When the Sefer Yetzirah summarizes the essence of the sefirot, it does so by describing them as “of nothingness.” More so than any of the channels, they are united in a common being, which is no being, or a being so full that it exceeds being as a specific beings like planets and stars and animals. This nothingness divides itself and in dividing itself sets the tree in motion.
This has more than a little resonance with Genesis. The beginning begins by the nothing setting itself in motion and differentiating creation, differentiation being a kind of distributed nothingness, separation of one thing from another being a constrained negation. But it is a negation that creates, too, which makes it something quite mystical and profound.
When we set the tree in motion as individuals, one of the things we are doing is engaging with this differentiated nothingness. We may ascend to these sefirot by way of specific things, but once we get there, what we undergo is without an image or symbol even as it throws off symbols and images. Suspended within the sefirot’s mystery, we encounter a full nothingness that transforms, a full nothingness which dissolves a portion of what we are, a portion which we then have the opportunity to reconstitute in a changed fashion afterward.
To ascend through the sefirot is not not ascend from place to place, but to proceed from one form of intense nothingness to another. In this way we familiarize ourselves with the substance of this nothingness that is fundamental and generative. This is about discovering what we really are, about what the “made in the (no) image of God” really means. It is a long familiarity with death, in the sense that “the one who has been initiated does not die like one who has not,” but it also means coming up against the hard reality of that process, the final termination of which is actual death.
Not to die like the uninitiated, sure, but that still means to die. The connection to the highest and deepest sefirot, the nothingness beyond which we cannot pass in life, is to stop living. Death and Da’ath wind about each other. The work of initiation shouldn’t inure you to death, but make you more sensitive and aware of it. The one who tells you they fear not death because they are initiated? Well, I suspect they are living in the wake of a lie.
What you do have, though, is a sense of what the process of negation in death is like and the hope that the translation you have experienced in life through the work with the varying kinds of intense and full negations carries onward into the next, that this, too, is one more dissolution which leads to a new articulation, a new way of being.
To walk it back a few notches from that extreme, I’m writing this here now as a step toward rethinking what it is that the virtues embedded within the sefirot entail for us working with them. How do I approach them as forms of sacred dissolution? How do I appreciate the channels as vehicles for helping me re-articulate myself after those sorts of experiences?
I suspect the sefirot are also the vehicles for the work, while the channels are the vehicles for the results.