By Myself I Can Do Nothing

The title of this post is the first phrase of a verse from the gospel of John (5:30), as translated in the New International Version (© 1984) of the Bible. The full verse is: By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

This verse is a concise statement of the meaning of Tarot Key 5, The Hierophant. I thought it would be a good topic for today, as we transition from the astrological sign of Taurus to that of Gemini. Key 5 is associated with Taurus, the sense of hearing, intuitional receptivity, and contact with the Inner Teacher, or the small, still voice within.

This card is an application of the Holy Family, too. It signifies that the aim of spiritual achievement is to be a fleshy conduit for Divine Wisdom, which descends the Tree of Life. The judgment spoken of in the verse isn’t meant to imply any sort of critical appraisal of anybody, but is simply a statement of best choice – how to behave, how to think, how to interact with the world.

When we are in concert with the Inner Teacher, the flow of higher inspiration is automatic, and bliss fills one’s consciousness. It’s a lofty goal, and one not easily achieved. Small, everyday stuff tends to get in the way. These are the distractions of the ego, the part of consciousness that is always trying to take and keep control. Like an unruly child, it needs to be kept in check while not destroying its interest in life.

Making the Inner Teacher the guide while using the ego as a tool – one of life’s many challenges. However, it’s the one we have to work on mastering in order to advance spiritually.

Archangels

An involved topic, this one, so I only wish to scratch the surface of one aspect of it. Archangels are mentioned in sacred scripture and are embodiments of primal forces, such as healing, protection, etc. The number of these beings varies by source, but typically there are 7 or, less frequently, 10 of them (one for each sphere of the Tree of Life).

Four archangels have been appropriated by the Western magickal tradition. Their names and name meanings follow:

  • Raphael – Healing God.
  • Michael – Who is like God?
  • Gabriel – Hero of God.
  • Uriel – Flame of God.

4

(The original of this graphic and be found here, BTW)

These four are mentioned by name in the Bible, and are represented in other sacred literature. It’s a rewarding and enjoyable exercise to look up the references and it’s pretty easy to do so on the web. (You didn’t think I was going to do all the work for you, did you?)

In Western magick, they guard the four directions (Raphael – East; Michael – South; Gabriel – West; Uriel – North). Other correspondences have been given to them, including colors and responsibilities. While doing trancework a few days ago, the thought occurred to me that they may also have assignments in the physical realm, such as with bodily systems. Who better to appeal to when there are problems with particular areas of the body than these beings or forces? (Provided that one also does the commonsense things like seeing a qualified practitioner of the healing arts when called for.)

At any rate, here are a few of the correspondences that have come to me. See if you think that they make sense to you. You may need to look up the Biblical references to understand some of them, but it’s worth the work.

  • Raphael – Element of Air, realm of Thought, sense of sight, bodily systems of digestion and breathing.
  • Michael – Element of Fire, realm of Spirit, sense of speech, bodily systems of cardiovascular, and the blood. “Fire” balance of the body.
  • Gabriel – Element of Water, realm of Emotion, sense of hearing, bodily systems of urination and lymph circulation. “Water” balance of the body.
  • Uriel – Element of Earth, realm of Physical, sense of smell/taste, bodily systems of the bowels (elimination) and the skin.

That’s just for starters. I’d love to hear what any Magicians out there can add to this. Well, back to the trance I refer to as everyday life.

Four Worlds

I want to write a bit today about the four worlds of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. You see, things unfold in an orderly fashion on the Tree (for a more complete explanation of the Tree itself, my post on it is here). The Life Energy, God Consciousness, whatever you want to call it, unfolds gradually over the ten spheres of the tree. That’s just one kind of unfolding, though. Another type involves the energy’s evolution through the four worlds of [now, hang with me here, since the words may look a little funny]: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah. Anyway, there they are. Not so bad, eh?

Dolls

Atziluth is the first world, if you will. That is to say, it’s the world that’s made of pure principles and archetypes. This is the ultimate raw material. It is the place of complete, yet abstract, conceptualization. Next comes the world of Briah, which is the creative world. Here, those first principles are grasped in such a way that they can be worked with in a creative (in all senses of the word) fashion. Third is Yetzirah. It is the world of Formation, where the creative energy is molded by thought and image, powered by desire. Finally comes Assiah, the manifest world. Here is where the principles, that have been acted upon by the creative urge and formed through the power of thought, actually come to be. It’s kind of, but not quite, like the matryoshka dolls in the picture.

No one of these worlds is superior to any other, as all are equally important. Reality as we know it, or however we conceive it to be, could not exist without the active involvement from all four of these entities. In the Tarot, the suit of Wands (element of Fire) is associated with Atziluth, Cups (element of Water) with Briah, Swords (element of Air) with Yetzirah, and Pentacles (element of Earth) with Assiah.

