Notes on Kabbalah 

The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided
they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained.
The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend
these Notes. 

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 

Hod & Netzach

         "Objects contain the possibility of all situations.
          The possibility of occurring in states of affairs
          is the form of an object.
          Form is the possibility of structure."

         "Since feeling is first
          who pays any attention
          to the syntax of things
          will never wholly kiss you."
                                     E.E. Cummings

     The  title  of the sephira Hod is  sometimes  translated  as 
Splendour  and  sometimes  as Glory.  The title  of  the  sephira 
Netzach is usually translated as Victory, sometimes as Endurance, 
and  occasionally  as Eternity.  Although there  have  been  many 
attempts  to explain the titles of this pair of sephiroth,  I  am 
not  aware  of  a  convincing  explanation.   
     The  two sephiroth correspond to the legs and like the  legs 
are  normally  taken  as  a  pair  and  not  individually.   They 
complement another but are not opposites any more than force  and 
form  are  opposites.  This pair of sephiroth provide  the  first 
example  of  the  polarity of form  and  force  encountered  when 
ascending  back up the lightning flash from the sephira  Malkuth. 
Neither quality manifests in a pure state,  as form and force are 
thoroughly  mixed together at the level of Hod and  Netzach:  the 
force aspect represented by Netzach is differentiated (an example 
of  form)  into  a  multitude of  forces,  and  the  form  aspect 
represented  by  Hod acts dynamically (an example  of  force)  by 
synthesising new forms and structures.  Both sephiroth  represent 
the plurality of consciousness at this level,  and in older texts 
they  are referred to as the "armies" or "hosts".  To  understand 
why  they are referred to in this way it is necessary to look  at 
an  archaic aspect of Kabbalistic symbolism whereby the  Tree  of 
Life is a representation of kingship.
     One of the titles of Tiphereth is Melekh, or king. This king 
is the child of Chokhmah (Abba,  the father) and Binah (Aima, the 
Mother) and hence a son of God who wears the crown of Kether. The 
kingdom is the sephira Malkuth,  at the same time queen  (Malkah) 
and bride (Kallah).  In his right hand the king wields the  sword 
of  justice  (corresponding  to Gevurah),  and in  his  left  the 
sceptre of authority (corresponding to Chesed), and he rules over 
the armies or hosts (Tzaba),  which are Hod and Netzach.  The use 
of  kingship  as  a metaphor to convey what  the  sephiroth  mean 
obscures as much as it reveals, but it is an unavoidable piece of 
Kabbalistic symbolism,  and the attribution of Hod and Netzach to 
the  "armies" does capture something useful about the  nature  of 
consciousness  at this level:  consciousness is  fragmented  into 
innumerable  warring factions,  and if there is no rightful  king 
ruling over the kingdom of the soul (a common state of  affairs), 
then the armies elect a succession of leaders from the ranks, who 
wear  a lopsided crown and occupy the throne only for as long  as 
it takes to find another claimant - more on this later.
     The   psychological  interpretation  of  Hod  is   that   it 
corresponds  to the ability to  abstract,  to  conceptualise,  to 
reason,  to communicate,  and this level of consciousness  arises 
from the fact that in order to survive we have evolved a  nervous 
system capable of building internal representations of the world. 
I can drive around London in a car because I possess an  internal 
representation of the London street system. I can diagnose faults 
in the same car because I have an internal representation of  its 
mechanical and electrical systems and how they might fail.  I can 
type this document without looking at the keyboard because I know 
where  the keys are positioned,  and your ability to read what  I 
have  written  pre-supposes  a  shared  understanding  about  the 
meaning  of words and what they represent.  Our  nervous  systems 
possess   an   absolutely  basic  ability  to   create   internal 
representations  out  of  the  information  we  are  capable   of 
perceiving through our senses.      
     It  is also an absolutely basic characteristic of the  world 
that  it  is bigger than my nervous  system.  I  cannot  possibly 
create *accurate*, internal representations of the world, and one 
of the meanings of the verb "to abstract" is "to remove quietly". 
This is what the nervous system does:  it quietly removes most of 
what  is  going on in the world in order to  create  an  abridged 
representation  of reality with all the important  (important  to 
me)  bits underlined in highlighter pen.  This is the  world  "I" 
live  in:  not  in  the "real" world,  but  an  internal  reality 
synthesised  by  my  nervous system.  There has  been  a  lot  of 
philosophising about this, and it is difficult to think about how 
our nervous systems *might* be distorting  or even  manufacturing 
reality  without  a  feeling  of  unease,  but  I  am  personally 
reassured by the everyday observation that most adults can  drive 
a  car  on  a busy road at eighty miles per  hour  in  reasonable 
safety.   This   suggests  that  while  our  synthetic   internal 
representation of the world isn't accurate, it isn't at all bad.
     Abstraction  does  not  end  at the  point  of  building  an 
internal representation of the external world.  My nervous system 
is quite content to treat my internal representation of the world 
as  yet  another  domain  over which it  can  carry  out  further 
abstraction,  and  the  subsequent new world of  abstractions  as 
another  domain,  and  so on indefinitely,  giving  rise  to  the 
principal  definition  of  "abstraction":  "to  separate  by  the 
operation  of  the mind,  as in forming a  general  concept  from 
consideration of particular instances".  As an  example,  suppose 
someone asks me to watch the screen of a computer and to describe 
what I see. I have no idea what to expect.

