Notes on Kabbalah 

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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 (continued)
     This  chapter  provides a detailed look at each of  the  ten 
sephiroth  and  draws together material scattered  over  previous 


     Yesod means "foundation",  and that is what Yesod is:  it is 
the  hidden  infrastructure  whereby  the  emanations  from   the 
remainder  of  the Tree are transmitted to the  sephira  Malkuth. 
Just as a large building has its air-conditioning ducts,  service 
tunnels,  conduits,  electrical wiring, hot and cold water pipes, 
attic  spaces,  lift shafts,  winding  rooms,  storage  tanks,  a 
telephone exchange etc,  so does the Creation,  and the external, 
visible   world  of  phenomenal  reality  rests   (metaphorically 
speaking)   upon  a  hidden  foundation  of   occult   machinery. 
Meditations  on  the nature of Yesod tend to be  full  of  secret 
tunnels and concealed mechanisms, as if the Creation was a Gothic 
mansion  with  a secret door behind every mirror,  a  passage  in 
every wall,  a pair of hidden eyes behind every portrait,  and  a 
subterranean world of forgotten tunnels leading who knows  where. 
For this reason the Spiritual Experience of Yesod is aptly  named 
"The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe".
     Many  Yesod  correspondences  reinforce  this  notion  of  a 
foundation,  of something which lies behind,  supports and  gives 
shape to phenomenal reality.  The magical image of Yesod is of "a 
beautiful  naked man,  very strong".  The image which springs  to 
mind  is that of a man with the world resting on  his  shoulders, 
like  one  of  the misrepresentations of  the  Titan  Atlas  (who 
actually held up the heavens,  not the world). The angel order of 
Yesod is the Cherubim, the Strong Ones, the archangel is Gabriel, 
the Strong or Mighty One of God,  and the God-name is Shaddai  el 
Chai,  the Almighty Living God. 
     The idea of a foundation suggests that there is a  substance 
which lies behind physical matter and "in-forms it" or "holds  it 
together",  something less structured, more plastic, more refined 
and rarified,  and this "fifth element" is often called aethyr. I 
will  not attempt to justify aethyr in terms of  current  physics 
(the  closest  concept  I have found is  the  hypothesised  Higgs 
field); it is a convenient handle on a concept which has enormous 
intuitive  appeal to many magicians,  who,  when asked how  magic 
works,  tend  to  think in terms of a medium  which  is  directly 
receptive  to  the will,  something which is plastic and  can  be 
shaped through concentration and imagination, and which transmits 
their  artificially  created forms  into  reality.  Eliphas  Levi 
called  this  medium the "Astral Light".  It is also  natural  to 
imagine  that  mind,  consciousness,  and  the  soul  have  their 
habitation in this substance, and there are volumes detailing the 
properties of the "Etheric Body",  the "Astral Body", the "Causal 
Body" [1,2] and so on. I don't take this stuff too seriously, but 
I do like to work with the kind of natural intuitions which occur 
spontaneously  and  independently in a large number of  people  - 
there  is  power  in these intuitions - and it is  a  mistake  to 
invalidate  them  because they sound cranky.  When I  talk  about 
aethyr  or  the  Astral Light,  I mean there  is  an  ideoplastic 
substance  which  is subjectively real  to  many  magicians,  and 
explanations  of  magic  at the level  of  Yesod  revolve  around 
manipulating this substance using desire, imagination and will.
     The fundamental nature of Yesod is that of  *interface*;  it 
interfaces the rest of the Tree of Life to Malkuth. The interface 
is  bi-directional;  there are impulses coming down from  Kether, 
and echoes bouncing back from Malkuth.  The idea of interface  is 
illustrated in the design of a computer system: a computer with a 
multitude  of  worlds hidden within it is a source  of  heat  and 
repair  bills  unless  it has peripheral  interfaces  and  device 
drivers to interface the world outside the computer to the  world 
"inside"  it;  add  a keyboard and a mouse and a  monitor  and  a 
printer  and you have opened the door into another  reality.  Our 
own senses have the same characteristic of being a bi-directional 
interface  through which we experience the world,  and  for  this 
reason  the  senses correspond to Yesod,  and not only  the  five 
traditional senses - the "sixth sense" and the "second sight" are 
given  equal  status,   and  so  Yesod  is  also  the  sphere  of 
instinctive psychism,  of clairvoyance,  precognition, divination 
and  prophecy.  It is also clear from accounts of lucid  dreaming 
(and personal experience) that we possess the ability to perceive 
an inner world as vividly as the outer,  and so to Yesod  belongs 
the inner world of dreams,  daydreams and vivid imagination,  and 
one  of  the titles of Yesod is "The Treasure House  of  Images". 
     To  Yesod is attributed Levanah,  the Moon,  and  the  lunar 
associations of tides,  flux and change,  occult  influence,  and 
deeply   instinctive   and  sometimes   atavistic   behaviour   - 
possession,   mediumship,  lycanthropy  and  the  like.  Although 
Yesod is the foundation and it has associations with strength, it 
is  by  no means a rigid scaffold supporting a world  in  stasis. 
Yesod  supports the world just as the sea supports all  the  life 
which lives in it and sails upon it,  and just as the sea has its 
irresistable currents and tides, so does Yesod. Yesod is the most 
"occult"  of the sephiroth,  and next to Malkuth it is  the  most 
magical, but compared with Malkuth its magic is of a more subtle, 
seductive,  glamorous and ensnaring kind.  Magicians are drawn to 
Yesod  by the idea that if reality rests on a hidden  foundation, 
then  by  changing the foundation it is possible  to  change  the 
reality.  The magic of Yesod is the magic of form and appearance, 
not   substance;   it  is  the  magic   of   illusion,   glamour, 
transformation, and   shape-changing.   The  most   sophisticated 
examples of this are to be found in modern marketing, advertising 
and  image consultancies.  I do not jest.  My tongue is not  even 
slightly  in my cheek.  The following quote was taken  from  this 
morning's paper [3]:
     Although  the changes look cosmetic,  those responsible  for 
     creating  corporate  image  argue  that  a  redesign  of   a 
     company's uniform or name is just the visible sign of a much 
     larger transformation.

