Notes on Kabbalah 

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Release 2.0      
Copy date: 17th. 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 

Binah, Chokmah, Kether

     Only man can fall from God
     Only man.

     No animal, no beast nor creeping thing
     no cobra nor hyaena nor scorpion nor hideous white ant
     can slip entirely through the fingers of the hands of god
     into the abyss of self-knowledge,
     knowledge of the self-apart-from-god.

     For the knowledge of the self-apart-from-God
     is an abyss down which the soul can slip
     writhing and twisting in all the revolutions
     of the unfinished plunge
     of self-awareness, now apart from God, falling
     fathomless, fathomless, self-consciousness wriggling
     writhing  deeper  and deeper in all the  minutiae  of  self-
               knowledge, downwards, exhaustive,
     yet  never,  never  coming to the bottom,  for there  is  no 
     zigzagging down like the fizzle from a finished rocket
     the  frizzling,  falling fire that cannot go  out,  dropping 
     neither can it reach the depth
     for the depth is bottomless,
     so it wriggles its way even further down, further down
     at last in sheer horror of not being able to leave off
     knowing itself, knowing itself apart from God, falling.

                                  "Only Man", D. H. Lawrence

     The  triad of Binah,  Chokmah and Kether are a  Kabbalistic 
representation  of the manifest God.  A discussion on this  triad 
presents me with a problem. The problem is that while I have used 
the word "God" in many places in these notes, I have done so with 
a  sense  of unease,  understanding that the word means  so  many 
different  things  to  so  many people  that  it  is  effectively 
meaningless.  I have chosen to use the word as a placeholder  for 
personal experience, with the implicit assumption that the reader 
understands  that "God" *is* a personal experience,  and  not  an 
ill-defined abstraction one "believes in".  My view is not novel, 
but  there are still many people who are uncomfortable  with  the 
idea of experiencing (as opposed to "believing in") God. A second 
assumption implicit in the use of the word "God" as a placeholder 
is  that it stands *only* for experience;  your  experience,  and 
hence your God,  is as valid as mine,  and as there are no formal 
definitions, there is no scope for theological debate or dispute. 
This leaves me with nothing more to say.
     However.....these  notes  were  intended  to  provide   some 
insight into Kabbalah, and it would be odd, having begun to write 
them,  to then turn around and say "sorry,  I won't say  anything 
about  the  three  supernal sephiroth".  I think I  have  to  say 
something.  Balanced  against this is my original  intention,  at 
every stage in these notes,  to relate the objects of  discussion 
to something real,  to make a personal contribution by adding  my 
own  understanding to the subject rather than simply  pot-boiling 
the same old material.  I cannot see how to put flesh on the bare 
bones  of  the  supernal  sephiroth  without  discussing  my  own 
conception of God and whatever personal experience I might  have. 
I am loth to do this.  For a start, it isn't fair on those people 
who  study  and use Kabbalah (many Jewish) who do  not  share  my 
views, and secondly, remembering the parable of the blind men and 
the  elephant,  impressions of God tend to be shaped by the  part 
one grabs hold of,  and how close to the bum end one is standing. 
     Like  it or not,  my explanations of the supernal  sephiroth 
are  going to be lacking in substance.  I can only ask  you,  the 
reader, to accept that the primary purpose of Kabbalah has always 
been the direct,  personal experience of the living God,  a state 
Kabbalists have called "devekuth",  or cleaving to God,  and  the 
way   towards  that  experience  comes,   not  from  a   studious 
examination  of  the symbolism of the  supernals,  but  from  the 
practical  techniques  of  Kabbalah to be discussed  in  a  later 