     "Hmmm...lots  of  dots  moving  around  randomly...different 
     colour dots...red,  blue,  green.  Ah,  the dots seem to  be 
     clustering...they're forming circles...all the dots of  each  
     particular  colour  are  forming  circles,  lots  of  little 
     circles.  Now  the  circles are coming together  to  form  a 
     number...it's  3.  Now  they're  moving  apart  and  forming 
     another    number...its    15...now    12..9..14.    They've 
     gone..........that was it..3, 15, 12, 9, 14. Is it some sort 
     of test?  Do I have to guess the next number in the  series? 
     What are the numbers supposed to mean? What was the point of 
     it?  Hmmm..the  numbers  might  stand  for  letters  of  the 
     alphabet...let's see. C..O..L..I...N. It's my name!"
The  dots  on the screen are real -  there  are  real,  discrete, 
measurable  spots  of light on the screen.  I  could  verify  the 
presence of dots of light using an appropriate light  meter.  The 
colours are synthesised by my retinas;  different elements in  my 
eye  respond to different frequencies in the light and give  rise 
to an internal experience we label "red",  "blue",  "green".  The 
circles  simply do not exist:  given the nature of  the  computer 
output on the screen, there are only individual pixels, and it is 
my  nervous system which constructs circles.  The numbers do  not 
exist  either;  it  is only because of my  particular  upbringing 
(which  I share with the person who wrote the  computer  program) 
that  I  am able to distinguish patterns  standing  for  abstract 
numbers in patterns of circles e.g.

