" card of most Tarot packs.

     It  is  difficult to grasp the nature of Chokmah  and  Binah
from symbols alone, just as it is difficult to grasp interstellar
distances,  the energy output of a star, the number of stars in a
galaxy,  and the number of galaxies visible to us.  The scale  of
the observable physical universe relative to our planet (and  the
planet  is a big place for most of us) is  staggering;  there are
something  like a hundred stars in *our galaxy alone*  for  every
person  on  this  planet.  When I think of Chokmah  and  Binah  I
attempt  to think of them on this scale;  the  physical  universe
where  we  have  our  home,   considered  as  Malkuth,  is  vast,
mysterious, and contains inconceivable energies - to consider the
Father and Mother of creation on any less a scale seems  arrogant
to me. Which brings me to the question "Can one experience, or be
initiated into, the supernal sephiroth?".
     If the Kabbalah is to be considered as based on  experience,
and not an intellectual construction,  then the answer has to  be
"yes".  The  supernals represent something real.   What  do  they
represent?  Is it possible to "cross the Abyss"?  The answers  to
these questions depends on which Kabbalistic model one chooses to
use,  and precisely how one interprets the Tree of Life.  For the
sake of argument I have chosen three alternative models:

Model A:  the  sephira  Malkuth  represents  the  whole  physical
          universe; the  sephiroth  from Yesod  to  Chesed  (the
          Microprosopus)  represent  a  sentient,  self-conscious
          being;  the  supernals represent the God of  the  whole
          universe, God-in-the-Large.

Model B:  the Tree of Life is a model of human consciousness; the
          supernals represent the God within, God-in-the-Small.

Model C:  the  Tree  of  Life exists in the four  worlds  of  the
          creation, namely Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah.
          When talking of "the Tree",  we are talking about  "the
          Tree of Yetzirah"; "The Abyss" is in fact "the Abyss of
          Yetzirah" only.

All three models can be found in Kabbalistic writing,  and it  is
rarely clear which version an author is using at any given  time.
I admit the fault myself. Model A differs radically from Models B
and C:  Model A is an all-embracing model of everything,  whereas
in  Models  B  and C the Tree has  been  applied  recursively  to
a  component  of the whole,  namely a human  being  considered  a
divine  spark.   This  is  a  valid  (if  confusing)  Kabbalistic
technique:  take  a  whole,  and find a new Tree in each  of  its
components;  apply  the  method recursively  until  you  generate
enough detail to explain anything.  This idea is summed up in the
aphorism: "there is a Tree in every sephiroth".
     Is  it possible to experience the supernals in  Model  A?  I
would say that it is only possible to experience them at a remove
via  the paths crossing over the Abyss from  Tipheret;  that  is,
as a living, incarnate being my consciousness rises no further up
the Pillar of Consciousness than Tiphereth (or Daath),  but it is
possible  to apprehend the supernals via the  linking  paths.  To
experience  the  consciousness of Binah in this  model  would  be
tantamount  to  being able to modify the  physical  constants  of
nature - Planck's constant, the speed of light, the Gravitational
constant,   the  ratio  of  masses  of  particles  etc.   -   the
consequences  don't bear thinking about!  To  experience  Chokmah
would  be  to  experience the force  which  underpins  a  billion
galaxies.  I  do  not believe even the  most  arrogant  twentieth
century  magician  would claim to have achieved either  of  these
initiations - the continuing existence of the planet is  probably
the best evidence for that.
     Model  B  is  a model of the Microprosopus  *as  a  complete
Tree*.  There  is  some evidence in the "Zohar" that  the  author
thought  about the Macroprosopus and Microprosopus  in  precisely
this  way,  with  references to "the greater  Chokmah"  and  "the
lesser Chokmah". Model C is substantially similar to Model B, but
cast in a slightly different model.  With this interpretation  it
is  certainly  possible to consider "the lesser  Chokmah"  as  an
accessible  state  of consciousness,  but "the  Greater  Chokmah"
remains as in Model A; that is, we can experience the God within,
"God-in-the-Small",  and experience our essential unity with  all
other living beings considered as "Gods-in-the-Small", but beyond
that lies a greater mystery,  that of "God-in-the-Large".  We may
each  be a chip off the old block,  but individually we  are  not
*identical* with the old block.
     This  discussion  may seem arcane,  but there is  a  natural
tendency  in people to exalt spiritual experience to the  highest
level,  which  does  nothing more than inflate  and  devalue  the
currency  of the language we use to describe  these  experiences.
The  universe  is too large,  too mysterious,  and  too  full  of
infinite  possibilities of wonder for anyone to claim  initiation
into Malkuth, far less Kether.

     Lastly,  it is worth asking "what *is* God?".  What does the
Kabbalistic  trinity of Kether,  Chokmah and Binah represent  *in
reality*?  I  have  deliberately avoided mentioning  an  enormous
amount  of Kabbalistic material on these three sephiroth  because
it   is   not  clear  whether  it  contributes   to   a   genuine
understanding.  How useful,  for example,  is it to know that the
name  Binah (BINH) contains not only IH (Yod,  He),  the  letters
representing Chokmah and Binah,  but also BN, Ben, the son? There
is a level of understanding Kabbalah which is  intellectual,  and
capable  of almost inifinite elaboration,  but it leads  nowhere.
What  experience  or perception does the word  "God"  denote?  If
there  is  nothing  which is not God,  why  are  so  many  people
searching for God? Why do so many people feel apart from  God?  I
quoted  D.H.  Lawrence's  poem "Only Man" because of  his  deeply
intuitive view of the Fall from God and the abyss of separation.
    I was browsing in my local occult bookshop recently,  a shop
which  contains  a catholic selection of books  covering  Eastern
religions,  astrology,  Tarot,  shamanism,  crystals,  theosophy,
magick,   Celtic  and  Grail  traditions,   mythology,  Kabbalah,
witchcraft,  and so on. I am not sure what I was looking for, but
despite  a couple of hours of browsing I certainly did  not  find
it.  What did strike me was the extent to which so many of  these
books  were  written  to  make human  beings  *feel  good*  about
themselves.  There  is  a  smug view permeating  so  much  occult
literature  that "spiritual" human beings are a little  bit  more
"advanced"  or "developed" than the pack,  that they are  "moving
along  the Path" towards some kind  of  "enlightenment",  "cosmic
consciousness",  "union with God",  "divine love", or one of many
more fantastic and utterly sublime goals. It is all so empowering
and  affirming and cosy.  Even in the less starry-eyed and  gushy
works  the  view  is  predominantly,  almost  exclusively  human-
centred,  and  I found it difficult to avoid the impression  that
the  universe was designed as a foam-padded playground for  human
souls  to romp around in.  There is more than a little  truth  in
Marx's statement that religion is the opium of the people,  and a
cynic could justify a claim that occultism and esoteric  religion
are  little more than a security blanket for  unfortunate  people
who  cannot look reality in the face.  Where are the books  which
say  "you are an insignificant speck of flyshit in a universe  so
vast you cannot even begin to comprehend its scale;  your  occult
pretensions  amount  to  nothing and are  carefully  designed  to
protect you from any experience of reality;  all human experience
and knowledge is parochial,  insignificant and largely irrelevant
on  a universal scale,  and your personal contribution even  more
so;  there are no Masters or Powers,  no Secret Chiefs,  no Inner
Plane Adepti,  no Messiahs,  and God does not love you;  the only
thing you possess is your life, and the joy and mystery of living
in a universe filled to the brim with life, where little is known
and much remains to be discovered; when you die, you are dead." I
do  not concur with this position in its entirity,  but it  is  a
valid  position  to  adopt,   and  one  which  is  not   strongly
represented in esoteric and occult literature.  Why not?  Perhaps
people do not want to buy books which say this. I will venture an
opinion  which  reflects my own experience;  as such  it  has  no
general validity, but it is worth recording nevertheless.
     I   believe  that  many  religious,   esoteric  and   occult
traditions currently extant are unconsciously designed to protect
human  beings from experiencing God and lead towards  experiences
which  are  valid  in themselves but  which  are  biased  towards
feelings of love,  protection,  peace,  safety,  personal growth,
community  and empowerment,  all wrapped up in a strongly  human-
centred   value  system  where  positive  *human*  feelings   and
experiences are emphasised.  I believe that people are apart from
God  by choice,  that they cannot find God because *they  do  not
want to*.
     It is difficult to justify this statement without  resorting
to  an onion-skin model of the psyche;  underneath  the  surface,
unsuspected and virtually inaccessible, is a layer which does its
best  to  protect us from the existential terror  of  confronting
things  as  they really are.  As a child I was terrified  of  the
dark;  the dark itself was not malign,  but I was deeply  afraid,
and  in  this case it was fear which determined  my  relationship
with the dark,  not any quality of the dark itself. So it is with
God  -  it  is  our deeply buried  and  unrecognised  fear  which
determines our relationship with God.  We read books,  go to  the
cinema and theatre,  argue,  invent,  throw parties,  play games,
search for God, live and love together, and bury ourselves in all
the  distractions  of human society in a frenetic  and  unceasing
effort  to avoid the layers of fear - fear of solitude,  fear  of
rejection, fear of disease and decay and disintregration, fear of
madness,  fear  of meaninglessness,  arbitrariness and  futility,
fear  of death and personal annihilation.  Like an audience in  a
cinema, we can live in a fantasy for a time and forget that it is
dark,  cold and raining outside,  but sooner or later we have  to
leave  our  seats.  And underneath all the fears is the  fear  of
opening  the door which conceals the awful truth:  that  we  have
wilfully,  and with great energy and persistence,  chosen *not to

[1]  Ponce, Charles, "Kabbalah", Garnstone Press, 1974.

