“With thy right Eye create all for thyself, and with the left accept all that be created otherwise” – Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth.
One thing has left me rather dumbfounded in occultism, and that is the ‘Chaos Magicians’ avoidance of Qabalah, likely due to their associating it to years of intense study. Thelemites approach it with more enthusiasm given the tie-ins with Aleister Crowley’s writing, however they keep the ‘study’ aspect in-tact and choose to be “serious occultists” (which means serious at studying). Yet, the Qabalah is simply symbols, which means they can be re-appropriated into function with little effort.
I’ve often heard encouragement of the use of Qabalah by those who describe it as a ‘filing cabinet’. This is rather irksome, as it makes it more a storage unit, rather than an ‘interfacing agent’.
In The Whole-Brain Child Daniel J. Siegel tackles myths of memory in the chapter ‘Kill the Butterflies – Integrating Memory for Growth and Healing’. The first myth is a ‘mental filing cabinet’ one. He writes: “There aren’t thousands of little ‘memory files’ in your head waiting for you to access them and bring them to consciousness so you can think about them. Instead memory is all about associations. As an association machine, the brain processes something in the present moment – an idea, a feeling, a smell, an image – and links that experience with similar experiences from the past. These past experiences strongly influence how we understand what we see or feel. That influence occurs because of associations in the brain, where different neurons (or brain cells) become linked to each other. So in essence, memory is the way an event from the past influences us in the present.” So again in summary, “This is what memory essentially is – association.”
The Qabalah is a basic interface for building, re-directing and resolving associations. The Tree of Life symbolically represents Adam Kadmon, the “primordial man”, or the ‘light structure’; the source of which manifests through the person.
In The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus, which is translated writings of Paracelsus by A. E. Waite with his own and others contributions, Waite provided near the end of the books a ‘Short Lexicon of Alchemy’. In the lexicon ADAM is described: “The formation of Adam by God out of the earth, as described in Genesis, is counted by the alchemists among the great mysteries. The material was no common potter’s clay, but another and one of a far higher nature. He who knows this knows also the subject of the philosophical medicine, and by consequence, what destroys or preserves the temperament of man. It contains principles which are homogenous with man’s life, are potent to restore his decaying virtues, and can reduce his disorders to harmony. Arias Montamus calls this matter ‘the unique particle of the multiplex earth'”.
So what does Alchemy have to do with Qabalah? (To me Binah = Understanding = Hypnosis = Alchemy). Another quote will aid in my attempt to elucidate this. This from the same Lexicon, though now providing two definitions of Alchemy: “The following remarkable passage occurs in the Anima Magica Abscondita of Thomas Vaughan. It has often been made use of as evidence that the adepts had a higher object than the transmutation of ordinary metals:––Question not those impostors who tell you of a sulfer tingens, and I know not what fables; who pin also that narrow name of Chemia on a science both ancient and infinite. It is the Light only that can be truly multiplied, for this ascends to, and descends from, the first fountain of multiplication and generation. If to animals, it exalts animals ; if to vegetables, vegetables ; if to minerals, it refines minerals, and translates them from the worst to best condition.” Lastly, there is this one: “The monk Ferarius defines it to be the science of the four elements, which are to be found in all created substances, but are not of the vulgar kind. The whole practice of the art is simply the conversion of these elements into one another.”
Magic ritual is both performance art, and a Hermetic science (as Above, so Below). The timeless ritual that utilizes the Tree of Life is the LBRP and Qabalistic Cross from Eliphas Levi, which sees the magician separate the elements to the 4 cardinal points with association assignment to the archangels; Raphael (Air), Gabriel (Water), Michael (Fire), and Uriel (Earth). For the QBL Cross the magician draws down ‘the light’ from Kether (the sephirot assigned to the crown of the head), to Malkuth (The Kingdom, and feet), Ve-Geburah (Strength, right shoulder), Ve-Gedulah (this sephirot is Chesed; Mercy, left shoulder), then to Tipharet (Glory) in the heart. Thus establishing the cross of light.
I am of the impression that all ritual is self-hypnosis. All hypnosis is also self-hypnosis. A great iconic Hypnotist was Mesmer, who Colin Wilson wrote of in The Occult. He wrote: “It may be felt that he was of no significance in the history of occultism. But this is not true. In important respects, he might almost be a reincarnation of Paracelsus. He recognized the importance of the spirit, the imagination, and felt the universe is pervaded by meaningful influences. Most of his results can be explained in terms of hysteria, release of repression, auto-suggestion, and so on. But what is important is that he understood that illness is not natural, but some kind of blockage of natural forces – a kind of mental stagnation. His instinctive desire was to set the vital forces in motion again. If the treatment had been entirely a matter of imagination it would not have worked as well as it did. He did not understand the forces he was using, but he recognized their existence.”
Edward Mason wrote an excellent article on the Thelemic journey in obtaining ‘The Ubiquitous Point of View’ (read it here). In this he wrote: “One-pointedness of mind is the necessary precursor to Knowledge and Conversation, just as scatteredness of thought leads away from it.”