   o  o

And  once I begin to reason about the *meaning* of a sequence  of 
numbers I have left the real world a long way behind: not only is 
"number" a complex abstraction,  but when I ask a question  about 
the  "meaning"  of "a sequence of numbers" I am working  with  an 
even  more "abstract abstraction".  My ability to happily  juggle 
numbers and letters and decide that there is an identity  between 
the abstract number sequence "3, 15, 12, 9, 14" and the character 
string  "COLIN"  is  one of those commonplace  things  which  any 
person  might do and yet it illustrates how easy it is to  become 
completely  detached from the external world and function  within 
an  internal world of abstractions which have been detached  from 
anything  in  the world for so long that they are taken  as  real 
without a second thought.      
     In parallel with our ability to structure perception into an 
internal  world  of  abstractions  we  possess  the  ability   to 
communicate facts about  this internal world. When I say "The cup 
is on the table",  another person is able to identify in the real 
world,  out  of all the information reaching  their  senses,  the 
abstraction  "chair",  the  abstraction "cup",  and  confirm  the 
relationship   of   "on-ness".   Why  are  the  cup   and   table 
abstractions? Because  the word "cup" does not  uniquely  specify 
any  particular cup in the world,  and when I use the word  I  am 
assuming   that  the  listener  already  possesses  an   internal 
representation  of  an abstract object "cup",  and can  use  that 
abstract  specification of a cup to identify a particular  object 
in the context within which my statement was made.      
     We  are not normally conscious of this  process,  and  don't 
need to be when dealing with simple propositions about objects in 
the real world.  I think I know what a cup is, and I think you do 
too.  If you don't know, ask someone to show you a few. Life gets 
a  lot  more  complicated  when  dealing  with  complex  internal 
abstractions:  what  is  a  "contract",  a  "treaty",  a  "loan", 
"limited liability", a "set", a "function", "marriage", a "tort", 
"natural justice",  a "sephira",  a  "religion",  "sin",  "good", 
"evil",  and  so  on  (and on).  We  reach  agreement  about  the 
definitions of these things using language.   In some cases,  for 
example,  a  mathematical  object,  the thing is  completely  and 
unambiguously defined using language,  while in other cases (e.g. 
"good",  "sin") there is no universally accepted definition. Life 
is  further  complicated by a widespread lack of  awareness  that 
these internal abstractions *are* internal,  and it is common  to 
find people projecting internal abstractions onto the world as if 
they  were an intrinsic part of the fabric of existence,  and  as 
objectively real as the particular cup and the particular table I 
referred to earlier.  Marriage is no longer a contract between  a 
man and a woman;  it is an estate made in heaven. What is heaven? 
God knows.  And what is God?  Trot out your definitions and let's 
have  an argument - that is the way such questions are  answered.
Much  of  the content of electronic bulletin boards  consists  of 
endless  arguments and discussions on the definition  of  complex 
internal  abstractions (what is ritual,  what is magic,  what  is 
karma, what is ki, what is...).      
     A  third  element which goes together with  abstraction  and 
language  to complete the essense of the sephira Hod  is  reason, 
and reason's formal offspring,  logic.  Reason is the ability  to 
articulate  and justify our beliefs about the world using a  base 
of  generally agreed facts and a generally agreed  technique  for 
combining  facts  to  infer  valid  conclusions.   If  reason  is 
considered  as  one  out of a number of  possible  processes  for 
establishing  what  is  true about the  world  we  live  in,  for 
establishing which models of reality are valid and which are not, 
then  it has been phenomenally successful:  in its  heyday  there 
were those who saw reason as the most divine faculty, the faculty 
in humankind most akin to God, and that legacy is still with us - 
the  words  "unreasonable"  and "irrational" are  often  used  to 
attack and denigrate someone who does not (or cannot)  articulate 
what  they do or why they do it.  There is of course no  "reason" 
why  we should have to articulate or justify  anything,  even  to 
ourselves,  but  the  reasoning  machine  within  us  demands  an 
"explanation"  for  every phenomenon,  and a "reason"  for  every 
action.  This is a characteristic of reason - it is an  obsessive 
mode of consciousness.  A second characteristic of reason is that 
it operates on the "garbage-in,  garbage-out" principle:  if  the 
base of given facts a person uses to reason about are garbage, so 
are  the  conclusions  -  witness  what  two  thousand  years  of 
Christian   theology   has  achieved  using   sound   dialectical 
principles taken from Aristotle.      
     If  the  sephira Hod on the Pillar of  Form  represents  the 
active   synthesis  of  abstract  forms  in  consciousness   (and 
abstraction,  language  and reason are prime examples)  then  the 
sephira  Netzach  on  the Pillar of  Force  represents  affective 
states  of  consciousness which influence how we act  and  react: 
needs,  wants,  drives,  feelings, moods and emotions.      It is 
difficult  to write about affective states,  to be clear  on  the 
distinction between a need and a want on one hand,  or a  feeling 
or  a  mood on the other,  and I find it  particularly  difficult 
because  the essence of sadness is *being* sad,  the  essence  of 
excitement is the *feeling* of excitement,  the essence of desire 
is the aching,  lusting,  overwhelming *feeling* of  desire,  and 
being  too precise about defining feelings is in the  essence  of 
Hod,  *not* Netzach. These things are incommunicable. They can be 
produced in another person,  but they cannot be communicated.  It 
is  possible  to be clinical and abstract and precise  about  the 
sephira Hod because an abstract clinical precision captures  that 
aspect  of  consciousness  perfectly,   but  when  attempting  to 
communicate  something about Netzach one feels tempted to try  to 
communicate feelings themselves,  a task more suited to a poet or 
a musician,  an actor or a dancer. Please accept this unfortunate 
limitation in what follows,  a limitation not necessarily present 
when Kaballah is learned at first hand from someone.
     Netzach is on the Pillar of Force,  but in reaching  Netzach 
the Lightning Flash has already passed through Binah and  Gevurah 
on  the Pillar of Form and so it represents a  force  conditioned 
and  constrained  by  form;  when we talk about  Netzach  we  are 
talking  about  the  different  ways  force  can  be  shaped  and 
directed,  like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube. The toothpaste 
we  are  talking about is something I will call "life  force"  or 
"life energy", and as a rule, when I have a lot of it I feel well 
and full of vitality,  and when I don't have much I feel  unwell, 
tired,   and  vulnerable.   To  continue  the  somewhat   phallic 
toothpaste  metaphor,  the  magnitude  of pressure  on  the  tube 
corresponds  to vitality,  the direction in which the  toothpaste 
comes out corresponds to a need or a want,  and the shape of  the 
nozzle  corresponds to a feeling:  all three  factors,  pressure, 
direction and nozzle determine how the toothpaste comes out; that 
is,  we could say that there are three factors giving a *form* to 
the  toothpaste  (or  life-energy).   It  may  seem  sloppy   and 
unnecessarily  metaphysical to imply that all  needs,  wants  and 
feelings are merely conditions of manifestation of something more 
basic,  some "unconditioned force",  but Kaballah is primarily  a 
tool for exploring internal states, and there are internal states 
(certainly  in  my experience) where this  force  is  experienced 
directly  with  much  less  differentiation,   hence  the  clumsy 
     Textbooks  on psychology define a need as an internal  state 
which  results in directed behaviour,  and discuss needs such  as 
thirst,  hunger,  sex, stimulation, proximity seeking, curiousity 
and  so  on.  These things are  interesting,  but  for  virtually 
everyone  such  basic  and inherent needs are in  the  nature  of 
"givens"  and  don't  provide much individual  insight  into  the 
questions  "why do I behave differently from other  people?",  or 
"should  I change my behaviour?",  or more interesting still  "to 
what extent do I (or can I) influence my behaviour?". In addition 
to  inherent needs it is useful also to look at needs which  have 
been  acquired (i.e.  learned),  and for convenience I will  call 
them  "wants" because people are usually conscious  of  "wanting" 
something specific. To give some examples, a person might want:
      - to buy a bar of chocolate.
      - to go to the toilet.
      - to own a better car.
      - to have a sexual relationship with someone.
      - to live forever.
      - to  be  thinner  (more   musculer,   taller,   whiter, 
      - to read a book.
      - to gain social recognition within a particular group.
      - to win in sport.
      - to go shopping.
      - to go to bed.

