Kabbalah – FAQ Part 2

Here are some Kabbalah specifics continued from the Part 1 article Part 1: Kabbalah General.  Let’s begin by answering the question, “What is the Great Work”?

The Great Work

“Do not pray for your own needs, for your prayer will not then be accepted. But when you want to pray, do so for the heaviness of the Head. For whatever you lack, the Divine Presence also lacks.”

“This is because man is a “portion of God from on high.” Whatever any part lacks, also exists in the Whole, and the Whole feels the lack of the part, You should therefore pray for the needs of the Whole.”

The term “the Great Work” has many definitions, and is not a term from traditional Kabbalah, but it has a modern usage among some Kabbalists. The quotation above, from a disciple of the Kabbalist R. Israel Baal Shem Tov, is a traditional Kabbalistic view: that the creation is in a damaged and imperfect state, and the Kabbalist, by virtue of his or her state of consciousness, can bring about a real healing. A name for this is “tikkun” (restoration). There are many traditional forms of “tikkun”, most of them prescriptions for essentially magical acts designed to bring about a healing in the creation.


This view of the Great Work also exists outside of Judaic Kabbalah and survives today, namely that the creation is in a “fallen” state, and each person has an individual role to play in bringing about a general restoration.

“When someone stands in the light but does not give it out, then a shadow is created.”

This is a modern restatement of an old Kabbalistic idea. In this view, God gives life to the Creation: from second to second the Creation is sustained by this giving, and if it were to cease even for an instant, the Creation would be no more. If someone wants to know God then they have to resemble God, and this means they must give to others. Kabbalah is not a self-centred pursuit; it pivots around the Kabbalist’s relationship with all living beings.

The Archangels

Angels are found in the Judaic, Christian, Islamic and Zoroastrian traditions. The word “angel” is derived from the Christian Latin”angelos”, itself derived from the Greek “aggelos”, which is a translation of the Hebrew word “mal’akh”, a messenger.

Angels are typically found in groupings of four, seven and twelve, reflecting their role in mediating the divine influence via the planets and the stars. For example, in Zorastrianism there was a belief in the Amesha Spentas, seven holy or bounteous immortals who were functional aspects of Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord. In Islam four angels are well known: Jibril (Gabriel), the angel of revelation; Mikal (Michael), the angel of nature; Izrail (Azrael), the angel of death, and Israfil, the angel who places the
soul in the body and sounds the last judgement.

The sources for the angels used in Kabbalah and ceremonial magic are primarily Jewish. The canonical Old Testament books mention only Michael and Gabriel, but apocryphal and Talmudic literature provide richer sources, and there is a suspicion that this was a result of contact with Zoroastrianism during the period of the Babylonian Exile (6th-5th centuries BC). The four best-known angels are


According to one source his name is his war-cry: “Who is like God?”. Michael is at war with the great dragon or serpent, often identified with Samael in Jewish sources. Michael’s original position in the celestial hierarchy has been progressively eroded by angels such as Metatron. In medieval Kabbalah he is attributed to Chesed, but in modern Kabbalah he is attributed to Tipheret, and sometimes to Hod.


Uriel means “Fire of God”, from the word “oor” meaning “fire” and Auriel means “Light of God”, from the word “or” meaning “light”. Both names tend to be used synonymously, and the association with light is common in Kabbalah. In medieval Kabbalah Uriel is attributed to Truth and the middle pillar of the Tree, in Tipheret. The association with light is significant because of the importance of light in practical Kabbalah, where several different kinds are distinguished, including: nogah (glow), tov (good), bahir (brilliant), zohar (radiant), kavod (glory), chaim (life), and muvhak (scintillating). In Christian times Uriel may have been identified with Lucifer (“light-bearer”) and Satan, an odd identification as the diabolic angel according to Jewish tradition is Samael.


Raphael means “Healing of God”. Raphael is sometimes attributed to Hod and sometimes to Tipheret.


Gabriel means “Strength of God” and in medieval Kabbalah was attributed to Gevurah (the words share a common root). In modern Kabbalah Gabriel can be found further down the Tree in Yesod, using his strength to hold up the foundations.

4 Archangels For Protection

The four archangels can be found in a variety of protective incantations where they guard the four quarters, an almost universal symbolism which can be found in guises as diverse as nursery rhymes (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, bless this bed that I lie on) to ancient Egyptian protective deities. A well-known incantation can be found in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (see below).