     "The majority of people continue to misunderstand and  think 
     that  it is just a logo,  rather than understanding  that  a 
     corporate identity programme is actually concerned with  the 
     very commercial objective of having a strong personality and 
     single-minded,    focussed    direction   for   the    whole 
     organisation, " said Fiona Gilmore, managing director of the 
     design company Lewis Moberly.  "It's like planting an  acorn 
     and then a tree grows.  If you create the right *foundation* 
     (my  itals)  then you are building a whole culture  for  the 
     future of an organisation."

I don't know what Ms.  Gilmore studies in her spare time, but the 
idea  that it is possible to manipulate reality  by  manipulating 
symbols and appearances is entirely magical.  The same article on 
corporate identity continues as follows: 

     "The scale of the BT relaunch is colossal. The new logo will 
     be  painted on more than 72,000 vehicles  and  trailers,  as 
     well as 9,000 properties.
     The  company's 92,000 public payphones will get new  decals, 
     and  its 90 shops will have to changed,  right down  to  the 
     yellow door handles.  More than 50,000 employees are  likely 
     to need new uniforms or "image clothing".

Note  the emphasis on *image*.  The company in question  (British 
Telecom)  is  an ex-public monopoly with  an  appalling  customer 
relations  problem,   so  it  is  changing  the  colour  of   its 
door handles! This is Yesodic magic on a gigantic scale. 
     The  image  manipulators gain most of their power  from  the 
mass-media.  The  mass-media correspond to two  sephiroth:  as  a 
medium of communication they belong in Hod,  but as a  foundation 
for our perception of reality they belong in Yesod. Nowadays most 
people form their model of what the world (in the large) is  like 
via the media.  There are a few individuals who travel the  world 
sufficiently  to have a model based on personal  experience,  but 
for most people their model of what most of the world is like  is 
formed by newspapers,  radio and television;  that is,  the media 
have become an extended (if inaccurate) instrument of perception. 
Like  our  "normal"  means of perception  the  media  are  highly 
selective in the variety and content of information provided, and 
they  can be used by advertising agencies and other  manipulative 
individuals to create foundations for new collective realities.
     While on the subject of changing perception to assemble  new 
realities,  the following quote by "Don Juan" [4] has a definite 
Kabbalistic flavour:

     "The next truth is that perception takes place," he went on, 
     "because  there  is  in  each of  us  an  agent  called  the 
     assemblage   point  that  selects  internal   and   external 
     emanations for alignment.  The particular alignment that  we 
     perceive  as  the world is the product of  a  specific  spot 
     where our assemblage point is located on our cocoon."

