[NB] Rethinking Correspondence

The Sefer Yetzirah makes a distinction between the different domains upon which the sacred letters (channels) exert their generative force. There are three witnesses, Universe, Cycle, and Soul. Thus according to the Saadia version, Kaf produces the Sun, Tuesday, and the right nostril. So, while the Sun, Tuesday, and the right nostril are all Kaf-ish, Tuesday isn’t ‘solar’ anymore than the Sun is ‘Tuesday-ish.’

What they share is a common tie to a generative force, and we can call one by the other only through a sort of dual deployment of synecdoche and metaphor. We can call the Sun Tuesday-ish in a manner similar to how we can call a scepter crown-ly by both the scepter and crown being proper to a queen. There is truth to such poetical affirmation, but they are truths that unfurl only as the synecdoches are either followed back to their origins (mystical contemplation) or serve to call forth the creative word (magical invocation).

We can speculate that this way of thinking sits at the root of other practices with historical relationships to this material. When we’re looking at the <i>Ghayat al-Hakim/Picatrix</i> and reading about the way in which a certain rite mixes stone, dress, and the disposition of the heavens, we can read it as the ritualist’s ideal rite, a rite in which they trust (rightly or wrongly) to have identified a common set of generative forces (channels) which each element in the ritual invokes after is own fashion. That way of approaching it also provides some lines of exploration for how a ritual might be unpacked, used in part, mingled with other elements in a sort of grand permutation. What happens when the jester wears the crown or the soldier carries a scepter?

As an aside, when we talk about the body as one of the domains through which the tree of life manifests its generative powers, I’m starting to wonder what happens when we pay attention to dress in that context. What happens when we look to costuming to invoke forces on the body by the deployment of color, texture, and so on?

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9 thoughts on “[NB] Rethinking Correspondence

  1. So I am confident that the Chaldean association of planets to double letters is the correct one. It fits into the rest of the scheme of the Alefbeit and astrology and also makes sense of the 231 gates.

    I am honestly not sure where the letter to day associations come from. Do you know? Can we check the validity of the source? I don’t see any reason why mistakes could not have crept in here as well. Similarly with the appertures I honestly do not know what is correct.

    Experientially when I started wiring up my face to the planets it did make sense of phenomena such as one eye itching or one nostril running, etc. There is something to it magickally but I am not confident in any of the authorities and I left that part of the task unfinished. Can we get more info on that? Can the Indians help?

    I am not opposed to mixing it up, I think it can be useful as a thought exercise but I do think there is a correct setting somewhere (and an objective spiritual reality) and I think permutation can be used to find it. In an early comment I likened it to the sword and the flail. The kind of thinking in your post seems to be of the flail as opposed to of the sword. I would like to find the sword answer for this question.

    Regarding the use of colour, etc in ritual, although I am not disparaging the poetic/artistic approach (I work in theatre after all) I feel that some of the connotative meanings we have acquired are rooted in a colour’s (or scent’s) actual physical effect. In chronobiology for instance the production of cryptochrome in a response to blue end light first evolved in plants as a way of balancing natural sunscreen production to the needs of harvesting light. The human body reacts in various ways endocrinologically to short and long wavelength visible light.

    I have been experimenting with hyper-ritual costuming for a while now i.e. wearing garments and accessories with colours and motifs depending on the planetary day coupled with activities that should be performed on that kind of day and ideally in the planetary hour of the planetary day. For instance wearing red and doing physical exercise on Tuesday, or purple and vanity/glamour rituals on Mondays.

    As a member of a group that works closely with the Jupiter current we all wear blue on Thursdays and affect a ”gentlemanly” exterior. In terms of results I have only been extremely consistent with the Jupiterian magic (every Thursday for four years) and this has proved extremely effective. Blue light is calming on the body, Blue is the colour of chesed – loving-kindness and people who are cool, calm and collected are looked upon as such and treated as such by other members of the community. I have weeks where I am more on the hyperritual and they do feel more epic but I can’t say for sure.