The angel Samael is also important in Kabbalah. Scholem shows (in “The Origins of the Kabbalah”) that in early medieval Kabbalah, Samael retained some of the characteristics of the Gnostic demiurge Ialdebaoth (the blind god), and derives the name from “sami”, meaning “blind”. He is attributed consistently to the planet Mars and the sephira Gevurah, and is the traditional source of all the nastiness in the world. He appears in various guises as the Dark Angel and the Angel of Death. The suffix -el betrays his divine origin, and Kabbalists have been divided between placing him at the head of a demonic hierarchy (alongside his wife Lilith), and viewing him as an unpleasant but necessary component of creation. Samael is identified with the serpent in the Garden of Eden, a tempter and a poisoner of life.


The archangel Metatron does not appear in many lists of archangels, but has an important role in Kabbalah as the archangel of the Countenance. Legend has it that Metatron is none other than the Old Testament sage Enoch, lifted up to Heaven by God. Scholem comments that “…there is hardly a duty in the heavenly realm and within the dominion of one angel among the other angels that is not associated with Metatron”. Metatron is usually associated with Kether.

The Seven Archangels

There are many lists of seven archangels. Almost all of them differ from each other. Mark O. Garrison kindly provided the following information which clarifies the difficulty:

Mark’s material begins here

The problem lies in from whence the author goes to research the names of the 7 Archangels. The earliest sources giving the names of all Seven Archangels is ENOCH I (Ethiopic Enoch) which lists the names as following:

Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Zerachiel, Gabriel, and Remiel

The next two sources which originate within a few decades of each other list quite different names of the Seven Archangels. In ENOCH 3 (Hebrew Enoch) the Archangels are listed as:

Mikael, Gabriel, Shatqiel, Baradiel, Shachaqiel, Baraqiel, Sidriel While the TESTAMENT OF SOLOMON mentions:

Mikael, Gabriel, Uriel, Sabrael, Arael, Iaoth, AdonaeiThe Xtian Gnostics changed things a bit further, but they still mention Uriel (though, in some cases they called him Phanuel). The compleat listing of the Archangels according to their tradition is:

Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Barachiel, Sealtiel, JehudielPope Gregory the Great wrote the Archangels as being these 7:

Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Simiel, Orifiel, Zachariel

Likewise, the Pseudo-Dionysians used a similar grouping, mentioning Uriel also. They list the following as the Seven Archangels:

Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Chamuel, Jophiel, Zadkiel

It was not until much later times, around the 10th century C.E. when the name Uriel was replaced by other names in these much latter sources. In Geonic Lore, Uriel is replaced by Samael (The Angel of Light, or THE Lightbearer, from whence the ideology of Lucifer had originated from also).

In Geonic Lore the seven are noted as being:

Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Aniel, Kafziel, Samael, and Zadkiel

Around the 12th to 15th centuries C.E. the name of Haniel came to replace the name of Uriel. However, the two being quite different in their Natures. The name Haniel is common to the Talismanic Magical Tradition and other forms of Medieval Ceremonialism. These Medieval Traditions mention the seven as being:

Zaphkiel, Zadkiel, Camael, Raphael, Haniel, Michael, Gabriel

Also, a late sourcebook titled THE HIERARCHY OF THE BLESSED ANGELS mentions a different list of the seven archangels. They list them as following:

Raphael, Gabriel, Chamuel, Michael, Adabiel, Haniel, Zaphiel

It need be remembered, that the Judaeo/Xtian tradition originates from several religions and traditions, each having its own legends and thusly, its own hierarchies and namings of the angels. In Islam, there are only four archangels: Gabriel, Michael, Azrael (the Angel of Death, often interchanged with Uriel since the 15th century in some European traditions) for instance. One can easily determine the sources and origins of an book on Qabala or Ceremonial Magick by what angels they use, obviously. I personally have drawn up a TREE OF LIFE for each of these traditions, based upon much research, for reference purposes. Note though, the differences do not stop with just the names of the Seven Archangels. These sources also do not agree on the Orders of the Celestial Hierarchy, The Ruling Princes, The Throne Angels, and the Names of God, just to name a few! Are you starting to get the idea yet, or are you more confused!

Mark’s material ends here

Baird Stafford provides the following list of references to archangels for those who would like to read the original source material:

Baird’s material begins here

And here is an expanded list of references to the Archangels, including those cited by Br’anArthur. I’ve included verses from the Pseudepigrapha (which are the apocryphal books of the Bible not included by the Roman church in its version of the Apocrypha, although I understand that some of them are included in the Orthodox Bible). Uriel had a number of stand-ins who appear to have been other angels who took over his duties for a while: their names are Sariel, Strahel, and Suriel. I’ve not included their
references. And, just for the fun of it, I’ve also included some references from the writings of the early Christian gnostics.

In all cases, the verses I’ve cited are only those in which the Archangelic Name actually appears; in some cases, subsequent verses refer to the original listing without naming Names.