[2]  Kaplan, Aryeh, "The Bahir", Samuel Weiser 1989.

[3]  Mather, S.L., "The Kabbalah Unveiled", RKP 1970

[4]  Fortune, Dion, "Moon Magic", Star Books, 1976

[5]  James,  William,  "The  Varieties of Religious  Experience",
                        Fontana 1974

[6]  Peter J. Carroll, "Liber Null & Psychonaut", Samuel Weiser 1987

[7]  Epstein, Perle, "Kabbalah", Shambhala 1978

[8]  Graves,  Robert, & Patai, Raphael, "Hebrew Myths, the Book
                                        of Genesis", Arena 1989

Chapter 5: Practical Kabbalah

     "But  just  as I was going to put my feet into the  water  I
     looked  down and saw that they were all hard and  rough  and
     wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before.  Oh, that's
     all right said I,  it only means I had another smaller  suit
     on underneath the first one,  and I'll have to get out of it
     too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled
     off  beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying  beside
     the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
          "Well,  exactly  the same thing happened again.  And  I
     thought to myself,  oh dear,  how ever many skins have I got
     to  take  off?  For  I was longing to bathe  my  leg.  So  I
     scratched away for the third time and got off a third  skin,
     just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon
     as  I  looked at myself in the water I knew it had  been  no
          "Then  the lion said - but I don't know if it  spoke  -
     "You  will have to let me undress you." I was afraid of  his
     claws,  I  can tell you,  but I was pretty nearly  desperate
     now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.
          "The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought
     it had gone right into my heart.  And when he began  pulling
     the  skin off,  it hurt worse than anything I've ever  felt.
     The  only  thing that made me able to bear it was  just  the
     pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off."

                                             C.S. Lewis

     From an historical and traditional perspective the practical
techniques of Kabbalah include techniques of mysticism and (to  a
lesser  extent)  magic  to  be  found  the  world  over:  complex
concentration  and visualisation  exercises,  meditation,  breath
control,  prayer, ritual, physical posture, chanting and singing,
abstinence, fasting, mortification and good works. Many different
combinations of practice were used at different times and places,
and it is clear that practice grew more out of the temperament of
the individual than from a long historical tradition.  From  time
to time an outstanding teacher would appear,  and a school  would
form,  but  these schools tended to be short-lived,  and  one  is
struck  more by the diversity and individuality of the  different
approaches,  than by (what is often presumed) a chain of  masters
handing  down  the  core  of  a  secret  tradition  through   the
centuries.  A problem with trying to find an authentic  tradition
of  Kabbalistic practice is not only is it difficult to  identify
just  what  such  a tradition might be (given  the  diversity  of
approaches over the centuries), but more importantly, the keys to
many of the practical techniques have been lost.  In her book  on
Kabbalah [1],  Perle Epstein makes a number of wry comments about
the state of Kabbalah in Judaism today, and regrets the loss of a
practical mystical tradition. Outside of Judaism the situation is
little better;  Kabbalah has become an element in the syllabus of
many traditions,  but its practical application is often  limited
to  exercises such as pathworking.  It is instructive to  examine
the  Golden  Dawn initiation rituals [2] as an  example  of  what
happens when Kabbalah is boiled up with a mixture of  ingredients
drawn from Greek,  Egyptian,  Rosicrucian and Enochian sources  -
there is a pervasive smell of Kabbalah throughout,  but it rarely
amounts to a meal.
     The  following description of Kabbalistic practice makes  no
attempt to be comprehensive;  on the contrary, I have chosen only
those  practices with which I am personally familiar.  This  will
be unsatisfactory to those readers with an academic or historical
interest,  but  these  notes were intended to  have  a  practical
value, and I see no value in trying to describe techniques I have
not  used.  Epstein  [1] provides a useful  introduction  to  the
breadth of Kabbalistic practice, and the personalities which have
shaped Kabbalistic thought.  I am aware that there will be  those
who  would  not wish to associate the name  "Kabbalah"  with  the
practices  I am about to describe - although I am not  Jewish,  I
respect the beliefs of those who are - but at the same time there
is  a  great  deal of variety in nearly  two  thousand  years  of
Kabbalah,  and one living tradition is worth at least as much  as
several dead traditions. There is no right or canonical tradition
of Kabbalistic practice.
     The   practice  of  Kabbalah  as  I  will  describe  it   is
underpinned  by  the  theosophical  structure  I  have   outlined
previously  in these notes.  First and foremost comes the  belief
that there is a God.  The ultimate nature of God is neither known
nor  manifest to us,  but just as light can be passed  through  a
prism  to produce a rainbow of colours,  so God manifests in  the
creation as ten divine lights or emanations,  usually referred to
as sephiroth.  Each of one of us is a part of God, a microcosm, a
complete  and  functioning simulacrum of the whole,  and  so  God
similarly  manifests within us as ten divine lights.  Because  we
can look in the mirror of our own being and see the reflection of
the macrocosm it follows that self-knowledge shades imperceptibly
into  knowledge  of  God,  and as the whole  of  creation  is  an
emanation  of  God,   so  self-knowledge  moves  the  centre   of
consciousness away from a subjective awareness of reality towards
an objective and non-dualistic union with everything that is.
     The second key idea is that the emanations or sephiroth  are
aspects of the *creative* power of God.  On a macrocosmic  scale,
the  creation  is  seen as the continuing outcome  of  a  dynamic
process in which creative energy manifests progressively  through
the  sephiroth;  at  a microcosmic and personal  level  the  same
process is at work, and this is the Kabbalistic interpretation of
the  notion that we are "made in God's image".  By  understanding
the elements which comprise our own natures,  by going far enough
inside ourselves to understand the energy and dynamics  operating
within  our  own consciousness,  so we touch  the  same  energies
operating in the universe. When we have touched these energies we
can  call  on  them;  one  name  for  this  process  is  "magic".
Traditionally  these energies are called upon by  name,  and  are
characterised  in  concrete ways - the  list  of  correspondences
given  in Chapter 2 of these notes provides many ideas as to  how
these energies are likely to be observed at a level where we  are
most likely to observe them.  The Kabbalistic Tree of Life is  an
abstract representation or map describing the creative energy  of
God and the process of manifestation.
     And  that is it,  in essence.  How literally you take  these
assumptions  is  up to you;  my attitude resembles  that  of  the
engineer  Oliver  Heavyside,  who didn't care whether  his  self-
invented mathematical methods made sense to mathematicians  (they
didn't),  as long as his calculations produced the right  answers
(they did).  I will talk about angels and archangels and names of
God, powers and sephiroth and invocations, and leave it to you to
make  your own sense of it.
     But to return to the discussion of practical  Kabbalah:  one
can identify two major kinds of practical work arising out of the
assumptions above. From the idea that we are made in the image of
God  we  can conclude that by knowing ourselves we can  (in  some
degree)  know  God;  this  leads to practical  work  designed  to
increase  self-knowledge  to  the  greatest  degree  possible,  a
process  I will refer to as *initiation*.  From the idea that  we
can  call  upon aspects of the creative energy of God  to  change
reality  we  arrive at practices intended to  increase  *personal
power*. Kabbalah has divided along these two paths, and I believe
it  is  accurate  to  say that  traditional  Jewish  Kabbalah  is
predominantly  mystical,  with  the emphasis on union  with  God,
while  non-Jewish  Kabbalah is  predominantly  magical.
     It is easy to sit in judgement of these two approaches; many
authors have done so. To seek for union with God is to seek to do
God's will; the world-wide mystical agenda is composed largely of
the subjugation of ego and the replacement of personal wilfulness
with divine union.  Magic is seen to be predominantly wilful, and
so  shares  the original Satanic impulse of pride  and  rebellion
against  the divine will.  It is easy to conclude  that  mystical
union  (devekuth,  or "cleaving to God") is the  true  goal,  and
magic  an "egocentric" aberration of consciousness.
     It  is  difficult to provide a *rational*  counter  to  this
argument:   to   be  rational  is  to  fail  to  appreciate   the
ineffability of mystical insight,  and to argue is to demonstrate
Satanic  wilfulness  - one is condemned out of one's  own  mouth.
Nevertheless, there is a middle way between the two extremes, and
in  what follows the process of initiation is combined  with  the
use of magical techniques in a blend which I believe captures the
best of both approaches. I have chosen to describe the process of
initiation  first  because  I have the romantic  notion  that  an
ethical sense grows out of self-knowledge.  I follow that with  a
discussion of some general magical techniques.