Not  only  are these "wants" the sort of thing many  people  want 
these days,  but these "wants" can all occur concurrently in  the 
same  person,  and while some may have been simmering away  on  a 
back  burner for years,  there can be an astonishing  variety  of 
pots  and pans waiting for an immediate turn on  the  stove.  The 
average  person's  consciousness zips around the kitchen  like  a 
demented short-order cook stirring this dish,  serving that  one, 
slapping a pot on the stove for a few minutes only to take it off 
and put something else on,  throwing whole meals in the bin  only 
to empty them back into pots a few minutes later.  The choice  of 
which  pot ends up on the hot plate depends largely on  mood  and 
accident:   some  people  may  plan  their  lives  like  military 
campaigns  but most don't.  Most people have far more wants  than 
there are hours in the day to achieve them,  and those which  are 
actually satisfied on a given day is more a function of  accident 
than  design.  Careers  are thrown away (along  with  status  and 
security)  in a moment of sexual infatuation;  the desire to  eat 
wars  with  the  desire to be slim;  the writer  retires  to  the 
country  to write the great novel and does everything but  write; 
the  manager  desperately tries to finish an  urgent  report  but 
finds  himself dreaming about a car he saw in the car  park;  the 
student  abandons  an important essay on impulse to go  out  with 
friends.  One  activity  is quickly replaced by  another  as  the 
person  attempts  to  reconcile all his  wants  and  drives,  but 
unfortunately  there  is  no requirement  that  wants  should  be 
internally  consistent  or complementary;  like  a  multi-process 
operating  system,  a single thread of energy is randomly  cycled 
around an arbitrary list of needs and wants to produce the mixed-
up complexity of the average person.  Each want can be treated as 
a  distinct mode of consciousness - I can eat a slap-up meal  one 
day and thoroughly enjoy it, while the next day I can look in the 
mirror and swear never to touch another pizza again.  It is as if 
two separate beings inhabited my body,  one who loves pizzas  and 
one who wants to be thin,  and each makes plans independently  of 
the  other,  and only the magic dust of unbroken memory  sustains 
the illusion that I am a single person.  When I view my own wants 
and  actions dispassionately I can conclude that there is a  host 
or  army  of independent beings jostling inside me,  a  crowd  of 
artificial  elementals  individually ensouled with enough  of  my 
energy  to bring one particular desire to fruition.  I cope  with 
the  semi-chaotic  result of mob rule by  using  the  traditional 
remedy:  public relations. I put together internal press releases 
(various rationalisations and justifications) to convince myself, 
and others if need be,  that the mess was either due to  external 
circumstances beyond my control (I didn't have time last  night), 
the fault of other people (you made me angry),  or inevitable  (I 
had no choice,  there was no alternative). In cases where even my 
public relations don't work I erect a shrine to the gods of Guilt 
and  make little offerings of sorrow and regret over  the  years. 
     This is normal consciousness for most people.  It is a  kind 
of insanity.  Wants rush to and fro on the stage of consciousness 
like actors in the closing scenes of Julius Caeser - alarums  and 
excursions,  bodies litter the stage,  trumpets and battle shouts 
in the wings, Brutus falls on his sword, Anthony claims the field 
-  perhaps this is why the sephira is called Victory!  Every  day 
new  wants  are  kicked off in response to  advertising  or  peer 
pressure,  old wants compete with each other in a zero-sum  game. 
Having  said this,  I should point out that it is not  desire  or 
wants  or  drives which create the insanity - Kaballah  does  not 
place  the  value judgement on desire that  Buddhism  does  (that 
desire is the cause of suffering,  and by inference, something to 
be overcome). The insanity arises from mob-rule, from the bizarre 
internal processes of justification,  rationalisation and  guilt, 
and  from  the identification of Self with the result -   I  will 
return to this when discussing the sephira Tiphereth, as the mis-
identification  of  Self is a key element in  the  discussion  on 
     Netzach  also  corresponds to  our  feelings,  emotions  and 
moods,   because  this  background  of  "psychological   weather" 
strongly  conditions  the  way  in which  we  think  and  behave: 
regardless  of  what  I  am  doing,   my  energy  will   manifest 
differently when I am happy than when I am not.  Sometimes  moods 
and  emotions are triggered by a specific  event,  and  sometimes 
they  are not:  free-floating anxiety and depression  are  common 
enough, and perhaps free-floating happiness is too (I can't speak 
from  experience  there  ;-).  There are hundreds  of  words  for 