     The   title   of  the  sephira  Binah   is   translated   as 
"understanding",  and sometimes as "intelligence".  The title  of 
the sephira Chokmah translates as "wisdom",  and that of  Kether 
translates as "crown".  These three sephiroth are often  referred 
to as the supernal sephiroth,  or simply the supernals,  and they 
represent that aspect of God which is manifest in creation. There 
is another aspect of God in Kabbalah,  the "real God" or En Soph;
although En Soph is responsible for the creation of the universe, 
En  Soph manifests to us only in the limited form of the  sephira 
Kether.  An enormous amount of effort has gone into  "explaining" 
this process:  one book on Kabbalah [1] in my possession  devotes 
eight pages to the En Soph,  twelve pages to the supernal trio of 
Kether,  Chokmah and Binah, and five pages to the remaining seven 
sephiroth,   a   proportion  which  seems   relatively   constant 
throughout Kabbalistic literature.  
     Briefly,  the  hidden  God or En Soph crystallised  a  point 
which is the sephira Kether.  In most versions (and this idea can 
be found as far back as the "Bahir" [2]) the En Soph "contracted" 
(tsimtsum) to "make room" for the creation,  and the crystallised 
point  of Kether manifested within this "space".  Kether  is  the 
seed planted in nothingness from which the creation springs -  an 
interesting  metaphor  turns the Tree of Life "upside  down"  and 
shows Kether at the bottom of the Tree, rooted in the soil of the 
En  Soph,  with  the  rest of the sephiroth  forming  the  trunk, 
branches and leaves.  Another metaphor shows Kether connected  to 
the  En Soph by a "thread of light",  a metaphor I used  somewhat 
whimsically  in  the section on "Daath and the  Abyss",  where  I 
portrayed  the  Tree of Life as a lit-up Christmas  tree  with  a 
power cord snaking out of the darkness of the En Soph and through 
the  abyss  to Kether.  Like the Moon,  Kether has  two  aspects: 
manifest  and hidden,  and for this reason its magical  image  is 
that of a face seen in profile:  one side of the face (the  right 
side,  as  it happens) is visible to us,  but the other  side  is 
turned forever towards the En Soph.      
     Kether has many titles:  Existence of Existences,  Concealed 
of  the  Concealed,   Ancient  of  Ancients,   Ancient  of  Days, 
Primordial Point,  the Smooth Point, the Point within the Circle, 
the Most High, the Inscrutable Height, the Vast Countenance (Arik 
Anpin),  the White Head,  the Head which is  not,  Macroprosopus.  
Taken together,  these titles imply that Kether is the first, the 
oldest,  the  root of existence,  remote,  and its most  accurate 
symbol  is  that  of  a  point.  Kether  precedes  all  forms  of 
existence,  all  differentiation and distinction,  all  polarity. 
Kether contains everything in potential, like a seed that sprouts 
and grows into a Tree, not once, but continuously. Kether is both 
root  and seed.  Because it precedes all forms and  contains  all 
opposites  it  is not *like* anything.  You can say  it  contains 
infinite  goodness,  but  then you have to say that  it  contains 
infinite evil. Wrapped up in Kether is all the love in the world, 
and  wrapped  around  the love is all  the  hate.  Kether  is  an 
outpouring  of  purest,  radiant light,  but equally  it  is  the 
profoundest  stygian dark.  And it is none of  these  things;  it 
precedes all form or polarity,  and its Virtue is unity.  It is a 
point  without  extension  or  qualities,  but  it  contains  all 
creation within it as an unformed potential.      
     The "Zohar" [3] is packed with references to Kether,  and it 
is  difficult to be selective,  but the following quote from  the 
"Lesser Holy Assembly", is clear, simple, and subtle:

     "He  (Kether) hath been formed,  and yet as it were He  hath 
     not  been  formed.  He hath been conformed so  that  he  may 
     sustain all things;  yet is He not formed, seeing that He is 
     not discovered.

     When He is conformed He produceth nine Lights,  which  shine 
     forth from Him, from his conformation.

     And  from Himself those Lights shine forth,  and  they  emit 
     flames,  and they rush forth and are extended on every side, 
     like  as from an elevated lantern the rays of  light  stream 
     down on every side.

     And  those rays of light,  which are extended,  when  anyone 
     draweth near unto them so that they may be examined, are not 
     found, and there is only the lantern alone."     

