A little humorous synchrony for me—I had been talking a little about the fire as the lightning in tree of life and when I went over to Hermetic Lessons, what do I find? A similar, better thought out, comparison of fire and lightning. Ha.
I wanted to return to that, though, because it is another point at which the metaphoric apparatus of the Neoplatonism-lite and Neoplatonism-heavy approaches to the sefirotic diagram overlap on the surface but diverge in substance.
If you have spent more than a minute with the Neoplatonic-heavy Kabbalism found in ceremonial magic, you will be aware of the lightning path that zig-zags from Keter to Malkuth, passing through all of the sefirot en route and activating them. To get the tree to function, you have to activate them all. It is something like the old strings of Christmas lights where is one bulb goes out, the whole strip won’t turn on.
I should probably issue a caveat here. I don’t think this account of the lightning path is fully Neoplatonic. Rather, I suspect that it derives from the hybridization of Victorian magical Neoplatonism (e.g., Golden Dawn) with Theosophy’s understanding of the Kundalini chakra system. In other words, this model is likely related to Neoplatonic-heavy accounts of the tree for contingent rather than logical reasons.
Funny thing: this doesn’t prevent it from being functional as a somewhat quirky expression of Kundalini practices. While it may suffer somewhat from being divorced from the rest of Kundalini’s living tradition, it can still support work.
If you talk about the lightning in Sefer Yetzirah‘s model, the lightning originates within the Water of the Breath as the Fire of the Water, in the angelic realm, and crashes into a point within the Breath of the Breath, Malkuth (which contains many of the sefirot as its proper determinations).
Think about that for a moment. It crashes down from above, to a point, and its illumination and clangor radiates outward to the east, west, south, and north. In so doing, it (re)affirms the order already established within creation and creates a new connection between them. That connection is a bit one-sided, it passes from heaven to earth, not the reverse. It contains within itself the kernel of the experience which will animate Job, namely, that heaven asserts itself and earth adjusts itself.
This makes good sense when we keep in mind that the lightning represents the ministers of heaven. These are the dictates of heaven. It also makes sense when we keep in mind the connection between fire and the holy spirit. It comes down hard and nails the person down within the world, amplifying their being within the determinations of Malkuth while subjecting them to the pressures of Chokmah and Binah.
It also suggests another way to appreciate the parallel between the vertical channel that connects Binah to Gevurah (Mars) and the vertical channel that connects Chokmah to Chesed (Jupiter). If the channel from Binah follows the path of lightning, then the channel from Chokmah follows the path of thunder. The lightning nails while the thunder resonates.