different moods, emotions and feelings, but most seem to refer to 
different  degrees of intensity of the same thing,  or  the  same 
feeling  in  different  contexts,  and the  number  of  genuinely 
distinct  internal  dimensions of feeling appears  to  be  small. 
Depression, misery, sadness, happiness, delight, joy, rapture and 
ecstacy seem to lie along the same axis,  as do  loathing,  hate, 
dislike,  affection,  and love.  It is an interesting exercise to 
identify  the genuinely,  qualitatively different  feelings   you 
can  experience  by actually conjuring up each  feeling.  I  have 
tried  the  experiment  with a number of  people,  and  you  will 
probably find there are less than 10 distinct feelings.
     The most immediate and personal correspondences for Hod  and 
Netzach  are  the psychological  correspondences:  the  rational, 
abstract,  intellectual and  communicative on one hand  and  the 
emotional,  motivational,  intuitive, aesthetic, and non-rational 
on the other.  The planetary and elemental correspondences mirror 
this:  Hod  corresponds to Kokab or Mercury,  and the element  of 
Air, while Netzach corresponds to Nogah or Venus, and the element 
     The Virtue of Hod is honesty or truthfulness,  and its  Vice 
is  dishonesty or untruthfulness.  One of the features  of  being 
able   to   create  abstract  representations  of   reality   and 
communicate  some  aspect of it to another person is that  it  is 
possible  to *misrepresent* reality,  or to put it  bluntly,  lie 
through your teeth. 
     The Illusion of Hod is order,  in the sense of attempting to 
impose  one's  sense  of  order upon  the  world.  This  is  very 
noticeable in some people;  whenever something happens they  will 
immediately pigeonhole it and declare with great authority "it is 
just another example of XYZ".  A surprising number of people  who 
claim  to  be  rational  will claim "there's  no  such  thing  as 
(ghosts, telepathy, free lunches, UFO's)" without having examined 
the evidence one way or the other. They are probably right, and I 
have no personal interest either way,  but it is not difficult to 
distinguish  between  someone who carefully weighs the  pros  and 
cons  in  an  argument and readily  admits  to  uncertainty,  and 
someone with a firm and orderly conviction that "this is the  way 
the  world  is".  The  illusion of order  occurs  because  people 
confuse their internal representation of the world with the world 
itself,  and  whenever  they are confronted with  something  they 
attempt  to  fit it into their representation.  
     The  illusion of order (that everything in the world can  be 
neatly classified) relates closely to the klippoth of Hod,  which 
is  rigidity,  or rigid order.  As children we start out with  an 
open view of what the world is like, and by the time we reach our 
late teens or early twenties this view has set fairly solid, like 
cold porridge - there are few minds more full of certainties than 
that of an eighteen year old. A good critical education sometimes 
has the effect of stirring the porridge into a lumpy  gruel,  but 
it  gradually starts to set again (unless the heavy hand of  fate 
stirs it up), and it is generally recognised, particularly in the 
sciences,  that  a deeply ingrained sense of "how things are"  is 
the  greatest  obstacle  to  progress.  If  you  hear  some  kids 
listening to music and find yourself thinking "I don't know  what 
they find in that noise!" then it's happening to you too. If find 
yourself  looking  back  to a time when everything  was  so  much 
better  than it is today and find yourself  declaring  "nostalgia 
isn't  what it used to be" then you will know that  the  porridge 
has gone very cold and very stiff.
     The  Vision  of Hod is the Vision  of  Splendour.  There  is 
regularity  and order in the world - it's not all an  illusion  - 
and  when  someone  is able to appreciate natural  order  in  its 
abstract  sense,  via mathematics for example,  it can lead to  a 
genuinely  religious,  even ecstatic experience.  The  thirteenth 
century Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia developed a rigorous system of 
Hebrew  letter  mysticism  based on the  letters  of  the  Hebrew 
alphabet,   their   symbolic   meanings,   and   their   abstract 
relationships when permuted into different "names of  God";  many 
hours of intense concentration spent combining letters  according 
to complex rules generated highly abstract symbolic meanings  and 
insights which led to ecstatic experiences. The same sense of awe 
can  come  from mathematics and science -  the  realisation  that 
gravitational  dynamics in three dimensions is geometry  in  four 
dimensions,  that plants are living fractals, that primes are the 
seeds of all other numbers, are just as likely to lead towards an 
intense vision of the splendour of the world made visible through 
the eye of the rational intellect.