Polarity  is contained within Kether in the form of  Chokmah  and 
Binah,  the Wisdom and Understanding of God,  and Kabbalists have 
represented  this polarity using the most obvious  of  metaphors, 
that of male and female.  Chokmah is Abba,  the Father, and Binah 
is Aima, the Mother, and the entire world is seen as the child of 
the continuous and never-ending coupling of this divine pair. The 
following passage is taken again from the "Lesser Holy Assembly":
     "Come  and  behold.  When the Most  Holy  Ancient  One,  the 
     Concealed  with  all Concealments (Kether),  desired  to  be 
     formed forth, He conformed all things under the form of Male 
     and  Female;  and in such place wherein Male and Female  are 

     For they could not permanently exist save in another  aspect 
     of  the  Male and Female (their  countenances  being  joined 

     And  this  Wisdom (Chokmah) embracing all  things,  when  it 
     goeth  forth  and shineth forth from the Most  Holy  Ancient 
     One,  shineth  not save under the form of Male  and  Female. 
     Therefore is this Wisdom extended,  and it is found that  it 
     equally becometh Male and Female.

     ChKMH  AB BINH AM:  Chokmah is the Father and Binah  is  the 
     Mother,   and  therein  are  Chokmah,   Wisdom,  and  Binah, 
     Understanding,  counterbalanced together in the most perfect 
     equality of Male and Female.

     And therefore are all things established in the equality  of 
     Male and Female, for were it not so, how could they subsist!

     This  beginning is the Father of all things;  the Father  of 
     all Fathers;  and both are mutually bound together,  and the 
     one path shineth into the other - Chokmah,  Wisdom,  as  the 
     Father; Binah, Understanding, as the Mother.

     It  is  written,  Prov.  2.3:  'If thou  callest  Binah  the 

     When  They are associated together They  generate,  and  are 
     expanded in truth.

And concerning the continuing act of procreation:

     "Together They (Chokmah & Binah) go forth, together They are 
     at rest;  the one ceaseth not from the other, and the one is 
     never taken away from the other.

     And  therefore is it written,  Gen 2.10:  'And a river  went 
     forth from Eden' - i.e.  properly speaking,  it  continually 
     goeth forth and never faileth."

A  river  or  spring  metaphor is  often  used  for  Chokmah,  to 
emphasise the continuous nature of creation. The primary metaphor 
is  that of a phallus - Chokmah is the phallus  which  ejaculates 
continuously  into  the womb of Binah,  and Binah in  turn  gives 
birth to phenomenal reality.  Phallic symbols - a standing stone, 
a fireman's hose, a fountain, a spear etc, belong to Chokmah, and 
womb  symbols - a cauldron,  a gourd,  a chalice,  an  oven  etc, 
belong  to  Binah.   In  an  abstract  sense, Chokmah  and  Binah 
correspond to the first,  primal manifestation of the polarity of 
force  and  form.  To repeat a metaphor I have  used  previously, 
Binah is a hot-air balloon,  and Chokmah is the roaring blast  of 
flame which keeps it in the air.  The metaphor is not  completely 
accurate:  Binah is not form, but she is the Mother of Form - she 
creates the condition whereby form can manifest.
     The  colour of Binah is black,  and she is  associated  with 
Shabbatai ("rest"),  the planet Saturn. The symbolism of Binah is 
twofold: on one hand she is Aima, the fertile mother of creation, 
and  on  the  other  hand  she  is  the  mother  of   finiteness, 
limitation,  restriction, boundaries, time, space, law, fate, and 
ultimately,  death; in this form she is often depicted as Ama the 
Crone,  who broods (like many pictures of Queen Victoria) in  her 
black widow's weeds on the throne of creation - one of the titles 
of Binah is Khorsia, the Throne.
     The  magician  and  Kabbalist Dion Fortune  had  a  strongly 
intuitive  grasp of Binah,  not just as a sphere of a  particular 
kind  of  emanation,  but as the Great  Mother  herself,  as  the 
following rhyme from her novel "Moon Magic" [4] shows:
     "I am she who ere the earth was formed
     Was  Rhea, Binah, Ge.
     I am that soundless, boundless, bitter sea
     Out of whose deeps life wells eternally.
     Astarte, Aphrodite, Ashtoreth - 
     Giver of life and bringer in of death;
     Hera in heaven, on earth Persephone;
     Diana of the ways, and Hecate - 
     All these am I, and they are seen in me.
     The hour of the high full moon draws near;
     I hear the invoking words, hear and appear - 
     Shaddai El Chai and Rhea, Binah, Ge - 
     I come unto the priest who calleth me - " 

