Almost everything I know about Qabalah — The Formation
This article covers:
● Qabalah Origins
● What’s the Qabalah for?
● The Qabalistic Theory of the Begin
● The “Improcessable” Program
● The Qliphoth and the Tree of Death
● Where did the correlations come from?
From Hebrew “קבלה”, transliterated as Qabalah, Kabbalah or Kabbalah (which can be written in at least 20 other ways in the Latin alphabet) roughly means Reception, Tradition and Correspondence. Although Kabbalah is supposedly the transliteration that most resembles sonority, each of these forms of transliteration bears the history of the schools and lines of thought that used them, and the one that was transmitted to me in particular in the Oaths of the A.’.A.’. is Qabalah.
When researching on the subject using the writing “Qabalah” we will almost always have results linked to a hermetic development of Jewish esoterism, while “Kabbalah” will bring results linked to traditions closer to Jewish dogma.
In terms of when the first Qabalistic interaction took place, the history of the word leads us to Abrahamic culture. Members of this culture will say that the first Qabalist received science directly from the Godhead, as in the legends about Enoch, Abraham, and Moses among others. Scholars from other traditions will likely say that the Jews absorbed this science during their time in Egypt and Babylon.
Personally, I like to think that the Qabalah began when the first conscious being tried to draw relationships between himself and the universe. For example, when the first tool-using human ancestor learned to use a club to subdue his opponents, the club symbol was irrationally understood by others as a symbol of strength. Maybe this is the primitive root of the symbolism of the Wand, long before the correlations of phallic figures with the conduit of active force that goes to the egg and fertilizes it?
What’s the Qabalah for?
Being Union by Knowledge, it is one of the ways in which the mind is united to a single idea, and it is one of the matters of interest to the Holy Order. The subject is studied here and there, but especially in the grade of Practicus, in which item 2 of his Oath reads: “He shall pass examinations in Liber DCCLXXVII, the Qabalah, and the Sepher Sephiroth.”
There seem to be three objects of study that can be said to be the main ones for the Qabalah. They are the Universe, the Consciousness and Divinity. In some cases, two or three of them can be seen as the same thing, depending on who is approaching the subject.
As these are very complex subjects for the intellect, the intellect applies the Qabalah to divide its object of study into smaller pieces represented by symbols it can better understand. Now looking at a small comprehensible piece of that incomprehensible whole, he is able to perceive the relationships and interactions between these small pieces of the whole.
The study of symbols related to certain ideas feeds our unconscious with these symbols, providing a lexicon — a dictionary so to speak — through which coherent communication between the various layers of the individual’s consciousness and possible planes beyond the individual becomes possible. It is through the symbolic sets that we can interact on planes beyond normal consciousness, and in this way we can either extract information from there, or program — similar to what one does with a computer — certain changes according to the Will.
Although it is possible to apply Qabalistic reasoning to an endless number of objects of study, I consider that mainly for the beginner, few objects of study would be more useful than oneself and its relationship with the universe.
The Qabalistic Theory of the Begin
A much more conservative and traditional version of the process I’m about to narrate can be found in Sepher Yetzirah, which I recommend every person interested in Qabalah read at least once in their lifetime.
Imagine you woke up with a heavy hangover. You don’t know where you are, how you got there, or what you’ve done in the last twelve hours. By conditioning, you feel in your pants pockets to check that you haven’t lost your cell phone, keys, wallet. Little by little memory returns and the pieces fall into place and you can define through memories and observation who you are and where you are.
The beginning — whether we are talking about Divinity, the Universe and/or Consciousness — which the Qabalah approaches is a little more complicated. You become aware, but you are nowhere. The very concept of “being” and “place” does not exist. There is no memory before that moment. There is no point of reference to situate yourself. There is definitely no cell phone, keys or wallet. And no hands to feel.
I’m not saying that “everything” came out of “nothing”, but definitely the human mind and consciousness as it exists today is not able to go beyond, so let’s go as far as we can, into the veils of negative existence.
Imagine consciousness as something rarefied, infinitely spread and diluted into an infinite nothingness, until the possibility of the presence of consciousness at any given coordinate tends to zero. If the image is more pleasing to you, imagine nothingness as an infinite slice of bread, and consciousness as a very thin layer of butter that has been spread to the point that the chances of finding an atom of butter anywhere on that slice tend to zero.
This infinitely large slice of “nothing bread” is “Ain”, the absolute zero. That infinitesimally rarefied amount of “consciousness butter”, which to all intents and purposes is no butter at all is “Ain Soph”, Zero as Indefinable. This absurd bread and butter is “Ain Soph Aur”, Zero as base of possible vibration. We read about this in Qabalistic Dogma, originally published in Collected Works:
"First is Nothing, or the Absence of Things, אין [Ain], which does not and cannot mean Negatively Existing (if such an idea can he said to mean anything. (...)""(...) Second is Without Limit, אין סוף [Ain Soph], Infinite Space. This is the primal Dualism of Infinity; the infinitely small and the infinitely great. (...)""The Clash of these [Ain and Ain Soph] produces a finite positive idea which happens to be light [Aur]. This word [Aur] is most important. It symbolizes the Universe immediately after Chaos, the Confusion of Clash of the infinite Opposites. א [Aleph]is the Egg of Matter; ו [Yod] is Taurus, the Bull, or Energy-Motion; and ר [Resh] is the Sun, or organised and moving system of Orbs. The three Letters of רוא [Aur] thus repeat the three ideas."