One  of the meanings of the word "initiation" is "the process  of
beginning something".  What is one beginning?  One is  committing
oneself to find answers to certain questions. What questions? The
questions vary,  but they are usually fundamental questions about
the nature of life and personal existence:  "why is the world the
way it is?",  "why am I alive?", "what lies behind the phenomenal
world?",  "why  should  I continue living?",  "what is  good  and
what is evil?",  "how should I live?", and "how can I become rich,
famous and sexually attractive without expending any effort?". It
happens (for no obvious reason)  that there are people who cannot
escape the nagging conviction that some or all of these questions
can be answered,  and the same people are determined to wring the
answers out of somebody or something.  The situation resembles  a
cat in a new house;  the poor creature will not rest until it has
explored every nook and cranny from the attic to the  crawlspace.
So  it is with certain people;  they look out on the  world  with
cat's eyes, and metaphysical and philosophical questions are like
dark openings into the attic and crawlspace of existence.  And it
happens   that  every  question,   when  followed   with   enough
determination,  leads  back to the questioner.  What is the  pre-
condition for knowing anything? We are the attics and crawlspaces
of  existence,  and so in the end we forced to look  within,  and
know ourselves.
     There is another aspect to initiation:  on one hand we  have
the desire to *know*, and on the other hand we have the desire to
*be  something  else*.  Initiation  is also the  beginning  of  a
process of self-transformation,  a process of becoming  something
else. Becoming what? Answers vary, but in the main, people have a
vision of "myself made perfect",  and if they believe in  saints,
they want to be saintly;  if they believe in God, they want to be
united with God.  Some want to be more powerful, and some want to
be rich,  famous,  and sexually attractive. Two easily observable
characteristics  of  people  looking  for  mystical  or   magical
training  are a lust for knowledge and a desire to  be  something
other than what they currently are.  A bizarre situation  indeed;
not only do they seek to know what they are and why they are, but
even  before  they know the answers,  they want to  be  something
     Kabbalistic  initiation  is a process  of  increasing  self-
knowledge,  and an accompanying process of change. It is based on
a  practical  experience  of the sephiroth:  if  each  of  us  is
potentially  a simulacrum of God,  and if the creative energy  of
God  can  be  described  in terms of  the  dynamics  of  the  ten
sephiroth,  then  by understanding the dynamics of the  sephiroth
within  us we begin to understand the nature of the  God  within,
and  by extrapolation,  the nature of God in  the  absolute.  The
learning  process  (like most learning)  mirrors  the  alchemical
operation  of "solve et coagula" - that is,  before we can  reach
the  next stage in knowledge and understanding ("coagula") it  is
necessary  to break down what already exists into  its  component
parts  ("solve").  This  can be observed whenever we  attempt  to
learn a new skill;  we begin in a state of unconcious  competence
where we can do many tasks without difficulty,  but when we try a
new  skill we find that our old habits are a  positive  obstacle,
and we become unconsciously incompetent - we approach a new  task
in  an old way and make a mess of it.  When we have  made  enough
messes we either give up,  or we realise the necessity of change,
drop  old  habits  as a prerequisite  for  acquiring  new  habits
(solve), and become consciously incompetent. Finally, with enough
practice (coagula), we return once more to a state of unconscious
competence,  ready to begin the cycle one more time.  The process
of  kabbalistic  initiation leading to  increased  self-knowledge
begins with the sephiroth,  and each sephira contains within it a
world of "solve et coagula",  a world where one may function with
limited  unconscious  competence,  but to reach a  new  level  of
understanding  and  competence one must go through the  fire  and
experience   the   energy  of  the   sephira   deliberately   and
     What possible advantage could there be in understanding  the
nature of a sephira?  What "things" are there to be  learned?  In
answer,  there are no "things" to be learned.  A sephira is not a
particular manifestation of consciousness (e.g.  pleasure),  or a
particular  behaviour  (e.g.   being  honest,  being  kind);  the
sephiroth underpin manifestations of consciousness,  they are the
earth in which behaviours (and their opposites) are  rooted,  and
by understanding a sephira one burrows underneath the *phenomena*
of  consciousness  and  grasps an abstract  state  of  *becoming*
(emanation,  or sephira) which gives rise to phenomena. This is a
magical procedure;  when one ceases to identify with the shopping
list of qualities,  beliefs and behaviours which can be  mistaken
for   personal   identity  (a  necessarily  fixed   and   limited
abstraction) then one touches the raw substance of becoming,  and
it  is on the power to manipulate the "becoming" of reality  that
magic  is based.  The closer one tries to get to the energy of  a
sephira, the more one must abandon the artificial restrictions of
personality;  the  mystical  quest  for  self-knowledge  and  the
magical quest for personal power unite in the same place.
     There  are  many  ways  to investigate  the  nature  of  the
sephiroth,  but one of the simplest and most direct is to ask the
powers of the sephiroth for help.  In principal all one has to do
is call upon the powers of a sephira,  and ask to be  instructed.
There are three potential problems with this procedure. The first
is that it is like asking to be dropped in a wilderness;  you may
learn to survive,  or you may not. The second possible problem is
that  people tend to have a natural affinity for  some  sephiroth
and  not  others,  and left to themselves tend to  develop  their
knowledge in a lop-sided manner.  Lastly, many people do not know
how  to call upon the powers - you can't ask Gabriel to help  you
if  you  don't know Gabriel,  and you don't know how  to  contact
Gabriel. But, if you knew someone who knew Gabriel....
     The time-honoured method of initiation into the nature of  a
particular sephira is to ask someone who has had that  experience
to  invoke to powers of the sephira on your  behalf.  The  person
chosen  as initiator would use the techniques of ritual magic  to
invoke the powers of a sephira with the intention that you should
receive  instruction and insight into the nature of that  sphere.
It  works.  Metaphysical theories may be impossible to  prove  or
disprove,  supposed  magical  powers  evaporate  in  the  physics
laboratory,  but  people who undergo this kind of initiation  can
change visibly and even claim to have learned something.  One can
argue  about the objective reality of the Archangel  Gabriel  and
the Powers of the sephira Yesod,  but it is difficult to  dispute
the  validity  of  initiation when someone  changes  his  or  her
outlook  on  reality and actually does things  differently  as  a
     I  would  like to clarify some  possible  misunderstandings.
This  kind  of  initiation is not a ceremony  with  a  fixed  and
lengthy script,  like the masonic-type rituals which have  become
so  closely associated with magical initiations.  The  initiation
ritual  I  am  describing is a  challenge;  it  is  a  one-to-one
encounter  between  an initiatee,  and an initiator who  acts  as
agent for the invoked powers. If there is a script it is minimal;
the purpose of the ritual is not to impart secrets,  or impose  a
view of the world,  but to challenge the initiatee to demonstrate
a   personal  and  individual  understanding  relevant   to   the
initiation.   The  success  of  the  initiation  depends  on  the
initiator's ability to invoke and channel the powers,  and on the
initiatee's  willingness  to be challenged at a  deeply  personal
level  in  an  atmosphere  of  trust.  The  challenge  aspect  of
initiation is a vital part of its success; it creates a catalytic
stress which can act to bring about sudden and sometimes dramatic
changes  in perspective.  The initiation is also a challenge  for
the  initiator;  each initiatee is different and  approaches  the
same place from a different direction.
     This kind of initiation is not a lightweight  procedure.  It
is easy to abuse it.  The purpose of initiation is not to  select
for conformity (quite the opposite),  but it must be said that it
is easy for an initiator to use an initiation to enhance personal
power.  This  is  a  problem in esoteric  systems  which  use  an
apprenticeship  system and is not unique to this particular  form
of initiation.
     Self-initiation  is possible and may be the only option  for
many  people.   It  suffers  from  a  number  of disadvantages:

     - people  are  naturally  self-important  and  endow  their
       opinions,   attitudes  and  prejudices  with  far   more
       importance than another person would. Working with another
       person produces beneficial friction.

     - it is easy to make excuses to yourself which you  wouldn't
       make to another person. Their presence is a   challenge to
       make an effort, or do things differently.

     - magical work can produce dramatic changes in behaviour. An
       observer can provide useful feedback.

     - most of Kabbalah isn't "facts"; it is "ways of being", and
       an  excellent method of learning is to let  someone  else

     - it is easy to reinvent the wheel when working by oneself.