One  of  the oldest correspondences for Binah is the  element  of 
water,  and  she is called Marah,  the bitter sea from which  all 
life comes and must return.  She is also the Superior or  Greater 
Mother; the Inferior or Lesser Mother is the sephira Malkuth, who 
is  better symbolised by nature goddesses of the earth  itself  - 
e.g.  the trinity of Kore,  Demeter,  and Persephone. The Tree of 
Life has many goddess symbols,  and it is not always easy to  see 
where they fit:

     Binah  is the Great Mother of All,  with symbols  of  space, 
     time, fate, spinning, weaving, cauldrons etc.

     Malkuth  is the Earth as the soil from which  life  springs, 
     matter  as  the  basis for life,  the  spirit  concealed  in 
     matter,   best  symbolised  by  goddesses  of  this   earth, 
     fertility, vegetation etc.

     Yesod in its lunar aspect is the Moon, a hidden reality with 
     the ebb and flow of secret tides,  illusion, glamour, sexual 
     reproduction etc, and is sometimes in invoked in the form of 
     lunar goddesses - Selene, Artemis etc.

     Gevurah  is on the Pillar of Form;  the whole Pillar  has  a 
     female aspect,  and Gevurah is sometimes invoked in a female 
     form as Kali,  Durga,  Hecate,  or the Morrigan, although it 
     must  be  said that all four goddesses also  share  definite 
     Binah-type correspondences.

     Netzach  has the planet Venus as a correspondence,  and  its 
     aspect of sensual pleasure,  luxury,  sexual love and desire 
     is  sometime  invoked  through a goddess such  as  Venus  or 

     The  Spiritual Experience of Binah is the Vision of  Sorrow: 
as the Mother of Form Binah is also the Mother of finiteness  and 
limitation,  of determinism,  of cause and effect.  Every quality 
comes forth hand-in-hand with its opposite:  life and death,  joy 
and despair,  love and hate,  order and chaos,  so that it is not 
possible  to find an anchor in life.  For every reason to live  I 
can  find you,  buried like a worm in an apple,  a reason not  to 
live;  the  Vision of Sorrow is a vision of a life  condemned  to 
tramp along the circumference of a circle while forever denied  a 
view of the unity of the centre. At its most extreme the creation 
is  seen as an evil trick played by a malign  demiurge,  a  sick, 
empty joke,  or a joyless prison with death the only release. The 
classic  vision  of sorrow is that  of  Siddhartha  Gautama,  but 
Tolstoy  records [5] a terrible and enduring  psychic  experience 
which  contains  most of the elements associated with  the  worst 
Binah can offer - it drove him to the very edge of suicide.      
     The Illusion of Binah is death; that is, the vision of Binah 
may be compelling,  but it is one-sided,  a half-truth,  and  the 
finiteness it reveals is an illusion. Our own personal finiteness 
is an illusion.
     The  Qlippoth of Binah is fatalism,  the belief that we  are 
imprisoned in the mechanical causality of form,  and not only are 
we  incapable of changing or achieving anything,  but even if  we 
could,  there  wouldn't  be  any point.  Why try to  be  happy  - 
happiness  leads  inexorably to sadness.  Why try  to  build  and 
create - it all ends in decay and ruin soon enough. As the author 
of "Ecclesiastes" says, all is vanity.
     The Vice of Binah is avarice.  Form is only one-half of  the 
equation  of  life  - change is the other half - and  to  try  to 
hold onto and preserve form at the expense of change would be the 
death of all life.  The Virtue of Binah is silence.  Beyond  form 
there are no concepts, ideas, abstractions, or words.

