Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Sephirothic Path

This is the second in a series of four blogs discussing roadmaps that will help you gain awareness through a series of enlightenments.
In many ways the Sephiroth is the most complex path among the roadmaps we are considering; thus an illustration will be helpful in finding your way. There is one such simplified illustration in "Good Witch's Bible", Frost and Frost, page 229. (At the time we published that work, we were a little negative about the Kabala; given today's greater understanding, for that attitude of some 35 years ago we apologize.)
Looking at the illustration, you see nine circles containing words in either Hebrew or English. The circles are called Lights because each represents an area that will illuminate your understanding.
Be warned that the Hebrew words are not easily translatable directly into English. It's not a matter of simple one-on-one, straight-across translation. For instance, the Light at the bottom in Hebrew is Malkuth, often translated as The World but sometimes as Wholly Remembering. The one just below En Soph is often called Kether or The Crown or God-ess, and is said to mean "I am that I am".
As you meditate on each Light in turn, a clearer understanding of each one and its relation to the others should come to you.
The central Pillar of Lights leading from The World all the way up to En Soph is considered to be gender-neutral. It represents Balance. Some Sephiroths have a Light between Beauty and Goddess; its label in Hebrew is Da'at; that is thought of as Knowledgable Balance.
One side of the Sephiroth's vertically arranged Lights is female. It stands for Severity, Water, and Blood. Sometimes it is placed on the right, but it lies on the left in traditional depictions. The male side stands for Mercy, Fire, and Milk (or seminal fluid).
It is interesting to note that these three male Lights have Endurance at the bottom, Love in the center, and Wisdom at the top. The center one, Love, is actually called Chesed, translated alternatively as Kindness. Here in this very old pathway you can see that the female side has more power than the male side, just as we found in Tantra that the goddesses were active whereas the gods were contemplative. It is interesting to see this attribution of lesser power to the male in a society that produced the most dominant male god ever known to the western world.
If you use the traditional Sephiroth omitting Da'at, you have nine Lights in the lower section. Wiccan tradition customarily starts at the bottom with Malkuth and moves upward meditating on each Light and on how you get from one Light to another. Everything comes from the Earth or the Great Mother. As you move upward the blank slate of your understanding comprehends the various attributes of the Lights.
In Judaic tradition you move from En-Soph the Ultimate Deity downward, releasing various emotions and human attributes as you go, so that you are pure and unsullied when you arrive at the base. Everything here comes from the Deity.
In each case you now go through the cycle again, in one case descending and giving up what you have gained, and in the other regaining in a purer form that which you had released.
Many workers regard the numbers on the paths as comparable to the archetypical images of the tarot's major arcana. We will address the tarot in the next blog.
Meditating on the Lights requires a commitment of a half-hour daily. The time may be divided into 15 minutes before breakfast and 15 minutes after supper; or it can be done as a half-hour after supper (provided you are not too sleepy). Some say that you must spend a whole week's worth of meditation on each Light. We have found that you can shorten this time if you develop mind keys or aides-memoirs in your mode of understanding for each Light. We get in touch with our subconsious in accordance with which sense is predominant. If you are clairvoyant (that is, if you psychically "see" your impressions), you will make up pretty brightly colored patterns; if clairaudient a piece of music or a particular sound, and so on for each sense.
There are nine Lights in the lower section. If you spend seven days in each of them, that comes to a total of 63 days. In Wicca we prefer to work in a moon cycle similar to the one in Tantra, spending a total of 27 days on a cycle (3 days per Light and two days of assimilation).
After completing your meditations, you are ready to move out of the lower area and try to get an understanding of En Soph by moving your meditation upward.
The first line of the Torah in Kabalistic tradition reads:
With a beginning It created Elohim. They created the World.
Interpretations of the Sephiroth and methods of using it are as numerous as grains of sand on a beach. You need to develop your own techniques, and to approach it with an open mind unburdened by the finite nature of most of modern thought regarding it. This is not a one-plus-one-equals-two task.
The Sephiroth cannot be comprehended solely through the intellect. Instead the mind must be free and must move into realms where everything is fluid and everything is possible. The work is about as far from a literal so-called left-brain approach as any psychic effort can be.
Once you get into the rhythm of meditations, your life will change and you will begin to interpret experiences differently. You will bring a new level of awareness to every act. You will think before you speak, and will contemplate the words that you say and every thought that arises in your mind. The Sephiroth will change the way you live your life. It will encourage you to integrate mystical study into your daily meditative contemplative exercise(s). This leads you to a stronger connection between yourself and the Great Unconscious, and will give you more understanding of the meaning of Life.

A caution: "Upward" is just a convention. Clearly, En Soph is not necessaraily upward in a literal sense; it is everywhere.

For those who would go further, we recommend David A. Cooper's "God Is a Verb". The copy on our personal shelf is from the Riverhead division of Penguin.