Now, imagine that the consciousness that was once rarefied to the point that for all intents and purposes does not exist when looked for in a specific coordinate, becomes concentrated in a single point in the middle of infinite nothingness, and becomes self-aware: "I am". It doesn't say that, after all neither words nor the act of "saying" exist. Still it is. The Qabalistic name of this first focal point of pure consciousness is Kether and in this way the "One" is formulated.
The diffused consciousness infinitely spread in infinite space is the limitlessness. When it concentrates on one point, it creates limitation of the point at the expense of the rest.
Pay attention to your right index finger and become conscious of it. You probably did it in terms of temperature, feel, shape, position… None of that existed. Kether could not even exercise comparison with something outside, for it was all existence.
The only possible functioning for such pure, infinite, omnipresent and solitary consciousness is to act upon itself. It creates an interpretation of itself formulated from its own point of view — similar to the concept of identity — and thus formulates the statement of what it is, “I am what I am”. We call this concept Chockmah, and so the “Two” is formulated. By negation it defines what it is not, “I am nothing but what I am”, and thus creates the “Three”, which we call Binah.
The spheres are interconnected to represent the interactions that take place between them. These connections the Qabalah calls the Paths, which are intimately connected with the 22 letters of the Hebrew language and — in modern times — with the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot.
In this way the first triad is formulated, a synthesis composed of thesis and the antithesis of what pure consciousness formulates about itself. This triad seeks to become self-aware in the same way as Kether did, but unlike it it has the internal balance of the ternary. It has concepts such as one, two, three, synthesis, thesis, antithesis, yes, no, being, not being, equal, different, affirmation, negation, etc. Turning to itself, it formulates the affirmation of what it is, and consequently what it is not. Thus are formulated the other two triads of the Tree of Life and its six spheres.
We now have three triads and nine spheres. One triad being the real, another as the affirmation of that reality about itself — a reflection of that reality — and another being the negation of this perception about itself — the reflection of a reflection. Each of them contains these same relationships on the elements that compose them.
Here the paths connect each sphere with its counterpart in each of the triads. Perhaps in the diagram below this will be clearer.
Now, armed with nine permutations of the “One”, the singularity affirms, denies, synthesizes, formulates, compares, adds, divides, etc. It is capable of performing at a very high level all the logical and mathematical functions that exist in what we call “reality”. Tiphereth is in a very interesting position, as it is the Reality from which Affirmation and Negation arise, but in the central triad, which makes it also the Thesis that composes the Synthesis and from which the Antithesis derives, thus being at the center of everything .
Tiphereth is the center of the tree, the point that binds the paths that bind everything together into a cohesive whole.
Note that all these concepts, however they are interpreted in the drawings outside the "One", actually occur within it, as nothing can exist outside the everything. Diagrams are almost always linear in condescension with the linearity of our intellects. It would be more correct to say that "Two", "Three", "Triads" and all the aforementioned elements all occur within the "One". Inside elements inside the "One". Within elements within elements within… You get the idea.
The process does not end, but continues indefinitely. This line of reasoning eventually comes to an end, which we call Malkut, the "Ten". It is the result of the intersection of the three triads. It is the manifestation of infinite interactions. If we call the diagram the "Tree of Life", Malkut can perfectly represent the fruit of this tree.
This “end point” exists for a moment, and then the complete tree repeats the process and goes back within itself seeking self-awareness. That is why it is said that in each sphere there is another tree, in which in each of the spheres there is another tree, like a fractal. Repeat until you go crazy.
Some people like to think of Malkut as matter. Rigid, finished, immobile. I see Malkut as the manifestation, the realization. We are not at the bottom of a well on which a vertical tree rests, but on a plane of existence where the completion of each line to which the self-knowledge of the “One” leads takes place in real time, and which by its very manifestation initiates a plus N analog processes. Change is stability, and stability is change.
Interestingly, it is in the East, in the Tao Te Ching, that we will find a piece of philosophy that summarizes this knowledge:
The Tao that can be expressed is not the true Tao
The name that can be uttered is not the real name.
Nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth
With-Name is the mother of ten thousand things
Tao generates One
One begets Two
Two begets Three
The three generates the ten thousand things
It is remarkable that the farther away from “One”, the more complexity and variety becomes possible, but these things are reflections of reflections of the original thing. The further away from the original “One” a thing is, the less that thing is true, however much for the consciousness of that plane, they are the only verifiable reality, and often all that matters to them.