     The  Spiritual  Experience of Chokmah is the Vision  of  God 
Face-to-Face.  The  tradition I received has it that  one  cannot 
have  this vision while incarnate i.e.  one dies in the  process. 
One  Hasidic  Rabbi  liked to bid farewell  to  his  family  each 
morning as if it was his last - he feared he might die of ecstacy 
during the day.  In the "Greater Holy Assembly" [3], three Rabbis 
pass away in ecstacy,  and in the "Lesser Holy Assembly" [3]  the 
famous  Rabbi  Simeon ben Yohai passes away  at  the  conclusion. 
There  is  a fairly widespread belief that to look on  the  naked 
face of God,  or a God,  means death, but fortunately there is no 
historical  evidence to suggest that the majority  of  Kabbalists 
died of anything other than natural causes.  Having said that,  I 
would  not  like  to  underplay the  naked  rawness  of  Chokmah; 
unconstrained, unconfined, free of form, it is the creative power 
which   sustains  the  universe,   and  talk  of  death  is   not 
     The  Illusion of Chokmah is independence;  at the  level  of 
Binah we seem to be locked in form, separate and finite, but just 
as  death  is  seen  to  be an  illusion  so  ultimately  is  our 
independence and free-will.  We *seem* to be independent,  and we 
*seem* to have free-will, but at the level of Chokmah we draw our 
water from the same well.
     The  Virtue  of  Chokmah is good,  and  the  Vice  is  evil. 
Regardless   of  your  definition  of  good  or   evil,   Chokmah 
encompasses  every  possibility  of  action,   circumstance   and 
creation,  and modern Kabbalists no longer try to believe God  is 
good,  and evil must reside elsewhere.  Medieval Kabbalists liked 
to  hedge their bets,  but one has only to plumb  the  bottomless 
depths  of  personal good and evil to find they spring  from  the 
same place.     
     The Qlippoth of Chokmah is arbitrariness. The raw, creative, 
unconstrained  energy of God at its most primal and  dynamic  can 
seem utterly arbitrary and chaotic,  and some authors [e.g.  [6]] 
have  seen it this way.  This removes the "divine will" from  the 
energy  and  leaves  a  blind,   directionless  and   essentially 
mechanical  force which is unbiased - creation  and  destruction, 
order and chaos,  who cares? The Kabbalistic view is that this is 
not so:  Chokmah contains form (as Binah) *in potential*,  and it 
is not correct to view Chokmah as a purely chaotic energy.  It is 
an  energy biased towards an end - "God's Will",  for lack  of  a 
better description.

     The  Spiritual Experience of Kether is Union  with  God.  My 
comments  on  the Spiritual Experience of Chokmah apply  also  to 
Kether. The Illusion of Kether is attainment. We can live, we can 
change, but there is nothing to attain. Even Union with God is no 
attainment;  we were always one with God,  and *knowing* that  we 
are  changes  nothing of any consequence - as long  as  we  live, 
there  is  no  goal in life other  than  living  itself.  As  the 
Kabbalist Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said [7]:

     "No  matter how high one reaches,  there is still  the  next 
     step.  Therefore,  we never know anything,  and still do not 
     attain  the true goal.  This is a very deep  and  mysterious 
The  Qlippoth of Kether is Futility.  Perhaps the creation was  a 
bad idea. Maybe the En Soph should never have emanated the point-
crown of Kether. Perhaps the whole of creation, life, the entire, 
ghastly three-ring circus we are forced to endure is nothing more 
than  *a complete waste*.  The En Soph should suck  Malkuth  back 
into Kether,  collapse the whole, crazy house of cards, and admit 
the mistake.