None  of  these  difficulties  are  insurmountable.   Joining  an
amateur  dramatic   group as a conscious and  deliberate  magical
exercise should provide some of the raw input needed, and provide
lots of stress,  friction, and challenges to one's personal world
view. It is easy to think up other examples. What is important is
not to treat practical Kabbalah as something separate from normal
life, but to use normal life as the stimulus to put Kabbalah into
practice - this is a traditional Kabbalistic idea.  If you  can't
do it in ordinary life, you can't do it.
     It  is  easy  to mystify initiation  and  pretend  it  leads
somewhere different from the "school of hard knocks". It doesn't.
Ordinary  life is a perfectly adequate initiator,  and people  do
change  in many ways (sometime dramatically) as they grow  older.
At most initiation may go further.  It can and should  accelerate
the process of acquiring self-knowledge and (in theory at  least)
lead  to someone who has explored their personal microcosm  in  a
broader,  deeper and more systematic way than someone who has had
to  suffer "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"  in  the
patchy and random sequence that is our common lot.  The Kabbalist
should  be  able  to go further in exploring  and  analysing  the
extremes of consciousness, boundless steppes in the shadowland of
"not-me", where daemons of "otherness" threaten the fragile ghost
of personal identity.
     Much of what an initiator does is to ask questions.  If  you
want to carry out a self-initiation you will have to ask your own
questions.  I  will  use  the sephiroth of  Hod  and  Netzach  as
examples to show how the sephirothic correspondences can be  used
to ask questions.  Suppose you want to identify those  behaviours
and  attitudes in your personality which are underpinned  by  Hod
and  Netzach.  Read the correspondences in Chapter 2 for Hod  and
Netzach and try to decide.  Are you impulsive? Do you do what you
want to do and ignore people who warn you of the consequences? Do
you have strong passions for things, people, places. If asked why
you  are doing something,  how do you explain yourself -  do  you
give  elaborate rationalisations,  or do you say things  like  "I
haven't any choice", or "you made me do it", or "I just want to",
or "I can't explain why".  Do other people tell you to stop being
irrational? Do you find it hard to suppress your emotions, do you
think you are transparent to others?  Are you furious one minute,
miserably  sad  the  next,  do your  moods  and  feelings  change
on the fly?
     On  the other hand,  you might be someone who  is  concerned
with  the  protocol of relationships and  situations  (you  worry
whether it is right to kiss on the first date!). You like to talk
about  things and have definite ideas about the right  and  wrong
way  to  conduct  a  discussion - you refer  to  this  as  "being
rational". You analyse your conduct in some detail according to a
constantly developing set of rules, and you dream up hypothetical
situations to test your ability to apply these rules - you  don't
want to make a mistake. You are skilled at handling problems with
many rules,  and may be adept at cheating the rules.  You have  a
clear  grasp  of high-level abstractions and might work  in  law,
medicine,  finance,  science,  or engineering,  where you can use
your  ability  to  apply rule-based  knowledge.  You  might  feel
uncomfortable  with  a  display of  emotion  in  another  person,
particlarly when it cuts across your sense of protocol,  and  you
keep a tight rein on your own emotions. Other people may find you
sharp  but  clinical,  able to communicate verbally but  poor  at
responding to real-life situations involving emotional  conflict,
poor  at  any problem where there  is  insufficient  information,
where  variables  cannot  be quantified,  or where  there  is  no
abstract model.
     The first set of behaviours is appropriate to Netzach, while
the second set is appropriate to Hod.  Few people are purely  one
thing or another, and behaviours change according to circumstance
- drinking alcohol tends to shift people from Hod-type behaviours
to Netzach-type behaviours. A person may sustain a Hod persona at
work,  then  go to a bar in the evening and become  the  complete
opposite.  My  favourite  Hod/Netzach joke  concerns  the  (real)
couple  who  were asked which of the two sephiroth they  had  the
greatest affinity to.  The man responded "Well,  I feel I'm Hod",
and  the woman replied "I think I'm probably Netzach".
     The  analysis  can  be  taken  further.   Suppose  you  have
identified a large number of Hod-type behaviours in yourself. The
virtue  of  Hod  is honesty or  truthfulness,  and  its  vice  is
dishonesty - the power of language to represent  and  communicate
information  about  the world automatically brings  with  it  the
power  to  *misrepresent* what is going on.  How  often  are  you
dishonest?  With yourself? With others? In what situations do you
sanction  dishonesty?  What value do you perceive in  dishonesty?
Are  you capable of giving a purely factual account of a  failed,
close relationship without rationalising your own behaviour?  Try
it,  and ask a good friend to score the attempt. I must emphasise
that  there  is no moral intent in this  dissection  of  personal
honesty  - it is an exercise designed to expose the way in  which
we represent events so as to make ourselves feel comfortable.
     The illusion of Hod is Order, and the qlippa or shell of Hod
is  Rigid  Order.  It is easy to observe during  discussions  and
arguments how people try to defend and preserve the structure (or
form)  of their beliefs.  Do you know anyone with an  unshakeable
view of the world? Does it annoy you that no matter how ingenious
you  are  in finding counter-examples to his or  her  view,  this
person  will always succeed in "fitting" your example into  their
world view?   What about yourself?  Do you collect evidence which
reinforces your beliefs like someone collecting stamps?  Are  you
conscious  of  trying to "fit" and "interpret"  the  evidence  to
support  your beliefs?  Why are your beliefs important?  What  is
their actual *value* to you. What would happen to you if you gave
them up?
     You  can  do the same thing with the  sephira  Netzach.  The
illusion  of Netzach is projection,  the averse face of  empathy,
the tendency to incorrectly attribute to others the same feelings
and  motives  as  I have.  Suppose I  am  sexually  attracted  to
someone;  I  look at this person and they smile in  return.  What
does  that smile mean to me at that instant?  How many  different
mistakes might I have made?  Suppose I say to someone "I know how
you feel",  and they retort angrily "No you bloody well  don't!".
One of the fastest ways of alienating someone is to  consistently
misinterpret how they feel. Are you constantly puzzled why people
don't share your taste in clothes, music, literature, films, art,
or decor?  Do you feel that if only their eyes were opened,  they
might?  Do you ever try to convert people to your taste?  How  do
react when they aren't impressed?  Do you make secret  judgements
which  affect the way you treat them?  Have you  ever  discounted
someone  because their taste offended yours?  What  *value*  does
your  personal aesthetic have to you?  What would happen  if  you
gave it up?
     As  you  can  see,  this is not  a  procedure  where  anyone
(barring yourself) is going to provide answers.  Questions,  yes;
lots  of questions,  but no answers.  Asking the right  questions
isn't  easy;  we tend to have a peculiar blindness about our  own
behaviour,  beliefs,  and attitudes,  and that translates into an
unconsciousness  of  what we are.  One of the oldest  jokes  that
children play is to stick a notice on someone's back saying "Kick
Me".  The  poor  unfortunate  walks around and  wonders  why  his
acquaintances are behaving oddly - tittering, sneaking up behind,
and so on. He can't see what other people can see clearly, and he
hasn't  the  power to understand (and possibly  influence)  their
behaviour until he does see.  Suppose an "initiator" walks up and

     "Have you looked at your back recently?"
     "Ahhhh....!" says the victim in a sudden flash of insight.

     According  to folk wisdom,  asking questions is a  dangerous
business.  Asking yourself questions certainly is.  It hurts.  It
has no obvious benefit.  You may find yourself hating yourself as
you  penetrate  layers of self-deception and dishonesty  only  to
discover  a fear (or terror) of changing,  and pious  resolutions
and commitments fall apart in the face of that fear. You take off
the first skin, and then you take off the next skin, and then you
take off the skin under that.  Then you get stuck.  You can't  go
any further by yourself - you haven't the courage to do it -  and
at the same time you can't go back to what you were.  A blind and
deaf man can stand happily in the middle of a busy road, but give
him  sight  and hearing for only a second and that  happiness  is
gone.  It  is at this point where it helps to have a faith  in  a
power greater than yourself - your Holy Guardian Angel,  God, the
Lion, whatever.
     In summary,  the process of kabbalistic initiation described
above is based in detail on the map of consciousness provided  by
the  Tree  of Life and the  correspondences.  The  sephiroth  are
explored  by  using  ritual magic to invoke  the  powers  of  the
sephiroth   for  the  purposes  of   initiation.   Incidents   in
ordinary   life  are  interpreted  as  challenges   or   learning
experiences supplied by the powers. Major steps in the process of
initiation are marked by observable changes in the initiatee, and
confirmed  by  an  initiator whose role is primarily  that  of  a
catalyst. This technique of initiation has been used for at least
one hundred years, but its execution has tended to be marred by a
good  deal  of  superfluous dross  -  elaborate  ceremonials  and
scripts,  pompous  and often meaningless grades and  titles,  and
magical  systems so vastly elaborate that the  would-be  initiate
spends more time looking at the finger than the moon.