     The  Virtue  of Netzach is unselfishness,  and its  Vice  is 
selfishness. Both the Virtue and the Vice are an attitude towards 
things-which-are-not-me,  specifically,  other people and  living 
creatures. If I was surrounded by a hundred square miles of empty 
desert  then my attitude to other living things wouldn't  matter, 
but  I don't,  and nothing I do is without some  consequence;  my 
needs,  wants  and feelings invariably have an effect on  people, 
animals and plants,  who all want to live and have some level  of 
needs  and  wants and feelings too.  Unselfishness  is  simply  a 
recognition of others' needs.  Selfishness taken to an extreme is 
a denial of life,  because it denies freedom and life to anything 
which gets in the way;  my needs must come first. Netzach lies on 
the  Pillar of Force and is an expression of life-energy,  so  to 
deny  life  is a perversion of the force symbolised  by  Netzach, 
hence the attribution of selfishness to the Vice.
     The  Vision of Netzach is the Vision of  Beauty  Triumphant. 
Whereas the Vision of Splendour corresponding to Hod is a  vision 
of  complex abstract relationships,  symmetry,  and  mathematical 
elegance, the Vision of Beauty Triumphant is purely aesthetic and 
firmly based in the real world of textures,  smells,  sounds, and 
colours,  an appropriate correspondence for Venus, the goddess of 
sensual  beauty.  
     Suppose two housebuyers go to look at a house.  The first is 
interested in the number of rooms,  the size of the  garage,  the 
house's  position relative to local  amenities,  the  price,  the 
number of square metres in the plot,  and whether the windows are 
double-glazed.  The  second  person likes the decoration  in  the 
lounge,  the  colour of the bathroom,  the wisteria plant in  the 
garden, the cherry tree, the curving shape of the stairs, and the 
sloping roof in one of the bedrooms.  Both people like the house, 
but  the first likes various abstract properties associated  with 
the house, whereas the second likes the house itself. Suppose the 
same two people buy the house and decide to do ritual magic.  The 
first person wants white robes because white is the colour of the 
powers  of light and life.  The second wants a green velvet  robe 
because it feels and looks nice. The first reads lots of books on 
how to carry out a ritual, while the second sits under the cherry 
tree  in  the garden with a flute and a  blissful  expression  of 
cosmic love. The first person has continued to make choices based 
on an abstract notion of what is correct,  while the second makes 
choices  based  on  what *feels right*.  Both are  driven  by  an 
internal sense of "rightness",  but in the first case it is based 
on abstract criteria, while in the second it is based on personal 
aesthetic notion of beauty.
     The Vision of Beauty Triumphant has a compelling power.   It 
is pre-articulate and inherently uncritical, and at the same time 
it  is  immensely biased.  A person in its  grip  will  pronounce 
judgement on another person's taste in art,  literature, clothes, 
music,  decor  or whatever,  and will do it with such a  profound 
lack  of self-consciousness that it is possible to  believe  good 
taste  is  ordained in heaven.  This person will mock  those  who 
surround  themselves with  rules,  regulations,  principles,  and 
analysis,  the "syntax of things" as E.  E. Cummings puts it, and 
instead exhibit a whimsical spontaneity,  a penetrating (so  they 
believe) intuition,  and a free spirit in tune with ebb and  flow 
of  life.   There  are  those  who  might  complain  about  their 
astounding arrogance,  fickleness,  unreliability, and the never-
ending flow of unshakable and prejudiced opinions delivered  with 
papal  authority,   but  those who complain are  (clearly)  anal-
retentive nit-pickers and don't count.  For a total immersion  in 
the  aesthetic vision read Oscar Wilde's "The Picture  of  Dorian 
     The  Illusion  of  Netzach is projection.  We  all  tend  to 
identify  feelings and characteristics in other people  which  we 
find in ourselves and when we get it right it is called "empathy" 
or "intuition";  when we get it wrong it is called  "projection", 
because  we  are  incorrectly  projecting  our  feelings,  needs, 
motives,  or  desires onto another person and interpreting  their 
behaviour accordingly.  Some level of projection is  unavoidable, 
and at best it can be balanced with a critical awareness that  it 
can  occur,  but  projection is insidious,  and the  strength  of 
feeling  associated  with a projection can easily  overwhelm  any 
intellectual awareness. Projection usually "feels right".
     One of the most overwhelming forms of projection accompanies 
sexual desire.  Why do I find one person sexually attractive  and 
not  another?  Why  do I find some characteristics  in  a  person 
sexually attractive but not others?  In my own case I  discovered 
that  when I put together all the characteristics  I  found  most 
attractive in a person a consistent picture emerged of an  "ideal 
person",  and  every person I had ever considered as  a  possible 
sexual partner was instantly compared against this  template.  In 
fact there was more than one template,  more than one ideal,  but 
