Channels in the Earth: Kabbalah and Geomancy

If you’ve read around this blog much, I’m sure you saw this post coming. I didn’t want to rush it because so much of the work of assignment occurs on a level just below the conceptual, such that if I tried to jump right into reassigning the geomantic signs to the sefirotic diagram, I would surely over-conceptualize it and mangle it somewhat.

Today, though, I woke up with subway dreams about back channels, mapping the lyrics of Bush’s Glycerine half-consciously to the channels, and the line “Bad Moon Wine Again” on repeat. As I turned my attention to all that, the geomantic figures started to get moving in my head. Orion, Andromeda, and the Serpent came in for some clarification….Well, let’s just say it all started to make sense.

Before I get going, let me link to this nice-looking, simplified, model of the Saadia attributions that Blogos posted. I found it helpful, and I suspect a reader might find it useful, too, as a visual counterpoint to this textual discussion.

I start by throwing out all the planetary and astrological assignments that I learned and tweaked from Greer’s The Art and Practice of Geomancy. That seemed scary at first (really, I couldn’t have even gotten started without that book); however, if I didn’t do that, I would be violating the hermeneutic rule of ‘never identify, always differentiate’ that has been so essential. Also, I realized that most of what I was throwing out by way of identification would probably return as a more plastic and useful pattern of affinity.

This starts with a basic insight. Once you take the Moon out of Yesod, it becomes clear that much of what I was thinking about as the ‘gates of the moon‘ were properly the ‘gates of yesod.’ The geomantic figures define subtle polarities that sit along the surface of the sefirot, opening up the channels back and forth between them. I am going to drop the gate language, too, because that might get a little confusing—there is a well-established Kabbalistic tradition describing gates and I don’t think the geomantic signs equate with that.

They are a bit like the chemical charges of atoms between which chemical bonds form, so they are shared in some way by the sefirot they connect. Because of that, I am thinking of calling them the geomantic ‘charges.’ It’s an imperfect term but I will use contingently for this and future posts, at least until I come up with something more apt. Bear with me.

There are sixteen signs, which starts off as a little awkward. Sixteen isn’t exactly a Kabbalistic number. But the number that joins the rules of three, seven, and twelve is a four, and four squared is sixteen. In much the same way as they are implicit in opening up the channels, so too does their number seem implicit in the rules. Implicit, but explicitly not a rule to itself.

There shouldn’t be a ‘rule of four.’

The four, in fact, has to do with the manifestation of the eternal in the temporal, so it doesn’t quite rule the tree so much as shape its manifestation in the temporal. You’ll see what I mean in a moment as we get to where the geomantic mapping fails to apply to the tree, but the short of it is that the making explicit of the four reflects the imperfections between the pattern ideally realized in the tree and the reality in which we find ourselves.

I explicitly excluded all of the elements from receiving geomantic attributions. Being of the generative three, they needed to remain separate from the four through which the distortions begin to appear.

I am going to list out the charges as they pair sefirot, with some brief commentary. I won’t go into detail, because that will have to unfold with more reflection and contemplation. These are schematic and quite partial.

Yesod really is a big player here, so let’s get going with:

Yesod-Malkuth, sharing the charges of Populus and Via, between which springs the channel of the Moon. This gets a lot of stuff going for me, ranging from the constant influence of the Moon over our planet.

Yesod-Hod, sharing the charges of Puer and Cauda Draconis, between which springs the channel of Capricorn. Here, personal gnosis assigns the influence of Orion and his ‘nailing’ of the tail of Draco. Notice that these associations also preserve the diagonal as astral influence. It also points toward the hunter material I unpacked around Puer and Cauda.

Yesod-Netzach, sharing the charges of Puella and Caput Draconis, between which springs the channel of Pisces. Here, again, personal gnosis assigns the influence of Andromeda and her persuasion of the Serpent. This also ties into the prey associations unpacked around the hunter material. There is some mythological material around Pisces that becomes relevant, too, because if we liberate the planet Venus from Netzach, than the figure sometimes called Aphrodite can take up a place within Netzach as one of its spirits, with the Piscean channel related to her, but not as she is related to Venus.