Everything in creation arises in the same way. Behind all our perceptions and experiences are first principles, creative energy, thoughtforms, and materiality. Part of the process of spiritual evolution is learning to see all of these at once, and understanding the principles or Cosmic truths that lie behind worldly appearances. [When I get to that point, I’ll let you know]

Walking the Paths

When looking at the Tree of Life (TOL), one sees the 10 spheres, which represent the ten aspects of God as translated into human personality, and the 22 paths that connect the spheres. However, the idea of pathworking, or pathwalking, is not often talked about, except in books especially written on the subject (for example, books by Will Parfitt and Рmy personal favorite РGareth Knight).Paths

[An interesting graphic novel series, the Promethea series, has a couple of volumes that deal with the TOL and other, relevant magical topics. It’s a vividly depicted, entertaining read if you’re into that artform]

I prefer the term pathwalking to pathworking, since pathwork is often used to describe the work of John and Eve Pierrakos (which is also known as Core Energetics). Besides, pathwalking implies a pilgrimage of some sort, which is what this form of inner exploration is akin to. In this practice, we take a pilgrimage into our own personalities – and even reach out to that boundary between god and human.

Depending on the path to be walked, particular symbols, colors, and aspects of personality are used to awaken the relevant forces in the subconscious. Each path also has a Tarot card of the Major Arcana associated with it. This card provides the key that unlocks the path to be walked.

The journey begins in one of the two spheres connected by the path (the paths are two-way streets, so either sphere can be the starting point). By carefully envisioning the appropriate symbols, the pilgrim walks the path to the other sphere, gaining insight, wisdom, and sometimes surprising experiences.

It is important to remember that everything one experiences during this process is already within the psyche. There’s nothing there that isn’t ultimately under the pilgrim’s control. I say that because, along the way, the pilgrim may experience the negative side of the path, as well as the positive. Remember, the TOL is made of polar opposites as well as complementary forces. Therefore, there can be the occasional Qliphothic encounter. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but it can be challenging when it happens.

BTW, I intend to do a guided visualization series based on the paths. This format is a nice way to go when pathwalking, as the symbols can be laid out in the visualization. This makes memorization less of a chore. Stay tuned, though, because right now it’s only one of many things bouncing around my tortured brain.

See you on the paths.

The Holy Family of the Central Pillar

The central pillar of the Tree of Life (TOL) is composed of four spheres: Kether (Crown, white), Tiphareth (Beauty, golden yellow), Yesod (Foundation, violet) and Malkuth (Kingdom, multi-colored). A brief explanation of them can be found in my two previous blog entries on the Tree itself. The relationship among these spheres is fascinating, and is worth many hours of meditation.

[For the rest of this entry, I may be coming off as a little sexist, or at least a little genderish. Please don’t get all upset with me. I’m talking gender polarities here. I’m not trying to be either misogynistic or misanthropic. Sorry for the interruption, but I had to say that. These days, people can get so sensitive.]

First, Kether is the outpouring of the Divine, and is like God the Father in Christianity. Next comes Tiphareth, seat of Christ Consciousness; God the Son, if you will. It is also the seat of the ideal, primal human or Adam Kadmon. At the base is Malkuth, God the Holy Spirit. However, Malkuth is also the seat of the Shekinah, the Female aspect of the godhead in ancient Hebrew mysticism. At times, Qabalists will refer to Malkuth as “the bride” of Kether. I didn’t forget Yesod, but it is the odd one out. This sphere is where little ol’ us come into the picture. Yesod is the residence of the human collective unconscious, and the individual soul. This is the place where we get messages from the Divine.

Looked at another way, the central pillar represents the Holy Family of Joseph (Kether), Jesus (Tiphareth), and Mary (Malkuth) – or as my mother used to swear at us kids, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! If you kids don’t quiet down, I’m going to . . .” (insert here the scariest thing you can imagine a Sicilian mother doing with some unnamed cooking utensil)

The Holy Trinity, the Holy Family; sometimes I miss Catholicism, but only sometimes. At any rate, the way these spheres, and all spheres, connect on the Tree is via paths. Each of these paths has a Tarot trump associated with it. From Kether to Tiphareth, the High Priestess is the path. From Tiphareth to Yesod, it’s Temperance, and from Yesod to Malkuth, it’s The World. (I will talk about these cards and paths in due course. For now, just take my word for it.)

This gets complicated quickly, so I will try to be brief. The High Priestess is the holder of memory and guards the entrance into the Holy of Holies. Temperance is represented by an angel (Michael, angel of the heart and Tiphareth). When we communicate with our highest nature, the Christ Consciousness, we are having what Qabalists call the “conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel.” This is how high consciousness speaks to us meat puppets. Making our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs into 3D reality is accomplished by the force symbolized by The World, a card associated with limitation and restraint. How else could the chaos of our minds become reality without a little restraint?