The Kabbalistic ritual technique I am about to describe is  based
on an assumption which may or may not be valid,  but which  gives
the  technique a characteristic style.  The assumption  is  "form
precedes  manifestation";  that is,  anything which manifests  in
this,  the  real,  physical world,  is preceded by a  process  of
"formation",  a  process described in its general outline by  the
doctrine  of  sephirothic emanation and the Kabbalistic  Tree  of
Life.  This  premise  is not so odd or metaphysical as  it  might
seem.  Every  object in the room I am sitting in is a product  of
human manufacture.  The mug I am drinking my tea out of was  once
clay,  and its form existed in someone's mind before taking shape
in  fired  clay.  The  house I live in was  once  an  architect's
design, and before that, an abstract object in a land developer's
scheme  for  making  lots  of  money.   Every  object  of   human
manufacture  originally existed as an idea or form  in  someone's
mind,  and each idea went through a process of development,  from
inspiration  to  manufacture  - I have  described  much  of  this
elsewhere in these Notes.  It is not a large step to conceive  of
the whole universe as the product of mind,  so that every form of
substance  -  the physical elements,  each species of  plant  and
animal  -  are the result of a process of formation  occuring  in
mind.  Where are these abstract minds? They compose a whole which
the  Kabbalist conveniently labels "God",  and the parts,  if  we
want  to refer to them seperately as subordinate  components,  we
call "archangels",  and "angels" and "spirits",  and "elementals"
and  "devils". Each  of  these minds  or  intelligences  holds  a
portion  of the archetypal form of the world in place,  and  each
mind  is  a  form in its own  right;  each  of  these  archetypal
intelligences  can  be  comprehended as  a  part  of  Binah,  the
Intelligence of God and Mother of all form.
     When I drop a stone,  it falls to the ground.  It does  this
because the spirit of matter inhabiting the stone uses  messenger
spirits  (or  angels) called gravitons to  communicate  with  the
spirit  of  matter inhabiting the Earth.  It turns out  that  the
curvature of space-time (its form) is  determined by the Lords of
Matter in an intricate but completely exact way according to  the
distribution of mass-energy - the details can be summarised in an
equation  first  written down by Albert  Einstein.  It  may  seem
absurd and retrograde (and William of Occam would certainly  turn
in  his grave) to suggest that what we call the laws  of  physics
are  forms maintained in the minds of  archetypal  intelligences,
but as Einstein himself stated,  "The most incomprehensible thing
about the world is that it is comprehensible"; that is, it can be
described  using  language.  There  *are*  abstract  forms  which
describe  change  in  the  physical  world,  and  they  *can*  be
comprehended by mind,  and although it is a large step to propose
that mind takes primacy over matter,  it is a view attractive  to
the practising magician.  It is a view completely consistent with
Kabbalah.  When I call upon a spirit to modify the law of gravity
at a specific time and place,  I am not violating a physical law;
I am *changing* it at its source.
     If  "form precedes manifestation",  then practical magic  is
about understanding how the future is formed out of the  present.
The  seeds  of  many futures are  planted  in  the  present,  and
accessible to the magician as the forms of the future.  The forms
of  the  future are being progressed by many  minds;  where  they
overlap,   there  is  conflict  and  inconsistency,  a  situation
resembling  a  bus  where each passenger  has  a  steering  wheel
providing an unknown and variable input to the eventual direction
of the bus. In one interpretation (primacy of will) the  magician
is the person with the most powerful steering wheel;  in  another
interpretation  (Taoist  nudging) the magician  is  a  person who
understands  the  dynamics of steering sufficiently well  to  use
opportune moments to move the bus in a desired direction. Perhaps
both interpretations are valid.  In either case,  if one  accepts
the  simile,  then it should be clear that magic is rarely  about
certain  outcomes.  In both cases the magician must have a  clear
notion of direction, what is usually called *intention*.
     Formation   is  a  process  of  increasing   limitation   or
constraint.  Once  something  is manifest it  is  constrained  or
limited by what it is at that instant.  Suppose I want to make  a
film. It could be a film about *anything*. Once I have a script I
am more limited,  but have a lot of scope in directing the film -
choice of actors,  sets, locations etc. Once I have the rushes my
choices are even more constrained,  but I still have some freedom
in the editing.  Finally,  once the film is released,  I have  no
more freedom to change it,  unless, like some directors, I choose
to re-edit and re-issue it. Intention is also a limitation: it is
a limitation of will.  I chose to make a film,  but I could  have
chosen to write a book instead,  or chosen to take a holiday.  In
choosing to make a film I limited my free-will. I could of course
abandon  the film project,  but a life of  incomplete,  abandoned
projects is not very satisfactory to most people,  so my will  to
complete (i.e. to bring into manifestation) sustains my intention
and  I  have  to  learn to live  with  this  fairly  considerable
limitation on my theoretical free-will.
     The  limitation  of will and the formation of  the  film  go
hand-in-hand.  I  can't  just intend to make a film:  I  have  to
intend to get a script,  find some money,  borrow the  equipment,
recruit  some  actors and a crew.  The formation of the  film  is
driven  by  a fragmentation of my original  intention  into  many
components and sub-components as the task proceeds,  and activity
and intention feed off each other until, knee-deep in the details
of film making,  I might find myself thinking "I'd give  anything
if we could get this scene in the can and knock off for a  beer."
We have gone from a person with theoretically unlimited free-will
to someone who cannot knock off for a beer. Most people who go to
work  and attempt to bring up a family are in this  situation  of
being  so limited by previous choices and past history that  they
have  very  little  actual free-will  or  uncommitted  energy,  a
situation  which  has  to be understood  in  some  detail  before
attempting serious magical work.
     To summarise: if magic is about making things *happen*, then
the  magician might want to understand the process  of  formation
which precedes manifestation,  and understand not only the  forms
which   other  people  are  *intending*,   forms  which  may   be
competitive, but also the detailed relationship between formation
and intention.  You don't have to understand these  things;  many
people like magic to be truely *magical* (i.e.  without causality
or mechanism),  but Kabbalah does provide a theoretical model for
magical  work (the lightning flash on the Tree) which  many  have
found to be useful.  I think it is a mistake to confuse a lack of
consciousness  of  mechanism with a lack of  mechanism,  just  as
someone  might look at a clock and assume that it goes round  "by
magic",  and so I'd like to say something more about the  concept
of  limitation,  a concept essential to understanding the  ritual
framework I am going to describe.
     We are limited beings: our lives are limited to some tens of
years,  our bodies are limited in their physical  abilities,  and
compared to  the  different kinds of life on this planet  we  are
clearly  very  specialised compared with the  potential  of  what
we could  be  if  we had the free choice  of  being  anything  we
wanted.  Even as human beings we are limited,  in that we are all
quite  distinct from each other;  we limit ourselves to  a  small
number  of  behaviours,  attitudes  and beliefs  and  guard  that
individuality  and uniqueness as an inalienable right.  We  limit
ourselves  to  a  few skills because of  the  effort  and  talent
required, and only in exceptional cases do we find people who are
expert  in a large number of different skills - most  people  are
happy  if they are acknowledged as being an expert in one  thing.
It  is a fact that as the sum total  of knowledge  increases,  so
people  (particularly those with technical skills) are forced  to
become more and more specialised.
     This idea of limitation and specialisation has found its way
into magical ritual because of a magical (or mystical) perception
that, although all consciousness in the universe is One, and that
Oneness can be perceived directly,  it has become limited.  There
is  a  process  of  limitation  (formation)  in  which  the   One
(God, if  you like)   becomes   progressively   structured    and
constrained until it reaches the level of thee and me. Magicians
and mystics the world over are relatively unanimous in insisting
that  the normal everyday consciousness of most human  beings  is
a severe  limitation on the potential of  consciousness,  and  it
is possible,     through    various    disciplines,     to extend
consciousness into new regions.  From a magical point of view the
personality,  the ego,  the  continuing sense of individual  "me-
ness",   is   a  magical  creation,   an   artificial   elemental
or thoughtform  which  consumes  our magical  power  in  exchange
for the kind of limitation necessary to survive,  and in order to
work magic  it  is  necessary to divert  energy  away  from  this
obsession with personal identity and self-importance.
     Now, consider the  following  problem:   you  have   been
imprisoned  inside a large inflated plastic bag.  You  have  been
given  a sledghammer and a scalpel.  Which tool will get you  out
faster? The answer I am obviously looking for is the scalpel. The
key to getting out of large,  inflated,  plastic bags is to apply
as  much  force  as possible to as sharp  a  point  as  possible.
Magicians agree on this principle - the key to successful  ritual
is  a  "single-pointed  will".   A  mystic  may  try  to  expand
consciousness in all directions simultaneously, to encompass more
and  more  of  the One,  to embrace  the  One,  perhaps  even  to
transcend the One, but this is hard, and most people aren't up to
it   in   practise.   Rather  than  expand  in   all   directions
simultaneously,  it  is  much  easier to limit  an  excursion  of
consciousness  in one direction only,  and the more  precise  and
well-defined that limitation to a specific direction,  the easier
it is to get out of the plastic bag.  Limitation of consciousness
is  the  trick we use to cope with the complexities  of  life  in
modern society,  and as long as we are forced to live under  this
yoke  we might as well make a virtue out of a necessity, and  use
our  carefully  cultivated ability to  concentrate  attention  on
minutiae  to  burst  out of the bag.
     We  find the concept of limitation appearing in the  process
of formation which leads to manifestation;  in the limitation  of
will  which  leads to intention;  now I suggest that  a  focussed
limitation  of  consciousness is one method  to  release  magical
energy.  Limitation is the key to understanding the structure  of
magical  ritual  as  described  in  these  notes,   and  the  key
to successful practice.