the  number  was  limited  and each  template  was  very  clearly 
defined,  and most importantly,  each template was  internal.  My 
sexual (and often many other feelings) about a person were  based 
on an internal and apparently arbitrary internal  template.  This 
was crazy; I found my sexual feelings about a person would change 
depending  on  how  they dressed or behaved,  on  how  well  they 
"matched  the ideal".  It became obvious that what I was in  love 
with  did not exist outside of myself,  and I was trying to  find 
this ideal in everyone else.  Each one of these "templates" was a 
living aspect of myself which I had chosen not to regard as "me", 
and in compensation I spent much of my time trying to find people 
to bring these parts to life,  like a director auditioning actors 
and  actresses for a part in a new play.  If a person  previously 
identified  as ideal failed to live up to my notion of  how  they 
should be ideally behaving then I would project a fault on  them: 
there was something wrong with *them*! Madness indeed.
     The  Swiss  psychologist C.  G.  Jung  [1]  recognised  this 
phenomenon  and gave these idealised and projected components  of 
our  psyche  the  title  "archetype".   Jung  identified  several 
archetypes,  and  it  is  worth mentioning  the  major  and  most 
     The  Anima  is  the ideal  female  archetype.  She  is  part 
genetic,   part  cultural,   a  figure  molded  by  fashion   and 
advertising,  an unconscious composite of woman in the  abstract. 
The  Anima is common in men,  where she can appear with  riveting 
power in dreams and fantasy,  a projection brought to life by the 
not inconsiderable power of the male sexual drive.  She might  be 
meek  and  submissive,   seductive  and  alluring,   vampish  and 
dangerous,  a cheap slut or an unattainable goddess - there is no 
"standard anima",  but there are many recognisable patterns which 
can have a powerful hold on particular men.  Male sexual  fantasy 
material  is amazingly predictable,  cliched,  unimaginitive  and 
crude,  and  contains  a limited number of steroetyped  views  of 
women  which are as close to a "lowest common denominator  anima" 
as  one  is likely to find.       
     The Animus is the ideal male archetype,  and much of what is 
true  about  the  Anima  is  true  of  the  Animus.   There   are 
differences;   the  predominant  quality  in  the  Anima  is  her 
appearance  and behaviour,  while the predominant quality in  the 
Animus is social power and competence. In the interests of sexual 
equality  it  is worth mentioning that  female  romantic  fantasy 
material  is amazingly predictable,  cliched,  unimaginitive  and 
crude,  and contains a limited number of stereotype views of  men 
which are as close to a "lowest common denominator animus" as one 
is likely to find.      
     The  Shadow  is  the projection  of  "not-me"  and  contains 
forbidden  or  repressed desires and impulses.  In most  men  the 
Anima is repressed and in most women the Animus is repressed, and 
so  both form a component of the Shadow.  The major part  of  the 
Shadow however is composed of forbidden impulses,  and the Shadow 
forms a personification of evil.  Much of what is considered evil 
is  defined socially and the communal personification of evil  as 
an  external force working against humankind (such as  Satan)  is 
     The  Persona  is the mask a person wears as a  member  of  a 
community  when  a large proportion of his or  her  behaviour  is 
defined by a role such as doctor,  teacher, manager, accountant, 
lawyer  or  whatever.  Projection occurs in  two  ways:  firstly, 
someone  may be expected to conform to a role in  a  particularly 
rigid or stereotyped way,  and so suffer a loss of  individuality 
and probably a degree of misplaced trust or prejudice.  Secondly, 
many  people identify with a role to the extent that  they  carry 
that  role  into  all  aspects  of  their  private  lives.   This 
"projection  onto  self"  is  a  form  of  identification  -  see 
the section on Tiphereth.
     The  archetype  of Self at the level of Hod and  Netzach  is 
usually projected as an ideal form of person;  that  is,  someone 
will  believe that he or she is highly imperfect creature and  it 
is  possible to attain an ideal state of being in which the  same 
person  is  kind,  loving,  wise,  forgiving,  compassionate,  in 
harmony  with the Absolute,  or whatever.  This  projection  will 
either  fasten  on a living or dead person,  who then  becomes  a 
hero,  heroine,  guru, or master with grossly inflated abilities, 
or it fastens on a vision of "myself made perfect". The projected 
vision  of  "myself made perfect" is  common  (almost  universal) 
among those seeking "spiritual development", "esoteric training", 
and other forms of self-improvement,  and in almost every case it 
is  based on an abstract ideal.  The person will probably  insist 
that  the ideal has existed in certain rare individuals  (usually 
long dead saints and gurus,  or someone who lives a long way  off 
whom they haven't met),  and that is the sort of person they want 
to be.  It should be comical,  but it isn't. There is more to say 
about this and it will keep till the section on Tiphereth.

