Where Things Fall

It seems like the next arc of this process requires some attention to be paid to the Lurianic sense that this world we live in results from a breakdown in the natural emanation of creation. Luria’s account remains more firmly orthodox than do some of his enthusiastic followers, definitely more so than anything I have or will develop through an appreciation of it. So, let me talk a little about that before I strike out from there.

As best I can understand it (I say that with humility), klippoth functions as a relational term in the Zohar. What is a klippoth (husk) on one level, is essence and light on a lower level. So, for example, there are ways of thinking of Binah which makes it the klippoth (husk) of Chokmah and the generative light of Chesed (Chesed being klippoth to Binah). Like the skin that holds the wine or the casing that protects the nut, klippoth is functional.

At the very bottom of this chain of emanations, the klippoth become much more ambiguous. They become the rind pure and simple, generating nothing else and serving only to contain the light that flows in from the higher worlds. At this level, the level of our daily life, they have to be managed very carefully. If they are nourished as valuable in and of themselves rather than as vessels for the light, they become diabolical.

Sacred sexuality can become sexual immorality. Sacrifice can become violence. Devotion can become idolatry. The demonic is less a sentient force working against the divine than the natural shape of a klippoth that has no light to emanate.

The destruction of the world in the apocalyptic material seems to be rooted in this sensibility. Once the the light has been perfected, it can be reabsorbed into the higher levels and the rind that contained it eliminated. There seems to be a similar sensibility animating some magical accounts of developing the astral body. While this doesn’t advocate the destruction of the lowest klippoth, it does encourage their abandonment. This all fits into the broad horizons from gnosticism proper developed and oriented itself.

Luria’s sense, though, was that the klippoth were more complex than this. His sense was that there was a breakdown in the proper process of emanation, in which the vessel that Gevurah’s light should have entered broke. These shattered pieces became entangled in all subsequent dimensions of the emanation, resulting in several worlds being improperly contained.

There seems to be some ambiguity as to why this breakdown occurred. Perhaps it was a ‘natural’ flaw in the process itself. Or, it occurred because there was already something present in the nothingness that Gevurah entered. This something became entangled in Gevurah’s klippoth, introducing inconsistencies that made it fragile. It is precisely the sense that there was something else out there, that the void wasn’t really a void, that animates the more peculiar offshoots of Lurianic Kabbalism.

I like the astronomical implications of this model. Note that if there had been a planet where the asteroid belt lies in our solar system, that planet would occupy the kabbalistic position now occupied by Mars. Luria’s model predates the astronomical discovery of the asteroid belt by a few hundred years.

Whether there were things in the void or Gevurah’s klippoth was just emanated badly, the result is the same. There are broken fragments of vessels everywhere, dripping with holy light. A fairly traditional Lurianic perspective posits that the primary challenge facing the kabbalist is one of repair, of pulling together what fragments of klippoth and light they can, rebuilding the vessel, and moving the system closer to its proper operation of transmitting the divine light smoothly between the sefirot.

This can get a little messy, of course, because the broken fragments are semi-conscious with their divine light. They can affirm that individuality and resist re-incorporation. This makes the demonic much more like the jinn in some Islamic accounts. Some of them are good and eager to participate in worship of the divine and restoring order to the world, while others are less so and even wicked, actively working against the restoration for fear of losing their accidental individuality.

If, however, there was something else already present in the nothingness into which Gevurah emanated and generated its klippoth, then some portion of these fragmentary klippoth contain what is genuinely alien to the whole system. They can’t be easily reabsorbed into a restitution of the order of emanation because they had no place in it originally. Having an alien structure, they are likely to operate in ways that run counter to the original planned system. Here, the demonic manifests as an alien pattern within the holy order.

I tend to favor the more radical model, in part because it better suits my experience. However, it should be clear that by asserting the existence of properly alien klippothic potencies in the sefirotic system, I don’t mean to dismiss the reality of other forms of klippoth. If the radical Lurian model is the best one available, then there will still be the klippoth of emanation and the klippoth of fragmentation in addition to the klippoth of alien derivation.

A neat little triplicity, that.

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5 thoughts on “Where Things Fall

  1. Pingback: Exit Strategies | Disrupt & Repair

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