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Tag: Paths of Wisdom

The Double Hokhmah

“In fact, they occasionally seem to force this hypothesis upon us. In that case it is not too much to assume that the gnostic material of Oriental origin in the Book Bahir, once it was received and adopted by a circle of religiously agitated and productive men, amply suffices to explain the inner development of the Kabbalah up to, and including, the Zohar. But how are we to understand the development that led to that ferment, the evidence of which we have before us in the Book Bahir itself? On this point we are forced to assume the existence of some kind of connection, whether in literary or oral form, with older, premedieval materials.

Certain details, as far as I can see, can have no other explanation and above all cannot be attributed to fortuitous coincidences. They prove that the gnostic symbolisms that occupied a meaningful and comprehensible position within their own framework—as for example in the system of the Valentinian gnosis—found their way into Jewish sources, largely detaching themselves, of course, from their organic connection with gnostic mythology.

Today we can no longer (or not yet?) say anything about the nature of these sources, or whether, perhaps, there once existed entire systems of a Jewish character parallel to the classic systems of Gnosticism or to the later gnostic ramifications of the kind that survived in the Aramaic-Syrian linguistic area, such as, for example, the Mandaean gnosis. Only obscure traces of these sources, not a system but merely fragments of symbols, seem to have come into the hands of the redactors of the Bahir. Nevertheless, their attraction was still strong enough to stimulate the combination of old material with new associations of ideas and, thus, to give it a new content.

A surprising detail of this kind is the doctrine of the double Sophia or hokhmah that among the first kabbalists and as early as the Book Bahir, served as a model for similar symbols occupying a double position within the framework of the divine world, the pleroma.

Thus we have a double “Fear of God” (sections 97, 129, 131), a double “Justice” (sedeq, sections 50, 133), a double he in the Tetragrammaton YHWH (section 20), and also, without a doubt, a double Shekhinah (section 11). The region and position of these power symbols (“the lower he; the lower Justice”) are always, in this case, close to the margin and termination of the world of the aeons, and are connected with the symbolism of the Shekhinah.

But these expositions in the Bahir are most precise in just those instances where they are related to the double hokhmah. That should give us cause for thought. The Gnostics, especially those of the Valentinian school, developed the idea of two aeons that are both called Sophia. One, the “upper Sophia,” is high above, in the world of the pleroma; the other, however, which is also related to the symbolism of the “virgin of light,” is found at its lower end.

The gnostic myth of the cosmic drama told of the fall of the lower Sophia, which succumbed to the temptation of the hyle and fell from the pleroma into the lower worlds, where it is either wholly, or at least in certain parts of its luminous being, “in exile.” Even so, this lower, fallen Sophia remains related to the pneuma, the highest constitutive part of the human soul, the contact between these two entities being described by means of different symbols in different systems. This divine spark in man is connected with the drama of the exile of the “lower Sophia.”

It is precisely in the corresponding levels of the structure of the divine middoth that we find, in different passages of the Bahir, the two hypostases or aeons named hokhmah, as the second and the tenth sefirah. Wisdom simply is, in section 96 for example, the upper Wisdom, the “beginning of the paths of God” in the midst of creation.

When God placed this Wisdom in the heart of Solomon he adapted the upper Wisdom to the form of the lower Wisdom, which he was able to grasp. In the form of the lower Wisdom, which is the “daughter” whom God, as it were, gave in marriage to Solomon, “the thirty-two paths of the Sophia,” all the powers and ways of the pleroma are united (sections 43, 62, 67).”

Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, pp. 91-2.

Sex on the Edge of the Abyss

“The experiences of magicians over several hundred years have shown that the flow of etheric substances in the physical world increases and decreases in regular patterns. There are, in effect, tides in the Unseen, and the Moon affects these as strongly as it does the tides of the ocean. This influence is powerful enough that certain kinds of ritual work can only be done effectively at certain lunar phases. The association of the Moon with Yesod followed naturally from this.”

“Despite the common notion that sex is the most physical of activities, most of sex takes place on the etheric and higher levels. Deprived of these, sex becomes nothing more than friction, and–since the etheric aspects of sex link, through the nephesh, to the instinctive drives that energize the whole affair–not especially enjoyable friction at that.

Some of the most closely guarded teachings of traditional Cabalism deal primarily with sex. […] Sex …  is much more a matter of the etheric body than the physical one. … The etheric body itself is a vehicle for the ruach, and the union of etheric bodies (which is what happens in sex) can, and often does, become the basis for a corresponding union of one or more levels of the ruach.

When this happens in ordinary life, sex becomes the basis of love; when it happens between two people who have made some progress toward the parting of the Veil, the energies of the union can rise to levels of the ruach not normally accessible, and open these up to consciousness; when it happens between two people who stand on the edge of the Abyss, the joining of the two can flower into the experience of the union of all.

The mating of lovers in this context becomes not merely a poetic simile for, but an experience of, what mystics have called–in equally sexual terms–the mating of God and the world.”

–John Michael Greer, Paths of Wisdom: The Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition, 1996, pg. 114-5.