One of the titles of Yesod is "The Receptacle of the Emanations", 
and  its function is precisely as described above - Yesod is  the 
assemblage  point which assembles the emanations of the  internal 
and the external. 
     In  addition  to the  deliberate,  magical  manipulation  of 
foundations, there are other important areas of magic relevant to 
Yesod.  Raw, innate psychism is an ability which tends to improve 
as more attention is devoted to creative visualisation,  focussed 
meditation (on Tarot cards for example),  dreams (e.g.  keeping a 
dream  diary),   and  divination.   Divination  is  an  important 
technique  to  practice even if you feel you are terrible  at  it 
(and  especially  if  you  think  it  is  nonsense),  because  it 
reinforces  the  idea  that it is permissible  to  "let  go"  and 
intuite  meanings into any pattern.  Many people have  difficulty 
doing  this,  feeling  perhaps  that they will  be  swamped  with 
unreason (recalling Freud's fear, expressed to Jung, of needing a 
bulwark  against the "black mud of occultism"),  when in  reality 
their minds are swamped with reason and could use a holiday.  Any 
divination system can be used,  but systems which emphasise  pure 
intuition are best (e.g.  Tarot,  runes,  tea-leaves,  flights of 
birds,  patterns on the wallpaper,  smoke. I heard of a Kabbalist 
who  threw a cushion into the air and carried out  divination  on 
the  basis  of the number of pieces of foam stuffing  which  fell 
out).  Because  Yesod  is a kind of aethyric  reflection  of  the 
physical world,  the image of and precursor to  reality,  mirrors 
are an important tool for Yesod magic.  Quartz crystals are  also 
used,   probably  because  of  the  use  of  crystal  balls   for 
divination,  but also because quartz crystal and amethyst have  a 
peculiarly  Yesodic quality in their own right.  The average  New 
Age shop filled with crystals, Tarot cards, silver jewelry (lunar 
association),  perfumes, dreamy music, and all the glitz, glamour 
and  glitter  of a daemonic magpie's nest,  is like a  temple  to 
Yesod.  Mirrors  and  crystals are used passively  as  focii  for 
receptivity, but they can also be used actively for certain kinds 
of  aethyric magic - there is an interesting book on  making  and 
using magic mirrors which builds on the kind of elemental magical 
work carried out in Malkuth [5].     
     Yesod  has  an  important  correspondence  with  the  sexual 
organs. The correspondence occurs in three ways. The first way is 
that when the Tree of Life is placed over the human  body,  Yesod 
is positioned over the genitals. The author of the Zohar is quite 
explicit about "the remaining members of the  Microprosopus",  to 
the  extent that the relevant paragraphs in Mather's  translation 
of "The Lesser Holy Assembly" remain in Latin to avoid  offending 
Victorian sensibilities.      
     The  second  association of Yesod with the  genitals  arises 
from  the  union  of the Microprosopus and  his  Bride.  This  is 
another recurring theme in Kabbalah, and the symbolism is complex 
and  refers  to several distinct  ideas,  from  the  relationship 
between  man and wife to an internal process within the  body  of 
God: e.g [6].

     "When  the  Male  is  joined  with  the  Female,  they  both 
     constitute one complete body,  and all the Universe is in  a 
     state of happiness, because all things receive blessing from 
     their perfect body. And this is an Arcanum."

or, referring to the Bride:

     "And she is mitigated,  and receiveth blessing in that place 
     which is called the Holy of Holies below."

or, referring to the "member":

     "And  that  which floweth down into that place where  it  is 
     congregated,  and  which is emitted through that  most  holy 
     Yesod,  Foundation,  is entirely white,  and therefore is it 
     called Chesed.
     Thence  Chesed entereth into the Holy of Holies;  as  it  is 
     written Ps.  cxxxiii.  3 'For there Tetragrammaton commanded 
     the blessing, even life for evermore.'"