3 Baruch, 4:7
1 Enoch 10:4; 20:3; 32:6; 40:9; 54:6; 68:2-4; 71:8-9,13
Apocalypse of Ezra 1:4; 6:2
Apocalypse of Adam and Eve 40:2
Sibylline Oracles 2:215
Testament of Solomon 5:9 (24 in F.C. Conybeare’s translation); 13:6
(59 in Conybeare); 18:8 (75 in Conybeare)
Tobit 3:16; 5:4; 7:8; 8:2; 9:1; 9:5; 11:7; 12:15


Daniel 10:13; 10:21; 12:1
Jude 9
Revelations 12:7
3 Baruch 4:7; 11:2,4,6,8; 12:4,6-7; 13:2-3,5; 14:1-2; 15:1,3; 16:1,3
4 Baruch 9:5
1 Enoch 9:1; 10:11; 20:5; 24:6; 40:9; 54:6; 60:4-5; 68:2-4; 69:14-15;
2 Enoch 22:1,6,8-9; 33:10; 71:28 (Recension J); 72:1,3,8-9 (Recension J)
3 Enoch 17:3; 44:10
Apocalypse of Ezra 1:3; 2:1; 4:7,24; 6:2
Life of Adam and Eve 13:3; 14:1-3; 15:2; 21:2; 22:2; 25:2; 29:1-3;
43:3; 45:1; 51:2
Apocalypse of Adam and Eve 3:2; 22:1; 37:4,6; 40:1-2; 43:1-2
Sibylline Oracles 2:215
Testament of Solomon 1:6 (5 in Conybeare); 18:5 (73 in Conybeare)
Apocalypse of Abraham 10:17
Apocalypse of Sedrach 14:1
Martyrdom and Ascension of Isiah 3:16
Testament of Abraham 1:4,6; 2:2-14:7
Testament of Isaac 2:1
Testament of Jacob 1:6; 5:13
Vision of Ezra verse 56

Gnostic Texts (Nag Hammadi Scrolls)
Apocryphon of John 17:30


Daniel 8:16; 9:21
Luke 1:19; 1:26
3 Baruch 4:7
1 Enoch 9:1; 10:9; 20:7; 40:9; 54:6; 71:8-9,13
2 Enoch 21:3,5; 24:1; 71:11 (28 Recension A); 72:1,3,8-9 (Recension A)
3 Enoch 14:4 (referred to as Angel of Fire); 17:3
Apocalypse of Ezra 2:1; 4:7; 6:2
Apocalypse of Adam and Eve 40:2
Sibylline Oracles 2:215; 8:455
Testament of Solomon 18:6 (74 in Conybeare)
Vision of Ezra verse 56
Apocalypse of Elijah 5:5
Testament of Jacob 5:13
Questions of Ezra (Recension B) verse 11

Gnostic Texts (Nag Hammadi Scrolls)
Gospel of the Egyptians 52:23; 53:6; 57:7; 64:26
Zostrianos 57:9; 58:22


3 Baruch 4:7 (Phanuel in ms Family B)
Testament of Solomon 2:4
1 Enoch 19:1; 21:5; 27:2; 33:3; 40:9 (as Phanuel); 54:6 (as Phanuel);
71:8-9,13 (as Phanuel); 72:1; 80:1;
82:7 (text tells what Uriel’s in charge of)
4 Ezra 4:1
Apocalypse of Ezra 6:2
Apocalypse of Adam and Eve 40:2
Life of Adam and Eve 48:1,3
Prayer of Joseph verses 4, 7
Sibylline Oracles 2:215,225
Apocalypse of Elijah 5:5
Testament of Solomon 2:4 (as Ouriel) (10 in Conybeare); 7 (as
Ouriel) (11 in Conybeare); 8:9 (as Ouriel) (40 in
Conybeare); 18:7 (as Ouriel) (75 in Conybeare); 27 (as Ouriel) (93 in
Esdras 4:1; 5:21; 10:28

Gnostic Texts (Nag Hammadi Scrolls)
Apocryphon of John 17:30 (as Ouriel)

Two further notes: the early fathers of the Roman church appear to have rewritten the Sibyline Oracles to conform to their vision of what a proper prophesy for Rome ought to have been. Also, The Apocalypse of Adam and Eve is also known as The Apocalypse of Moses.

Baird’s material ends here

Lastly, Leigh Daniels writes:

A great book is Gustav Davidson’s “A Dictionary of Angels” (including the >fallen angels) published by Free Press, 1967. It includes a 24-page bibliography of sources used in compiling it.

What Is The Lesser Banishing Ritual Of The Pentagram?

The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is a protective formula which can be used to banish unwanted influences, to “clear the air” as a preliminary to ritual or meditative work. It can be carried out physically, but it can also be used as a concentration exercise which is performed in the imagination prior to going to sleep (for example).

The ritual exists in a number of variant forms, the best known being the Golden Dawn variant given below. The Golden Dawn version is is based on (or is at least strongly influenced by) Jewish sources.

