Understanding the Tree of Life, and the Qliphoth

This is an appendix to my series of posts about my adventures during 2005, leading up to the performance of Paul Green’s play Babalon. The story is full of cloak and dagger, initiatory strangeness, chaos, and hysteria. It shows what can happen on the Magical path if one is not careful…(as if one has choice…)

Directed by occultist, Alison Rockbrand, Babalon was performed on December 5, 2005, at the John Gielgud Theatre at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to a sold out audience of London’s finest occultists and magicians. If you want to listen to it, click Radio QBSaul: Archives: Babalon. I played Marjorie Cameron/Babalon. I am called Angela Murrow because I had to hide my identity.

Babalon Diaries: Appendix 1

I am very excited to announce that an interview with Paul Green, author of the play Babalon, is coming up on the Winterspells blog. This should be very interesting, as he is a wonderful writer with a lot to say. He shall bring us his insight into the magical paths of Jack Parsons. L.Ron Hubbard, Marjorie Cameron, and the Babalon Working.

Since Paul’s knowledge of magic, and  especially Thelema, is very deep, I thought I should give you an overview of the one of the most prevalent Magical Patterns in Occultism, or Western Mystery Tradition: the Qabbalistic Tree of Life. An basic understanding of the Tree will provide a foundation for understanding most magical systems, from Ceremonial Magic to Wicca.

My Background in Qabbalah

I began my study of the Qabbalah in 1983, when I was reading book by the esoteric author, Dion Fortune, a former Golden Dawn Magician. The book was the Mystical Qabbalah, a journey through the ten Sephiroth, with descriptions of the spheres of the Gods, and their corresponding planets, colors, numbers, choirs, and the Legions of Angels. The Qabbalah is the key to the Magic of the Angels and for the Union with the Holy Guardian Angel.

During the time of my studies, I was living in the servants quarters of big mansion in Seattle that was home of my  Middle Eastern Dance director and instructor, Elizabeth Dickinson. She gave me refuge when I broke up with my rock star boyfriend who was fun, but drank way too much. I couldn’t physically take it any more…wimpy I know, but I had to leave. (But his idol was Keith Moon who was dead, after all.) I also left because I read Dante’s Inferno as part of my study for a Shakespeare play I was in, and I realized I was, oh my God, in the Upper Hell!

I guess my latent Catholicism kicked in big time, because I went through a very holy phase. One holy thing I did was wake up at 5:00 every morning to study the Qabbalah book and meditate. I worked with it like this for a very long time and began having visions of the Sephiroth Gods and Goddesses, using all the correspondences to build altars, and just got into doing Magic. I think I wanted to be like Vivian LeFay Morgan from Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess book among other things. I used the magical images and ideas I learned in the Mystical Qabbalah in my own dances for the troupe I was in called the  Companions of the Musavir. It was Sufi dance troupe. As the dance company was about using Scared Dance to tell Sufi stories, my contributions fit in very well. I always liked the idea of the theater as a temple.

So my knowledge of the Tree is pretty extensive, but also very old. I will give you what I have internalized over the years. It may be technically off for some people, but if you are one of those, please feel free to leave comments. I would enjoy an refresher and it will help the other readers as well.

Tree of Life, Tree of Lights

Above is a very nice diagram of the Tree of Life, the basic glyph, or magical pattern, on which the Qabbalistic system is based. But in case you are new to this, here is a simple one:

As you can see, there are ten spheres with thirty-two paths linking them together in various ways. The spheres are called Sephiroth and, in my experience, when you work with them, they open up as little chapels with altars in them that correspond to the qualities of the deities that work through them. Each Sephiroth is aligned to a planet and with the Gods, Goddesses, Planetary Intelligences, Angels that make up the consciousness of that Sphere.

You can also meditate standing within the Tree, so that your feet at at Malkuth (Earth), your pelvis is at Yesod  (Moon), heart is at Tiphareth (Sun) and so on. You must “Cross the Abyss” (Daath) so that your head is just below Kether whose symbol is appropriately enough, a Crowned King.

This is a huge topic that entire books have been written about, but these little keys can help you go through the doors on your own. It is the basis of Tables of Correspondences, relationships between powers and deities, and many other things. It is very enlightening to take your favorite Gods, say the Greek Gods, and put each one in a sphere according his or her planetary association and see how the energies collide and interact. You can understand things at a much deeper level when you play with the Tree of Life in this way.