It  is  not difficult to read a great deal into  paragraphs  like 
this,  and there are many more in a similar vein.  Suffice to say 
that  the  Microprosopus  is often identified  with  the  sephira 
Tiphereth,  the  Bride is the sephira Malkuth,  and the point  of 
union between them is obviously Yesod.
     The  third and more abstract association between  Yesod  and 
the  sexual  organs  arises because  the  sexual  organs  are  a 
mechanism  for perpetuating the *form* of a living  organism.  In 
order to get close to what is happening in sexual reproduction it 
is worth asking the question "What is a computer program?". Well, 
a  computer program indisputably begins as an idea;  it is not  a 
material  thing.  It can be written down in various ways;  as  an 
abstract  specification  in set theoretic notation akin  to  pure 
mathematics,  or  as  a  set of  recursive  functions  in  lambda 
calculus;  it  could be written in several different  high  level 
languages - Pascal,  C,  Prolog,  LISP, ADA, ML etc. Are they all 
they same program? Computer scientists wrestle with this problem: 
can we show that two different programs written in two  different 
languages  are  in some sense functionally  identical?  It  isn't 
trivial  to do this because it asks fundamental  questions  about 
language  (any  language)  and meaning,  but it  is  possible  in 
limited  cases  to  produce  two  apparently  different  programs 
written   in  different  languages  and  assert  that  they   are 
identical.   Whatever   the  program  is,   it  seems  to   exist 
independently of any particular language,  so what is the program 
and  where is it?  Let us ignore that chestnut and go on  to  the 
next  level.  Suppose we write the program down.  We could do  it 
with  a pencil.  We could punch holes in paper.  We  could  plant 
trees in a pattern in a field.  We can line up magnetic  domains. 
We can burn holes in metal foil.  I could have it tattooed on  my 
back. We can transform it into radically different forms (that is 
what compilers and assemblers do). It obviously isn't tied to any 
physical representation either.  What about the computer it  runs 
on?  Well,  it  could be a conventional one made with CMOS  chips 
etc.....but  aren't there a lot of different kinds and  makes  of 
computer, and they can all run the same program. It is also quite 
practical  to build computers which *don't* use electrons  -  you 
could use mechanics or fluids or ball bearings - all you need  to 
do  is  produce  something with the  functionality  of  a  Turing 
machine, and that isn't hard. So not only is the program not tied 
to any particular physical representation,  but the same goes for 
the  computer itself,  and what we are left with is two puffs  of 
smoke.  On another level this is crazy;  computers are real, they 
do  real things in the real world,  and the programs  which  make 
them work are obviously real too....aren't they? 
     Now apply the same kind of scrutiny to living organisms, and 
the mechanism of reproduction. Take a good look at nucleic acids, 
enzymes,  proteins etc., and ask the same kind of questions. I am 
not  implying  that  life is a sort of program,  but  what  I  am 
suggesting is that if you try to get close to what constitutes  a 
living  organism  you  end up with another puff of  smoke  and  a 
handful  of  atoms which could just as well be  ball-bearings  or 
fluids  or....The thing that is being perpetuated through  sexual 
reproduction is something quite abstract and immaterial; it is an 
abstract  form preserved and encoded in a particular  pattern  of 
chemicals,  and if I was asked which was more real, the transient 
collection  of chemicals used,  or the abstract  form  itself,  I 
would answer "the form". But then, I am a programmer, and I would 
say that.
     I   find  it  astonishing  that  there  are  any   hard-core 
materialists left in the world.  All the important stuff seems to 
exist at the level of puffs of smoke,  what Kabbalists call form. 
Roger Penrose,  one of the most eminent mathematicians living has 
this to say [7]:

     "I  have made no secret of the fact that my  sympathies  lie 
     strongly  with the Platonic view that mathematical truth  is 
     absolute,  external and eternal,  and not based on  man-made 
     criteria;  and  that  mathematical objects have  a  timeless 
     existence of their own,  not dependent on human society  nor 
     on particular physical objects."

"Ah  Ha!"  cry  the  materialists,   "At  least  the  atoms   are 
real." Well,  they  are until you start pulling them  apart  with 
tweezers and end up with a heap of equations which turn out to be 
the linguistic expression of an idea. As Einstein said, "The most 
incomprehensible   thing   about  the  world  is   that   it   is 
comprehensible",  that  is,  capable of being described  in  some 
linguistic form.
     I am not trying to convince anyone of the "rightness" of the 
Kabbalistic  viewpoint.  What I am trying to do is show that  the 
process  whereby  form is impressed on matter  (the  relationship 
between  Yesod  and Malkuth) is not  arcane, theosophical  mumbo-
jumbo;  it is an issue which is alive and kicking, and the closer 
we  get  to  "real things" (and that  certainly  includes  living 
organisms),  the better the Kabbalistic model (that form precedes 
manifestation, that there is a well-defined process of form-ation 
with the "real world" as an outcome) looks.