The version of the ritual below was posted by Rodrigo de Ferres and is included here with his permission. [I have altered a couple of Hebrew transliterations to make them consistent with normal Hebrew vowel pointing.]

Rodrigo’s contribution begins

The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram

The following is derived from numerous Golden Dawn sources.

This ritual can be done to purify a room for further ritual work or
meditation and can be used for protection. Its effects are primarily
on the Astral (IMHO) though it uses the Earth pentagram. It also
promotes a still mind, free of outside influenes which is a useful aid
in meditation. It is therefore recommended that the ritual be used as
part of a daily meditation work.

1. Stand facing East.

2. Perform the Qabalistic Cross

a. Touch forehead with first two (or index) fingers of right hand and
visualizing a sphere of white light at that point,
vibrate: Atah (translates roughly – Thou Art)
b. Lower hand to solar plexis and visualize a line extending down to
your feet, vibrate: Malkuth (the Kingdom)
c. Raise hand and touch right shoulder visualizing a sphere of light
there. Vibrate: Ve Geburah (and the power)
d. Extend the hand across the chest tracing a line of light and touch
the left shoulder where another sphere of light forms. Vibrate:
Ve Gedulah (and the glory).
e. Clasp hands in center of chest at crossing point of horizontal and
vertical lines of light. Bow head and vibrate: Le Olam, Amen.
(for ever – amen.)
3. Facing east, using either the extended fingers or a dagger, trace a
large pentagram with the point up, starting at your left hip, up to
just above your forehead, centered on your body, then down to your
right hip, up and to your left shoulder, across to the right
shoulder and down to the starting point in front of your left hip.
Visualize the pentagram in blue flaming light. Stab you fingers or
dagger into the center and vibrate: YHVH (Yod-heh-vahv-heh – which is
the tetragrammaton translated into latin as Jehovah)

4. Turn to the south. Visualize that the blue flame follows you fingers
or dagger, tracing a blue line from the east pentagram to the south.
Repeat step three while facing South, except vibrate: Adonai (another
name for god translated as Lord)

5. Turn to the West, tracing the blue flame from south to west. Repeat
step 3, but vibrate: Eheieh (Eh-hay-yeah more or less – another name
of God translated as I AM or I AM THAT I AM.) (Or “I will be” – Ed.)

6. Turn to the North, again tracing the blue flame from west to north.
Repeat step 3, but vibrate: AGLA (Ah-gah-lah – a composite of Atah
Gibor le olam Amen – see step 2)

7. Return again to the east, tracing the blue flame from North to East.
Stab the fingers or dagger back again into the same spot as in step
3. You should now visualize that you are surrounded by four flaming
pentagrams connected by a line of blue fire.

8. Extend your arms out to your sides, forming a cross.

Vibrate (visualizing each Archangel standing guard at each station):

Before me RAPHAEL (rah-fah-yell)

Behind me GABRIEL (gah-bree-ell)

On my right hand, MICHAEL (mee-khah-ell)

On my left hand, AURIEL (sometimes URIEL aw-ree-ell or

for about me flames the Pentagrams,

and in the column stands the six-rayed star.

(Alternatively the last two lines can be:

before me flames the pentagram,
behind me shines the six-rayed star)

9. Repeat the Qabalistic Cross (step 2).

As can be seen, Raphael is in the East, Gabriel in the West, Michael in
the South and Auriel/Uriel in the North.

For more detailed information I refer the reader to:

The Practical Qabalah by Charles Fielding
Ceremonial Magic by Israel Regardie
The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic also by Regardie
The Golden Dawn as well by Regardie

Rodrigo’s Contribution ends

Origin Of LBRP

There has been some interest in knowing where the LBRP comes from. The answer appears to be that it is inspired, at least in part,  by particular Jewish prayers and meditational exercises.

There are alternative versions extant, and one such is taken from a modern Jewish source.

The source is a pamphlet called “A First Step – a Devotional Guide” which was written by Zalman Schachter and reprinted in “The First Jewish Catalogue” by Richard Siegel, Michael Strassfeld and Sharon Strassfeld, published by the Jewish Publication Society of America in 1973, ISBN 0-8276-0042-9.

The blurb describing the pamphlet states:

“A First Step by Zalman Schachter is not a translation. It was first written in English. It is a contemporary attempt to make accessible spiritual and devotional techniques from classic Jewish sources, sources on which the pamphlet was based.”

[Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, (PhD and Professor Emeritus of Religion at Temple University, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement) is a very important teacher and scholar – Greg Burton]

The author of the pamphlet states “The approach used here is that of classical Jewish mysticism, as refined by Hasidism, and in particular, by the Habad school.” [Chabad comes from Chokhmah, Binah, Daath – Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge – Colin]

An Exercise

Now to the exercise given:

“On other nights, after a short examination, screen yourself off from sounds and cares by visualising an angel – a spiritual force field – of grace at your right, this force field being impenetrable by care or worry; at your left, an angel of power and strength; before you, an angel of soft light and luminousness, and behind you an angel of healing. Over your head, picture the very presence of the loving God. As you visualise this, say:

“In the name of YHVH The God of Israel: At my right hand Michael At my left Gabriel Ahead of me Oriel Behind me Raphel Above my head the Sheckinah of God!”

“Imagine yourself plugging into Michael for love – so that you can love more the next day; Gabriel for strength – to fill you for the next day; Oriel filling you with the light of the mind; Raphael healing all your ills.”

Greg Burton comments on this exercise:

Greg’s contribution begins here

This particular exercise is derived from the practice of saying the Sh’ma ‘before lying down’ – the ‘kriyat (bedtime) Sh’ma’. A full traditional Sephardic version, in Hebrew and English, and with some commentary, can be found beginning on page 318 of the ‘Artscroll Siddur’ (nusach Sefard), Mesorah, ISBN 0-89906-657-7. Traditional Hassidic kavvenot (intentions/directions/way to do it) can be found in ‘Jewish Spiritual Practices’ by Yitzhak Buxbaum, Aronson, ISBN 0-87668-832-6.

The attributes listed in the so-called ‘Qabbalistic Cross’ comes from Psalm 99, verse 5, and are part of the Shachrit (morning) Torah service. The attributes assigned for the movements are not traditional, and the order has been changed. If using the traditional assignments (Gevurah left, Gedulah or Chesed right), and saying the sephirotic names in the proper order, it more properly would describe the Lightening Flash in the lower 7 Sephirot, rather than a cross. (Note in the kriyat Sh’ma that Michael (Chesed) is on the right and Gabriel (Gevurah) is on the left. The implication is that one is facing Keter). Due to changes in directional / elemental / archangelic positioning, it is not obvious (but clearly implied) that physically one is facing North. Another change is that the LBRP does not bless the Divine, while the Jewish service does. This lack of blessing may reflect the not-so-covert Christian/Rosicrucian bias in G.D. liturgy and a particular theology, or it may not. In any event, it changes what was originally an theurgic act into a thaumaturgic act.

You might also note that many Jews coming across the LBRP are deeply offended that the liturgy has been so grossly distorted, and is being used (from their perspective) sacrilegiously. Telling them that it’s “just different” carries about as much weight as telling traditional Native Americans that Lynn Andrew’s work is “just different”. Combining aspects of two completely different aspects into one ritual can be done, but it really is better if you know what you’re working with.

Greg’s contribution ends

In confirmation of what Greg says, the prayers to be said before retiring to rest at night are a standard part of Jewish liturgy, and the British Commonwealth Authorised Daily Prayer book of the United Hebrew Congregations has (as part of a lengthy prayer which includes the 3rd., 91st., and 128th. psalms) the following:

“In the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, may Michael be at my right hand; Gabriel at my left; before me Uriel; behind me Raphael; and above my head the divine presence (lit. Shekhinah) of God.”

Lastly, the rudiments of the LRPB have spread beyond ceremonial magic and can be found in places as diverse as a Kate Bush album and Katherine Kurtz’s novels. It is even possible to see a version carried out by Christopher Lee in the film version of Dennis Wheatley’s novel “The Devil Rides Out”. The following extract was provided by Robert Farrior.

Robert’s contribution begins

Not a scholarly source, try The Adept: Book Three, The Templar Treasure, by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris. There is a scene where a Jewish sholar is in the hospital dying and his son is reciting a Jewish prayer. The words are almost identical to the LBRP attributes of the Archangels, except the attributes are reversed. Sir Adam Sinclair, the hero, thinks how close it is to that used in his tradition. Its on page 40.

“Shema Yisrael, Adonail Elohenu, Adonai Achad. Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One…Go since the Lord sends thee; go, and the Lord will be with thee; the Lord God is with him and he will ascend.”

“May the Lord Bless thee and keep thee; May the Lord let his countenance shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; May the Lord lift up his countenance upon the, and give the peace.”

“At thy right hand is Michael, at thy left is Gabriel, before thee is Uriel, behind thee is Raphel, and above thy head is the divine
presence of God. The angel of the lord encampeth around them that fear Him, and He delivereth them. Be strong and of good courage; be not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee, withersoever thou goest.”

Robert’s contribution ends

What Are The Qlippoth?

The word “qlippah” or “klippah” (plural “qlippoth”) means “shell” or “husk”.