     The klippoth or shell of Netzach is habit and routine.  When 
behaviour,  with all its potential for new experiences,  new ways 
of doing things,  new relationships, becomes locked into patterns 
which repeat over and over again, then the life energy, the force 
aspect of Netzach is withdrawn and all that remains is the  dead, 
empty  shell of behaviour.  Just as the klippoth of Hod is  rigid 
order,  the  petrification  of one's internal  representation  of 
reality,  so  the  klippoth of Netzach is  the  petrification  of 

     The  God  Names of Hod and Netzach are Elohim  Tzabaoth  and 
Jehovah Tzabaoth respectively, which mean "God of Armies", but in 
each case a different word is used for "God".  The name  "Elohim" 
is associated with all three sephiroth on the Pillar of Form  and 
represents a feminine (metaphorically speaking) tendency in  that 
aspect  of  God.   The  elucidation  of  God  Names  can   become 
phenomenally  complex  and obscure,  with  long  excursions  into 
gematria  and  textual  analysis of the Pentateuch and  it  is  a 
quagmire I intend to avoid.
     The Archangels are Raphael and Haniel.  The Archangel of Hod 
is sometimes given as Michael,  but I prefer Raphael (Medicine of 
God)  for  no other reason than the association of  Mercury  with 
medicine and healing; besides, Michael has perfectly good reasons 
for residing in Tiphereth. This sort of thing can give rise to an 
amazing  amount of hot air when Kabbalists meet;  for  those  who 
wonder how far back the confusion goes,  Robert Fludd (1574-1607) 
plumped for  Raphael,  whereas two hundred  years  later  Francis 
Barrett prefered Michael.  The co-founder of the Golden Dawn, S.L. 
Mathers, went for both depending on which text you read. Kabbalah 
isn't  an orderly subject and those who want to impose  too  much 
order on it are falling into the illusion of...I leave this as an 
exercise to the reader.
     The  Angel Orders are the Beni Elohim and the Elohim.

The triad of sephiroth Yesod,  Hod and Netzach comprise the triad 
of  "normal  consciousness"  as  we  normally  experience  it  in 
ourselves  and  most  people most of  the  time.  This  level  of 
consciousness is intensely magical;  try to move away from it for 
any  length  of time and you will discover the  strength  of  the 
force  and form sustaining it.  It is not an exaggeration to  say 
that most people are completely unable to leave this state,  even 
when they want to, even when they desperately try to. The sephira 
Tiphereth represents a state of being which unlocks the energy of 
"normal consciousness" and is the subject of the next section.

[1]  Jung,  C.G,  "Aion:  Researches into the Phenomenology of the 
                   Self", Routledge & Kegan Paul 1974

Copyright Colin Low 1991

maintained by Jeff Morton / Ioldanach@yahoo.com / Ioldanach@yahoo.com