The  illusion of Yesod is security,  the kind of  security  which 
forms the foundation of our personal existence in the world. On a 
superficial level our security is built out of  relationships,  a 
source of income, a place to live, a vocation, personal power and 
influence etc,  but at a deeper level the foundation of  personal 
identity  is  built  on a series  of  accidents,  encounters  and 
influences  which  create the illusion of who  we  are,  what  we 
believe  in,  and  what we stand for.  There is  a  warm,  secure 
feeling  of knowing what is right and wrong,  of doing the  right 
thing,  of living a worthwhile life in the service of  worthwhile 
causes,  of having a uniquely privileged vantage point from which 
to  survey  the problems of life (with all  the  intolerance  and 
incomprehension of other people which accompanies this  insight), 
and conversely there are feelings of despair, depression, loss of 
identity,  and  existential  terror  when a crack  forms  in  the 
illusion,  and  reality shows through - Castaneda calls  it  "the 
crack in the world".  The smug,  self-perpetuating illusion which 
masquerades  as  personal identity at the level of Yesod  is  the 
most astoundingly difficult thing to shift or destroy.  It fights 
back  with  all  the  resources  of  the  personality,   it  will 
enthusiastically embrace any ally which will help to shore up its 
defenses   -  religious,   political  or   scientific   ideology; 
psychological,   sociological,   metaphysical  and   theosophical 
claptrap (e.g.  Kabbalah); the law and popular morality; in fact, 
any  beliefs  which  give it the power to  retain  its  identity, 
uniqueness and integrity.  Because this parasite of the soul uses 
religion (and its esoteric offshoots) to sustain itself they have 
little  or  no  power  over it and become a  major  part  of  the 
     There  are  various ways of overcoming this  personal  demon 
(Carroll [8],  in an essay on the subject,  calls it  Choronzon), 
and the two I know best are the cataclysmic and the abrasive. The 
first method involves a shock so extreme that it is impossible to 
be  the  same person again,  and if enough preparation  has  gone 
before  then it is possible to use the shock to rebuild  oneself. 
In  some  cases this doesn't happen;  I have  noticed  that  many 
people  with  very rigid religious beliefs  talk  readily   about 
having  suffered  traumatic experiences,  and the  phenomenon  of 
hysterical conversion among soldiers suffering from war  neuroses 
is well known.  The other method,  the abrasive,  is to wear away 
the demon of self-importance,  to grind it into nothing by  doing 
(for  example) something for someone else for which one  receives 
no thanks, praise, reward, or recognition. The task has to be big 
enough  and awful enough to become a demon in its own  right  and 
induce  all  the  correct feelings of compulsion (I  have  to  do 
this),  helplessness (I'll never make it),   indignation  (what's 
the point,  it's not my problem anyway),  rebellion (I  won't,  I 
won't, not anymore), more compulsion (I can't give up), self-pity 
(how  did  I get into this?),  exhaustion (Oh  No!  Not  again!), 
despair  (I can't go on),  and finally a kind of submission  when 
one's  demon hasn't the energy to put up a struggle any more  and 
simply gives up.  The woman who taught me Kabbalah used both  the 
cataclysmic  and  the  abrasive  methods  on  her  students  with 
malicious  glee  -  I will discuss this in  more  detail  in  the 
section on Tiphereth.        
     The virtue of Yesod is independence, the ability to make our 
own foundations,  to continually rebuild ourselves, to reject the 
security  of comfortable illusions and confront  reality  without 
     The vice of Yesod is idleness.  This can be contrasted  with 
the  inertia of Malkuth.  A stone is inert because it  lacks  the 
capacity to change,  but in most circumstances people can  change 
and can't be bothered.  At least,  not today. Yesod has a dreamy, 
illusory, comfortable, *seductive* quality, as in the Isle of the 
Lotus  Eaters - how else could we live as if death  and  personal 
annihilation only happened to other people?   
     The  Qlippothic aspect of Yesod occurs when foundations  are 
rotten  and  disintegrating and only the  superficial  appearance 
remains  unchanged - Dorian Gray springs to mind,  or cases where 
the  brain is damaged and the body remains and carries out  basic 
instinctive  functions,  but the person is dead as far  as  other 
people are concerned.  Organisations are just as prone to this as 

[1] A.E.  Powell,  "The Etheric Double",  Theosophical Publishing 
                    House, 1925

[2] A.E.  Powell,  "The Astral Body",  Theosophical Publishing 
                    House, 1927

[3] "It's the Image Men We Answer To",  The Sunday  Times,  6th. 
                                        Jan 1991

[4] Castenada, Carlos, "The Fire from Within", Black Swan, 1985.

[5] N.  R.  Clough, "How to Make and Use Magic Mirrors", Aquarian 

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

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

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

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