The idea of a covering or a garment or a vessel is common in Kabbalah, where it used, at various times and with various degrees of subtlety, to express the manner in which the light of the En Soph is “encapsulated”. For example, the sephiroth, in their capacity of recipients of light, are sometimes referred to as kelim, “vessels”. The duality between the container and the contained is one of the most important in Kabbalistic explanations of the creative moment.

The word “qlippah” is an extension of this metaphor. A qlippah is also a covering or a container, and as each sephira acts as a shell or covering to the sephira preceding it in the order of emanation, in a technical sense we can say the qlippoth are innate to the Tree of Life. Cut a slice through a tree and one can see the growth rings, with the bark on the outside. The Tree of Life has 10 concentric rings, and sometimes the qlippah is equated to the bark. The word is commonly used to refer to a covering which contains no light: that is, an empty shell, a dead husk.

It is also the case that the qlippoth appear in Kabbalah as demonic powers of evil, and in trying to disentangle the various uses of the word it becomes clear that there is an almost continuous spectrum of opinion, varying from the technical use where the word hardly differs from the word “form”, to the most anthropomorphic sense, where the qlippoth are evil demonesses in a demonic hierarchy responsible for all the evil in the world.

One reason why the word “qlippah” has no simple meaning is that it is part of the Kabbalistic explanation of evil, and it is difficult to explain evil in a monotheistic, non-dualistic religion without incurring a certain complexity….

If God is good, why is there evil?

No short essay can do justice to the complexity of this topic. I will indicate some of the principle themes.

The “Zohar” attributes the primary cause of evil to the act of separation. The act of separation is refered to as the “cutting of the shoots”. What was united becomes divided, and the boundary between one thing and another can be regarded as a shell. The primary separation was the division between the Tree of Life (Pillar of Mercy) from the Tree of Knowledge (Pillar of Severity).

In normal perception the world is clearly characterized by divisions between one thing and another, and in this technical sense one could say that we are immersed in a world of shells. The shells, taken by themselves as an abstraction divorced from the original, unidivided light (making another separation!) are the dead residue of manifestation, and can be identified with dead skin, hair, bark, sea shells, or shit. They have been refered to as the dregs remaining in a glass of wine, or as the residue left after refining gold. According to Scholem, the Zohar interprets evil as “the residue or refuse of the hidden life’s organic process”; evil is something which is dead, but comes to life because a spark of God falls on it; by itself it is simply the dead residue of life.

The skeleton is the archetypal shell. By itself it is a dead thing, but infuse it with a spark of life and it becomes a numinous and instantly recognizable manifestation of metaphysical evil. The shell is one of the most common horror themes; take a mask, or a doll, or any dead representation of a living thing, shine a light out of its eyes, and becomes a thing of evil intent. The powers of evil appear in the shape of the animate dead – skulls, bones, zombies, vampires, phantasms.

The following list of correspondences follows the interpretation that the qlippoth are empty shells, form without force, the covering of a sephira:

Kether Futility
Chokhmah Arbitrariness
Binah Fatalism
Chesed Ideology
Gevurah Bureaucracy
Tipheret Hollowness
Netzach Routine, repetition, habit
Hod Rigid order
Yesod Zombieism, robotism
Malkut Stasis

A second, common interpretation of the qlippoth is that they represent the negative or averse aspect of a sephira, as if each sephira had a Mr. Hyde to complement Dr. Jekyll. There are many variations of this idea. One of the most common is the idea that evil is caused by an excess of the powers of Din (judgement) in the creation. The origin of this imbalance may be innate, a residue of the moment of creation, when each sephira went through a period of imbalance and instability (the kingdoms of unbalanced force), but another version attributes this imbalance to humankind’s propensity for the Tree of Knowledge in preference to the Tree of Life (a telling and precognitively inspired metaphor if ever there was one…).

The imbalance of the powers of Din “leaks” out of the Tree and provides the basis for the “sitra achra”, the “other side”, or the “left side” (referring to pillar of severity), a quasi or even fully independent kindom of evil. This may be represented by a full Tree in its own right, sometimes by a great dragon, sometimes by seven hells. The most lurid versions combine Kabbalah with medieval demonology to produce detailed lists of demons, with Samael and Lilith riding at their head as king and queen.

A version of this survives in the Golden Dawn tradition on the qlippoth. The qlippoth are given as 10 evil powers corresponding to the 10 sephiroth. I refered to G.D knowledge lectures and also to Crowley’s “777” (believed to be largely a rip-off of Alan Bennett’s G.D. correspondence tables), and found several inconsistencies in transliteration and translation. Where possible I have reconstructed the original Hebrew, and I have given a corrected list.

