Notes on Kabbalah 

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The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend
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Release 2.0      
Copy date: 12th. January 1992

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


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.

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