    The flail, according to ”the spirit of Saadia” is only used to weaken and confuse, the sword is used for the killing blow!

    1. Io

      I’m not sure if I would make too strong a distinction between the poetical-artistic dimensions of the color and the physical effects of color. I’m an enthusiastic proponent of examining how the unfolding of color terms within a language relates to the unfolding complexity of thought employing those complexities in thought (e.g., the way in which black-white-red form a basic core even as their valence varies from language to language). That suggests to me that their is some space between the effects of color and our experience of the effects that leaves room for poetics.

      That’s a little bit of a tangent, but it relates to my current favored hypothesis regarding the question of what assignments reflect the objective spiritual reality. I tend to think of ‘objective’ spiritual reality as the structure upon which all actual determinations depend. So, while there are actual determinations which are nonsense and false, there are several ways for the structure to be effectively realized in creation as coherent and true.

      Some of the assignments we encounter are surely corruptions, ones which won’t serve any of us well and we can probably make some headway in identifying them according to certain incoherencies in the way their structure is realized (e.g., Kircher). I also think that there are several real, coherent, and functional assignments, but that their utility for any individual requires they be tested.

      If I were to use some terminology from Deleuze, I might say that the structure is an objective and *virtual* reality which can be realized in a number of equally objective but *actual* relationships, with each set of relationships defining a witness (a diagram of assignments) composed of elements (channels) differentiated from each other according to the principles of time (sefirot).

      I suspect, because it is differentiated according to the principles of time, that it can manifest in creation in a partial manner, developing into a fully realized actuality only according to our participation in its development, in our helping to provide the other elements which will anchor the virtual structure in actual reality. (Which is sort of a long-winded way of discussing human beings creative potential being tied to our capacity to be ‘givers of praise.’)

      I don’t tend to think of there being a single source, then, but a historical record of better or worse realized determinations of a virtual structure which cross-cuts our ‘linear’ time.

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  3. I think I understand the logic of your compromise between higher functioing arrangements here but to try and bring it back to planets, appertures and the practicalities of it.

    You are saying that within the 22! possible arrangements of the ToL (greatly reduced by using the rule of 3 7 and 12 but still a scarily huge number) there are some variants that are functional and some that are less functional and some that are structurally unsound. I agree. I also believe that there is a default setting, the one true Tree from which other, some useful and some not so useful, variants are derived. You don’t I think and that is ok. 🙂

    Out of the 5040 possible arrangements of letter to apperture what is the test for viability and where do the authorities get their original lists from? Did the different rabbis with different opinions formulate them through experiment or did they hand on what was handed down to them and to what extent was the information they received corrupted? We are saying after all that some arrangements are ”more right” so I want to go with the ”more right” arrangement. Are you going to experiment with wiring up Saturn to your left eye and then unwire it and wire it up to your right eye? How are you going to measure the efficacy of either approach?

    I have a feeling there is an underlying logic to it that we can get to without too much recourse to experiment in the early phases. We have two benefics, two malificents, two luminaries and wandering, erratic Mercury to play with. In Yoga the nostrils are associated with the Sun (right nostril) and the Moon (left nostril) – in alternate nostril breathing. Is it possible to get all the actual information on this and compare and contrast?

    I am fascinated by the possibilities offered to pratical magick by the/a correct association(s) of the planets to the appertures as I said when I was experimenting with this before it makes sense of one eye itching, one nostril running, your ears burning etc, or it least it allows you to make those phenomena more intelligible and useful.

    Your description of your click clack response to the Saadia arrangement is exactly the feeling that I had. Not only did the ToL diagram feel lighter and more logical it was also able to do more practically. We accept that there are more or less structurally sound arrangements and we understand the basis of what makes structure ”better” in ToL variants.