Kether Thaumiel Twins of God (TAVM, tom – a twin)
Chokmah Ogiel Hinderers (? OVG – to draw a circle)
Binah Satariel Concealers (STR, satar- to hide, conceal)
Chesed Gash’khalah Breakers in Pieces (GASh Ga’ash – shake, quake KLH, khalah – complete destruction, annihilation)
Gevurah Golachab Flaming Ones (unclear)
Tipheret Tagiriron Litigation (probably from GVR, goor – quarrel)
Netzach Orev Zarak Raven of Dispersion (ARV, orev – raven ZRQ, zaraq – scatter)
Hod Samael False Accuser (SMM, samam – poison)
Yesod Gamaliel Obscene Ass (GML, gamal – camel?)
Malkut Lilith Woman of the Night (Leilah – Night)

Most of these attributions are obvious, others are not. The Twins of of God replace a unity with a warring duality. The Hinderers block the free expression of the God’s will. The Concealers prevent the mother from giving birth to the child – the child is stillborn in the womb. The Breakers in Pieces are the powers of authority gone bersek – Zeus letting fly with thunderbolts in all directions. The Flaming Ones refer to the fiery and destructive aspect of Gevurah. Lilith is the dark side of the Malkah or queen of Malkuth.

Why Samael is placed in Hod is unclear, unless he has been christianised and turned into the father of lies. In Kabbalah he is almost always attributed to Gevurah, sometimes as its archangel. Yesod is associated with the genitals and the sexual act, but why Gamaliel is unclear to me. I could easily concoct fanciful and perhaps even believable explanations for the attributions to Tipheret and Netzach, but I prefer not to.

In “777” Crowley also gives qlippoth for many of the 22 paths. If the transliterations and translations are as accurate as those for the sephiroth, I would be tempted to reach for my lexicon.

The G.D. teachings on the qlippoth are minimal in the material in my possession, but a great deal can be deduced from those fascinating repositories of Kabbalistic myth, the twin pictures of the Garden of Eden before and after the Fall. There are so many mythic themes in these pictures that it is difficult to disentangle them, but they seem strongly influenced by the ideas of Isaac Luria, and it is now time to describe the third major interpretation of the qlippoth.

Luria’s ideas have probably received more elaboration than any others in Kabbalah. The man left little in a written form, and his disciples did not concur in the presentation of what was clearly a very complex theosophical system – this is a subject where no amount of care will ensure consistency with anyone else.

Luria made the first step in the creation a process called “tzim tzum” or contraction. This contraction took place in the En Soph, the limitless, unknown, and unknowable God of Kabbalah. God “contracted” in a process of self-limitation to make a space (in a metaphorical sense, of course) for the creation. In the next step the light entered this space in a jet to fill the empty vessels of the sephiroth, but all but the first three were shattered by the light. This breaking of the vessels is called “shevirah”. The shards of the broken vessels fell into the abyss created by contraction, and formed the qlippoth. Most of the light returned to the En Soph, but some of it remained in the vessels (like a smear of oil in an empty bottle) and fell with the qlippoth.

Scholem describes the shevirah and the expulsion of the qlippoth as cathartic; not a blunder, an architectural miscalculation like an inadequately buttressed Gothic cathedral, but as a catharsis. Perhaps the universe, like a new baby, came attached to a placenta which had to be expelled, severed, and thrown out into the night.

One way of looking at the shevirah is this: the self contraction of tzim tzum was an act of Din, or Judgement, and so at the root of the creative act was the quality which Kabbalists identify with the source of evil, and it was present in such quantity that a balanced creation became possible only by excreting the imbalance. The shevirah can be viewed as a corrective action in which the unbalanced powers of Din, the broken vessels, were ejected into the abyss.

Whether cathartic or a blunder, the shevirah was catastrophic. Nothing was as it should have been in an ideal world. The four worlds of Kabbalah slipped, and the lowest world of Assiah descended into the world of the shells. This can be seen in the G.D. picture of the Eden after the Fall. Much of Lurianic Kabbalah is concerned with corrective actions designed to bring about the repair or restoration (tikkun) of the creation, so that the sparks of light trapped in the realm of the shells can be freed.

The final word on the shells must go to T.S. Eliot, who had clearly bumped into them in one of his many successful raids on the inarticulate:

“Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion;”

“Those who have crossed With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom Remember us – if at all – not as lost, Violent souls, but only As the hollow men The stuffed men.”

Why Is Gevurah Feminine?

There is a common belief that certain sephiroth are “masculine” and other sephiroth are “feminine”. This belief causes many problems in comprehending the Tree of Life, and is a source of questions. For example, why is Gevurah, a martial and aggressive sephira, depicted as feminine, and why is Netzach, the nurturing, caring, emotional and aesthetic sephira, depicted as “masculine”.

No convoluted explanations are required. The difficulties occur because of a carelessness in choosing words, and a misunderstanding about planetary correspondences. In other words, the above depictions are inaccurate.