     The  God-name  of Binah is Elohim,  a feminine noun  with  a 
masculine  plural  ending.  When  we read in the  Bible  "In  the 
beginning created God...", this God is Elohim. The name Elohim is 
associated with all the sephiroth on the Pillar of Form,  and  is 
taken  to represent the feminine aspect of God.  The God-name  of 
Chokmah is Yah (YH),  a shortened form of YHVH.  The God-name  of 
Kether is Eheieh, a name sometimes translated as "I am", and more 
often as "I will be".
     The archangel of Binah is Tzaphqiel;  I have been told  this 
means "Shroud of God",  but I have not been able to verify  this. 
If  it does not mean "Shroud of God",  it most certainly  should. 
The  archangel of Chokmah is Ratziel,  the Herald of  the  Deity. 
According to tradition, the wisdom of God and the deepest secrets 
of  the  creation were inscribed on a sapphire which  is  in  the 
keeping of the archangel Ratziel,  and this "Book of Ratziel" was 
given  to Adam and handed down through the generations  [8].  The 
archangel of Kether is Metatron,  the Archangel of the  Presence. 
According to tradition Metatron was once the man Enoch,  who  was 
so wise he was taken by God and made a prince among the angels.
    The angel orders of Binah,  Chokmah and Kether can be derived 
directly  from  the  vision of Ezekiel.  In  the  Biblical  text, 
Ezekiel  describes successively the Holy  Living  Creatures,  the 
great  wheels  within  wheels,   and  lastly  the  throne-chariot 
(Merkabah) of God. The vision of Ezekiel had a great influence on 
early Kabbalah,  and it is no coincidence that the angel order of 
Binah is the Aralim,  or Thrones,  the angel order of Chokmah  is 
the  Auphanim  or Wheels,  and the angel order of Kether  is  the 
Chiaoth  ha Qadesh,  or Holy Living Creatures.  The forms of  the 
Chiaoth ha Qadesh - lion,  eagle,  man and ox - have survived  to 
this  day  in many Christian churches,  and can be found  on  the 
"World" card of most Tarot packs.

     It  is  difficult to grasp the nature of Chokmah  and  Binah 
from symbols alone, just as it is difficult to grasp interstellar 
distances,  the energy output of a star, the number of stars in a 
galaxy,  and the number of galaxies visible to us.  The scale  of 
the observable physical universe relative to our planet (and  the 
planet  is a big place for most of us) is  staggering;  there are
something  like a hundred stars in *our galaxy alone*  for  every 
person  on  this  planet.  When I think of Chokmah  and  Binah  I 
attempt  to think of them on this scale;  the  physical  universe 
where  we  have  our  home,   considered  as  Malkuth,  is  vast, 
mysterious, and contains inconceivable energies - to consider the 
Father and Mother of creation on any less a scale seems  arrogant 
to me. Which brings me to the question "Can one experience, or be 
initiated into, the supernal sephiroth?".      
     If the Kabbalah is to be considered as based on  experience, 
and not an intellectual construction,  then the answer has to  be 
"yes".  The  supernals represent something real.   What  do  they 
represent?  Is it possible to "cross the Abyss"?  The answers  to 
these questions depends on which Kabbalistic model one chooses to 
use,  and precisely how one interprets the Tree of Life.  For the 
sake of argument I have chosen three alternative models:

Model A:  the  sephira  Malkuth  represents  the  whole  physical 
          universe; the  sephiroth  from Yesod  to  Chesed  (the 
          Microprosopus)  represent  a  sentient,  self-conscious 
          being;  the  supernals represent the God of  the  whole 
          universe, God-in-the-Large.

Model B:  the Tree of Life is a model of human consciousness; the 
          supernals represent the God within, God-in-the-Small.

Model C:  the  Tree  of  Life exists in the four  worlds  of  the 
          creation, namely Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah. 
          When talking of "the Tree",  we are talking about  "the 
          Tree of Yetzirah"; "The Abyss" is in fact "the Abyss of 
          Yetzirah" only.