It is said that the Tree is embodied in us, and that the Malkuth of any Tree is the Kether of the next. Like Ezekiel’s wheels within wheels, perhaps. Nevertheless, it is possible for us to commune with the primal forces of the Masculine, the Feminine, and their union, the Child. This is done through the powers of our imagination and our intuition which, not so coincidentally, are said to reside in Yesod.

If you aren’t completely confused by now, congratulations. Now do you see why some people say we made our first mistake as a species when we came down out of the trees?

The Tree of Life – Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the first three spheres, the so-called supernal triad. Now let’s continue our journey down the tree. The next triad is composed of the 4th, 5th, and 6th spheres of the tree. The fourth is Chesed (Mercy), the sphere of compassion. It is at the middle right. It is said that this is the highest sphere at which an incarnate human can resonate. This is where the great mystics, saviors, etc. reside. It is associated with the planet Jupiter. Next comes Geburah (Severity), which is opposite Chesed and balances it. This sphere allows us to temper our mercy with judgment. These two spheres are rather interdependent. Too much of one or the other leads to an unbalanced approach to life. Geburah is associated with the planet Mars. TolThe sixth sphere is Tiphareth (Beauty). This is the heart centered sphere which is the balancing point of the tree. It has more paths connected to it than any other sphere. When we are at our most balanced, this is where we are centered. It is associated with the Sun. (Notice its direct communication with God via Kether). In fact, it connects with all of the first three spheres – no other point on the tree does that directly.

The next triad is the 7th, 8th, and 9th spheres. Number seven is Netzach (Victory). It’s the one on the lower right of the tree. It is associated with the desire nature of the human psyche. All that we wish for and covet find homes here. Out of control Netzach energy leads to several of the seven deadly sins, like Lust, Gluttony, Covetousness, and Envy. Hmmm, four out of seven – not bad. (The other three, for the record, are Pride, Anger, and Sloth). Anyway, this is the sphere of Venus – not surprisingly. The eighth is Hod (Splendor), the sphere of the human intellect. In the ideal case, reason balances desire. Interestingly, this is also traditionally seen as the sphere where our ideas of God reside; that is to say, this is where the godforms arise. Everything from the bearded old guy, to Thor with his hammer and Diana with her bow. (Strange story: Once, while meditating on this sphere, I was indeed confronted by Thor. The dude has a temper. — Details maybe at another time). Hod is associated with the planet Mercury. The ninth sphere is Yesod (Foundation). This is our intuitive sphere, the place of the collective unconscious. It is associated with the Moon. This is a good place to go for insight and clarvoyance.

The final, tenth sphere, is Malkuth (the Kingdom). It is physical reality and, while it has no astrological association, it is the sphere of the Earth. It anchors the tree and is the culmination of all that came before, receiving direct input from the realms of desire, intellect, and intuition.

So, there you go. A little bit about the TOL. For meditation, the tree is a strong object. In some ways, it’s not for beginners, since its symbology runs very deep. My favorite book on the symbolism of the tree is A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism by English mystic Gareth Knight. It’s a masterpiece and hits virtually every nail on the head (pardon the poor savior-on-a-tree pun).

More on the Tree to come.

The Tree of Life – Part 1

Since so many of the blogs on this site will be about Tarot and Qabalah, it seemed fitting to begin with an entry about the Tree of Life (TOL). Trees figure into many of our sacred stories. The Christ story is mixed up with trees, beginning and end. We got Christmas trees, and Christ nailed to a tree, as the cross. Today, I won’t get into all the stuff about savior/god figures and trees. The link runs long and deep — as Casey Stengel is reported to have said, “You could look it up.” Tol

The TOL has become quite a symbol in Western esotericism. Arising from Qabalistic (aka Kabbalistic, etc.) thought, the TOL signifies many things, from our journey back to the Source, to the structure of the human psyche, to the path taken by the mind of God from the unmanifest to the fully material. Just an intro today, since TOL study is mind-bendingly deep. What I’m giving you here is true, but there’s so very much more.

The TOL has 10 spheres, or sephiroth, on it, connected by 22 paths. There is also an 11th sphere, which is hidden, but I don’t want to get into that now. (After all, it is kind of a secret, you know) At the top is Kether (the Crown). It is the first burst of manifestation from the unmanifest. It is virtually unknowable. It’s like the Big Bang, but continuously on-going, and is associated with something called “the whirlings” (Think about elementary particles winking into and out of existence in cloud chambers). Next comes Chokmah (Wisdom). It’s at the top of right side of the diagram. It is the primal male/father principle, the Divine seed. It is associated with the entire zodiac. But Wisdom is nothing without Understanding, which is the name of the next sphere, Binah. This is the Divine Mother, the one that assures that things become manifest by limiting their vibrations to those that resonate with our reality. The planet Saturn is associated with Binah. These first three are considered a triad that work as a unit.

Part 2 tomorrow.