    Regarding days-planets-doubles this is another confusing one because I don’t understand the basis for the different rabbis, etc opinions. Some seem based on an interpretation of the Torah, some are probably coming from Raziel-like texts which mess around with things along Dr Dee’s lines, some may even be coming from the convoluted gematria of Luria, I honestly don’t know – I’ll look through Kaplan again but I can’t remember it being all that helpful.

    For all intents and purposes astrologically it would seem to make sense to me to go with Kaf-Sun-Sunday, Beit Saturn-Saturday etc. Can we discover what is the logical basis behind the different opinions? Is it to do with planetary hours rather than days?

    1. Io

      I probably have a longer response in me about all of this, but I think we may be in agreement on a number of things. I actually do think there is a core configuration, the configuration which we might describe as the operation of the divine in the act of creation, the core which makes possible all of the functional variations. Similarly, I have been thinking that that yoga comparisons are useful, but I want to be careful there because the yogas themselves are composed of variations in a manner quite like the ones that compose the tree of life diagram. 7 chakras, 28 chakras, 5? Depends on what school you ask.

      I don’t think we have to do a bone basic series of permutations (though we could, I guess), in part because there are the angelic presences like your Raziel who are willing to tutor and direct us toward the permutations suitable to us and to help us fumble a little more broadly around the others, too.

      Anyway, this is mostly just a placeholder for a longer conversation I’d like to have, so I’ll wait until I can address this more at length. The historical transmission question gets so complicated when we start talking about these sorts of things that aren’t strictly linear!

  4. Unless you have another hole in your head we are still in the 7 = 7 situation for planets to appertures. I consider some variants to be ways of making systems more specific/more accurate. I think the I King’s use of 64 (2 to the power 6) as opposed to the Kabbalah’s 32 (2 to the power 5) actually makes it more useful in terms of detail but more unweildy/difficult to master. So when considering Yoga/Kabbalah/Taoism I tend to put it through that test is ramping up my symbol set to 128 going to help or hinder me? Can I actually do that alchemically and ”on the fly” pretty comfortably with 32? – yes.

    I think that 3 is a *superior* value for elemental principles than 4 or 5 regardless of the culture and I will argue for 3 always. In fact trying to make that 3 in the Kabbalah = 4 (and also 5!) is one of the set of most infuriating pieces of illogical bullshit from the 777 Golden Dawn crowd et al. 32 does not equal 34. In the same way I don’t try to add Uranus etc to the 7 planets because they all take longer than a normal human lifetime to orbit you more than once (which is under 80 although it might go up and down over the aeons).

  5. To what planet should we associate the day with? Saturday – Saturn, Sunday – Sun, etc etc seems the obvious answer. In Sefer Yetzirah, Theory and Practice by Aryeh Kaplan we first see reference to the classic planetary days in Ch. 4 Table 31 section F as the atttributions given by Josef Taitazak, the famous practical Kabbalist in his Shoshan Yesod Olam.

    The majority of the confusion between rabbinical sources on this seems to do with analysis of the bible and the use of planetary evenings instead of planetary days. Since in the Torah it says ” it was evening and then it was morning” the use of planetary evenings predominates in some sources. The Saadia version discussed in Section D was taken from two sources so may easily have got jumbled.

    ”Although most versions of Sefer Yetzirah set the planets in the order they were created, the Gra version, which we are using, follows a different system. It is based on the order of the planets as found in the Zohar.”

    1. Io

      This is something I have been trying to work out for myself and one of the things I have been wondering at but haven’t yet tried to confirm either in my practice or by hitting the books is whether the weeks need to be first joined tightly to the lunar cycle, in which case part of the problem may be that our weeks are out of synch with the weeks of the SY. There have been significant portions of my work that only got going once I started to work them in relationship to the cycles of the moon.

      Maybe the day that begins with the night also defines the week by its relationship to the four phases of the moon which regulates that night.

  6. Pingback: [NB] Sefer Yetzirah historical notes: trees and recensions | Disrupt & Repair

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