All three models can be found in Kabbalistic writing,  and it  is 
rarely clear which version an author is using at any given  time. 
I admit the fault myself. Model A differs radically from Models B 
and C:  Model A is an all-embracing model of everything,  whereas 
in  Models  B  and C the Tree has  been  applied  recursively  to 
a  component  of the whole,  namely a human  being  considered  a 
divine  spark.   This  is  a  valid  (if  confusing)  Kabbalistic 
technique:  take  a  whole,  and find a new Tree in each  of  its 
components;  apply  the  method recursively  until  you  generate 
enough detail to explain anything.  This idea is summed up in the 
aphorism: "there is a Tree in every sephiroth".
     Is  it possible to experience the supernals in  Model  A?  I 
would say that it is only possible to experience them at a remove 
via  the paths crossing over the Abyss from  Tipheret;  that  is, 
as a living, incarnate being my consciousness rises no further up 
the Pillar of Consciousness than Tiphereth (or Daath),  but it is 
possible  to apprehend the supernals via the  linking  paths.  To 
experience  the  consciousness of Binah in this  model  would  be 
tantamount  to  being able to modify the  physical  constants  of 
nature - Planck's constant, the speed of light, the Gravitational 
constant,   the  ratio  of  masses  of  particles  etc.   -   the 
consequences  don't bear thinking about!  To  experience  Chokmah 
would  be  to  experience the force  which  underpins  a  billion 
galaxies.  I  do  not believe even the  most  arrogant  twentieth 
century  magician  would claim to have achieved either  of  these 
initiations - the continuing existence of the planet is  probably 
the best evidence for that.
     Model  B  is  a model of the Microprosopus  *as  a  complete 
Tree*.  There  is  some evidence in the "Zohar" that  the  author 
thought  about the Macroprosopus and Microprosopus  in  precisely 
this  way,  with  references to "the greater  Chokmah"  and  "the 
lesser Chokmah". Model C is substantially similar to Model B, but 
cast in a slightly different model.  With this interpretation  it 
is  certainly  possible to consider "the lesser  Chokmah"  as  an 
accessible  state  of consciousness,  but "the  Greater  Chokmah" 
remains as in Model A; that is, we can experience the God within, 
"God-in-the-Small",  and experience our essential unity with  all 
other living beings considered as "Gods-in-the-Small", but beyond 
that lies a greater mystery,  that of "God-in-the-Large".  We may 
each  be a chip off the old block,  but individually we  are  not 
*identical* with the old block.  
     This  discussion  may seem arcane,  but there is  a  natural 
tendency  in people to exalt spiritual experience to the  highest 
level,  which  does  nothing more than inflate  and  devalue  the 
currency  of the language we use to describe  these  experiences. 
The  universe  is too large,  too mysterious,  and  too  full  of 
infinite  possibilities of wonder for anyone to claim  initiation 
into Malkuth, far less Kether.