The Watcher of the Threshold

“Most traditional mythologies contain legends of living people who journeyed to the land of the dead; from the legends of Orpheus and Ishtar to Dante’s Divina Comedia, the image is a potent one, and rarely missed by the storytellers of any society.

Such tales have a tendency to follow similar lines, down to points of fine detail. These tales are closely paralleled, as well, by the experiences of shamans in their trance voyages to the Underworld–and by Cabalists venturing along the Path of Tau. Often–again, not universally, but often–there are ghosts and monstrous creatures along the way, caverns and narrow passages, the rush of underground water, the unnerving journey across a bridge as narrow as a sword’s blade; at times the traveler must give up something–anything from a small gift to the flesh on his or her bones–as the price of the descent. At the end of the journey comes the return to light and air, and very often the light is the light of stars.

One of the entities often met on this Path has a somewhat broader role: the Watcher of the Threshold, symbol of the fear that bars the way to transformation. Although the Watcher can makes its presence felt at any point, this Path is perhaps its most common lurking spot; Saturn’s involvement with time and death make the Path of Tau congenial ground.

It will sometimes happen that the Watcher will take concrete form in a working of this Path, appearing as a monster barring the way. While this can be unnerving, it usually marks a turning point in the work of the student. Once the Watcher is squarely faced on any level, its power dwindles.”

–John Michael Greer, Paths of Wisdom: The Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition, 1996, pg. 107.

On Metatron

“Unlike the other Spheres, which have one archangel each, Malkuth has two. The first of them is named Metatron, and is also the archangel of the first Sphere, Kether. Alone of the Archangels, his name has no meaning in Hebrew (in point of fact, it is a Hebrew form of Mithras, the name of a Roman savior god of Persian origins). For reasons that will be discussed later on, Metatron is known as the Prince of Countenances; he represents a secret link connecting the highest and lowest of the Spheres.”

“Cabalistic traditions make a distinction, a useful one, between the aspect of Metatron assigned to Kether and that assigned to Malkuth, a distinction that involves a different spelling of the archangel’s name. Metatron in Malkuth is held to be the transformed Enoch, taken bodily into heaven according to the Biblical myth, and to function as a celestial scribe recording all the acts of humanity. His name was spelled MThThRVUN…Metatron in Kether, by contrast, is seen as a transcendent power, the “Lesser Tetragrammaton” created before the birth of the universe, and his name is spelled with an additional Yod, MIThThRVN….In either form, Metatron may be visualized as an angelic figure of pure light.”

The second archangel of Malkuth is named Sandalphon. As Metatron expresses the spiritual energies coming into Malkuth from above, Sandalphon expresses the spiritual energies of Malkuth itself; these two angels are usually paired in the traditional symbolism, and are associated with the two angelic figures atop the Ark of the Covenant, Metatron on the right hand, Sandalphon on the left. As Metatron is linked with Enoch, Sandalphon is often equated with Elijah, the other Old Testament figure who is said to have ascended directly into heaven.

Despite this and the meaning of the name, Sandalphon is often represented as female; she is called the Reconciler for Earth, and the Celestial Soul of Earth. She represents the driving force of evolution, the constant upward striving toward the spiritual on the part of every created thing. As the counterpart to the bright radiance of Metatron, she is sometimes envisioned as a luminous figure clad in dark garments.”

–John Michael Greer, Paths of Wisdom, the Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition, 1996, pg. 99-100.

The Third Son of Adam

“Adam and Eve, in the Genesis account, had three sons whose names are recorded; the first two, Cain and Abel, gained an unpleasant fame as the first murderer and his first victim.

The third, however, was named Seth, and had a different destiny. The Bible says little about him, but legend tells that he journeyed back to the gate of Eden and spoke to the angels who guarded the gate.

From them, according to one story, he received the secret teaching which was to become the Cabala.”

–John Michael Greer, Paths of Wisdom, the Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition, 1996, pg. 81.

The Pearl Net of the god Indra

“What is the Sphere of Sensation? In simplest terms, as mentioned earlier, it is the aura, the egg-shaped outer layer of the nephesh that extends out several feet from the physical body.

It is not, however, a simple featureless shape. Some texts refer to it as the Magical Mirror of the Universe, and this term is meant to be taken quite literally; the entire universe, in all its complexity, is reflected on its surface.”

“The Buddhist Garland Sutra makes use of an old Indian legend to express a similar insight. The god Indra, it was said, had a net infinitely large, in which each crossing of threads bore a brightly polished pearl. Each pearl reflected all the others, so that the whole net could be seen by looking at any one part. In this metaphor, the pearls are individual beings, the net the dance of becoming in which all beings are snared.

–John Michael Greer, Paths of Wisdom, the Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition, 1996, pg. 72-3.

Old Testament as Cipher

“Over the years  the belief grew that the whole of the Old Testament was a gigantic cipher, a secret message from God to humankind containing all of the wisdom of the universe in encoded form.”

–John Michael Greer, Paths of Wisdom, the Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition, 1996, pg. 22.

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