Essential Steps

     I decided against giving the details of any rituals. All the
rituals I have taken a part in were written by one or more of the
people present.  I do not think any of the rituals would be worth
preserving  for their literary or poetic content.  On  the  other
hand,  the  majority of the rituals I have taken a part  in  have
conformed  to  a basic structure which has  rarely  varied;  this
structure we called "the essential steps".
     There is never going to be agreement about what is essential
in  a ritual and what is not,  any more than there will  ever  be
agreement about what makes a good novel.  That doesn't mean there
is  nothing  worth  learning.  The steps I  enumerate  below  are
suggestions  which were handed down to me,  and a lot of  insight
(not mine) has gone into them;  they conform to a Western magical
tradition  which has not changed in its essentials for  thousands
of  years,  and  I hand them on to you in the same  spirit  as  I
received them.

     These are the essential steps:

     1. Open the Circle
     2. Open the Gates
     3. Invocation to the Powers
     4. Statement of Intention and Sacrifice
     5. Main Ritual
     6. Dismissal of Powers
     7. Close the Gates
     8. Close the Circle

Step 1: Opening the Circle

     The  Circle is the place where magical work is carried  out.
It  might  literally be circle on the ground,  or it could  be  a
church,  or a stone ring, or a temple, or it might be an imagined
circle inscribed in the aethyr,  or it could be any spot hallowed
by  tradition. In some cases the Circle is  created  specifically
for one piece of work and then closed, while in other cases (e.g.
a  church) the building is consecrated and all the  space  within
the  building  is treated as if it was an open  circle  for  long
periods of time.  I don't want to deal too much in  generalities,
so  I  will deal with the common case where a circle  is  created
specifically  for  one  piece  of work,  for  a  period  of  time
typically  less  than  one day.  The  place where the  circle  is
created could be anywhere:  indoors,  outdoors,  top of a hill, a
cellar. It could be an imaginary place, the ritual carried out in
a lucid dream for example. Most often a ritual will take place in
a  room in a house,  and the first magical ability  the  magician
develops is the ability to turn any place into a temple.  I  like
to  prepare a room with some kind of cleaning,  and clear  enough
floor  space for a real or visualised circle.  I secure the  room
against  access as far as possible,  take the phone off the  hook
     The Circle is the first important magical limit:  it creates
a  small  area within which the magical  work  takes  place.  The
magician tries to control everything which takes place within the
Circle  (limitation),  and  so a  circle  half-a-mile  across  is
impractical.  The  Circle marks the boundary between the rest  of
the world (going on its way as normal), and a magical space where
things  are  most definitely not going on  as  normal  (otherwise
there wouldn't be any point in carrying out a ritual in the first
place).  There is a dislocation:  the region inside the circle is
separated  from the rest of space and is free to go its own  way.
There are some types of magical work where it may not be sensible
to have a circle (e.g.  working with the natural elements in  the
world  at large) but unless you are working with a power  already
present  in the environment in its normal state,  it is  best  to
work within a circle.
     The  Circle may be a mark on the ground,  or something  more
intangible still;  my own preference is an imagined line of  blue
fire drawn in the air.  It is in the nature of consciousness that
anything  taken  as real and treated as real will  eventually  be
accepted  as  Real - and if you want to start  an argument, state
that  money doesn't exist and isn't Real.  From  a  ritual
point  of  view  the  Circle is  a  real  boundary,  and  if  its
usefulness is to be maintained it should be treated with the same
respect  as  an electrified  fence.  Pets,  children  and  casual
onlookers  should  be kept out of it.  Whatever  procedures  take
place within the Circle should only take place within the  Circle
and in no other place,  and conversely,  your normal life  should
not  intrude  on the Circle unless it is part of  your  intention
that it should. From a symbolic point of view, the Circle marks a
new  "circle of normality",  a circle different from  your  usual
"circle  of  normality",  making  it possible  to  keep  the  two
"regions  of consciousness" distinct and separate.  The  magician
leaves  everyday  life  behind when the  Circle  is  opened,  and
returns  to it when the Circle is closed,  and for  the  duration
adopts a discipline of thought and deed which is specific to  the
type of magical work being undertaken;  this procedure is not  so
different from that in many kinds of laboratory where  scientists
work  with  hazardous  materials.
     Opening  a  Circle  usually  involves  drawing  a circle  in
the air  or  on  the  ground,  accompanied  by an  invocation  to
guardian spirits,  or the elemental powers of the four  quarters,
or the four watchtowers, or the archangels, or whatever. The well
known Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram [2] can be used as the  basis
for  a Kabbalistic circle-opening.  The precise method  isn't  so
important as practicing it until you can do it in your sleep, and
it should be carried out with the same attitude as  a soldier  on
formal guard duty outside a public building. The kind of ritual I
am describing is formal; much of its effectiveness derives from a
clinical precision.  For example, I never at anytime turn or move
in an anti-clockwise direction within the circle.  When I work in
a  group  one  of  the most  important  officers  is  the  sword-
bearing sentinel, responsible for procedure and discipline within
the  circle.  When  you create a circle  you  are establishing  a
perimeter  under  the watchful "eyes" of  whatever guardians  you
have requested to keep an eye on things,  and a martial  attitude
and    sense   of   discipline   and   precision   creates    the
right psychological  mood.   When  working  in  a  group  it   is
helpful if the person opening the circle announces "the circle is
now open"  because there should be no doubt among  those  present
about whether the opening has been completed to the  satisfaction
of  the  person carrying it out,  and the sacred space  has  been

Step 2: Opening the Gates

     The  Gates in question are the boundary between  normal  and
magical  consciousness.  Just  as opening the Circle  limits  the
ritual in space,  so opening the Gates limits the ritual in time.
Not  everyone opens the Gates as a separate activity;  opening  a
Circle can be considered a de-facto opening of Gates,  but  there
are  good  reasons  for  keeping  the  two  activities  separate.
Firstly,  it  is convenient to be able to open a  Circle  without
going into magical consciousness;  despite what I said about  not
bringing normal consciousness into the Circle,  rules are made to
be  broken,  and  there are times when something  unpleasant  and
unwanted  intrudes on normal consciousness,  and a Circle can  be
used to keep it out - think of pulling blankets over your head at
night.  Secondly,  opening the Gates as a separate activity means
they   can   be  tailored  to  the  specific  type   of   magical
consciousness  you are trying to enter.  Thirdly,  just  as  bank
vaults  and  ICBMs have two keys,  so it is prudent to  make  the
entry into magical consciousness something you are not likely  to
do  on a whim,  and the more distinct steps there are,  the  more
conscious  effort is required.  Lastly - and it is  an  important
point - opening the Circle is best done with a martial  attitude,
and it is useful to have a breathing space to switch out of  that
mood  and into the mood needed for the  invocation.  Opening  the
Gates provides an opportunity to make that switch.
     There  are many ways to open the Gates,  and many Gates  you
could open.  I imagine the gates in front of me, and I physically
open  them,  reaching out with both arms.  I visualise  different
gates for different sephiroth,  and sometimes different gates for
the same sephira.

Step 3: Invocation to the Powers

     The invocation to the Powers is normally an excuse for  some
of the most leaden, pompous, grandiose and turgid prose
ever written or recited. Tutorial books on magic are full of this
stuff.  If you are invoking Saturn during a waxing moon you might
be justified in going on like Brezhnev addressing the  Praesidium
of  the Soviet Communist Party,  but as in every other aspect  of
magic,  the  trick  isn't what you do,  but how you  do  it,  and
interminable invocations aren't the answer. On a practical level,
reading  a  lengthy  invocation  from a sheet  of  paper  in  dim
candlelight will require so much conscious effort that it is hard
to "let go",  so try to keep things simple and to the  point,  so
that  you can do an invocation without having to think  about  it
too  much,  and  that  will leave room  for  the  more  important
"consciousness changing" aspect of the invocation.   When  I   do
sephirothic  work I use the  sephirothic  God,  Archangel,  Angel
Order and sephira names as part of my invocation,  and put all my
effort  into  the intonation of the name rather  than  memorising
lengthy invocations.
     An invocation is like a ticket for a train: if you can't
find  the  train  there isn't much point in  having  the  ticket.
Opening   the  Gates  gets  you  to  the  doorstep   of   magical
consciousness,  but it is the invocation which gets you onto  the
train  and  propels  you  to the  right  place,  and  that  isn't
something which "just happens" unless you have a natural aptitude
for the aspect of consciousness you are invoking.  It does happen
that  way however;  people tend to begin their magical work  with
those  areas of consciousness where they feel most  at  home,  so
they may well have some initial success.  Violent, evil people do
violent and evil conjurations;  loving people invoke love -  most
people  begin  their magical work with "a free  ticket",  but  in
general invoking takes practice,  and the power of the invocation
comes from practice, not from deathless prose.
     I   can't   give  a  prescription   for   entering   magical
consciousness.  Well devised rituals, practised often, have a way
of shifting consciousness which is surprising and  unexpected.  I
don't know why this happens; it just does. I suspect the peculiar
character of ritual,  the way it involves every  sense,  occupies
mind  and  body  at  the  same  time,  its  numinous  and  exotic
symbolism,  the intensity of preparation and  execution,  involve
dormant parts of the mind, or at least engage the normal parts in
an  unusual  way.   Using  ritual  to  cause  marked  shifts   in
consciousness is not difficult; getting the results you want, and
avoiding  unexpected and undesired side-effects is  harder.
Ritual  is not a rational procedure.  The symbolism of  magic  is
intuitive and bubbles out of a very deep well;  the whole process
of  ritual effectively bypasses the rational mind,  so  expecting
the  outcome  of  a  ritual to obey the  dictates  of  reason  is
completely  irrational. The  image of a  horse  is  appropriate:
anyone can get on the back of a wild mustang,  but getting to the
point where horse and rider go in the same direction at the  same
time takes practice. The process of limitation described in these
notes can't influence the natural waywardness of the animal,  but
at  least  it  is a method of ensuring the  horse  gets  a  clear