The “Improcessable” Program
Imagine that the “One”, concentrated consciousness has set in motion a program with a single purpose: to know itself.
Since the “One” is infinite in all possible dimensions, this program would require infinite processing power and time to process. A solution to such a problem is to break the program infinitely into finite pieces, process each of those pieces individually, and then put the product of each back together again.
In this allegory, all that exists are little pieces of the whole and the function of each little piece is to fulfill itself. All that exists, from the conscious to the unconscious, from the immovable to the unstoppable, from the highest ecstasy to the most terrible suffering, are all equally necessities of the universal consciousness in its process of self-knowledge.
To paraphrase the excellent “The Egg”: From Abraham Lincoln to Jhon Wilkes Booth, from Hitler to the millions he murdered, from Jesus to all who followed him, all these things are part of the whole, and necessary to the maturing process of that whole.
In Edenic mythology there is also a One who created Two in his image and likeness, from which it was possible to elaborate his counterpart, the Three. In this mythology, they say that what led to the fall, that is, the distance from the initial perfection, was the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Qliphoth and the Tree of Death
Some conjecture the existence of a negative tree, composed of Qliphoth, where there is the adverse, “corrupted”, “evil” side of the forces described above. Personally, I don’t understand how something like this would fit into this genesis, since it would be necessary to assume that from Kether or even from the Ain Soph Aur there existed a dual and opposite counterpart, which would be impossible due to the abstract definition of these entities.
A negative tree can come in handy to map certain objects of study, but for these cases, I see it as simpler and more practical, instead of drawing an extra map, to understand that there is an adverse function of each of the symbols when it operates outside its natural sphere of action.
It is natural, for example, that E. Coli bacteria live in the intestines of mammals, where they are harmless and function in harmony with the body. It could be that somehow this bacteria will migrate to your throat, where it will cause an infection. Do we have two E. Coli, one good and one bad? No. It just so happens that it has gone from its harmonious function to an unbalanced function.
Likewise, the symbolic components of the Tree of Life can figure its positive side when operating harmonious behavior within its own range, or adverse when operating out of harmony and proportion.
Where did the correlations come from?
Many scholars of the past and present have attributed meanings and correlations to these spheres and paths. It seems likely to me that the planetary attributions were given to the tree spheres in the order in which they appear according to ancient geocentric models of the solar system.
The illustration above had nothing to do with magick or mysticism. It was for the men of science of that time a faithful representation of the structure of our universe. In this model we clearly see that, from the outside to the inside, there is the Primum Mobile, Zodiac, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon and Earth — Earth which is represented surrounded by fire, air, and within itself, water, thus completing Olam Yesodoth, the Sphere of Elements. Exactly the same order in which planetary correlations appear on the Tree of Life.
Then it becomes easier to understand "Why 5, Geburah, has martial characteristics", because once related to Mars, the mythological and astrological correlations came in the same package. Whether some Jewish Kabbalist conjectured that Geburah was related to martial principles before these planetary correlations were ascribed, or whether the same modern Qabalists who made the planetary assignments looked to Abrahamic religions for correlations that fit their view of the Qabalah is something that will require a competent historian to assert.
The system is extremely useful today and offers tools that are functional enough for a good deal of initiatory, mystical and magickal work. Its symbolic set seems to permeate ideas that are common to the collective of humanity even today, although it contains here and there other ideas that will work better for one or another individual.
An extensive collection of correlations is available in our Liber 777.
Below is a summarized version of the most used correlations in ceremonial magick, making amulets and talismans, invocations, etc:
And below, my small contribution with some abstractions related to my own symbolic set and experiences:
Here is an example of how the correlations work: If you are familiar with the Chakras, you may have found it strange that, from the bottom up, my table shows Muladhara, Svadhistana, and then Vishuddha, who appears to be in the wrong position with Manipura. If you think of the tree and human body superimposed, the vertical orientation would certainly be incorrect.
What happens is that in my symbolic set, Vishuddha / Neurosomatic / Communication and Expression are closely linked to Hod and Netzach. Likewise Manipura / Laryngeal-Symbolic Manual / Fight or Flight Response corresponds to Geburah and Chesed. I chose a function-based correlation over vertical spatial positioning. It doesn’t always fit perfectly. And that’s fine.
This diagram whose elaboration of the structure I have sought to explain is a map, not the territory. Like any symbol, it seeks to give us tools to represent abstract concepts and interact with them, and is not intended to be a faithful portrayal of reality.
The Qabalah is a useful system as its correlations fit very well with human intellect and psychology, but obviously some things needed to be forced to fit one or another view of its forerunners. For this reason I insist on the value of a fine balance between not despising the knowledge of those who have come before just because it does not contemplate me, and subjecting everything to the test of experience.
Even a parrot could be trained to repeat every correlation attached to every path and sphere, and so much easier is it for a human to memorize them, yet without seeking firsthand understanding and experience of the states of consciousness represented by these symbols, such knowledge will be sterile.
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