The Dark Side of the Tree, Tree of Death?

Now, more appropriately for Parsons and Thelema, I shall do my best to explain the Dark Side of the Tree of Life. Think of it as the same as the Dark Side of the Moon, where a crater has been named for Jack Parsons, where everything is reversed like a reflection in a mirror.

The mirror can be front to back as with a coin, but also up and down as when a tree is reflected in a lake. (See  the image at the top of this post.) This essay is about the front/back dichotomy. The up/down has to do with the Underworld of Faery.

Most things that live in the dark, or on the dark side, have developed fearful shapes in the minds of the members of the Big Three religions that have been indoctrinated to to seek, exclusively, the Light. In Christianity, I think the idea that God is Logos, equated to the Sun, may have something to do with this. Therefore, the moon, or the dark being opposed, must be anti-God.

Exploring the reverse side of the Tree of Life was forbidden, for it was said to be  the abode of demons, shells, and destructive, chaotic forces — the flip side of the acceptable qualities of the bright side of the tree. An example of this would be:

Chesed, ruled by Jupiter and all the Gods of beneficence, mercy, abundance, and expansion can flip over into excess, greed, compulsion, and cancerous growth. Think of the good and bad sides of Sagittarius: jovial, fun- loving, active, philosophical, but wow, can they be dogmatic, bullying, crude, and its my way or the highway!

Its like that for all of the Sephiroth, whether Netzach (Venus), Hod (Mercury) Geburah (Mars) Binah (Saturn), etc.. (See the charts) The Dark Tree houses  chaos, disintegration, unbalanced power, or forces out of conscious control — for what is in the dark is unconscious, instinctual, reacting without thought. Furies live on the dark side of tree, and all those beings that we, or society as a whole, reject. Death lives on the dark side, waiting in the shadows.

Qliphoth and Astral Shells

Some Occultists have a need to redeem these exiled entities, wishing to bring about wholeness and healing. In order to do that safely, one must have been initiated into their own shadow side, in a real way, so that when these beings show themselves, they can be understood.

Some Occultists feel that the Qliphoth are storehouse of power.  The truth is that the darkness brings you deep, and if you seek to look into what has been repressed, or forbidden, then the paths that work with the dark side of the Tree will have a magnetic pull for you.

The Qliphoth are what are called by Occultists, Astral Shells. What this means is that, at one time these were bodily forms with souls, perhaps human, but they are now dead and emptied out of any Divine spark, or consciousness. Ghosts are considered by some Parapsychologists to be Astral Shells, or just figments or imprints left behind in the aethers after the original occupant has moved on. These shells can be used, taken over by wandering entities, that seem a bit like hermit crabs looking for new homes. Since they are floating around on the dark side, the  spirits that take them over are, of course, low grade entities and demons who can be magically persuaded to do the bidding of Black Magicians. Nyahahah! The lovely Lillith is considered to be one of these.

Lilith by Anandazone

Lilith by Anandazone

Astral Realm or Sub Lunar Realm

I have a question about the idea of Astral Shells. The word Astral means Star, so it suggests that the Qliphoth are dead stars perhaps? But the Earth is under the Moon; we live in the Sub Lunar Realm. It is said that, at one time, the Earth and the Moon were joined. The Moon split off and we descended into denser material forms.

Therefore, are the demons Astral Shells or Lunar Shells? They sure seem to be of the dark side of the moon to me.

I understand why someone would want to do magic with the Underworld Tree, another forbidden zone by the Big Three Religions. It is because  I feel very resonant with Faery. But I must admit, even though I played Majorie Cameron/ Babalon in the play and was deeply effected by Her, I don’t understand the attraction of some people to destructive forces, chaos, and astral shells. there is a gap in my education that, hopefully, Paul Green will fill when we speak at the end of this week.

The interview will be recorded over Skype and then I will stream it from the blog. Cross fingers that all goes well. Technically speaking that is.

Of course, if you want to listen to podcasts of our December 5, 2005 performance of Babalon, the links are just below.

Babalon: Part One

Babalon: Part Two

Please leave comments. For updates of the Babalon Diaries, subscribe to my RSS Feed or my email list. There is more to come…


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