James Braid was the first to call this Hypnotism, this narrowing of the attention until the mind is in a state he called monoideism (single-idea-ism). Though from what we know thanks to the work of Wilhelm Stekel, thought does not simply exist in the form of words. There exists a Polyphony of Thought – we have thought in words, and then thought which has not yet developed into words and appears as impressions or images (which I’ve previously implied to associate with the Astral Light). So, it can also be said that we have “thought” (words), and then “feeling thought” (thinking in images).
On the Tree of Life, the Binah sephirot represents the Great Mother, ‘Understanding’, and is assigned to the Left Eye and also the Heart. (In Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, the Suit of Cups in the Tarot cards are attributed entirely to Binah’s sphere – the cups numbered 1 to 10, representing a variety of states from pleasure, happiness, to debauch and disappointment).
Aleister Crowley advocated Liber Samekh to attain Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel. Samekh in the Thelemic Qabalah linking Tipharet (the sun/heart) to Yesod (known as the foundation, the moon sphere). Liber Samekh is also known as The Invocation of the Bornless One (in other words, the Primordial) and it contains a portion where the element of Fire is being invoked. The magician cries: “Thou, the Savior!”, “Silence! Give me Thy Secret!”, “Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust!”
Within Franz Bardon’s ‘Questions & Answers and the Great Arcanum’ the Fire Element (Yod in Hebrew) is assigned the attributes of “Omnipotence, and all-encompassing energy (will)”. The ‘qualities’ of the Fire Element (the electric fluid) are hot, dry, and expansive. The Planetary Spheres assigned are the Sun (Tipharet), and Mars (Geburah). Lastly, the organ of perception is the Eye.
Binah is connected to Chesed (Majesty) through Da’at (the invisible sphere in the neck) which represents knowledge. This could be viewed as the obvious metaphor; of there being a knowledge, and then there being Knowledge. Binah is connected to Tipharet (the heart) through Lovers path, which Crowley chose to also call ‘Brothers’. Binah is connected to Keter (the Crown) through the Magus path, and it is connected to Chokmah (the Father, Wisdom) through the Empress path.
The last Path from Binah to explore is the one which reaches down to Geburah (Strength), and this path is assigned to the Chariot. Aleister Crowley in his Book of Thoth writes that the Chariot path represents the “influence of the Supernals descending through the Veil of Water (which is blood) upon the energy of man, and so inspires it.”
Then Crowley in describing the appearance of the card itself:
“The canopy of the Chariot is the night-sky-blue of Binah. The pillars are the four pillars of the Universe, the regimen of Tetragrammaton. The scarlet wheels represent the original energy of Geburah which causes the revolving motion.
The chariot is drawn by four sphynxes composed of the four Kerubs, the Bull, the Lion, the Eagle, and the Man. In each sphynx these elements are counter-changed; thus the whole represents the sixteen sub-elements.
The Charioteer is clothed in the amber-coloured armour appropriate to the sign. He is throned in the chariot rather than conducting it, because the whole system of progression is perfectly balanced. His only function is to bear the Holy Grail.”
Lastly, in describing the Holy Grail:
“The central and most important feature of the card is its centre––the Holy Grail. It is of pure amethyst, of the colour of Jupiter, but its shape suggests the full moon and the Great Sea of Binah.
In the centre is radiant blood; the spiritual life is inferred; light in the darkness.”
In the formation of the original Kabbalah, Rabbi Akiva wrote the Maaseh Merkava, or the Way of the Chariot. In The Mystery of the Aleph; Mathematics, The Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity by Amir D. Aczel, he tells of Rabbi Akiva’s methods: “The meditations the rabbi prescribed called for inducement of out-of-body experiences, altered mental states, and heights of ecstasy not previously known in Western culture. While the visions of heavenly places on the way to the One were vivid and intense, Rabbi Akiva exhorted his students not to succumb to hallucinations or lose their grasp on reality.” He continued: “The rabbi used biblical passages and chants he composed himself as vehicles for achieving meditative states of mind. One of these devices was an infinitely bright light the students visualized, symbolizing the chaluk, or robe which covered God when he appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai. In their meditations, the students strove to achieve the intensity of Moses as he witnessed the robed figure of God.”
Above the Crown (Keter) on the Tree of Life we have Ain (Nothing), Ain Sof (Not Limited/Infinity), and Ain Sof Aur (Unlimited Light). Would a non-dualistic view force us to focus on the unlimited light? Awareness of the Polyphony of Thought? For we cannot shut off our eyes. Infinity (Ain Sof) was announced as God by the rabbi Isaac The Blind. The insistent Eye references can now make sense.
I’ll end this article with some great words from Eliphas Levi. In The Paradoxes of the Highest Science he wrote:
“To live is to suffer ; to know how to live is to be happy. To love is to obey ; to know how to love is to rule.
To speak is to make a noise ; to know how to speak is to make a melody.
To seek is to torment oneself ; to know how to seek is to find.
To use is often to abuse ; to know how to use is to enjoy.
To practice magic is to be a quack ; to know magic is to be a sage.
To believe without knowing is to be a fool ; to know without believing is to be a mad man.
True Knowledge brings with it faith.”