Masculine and feminine are acquired behaviors which have changed over time, and many people are learning their Kabbalah from books written several decades ago. These stereotype views of masculine and feminine were not shared by Jewish authors, who not only did not use these terms, but placed an entirely different meaning on the terms they did use. If you take “feminine” to imply emotional, caring, and passive, and “masculine” to imply active, aggressive, and intellectual, then not only do you risk offending a large number of people who find this insulting, but you will also have great difficulty in reconciling various correspondences for the sephiroth.

A more appropriate characterisation of the difference between sephira is that of “giving” and “receiving”. Kether is a sephira that only gives, and Malkuth is a sephira which only receives, and all other sephiroth are both giving and receiving, so that Binah receives from Chokhmah but gives to Chesed. [Things are not so simple; there is a tradition that when a current reaches Malkuth, it reflects and travels back up the Tree again, so that even Malkuth and Kether play a part in giving and receiving. When human beings carry out simple acts in their daily life with full consciousness, then this results in a small “tikkun” or restoration in the upper worlds – in other words, it is our own actions which cause the reflection within Malkuth, and by doing so cause the “spiritualisation of matter”]

Kabbalists have used a sexual metaphor for this giving and receiving; they have observed that from a biological point of view, the male “gives”, and the female “receives”, and have given the sephira Chokhmah the title “Father” and the sephira Binah the title “Mother”. In time, this distinction between male and female has been lost, and carelessness has lead to the substitution of masculine and feminine, whith entirely changes the original meaning.

A second difficulty is caused by a common tendency in people to use the astrological correspondence of a planet as the primary means for understanding a sephira, so that for many people, Gevurah and Mars are synonymous. This is equivalent to saying that because a sunflower reminds me of the sun, the sun *is* a sunflower. The fact that one is a luminous ball of gas and the other is a plant with yellow petals should give a clue as to the magnitude of this kind of error. The metaphorical relationship between the sephira Tipheret and the sun is no closer than that between the sun and a sunflower. Likewise the relationship between Gevurah and Mars, and between Netzach and Venus – this is an example of the finger pointing at the moon: look at the finger and you don’t see the moon.

What follows is a very brief characterisation of each sephiroth, with a brief rational for the corresponding planetary association.

Kether: Unity
Chokhmah: Unconditioned Creativity
Binah: Possibility of Boundaries
Chesed: Conditioned Creativity
Gevurah: Response to Boundaries
Tipheret: Self-Consciousness
Netzach: Response to Creativity
Hod: Appreciation of Boundaries
Yesod: Ego
Malkuth Diversity

This is an abstract approach which concentrates on the polarity of force/creativity and form. In Kabbalah this is expressed as the polarity of Chokhmah and Binah. Chokhmah is the unconditioned creativity that explodes out of unity of Kether. Binah is concealed in this duality, in the separation between Kether and Chokhmah, and expresses the possibility of duality, of separation between one thing and another. Binah is the Mother of Form, the root of separation which forms the basis for all distinctions and fininteness. The Mother receives the creative outpouring of Chokhmah and gives birth to it in Chesed. Chesed reflects the creativity of Chokhmah, but is conditioned by the boundaries and distinctions of Binah. Chesed creates within the realm of the possible; Binah defines what *is* possible.

Gevurah is the response to boundaries. Chesed wants to move existing boundaries around, and Gevurah is the response to that. This response is typically reactionary, a defense of the status quo, an attempt to keep the boundaries where they were. Chesed is active – it changes the status quo. Gevurah is receptive – it takes the existing status quo and defends it.

Netzach is the response to creativity. It is the place of aesthetic judgements, of likes and dislikes, of passions for this and that. It is the adulation of a fan for a band, or an artist, or a politician. Hod is the appreciation of boundaries, a passion for classification, rules, detail, hair-splitting definitions. Netzach is active; feelings tell us what we should like. Feelings direct our behaviour. Hod is receptive, in that it elaborates what it is given.

The more confusing planetary associations should now (I hope) be clearer. Saturn is the sphere of limitation, old age, death, and corresponds to Binah, the Mother of Form, from whose womb all finiteness comes. Jupiter, the leader, corresponds to Chesed. Mars (as the warrior defending the law and the State) corresponds to Gevurah (but not Mars as the bloodthirsty berserker – this is an aspect of Chesed). Venus, the romantic aesthete, goddess of love and sensual beauty, corresponds to Netzach. Mercury, the god of trade, science, communication, medicine, discourse, trickery, corresponds to Hod.

Do not expect to find a detailed consistency between a sephira and its planetary correspondence: the sun is not a sunflower. There is a subtlety and generality, not to mentioned coherency, in the idea of sephirotic emanation which is not to be found in the planetary correspondences.

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