Step 4: Statement of Intention and Sacrifice

If   magical  ritual  is  not  to  be  regarded  as  a  form   of
bizarre  entertainment carried out for its own sake,  then  there
has to be a reason for doing it - healing,  divination,  personal
development,  initiation, and the like. If it is healing, then it
is usually healing for one specific person, and then again, it is
not  just  healing  in general,  but healing  for  some  specific
complaint, within some period of time. The statement of intention
is  the culmination of a process of limitation which begins  when
the Circle is opened, and to return to the analogy of the plastic
bag,  the statement of intention is like the blade on the scalpel
-  the  more precise the intention,  the more the energy  of  the
ritual is applied to a single point.
     The observation that rituals work better if their energy  is
focussed  by  intention  is  in accord  with  our  experience  in
everyday life:  any change, no matter how small or insignificant,
tends to meet with opposition. If you want to change the brand of
coffee  in the coffee machine,  or if you want to  rearrange  the
furniture  in the office,  someone will object.  If you  want  to
drive  a  new road through the  countryside,  local  people  will
object.  If you want to raise taxes,  everyone objects.  The more
people  you  involve in a change,  the more opposition  you  will
encounter,  and in magic the same principle holds, because from a
magical point of view the whole fabric of the universe is held in
place by an act of collective intention involving everything from
God downwards. When you perform a ritual you are setting yourself
up against that collective will to keep most things the way  they
are,  and  your  ritual will succeed only if certain  things  are

     1. you are a being of awesome will  (you  have  the  biggest
     steering wheel on the bus).

     2. you have allies (lots of people on the bus want to get to
     the same place as you).

     3.  you limit your intention to minimise opposition  (Taoist
     nudging); another analogy is the diamond cutter who exploits
     natural lines of cleavage to split a diamond.

Regardless  of which is the case,  I will suggest that  precision
and clarity of intention will generally produce better results.
     And so to sacrifice.  The problem arises from the perception
that  in magic you don't get something  for nothing,  and if  you
want  to bring about change through magic you have to pay for  it
in some  way.  So far so good. The question is: what can you give
in   return?    You   can't   legitimately   sacrifice   anything
which is not yours to  give,  and so the answer to  the  question
"what  can I sacrifice" lies in the answer to the  question "what
am  I,  and  what have I got to give?".  If you  don't  make  the
mistake  of identifying yourself with your possessions  you  will
see  that the only sacrifice you can make  is  yourself,  because
that  is all you have to give.  Every ritual  intention  requires
that you sacrifice some part of yourself,  and if you don't  make
the sacrifice willingly then either the ritual will fail,  or the
price will be exacted without your consent.
     You  don't  have to donate pints of blood or  your  kidneys.
Each   person   has  a  certain  amount  of  what   I will   call
"life energy" at their disposal -  Casteneda calls  it "personal
power" - and  you can sacrifice some of that energy to power  the
ritual.  What that means in ordinary down-to-earth terms is  that
you promise to do something in return for your intention, and you
link  the  sacrifice  to the intention in  such  a  way  that the
sacrifice  focuses energy along the direction of  your intention.
For example, my cat was ill and hadn't eaten for three weeks, so,
as a last resort, fearing she would die of starvation, I carried
out  a ritual to restore her appetite,  and as a sacrifice I  ate
nothing for 24 hours.  I used my  (very real) hunger to drive the
intention, and she began eating the following day.
     Any sacrifice which hurts enough engages a very deep impulse
inside us to make the hurt go away, and the magician can use that
impulse  to bring about magical change by linking the removal  of
the pain to the accomplishment of the intention. And I don't mean
magical masochism. We are creatures of habit who find comfort and
security by living our lives in a particular way,  and any change
to  that  habit  and routine will cause some  discomfort  and  an
opposing desire to return to the original state,  and that desire
can be used. Just as a ritual intends to change the world in some
way,  so  a sacrifice forces us to change ourselves in some  way,
and that liberates magical energy.  If you want to heal  someone,
don't just do a ritual and leave it at that;  become involved  in
caring for them in some way, and that active caring will act as a
channel  for the healing power you have invoked.  If you want  to
use  magic  to  help someone out of a  mess,  provide  them  with
active,  material  help  as well;  conversely,  if you  can't  be
bothered to provide material help,  your ritual will be  infected
with that same inertia and apathy - "true will,  will out",  and
in many cases our true will is to do nothing at all.
     From a magical perspective each one of us is a magical being
with  a vast potential of power,  but that is denied to us by  an
innate,  fanatical,  and unbelievably deep-rooted desire to  keep
the  world  in  a regular orbit  serving  our  own  needs.  Self-
sacrifice  disturbs  this equilibrium and lets out some  of  that
energy,  and  this may  be why the egoless  devotion  and  self-
sacrifice of saints has a reputation for working miracles.

Step 5: The Main Ritual

     After  invoking the Powers and having stated  the  intention
and  sacrifice,  there would seem to be nothing more to  do,  but
most people like to prolong the contact with the Powers to  carry
out  some  kind of symbolic ritual for a period of  time  varying
from  minutes to days.  Ritual as I have described it so far  may
seem like a fairly cut-and-dried exercise,  but it isn't;  it  is
more of an art than a science,  and once the Circle and Gates are
opened,  and the Powers are in attendance, whatever science there
is gives way to the art. Magicians operate in a world where ordinary
things have deep symbolic meanings or correspondences,  and  they
use  a selection of consecrated implements or "power objects"  in
their  work.  The magician can use this palette of symbols  in  a
ritual to paint of picture which signifies an intention in a non-
verbal,  non-rational way,  and it is this ability to communicate
an intention through every sense of the body, through every level
of the mind,  which gives ritual its power.

Here are a few suggestions:

     - each sephira has a corresponding number which can be  used
     as the basis for knocks, gestures, chimes, stamps etc.

     - each sephira has a corresponding colour which can be  used
     throughout  the  working  area:   altar  cloth,   candle(s),
     banners, flowers, cords etc.

     -  many  occult suppliers  make  sephirothic  incenses.  The
     quality  is  so  variable  that it is  best  to  try  a  few
     suppliers and apply common sense.

     -  each  sephira has corresponding behaviours which  can  be
     used during the central part of the ritual.

     - if you are working with several people then they can  take
     their roles from the sephira, and wear corresponding colours
     etc.   For   example,   a   sentinel   would   use   Gevuric
     correspondences, a scribe would use Hod correspondences.

     -  each sephira has ritual weapons or "power objects"  which
     can be used in a symbolic way.

     -   every   sephira   has  a  wide   range   of   individual
     correspondences which can be used on specific occasions e.g.
     a  ritual  of  romantic love in Netzach  might  use  a  rose
     incense,  roses,  a copper love cup,  wine,  a poem or  song
     dedicated to Venus, whatever gets you going...

Step 6: Dismissal of Powers

     Once  the  ritual  is complete the Powers  are  thanked  and
dismissed.  This  begins the withdrawal of consciousness back  to
its pre-ritual state.

Step 7: Close Gates/Close Circle

     The final steps are closing the Gates (thus sealing off  the
altered  state  of consciousness) and closing  the  Circle  (thus
returning to the everyday world). The Circle should not be closed
if  there is a suspicion that the withdrawal from  the  altered
state has not been completed.  It is sensible to carry  out
a sanity check between closing the Gates and closing the  Circle.
It sometimes happens that although the magician goes through  the
steps  of closing down,  the attention is not  engaged,  and  the
magician remains in the altered state.  This is not a good  idea.
The  energy  of  that state will continue to  manifest  in  every
intention of everyday life, and all sorts of unplanned (and often
unusual) things will start to happen.  A related problem (and  it
is not rare) is that every magician will find sooner or later  an
altered  state  which  compensates for some  of  their  perceived
inadequacies  (in the way that some people like to get  drunk  at
parties), and they will not want to let go of it because it makes
them  feel  good,  so they come out of the ritual in  an  altered
state without realising they have failed to close down correctly.
This  is sometimes called obsession,  and it is a  difficulty  of
magical  work.  Closing down correctly is important if you  don't
want to end up like a badly cracked pot.  If you don't feel happy
that  the Powers  have been completely dismissed  and  the  Gates
closed correctly, go back and repeat the steps again.