     Lastly,  it is worth asking "what *is* God?".  What does the 
Kabbalistic  trinity of Kether,  Chokmah and Binah represent  *in 
reality*?  I  have  deliberately avoided mentioning  an  enormous 
amount  of Kabbalistic material on these three sephiroth  because 
it   is   not  clear  whether  it  contributes   to   a   genuine 
understanding.  How useful,  for example,  is it to know that the 
name  Binah (BINH) contains not only IH (Yod,  He),  the  letters 
representing Chokmah and Binah,  but also BN, Ben, the son? There 
is a level of understanding Kabbalah which is  intellectual,  and 
capable  of almost inifinite elaboration,  but it leads  nowhere. 
What  experience  or perception does the word  "God"  denote?  If 
there  is  nothing  which is not God,  why  are  so  many  people 
searching for God? Why do so many people feel apart from  God?  I 
quoted  D.H.  Lawrence's  poem "Only Man" because of  his  deeply 
intuitive view of the Fall from God and the abyss of separation.
    I was browsing in my local occult bookshop recently,  a shop 
which  contains  a catholic selection of books  covering  Eastern 
religions,  astrology,  Tarot,  shamanism,  crystals,  theosophy, 
magick,   Celtic  and  Grail  traditions,   mythology,  Kabbalah, 
witchcraft,  and so on. I am not sure what I was looking for, but 
despite  a couple of hours of browsing I certainly did  not  find 
it.  What did strike me was the extent to which so many of  these 
books  were  written  to  make human  beings  *feel  good*  about
themselves.  There  is  a  smug view permeating  so  much  occult 
literature  that "spiritual" human beings are a little  bit  more 
"advanced"  or "developed" than the pack,  that they are  "moving 
along  the Path" towards some kind  of  "enlightenment",  "cosmic 
consciousness",  "union with God",  "divine love", or one of many 
more fantastic and utterly sublime goals. It is all so empowering 
and  affirming and cosy.  Even in the less starry-eyed and  gushy 
works  the  view  is  predominantly,  almost  exclusively  human-
centred,  and  I found it difficult to avoid the impression  that 
the  universe was designed as a foam-padded playground for  human 
souls  to romp around in.  There is more than a little  truth  in 
Marx's statement that religion is the opium of the people,  and a 
cynic could justify a claim that occultism and esoteric  religion 
are  little more than a security blanket for  unfortunate  people 
who  cannot look reality in the face.  Where are the books  which 
say  "you are an insignificant speck of flyshit in a universe  so 
vast you cannot even begin to comprehend its scale;  your  occult 
pretensions  amount  to  nothing and are  carefully  designed  to 
protect you from any experience of reality;  all human experience 
and knowledge is parochial,  insignificant and largely irrelevant 
on  a universal scale,  and your personal contribution even  more 
so;  there are no Masters or Powers,  no Secret Chiefs,  no Inner 
Plane Adepti,  no Messiahs,  and God does not love you;  the only 
thing you possess is your life, and the joy and mystery of living 
in a universe filled to the brim with life, where little is known 
and much remains to be discovered; when you die, you are dead." I 
do  not concur with this position in its entirity,  but it  is  a 
valid  position  to  adopt,   and  one  which  is  not   strongly 
represented in esoteric and occult literature.  Why not?  Perhaps 
people do not want to buy books which say this. I will venture an 
opinion  which  reflects my own experience;  as such  it  has  no 
general validity, but it is worth recording nevertheless. 
     I   believe  that  many  religious,   esoteric  and   occult 
traditions currently extant are unconsciously designed to protect 
human  beings from experiencing God and lead towards  experiences 
which  are  valid  in themselves but  which  are  biased  towards 
feelings of love,  protection,  peace,  safety,  personal growth, 
community  and empowerment,  all wrapped up in a strongly  human-
centred   value  system  where  positive  *human*  feelings   and 
experiences are emphasised.  I believe that people are apart from 
God  by choice,  that they cannot find God because *they  do  not 
want to*.      
     It is difficult to justify this statement without  resorting 
to  an onion-skin model of the psyche;  underneath  the  surface, 
unsuspected and virtually inaccessible, is a layer which does its 
best  to  protect us from the existential terror  of  confronting 
things  as  they really are.  As a child I was terrified  of  the 
dark;  the dark itself was not malign,  but I was deeply  afraid, 
and  in  this case it was fear which determined  my  relationship 
with the dark,  not any quality of the dark itself. So it is with 
God  -  it  is  our deeply buried  and  unrecognised  fear  which 
determines our relationship with God.  We read books,  go to  the 
cinema and theatre,  argue,  invent,  throw parties,  play games, 
search for God, live and love together, and bury ourselves in all 
the  distractions  of human society in a frenetic  and  unceasing 
effort  to avoid the layers of fear - fear of solitude,  fear  of 
rejection, fear of disease and decay and disintregration, fear of 
madness,  fear  of meaninglessness,  arbitrariness and  futility, 
fear  of death and personal annihilation.  Like an audience in  a 
cinema, we can live in a fantasy for a time and forget that it is 
dark,  cold and raining outside,  but sooner or later we have  to 
leave  our  seats.  And underneath all the fears is the  fear  of 
opening  the door which conceals the awful truth:  that  we  have 
wilfully,  and with great energy and persistence,  chosen *not to 

[1]  Ponce, Charles, "Kabbalah", Garnstone Press, 1974.

[2]  Kaplan, Aryeh, "The Bahir", Samuel Weiser 1989.

[3]  Mather, S.L., "The Kabbalah Unveiled", RKP 1970

[4]  Fortune, Dion, "Moon Magic", Star Books, 1976

[5]  James,  William,  "The  Varieties of Religious  Experience", 
                        Fontana 1974

[6]  Peter J. Carroll, "Liber Null & Psychonaut", Samuel Weiser 1987

[7]  Epstein, Perle, "Kabbalah", Shambhala 1978

[8]  Graves,  Robert, & Patai, Raphael, "Hebrew Myths, the Book 
                                        of Genesis", Arena 1989

Copyright Colin Low 1991

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