These previous two sets of charges are the only ones that run along the diagonal. I suspect that is in large part because they are here less “Pisces” and “Capricorn” than “Orion,” “Andromeda,” and “Draco” as the stellar forces working most closely with the Moon in preparing the Earth (Malkuth) for spirit.

Okay, so onward, because Yesod also opens to the higher triangles by way of Tifaret.

Yesod-Tifaret, sharing the charges of Fortuna Minor and Fortuna Major, between which springs the channel of the Sun. I don’t have too much to say here except to note that I tend to find Major has more affinity for the Sun as Sun itself while Minor has more affinities for the Sun as star, receiving indirect influences thereby.

Before proceeding upward, let’s step down and to the side, to Hod and Netzach again.

Hod-Gevurah, sharing the charges of Albus and Rubeus, between which springs the channel of Mercury. I note that this preserves the connections between Mercury and the alchemical arts, the rapid and slow changes both reflected in the charges.

Netzach-Chesed, sharing the charges of Acquisitio and Amissio, between which springs the channel of Venus. The gracefulness of giving and receiving, the opening circles of well-wishing, as well as the subtle plays of power all seem nicely bound up with this.

Okay, that leaves us with just one more set of charges.

Tifaret-Keter, sharing the charges of Conjunctio and Carcer, between which springs the channel of Saturn. Except, I suspect, what we are looking at more accurately is the charged shared by Tifaret and Da’ath. There is a rich gnostic vein opened here regarding the Fall, the exchange of Life (Keter) for Knowledge-Death (Da’ath). Da’ath here suggests the heart, which fails us and stops the breath (which otherwise proceeds uninterrupted through the channel of Saturn to enliven). The pulse, the breath, eating and defecating, in-out, until the boundary between in and out breaks down.

Which means we get another implicit four which introduces a flaw into the graceful laws of three, seven, and twelve, that prevents us from unfurling into the depths of the future. The first creator of the implicit four, Malkuth, proceeds similarly, by cutting us off from the depths of the past by giving us a birth.

*  *  *

For those drawing the diagram at home, this leaves two sefirot entirely untouched, even ideally, by the geomantic charges. Those would be Chokmah and Binah, the sefirot of moral action, good and bad. They are the root of freedom and can’t be modeled using signs that proceed mechanically (1, 2, 1+1, 2+1, 2+2). They also suggest that, at the level of eternity, the geomantic don’t really exist, because they only come to be in the differentiation and unfolding of the eternal into time.

More practically, it indicates the limits of geomantic divination, likely of any divination. Moral insight belongs to the highest levels and as such can only be informed by divination, not ruled by it. While a reading may indicate what may be, what may be easy, what may be hard, what may be possible, what may be impossible, it cannot tell us what we ought to do. That belongs properly only to ourselves as we are most closely related with the divine as eternal.

At the top of the pillars, then, we see two modes of executing moral action. There is the mode of the Good, the generous, the merciful, when good aims and intentions are articulated. There is another, tied to the Evil but not exactly identical with it, in which the complications emerging from acting out those aims and intentions are negotiated, where the lesser is taken as an opportunity toward a higher good.

Over the good there rules a king or queen, and over the evil a general who must realize their vision, with all the dangers of corruption and failure attendant to it. They can have advisers, no doubt, but the decisions remain theirs to make.

Okay, I’m taking a breath here.

Edited, 3/17/2015: Notice, please, that there is a mistake in this. I’m missing Laetitia and Tristitia. That has some significant ramifications that need to be corrected. I hope people reading this were drawing along at home and quietly tsk-tsking when they discovered the lacuna! I’ll be talking about that shortly.

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7 thoughts on “Channels in the Earth: Kabbalah and Geomancy

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