Using the Sephiroth in Ritual

     The  sephiroth can be invoked during a ritual singly  or  in
combination.  This provides a vast palette of correspondences and
symbols  to work with,  and one of the most difficult aspects  of
planning this kind of ritual is deciding which sephiroth are  the
key  to  the problem.  It is an axiom of Kabbalistic  magic  that
every sephira is involved somewhere in every problem,  and it  is
sometimes  difficult  to  avoid  the  conclusion  that  all   ten
sephiroth  should be invoked;  there is nothing wrong with  doing
this,  but if one goes the whole hog with colours,  candles etc.,
then  the  temple  begins to look like an explosion  in  a  paint
factory,  and  this tends to dilute the focus of rituals if  done
     A ritual would involve typically one to three sephiroth.  An
important  consideration is balance:  when invoking sephiroth  on
either  of  the  side  pillars of the Tree  one  is  creating  or
correcting  in imbalance,  and it is worthwhile to  consider  the
balancing sephira. For example, when using Gevurah destructively,
what fills the vacuum left behind?  When using Chesed creatively,
what  gives way for the new?  The same principle applies to  the
pairs  of Hod/Netzach and Binah/Chokmah.
     The Tree is naturally arranged in many triads,  or groups of
three  sephiroth,  and after one has gained an  understanding  of
individual  sephira  it is natural to go on  to  investigate  the
triads.  From the point of view of balance there is a great  deal
to  be said for initiation into triads of sephiroth  rather  than
individual  sephira.  The sephiroth are interconnected by  paths,
and  again,  the paths can be investigated by invoking  pairs  of
sephiroth.  This  further extends the palette of  correspondences
and relationships,  and over time the Tree becomes a living  tool
which  can  be  used to analyse situations  in  great  depth  and
detail.  Unless  one works closely with a group of people over  a
period of time the Tree must remain largely a personal symbol and
vocabulary,  but if one *does* work closely with other people  it
becomes  a  shared vocabulary of great expressive  and  executive
power  -  ideas  which would otherwise be  inexpressible  can  be
translated  directly and fairly precisely into shared action  via
ritual magic.

     Clues as to when to invoke a given sephira can found in  the
correspondences,  but  for  the sake of example I have  given  an
indication in a list below:

The sephira Malkuth is useful for the following magical work:

-    where  you  want to increase the stability of  a  situation.
     Particularly useful when everything is in a turmoil and  you
     want to slow things down.

-    when  you want to earth unwanted or unwelcome  energy.  Also
     useful for shielding and warding (think of a castle).

-    when working with the four elements in the physical world.

-    when  you want an intention to materialise in  the  physical
     world;  when  it  is  essential that  an  intention  "really
     happens".  e.g.  it  is  one thing to write a  book,  it  is
     another thing to get it printed, published, and read.

-    when invoking Gaia, Mother Earth.

The sephira Yesod is useful for the following magical work:

-    for   divination  and  scrying;   to  increase  psychism   -
     telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition.

-    when  changing  the appearance of something,  for  works  of
     transformation,  for  shape  changing  (e.g.  marketing  and

-    when trying to manipulate the foundation of  something,  the
     form behind the appearance.

-    for  works concerning the sexual urge,  the  sexual  organs,
     fornication, instinctive behaviours, atavism.

-    for  intentions  involving  images of  reality  -  painting,
     photographs, cinema, television etc.

-    for lucid dreaming, astral projection.

The sephira Hod is useful for the following magical work:

-    for healing and medicine (Raphael is the healer of God).

-    when dealing with spoken or written communication.

-    the media, particularly newspapers and radio.

-    propaganda, lying, misinformation.

-    teaching and learning.

-    philosophy,   metaphysics,   the  sciences  as  intellectual
     systems divorced from experiment.

-    computers and information technology.

-    the nervous system.

-    protocol, ceremony and ritual.

-    the written law, accounting.

The sephira Netzach is useful for the following magical work:

-    when working with the emotions.

-    the endocrine system.

-    when nurturing or caring for someone or  something.  Charity
     and unselfishness, empathy.

-    for  works  involving  pleasure,   luxury,   romantic  love,
     friendships etc. (e.g. parties).

-    anything  to  do with  aesthetics  and  taste:  decor,  art,
     cinema,  dress, fashion, literature, drama, poetry, gardens,
     song, dance etc.

The sephira Tiphereth is useful for the following magical work:

-    work involving integrity, wholeness and balance.

-    work  involving  the Self  (the  Jungian  archetype),  self-
     importance, self-sacrifice, devotion, compassion.

-    overall health and well-being.

-    communion with your Holy Guardian Angel.

-    the union of the microcosm and the macrocosm.

The sephira Gevurah is useful for the following magical work:

-    active defense.

-    destruction.

-    severance.

-    justice and lawful retribution.

The sephira Chesed is useful for the following magical work:

-    growth and expansion.

-    vision,   leadership   and  authority  (e.g.   in   business
     management, in politics).

-    inspiration and creativity.

The  sephiroth Gevurah and Chesed are best considered as a  pair,
since  any work concerning one usually requires consideration  of
the other.  For example, if you want something to grow and expand
(Chesed),   will  it  grow  at  the  expense  of  something  else

     The supernal sephiroth of Binah,  Chokmah and Kether can  be
invoked,  but  I  would  not recommend doing so  until  you  have
considerable experience of invoking the other sephiroth -  either
nothing  will happen,  or the scope of the results may go  beyond
your intention.

Other Practical Work

     The  sephirothic ritual technique described can be  used  to
design an enormous variety of rituals quickly and easily,  as the
basic format can remain the same. A ritual involving Yesod should
have an utterly different feel and effect from a ritual involving
Tiphereth,  and yet the basic construction of the two rituals can
be  identical.  Because a ritual can be quickly carried out  (not
necessarily easily,  but certainly quickly),  sephirothic  ritual
can  be  used  to  add  clout  to  other  magical  and   mystical
techniques, such as meditation, divination, scrying, oath-making,
prayer,  concentration and visualisation,  mediumship and so  on.

In Conclusion

I  wanted  to  provide  in these  notes  approximately  the  same
information  as I was given when I began to study  Kabbalah.  The
person who gave me this information said "You don't need to  read
lots of books,  just go off and do it." It was sound  advice.  If
you want to learn how to build bridges, read books about building
bridges, but if you want to learn about yourself, just go off and
do it.  "Doing It" consists of invoking the sephiroth and  asking
to be instructed.  It consists of jumping in with both feet  when
something  new comes along.  It involves trusting your  intuition
and conscience.  It requires you to question everything.  It also
requires countless meditations,  concentration and  visualisation
exercises,  self-examination,  rituals,  dream-recording, prayer,
whatever  you want,  but there is no prescription for  this,  and
each  person tends to find their own happy medium.  As a  chronic
reader  I found the advice about not reading books on  magic  and
Kabbalah hard to take,  but I took it, and for something like ten
years I lost the habit completely. I'm very glad I did.
     There is almost enough information in these notes to go  off
and "just do it".  The information I have withheld I have done so
deliberately,  as  it consists of little things which any  person
with  a  small amount of common sense,  initiative and  trust  in
themselves can work out.  You don't need to learn other  peoples'
rituals:  trust  your  own imagination  and  creativity,  however
insufficient  they might seem,  and write your own.  You need  to
trust   yourself,   and  that  is  why  I  haven't   provided   a
detailed  prescription.  If  you think Kabbalah  should  be  more
complicated,  then make it more complicated.  If you think it  is
essential  to learn about the four worlds,  or the parts  of  the
soul,  or the beard of Arik Anpin or whatever,  then learn  about
them,  but I don't think it is essential to begin with, and there
are  better  and quicker ways of learning than  running  off  and
buying the "Zohar". If you trust in yourself, you will learn what
you need to know at the rate at which you can learn it.  Kabbalah
is only a map (but for the record I believe it is an accurate and
useful map), and the entrance to the territory lies within you.
     In my experience the sephirothic magical rituals are the key
to  everything else.  If you are afraid of ritual that  is  fine;
lots  of people are.  If you are afraid of ritual but you  invoke
the Powers with the attitude and respect  that is their due,  and
you are not afraid to give freely for what you get, then you will
get a great deal, and almost certainly a great deal more than you
would have expected.

Colin Low 1992

[1] Epstein, Perle, "Kabbalah", Shambhala, 1978

[2] Regardie, Israel, "The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic",
                      Falcon Press, 1984


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