Let me get clear with what I take to be the most positive feature of the Sa’adia diagram: it provides us with the tools to evacuate the sefirot and see them as dynamic and productive faces of the eternal. The language of the ‘depths’ is evocative and apt: things come from them, yes, but they remain deep and inscrutable.
It takes the tools of apophatic discourse and provides us with the mean to apply them productively. While some folks looking in at apophatic discourse see it as nihilism, in general it’s use has been to produce positive experiences of the divine. The Sa’adia diagram frames that way of speaking exceptionally well.
What comes from the West is not the west. What comes from the Past is not the past, what comes from the Depths is not the depth. What we know is what has been dispatched. This way of thinking fulfills the taboos against idolatry without diminishing our vocabulary for talking about the diversity of manifestations, whether subtle or gross. It provides us, too, with a better sense of the meaning of the taboo.
All of the associations that have been built up within the sefirot, then are expelled into the channels. While the channels themselves arise only as a function of the sefirot entering into relation with each other, what traverses them are themselves mobile. These mobile relations then acquire a relatedness to each other. This is where astrological lore begins, where we see the 7 planets entering into relationship with the 12 constellations to modulate what unfolds along the surface to which the depths give birth.
We can always turn back toward the sefirot and look to see *what else* is dispatched along those channels. The “not this” of apophasis prepares us for the “and what else?” of inquiry. That’s key, because it is almost always in the “and what else?” that we discover the face through which the divine speaks most distinctly to us, as individuals.
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
—William Stafford, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”
The diagram also provides the tools to model the glitches and gaps which prepare us to appreciate the gap between ideal and actual manifestation. Those glitches can nourish both a sense of the world’s perfectability and a sense that there are other worlds with which we are also deeply entangled. I think for most people this is the world of the ascent, the world for which the tree seems to be an archetype.
From my perspective, it can also be a window into the world upon which the archetype imprints itself, the world whose existence seems to operate according to an alien pattern, visible in the four and the martian gap. When I speak of the concubine who frequently winds her way through the genealogical accounting of the Jewish people in the Tanakh, I believe her to be the embodiment of that alien pattern, and it is perhaps into that pattern that souls ‘severed from their people’ descend, perhaps into that domain that the ‘unredeemed’ are absorbed.
It is also that pattern that provides the vehicle for those souls to be redeemed. While a figure of abomination and damnation while ensconced within the sefirotic eternity, for those trapped within this alien pattern, the pattern contains the means of their transformation and perhaps even their reformation to a state through which they can be transmitted back into the sefirotic eternity.
Examined from this light, the two pillars on the sefirotic diagram are a ‘holographic’ repetition of this duality within the archetype-making world of this collision with the archetype-receiving world. What we see in the pillar of severity is a ‘sense’ of the archetype-receiving world, its dangers and opportunities. But there is something else beyond the diagram, a double of it within the archetype-receiving pattern, which I suspect is where the (somewhat misdirected) discussion of ‘qlippothic’ tree of life receives its basis though not its proper resolution.
I have a sense that following that doubling will lead me, finally, to recuperate the insights that drove the wizard / witch distinctions I have made, too, that will project them onto an ontological screen, and yield up an image of the inter-dimensional collision that defines creation, beyond which the most impenetrable mysteries of the divine encircle us.