[NB] From the Head to the Interior

I want to talk about a couple of things that interest me about the body as an illustration of the sefirot and channels. While the doubles are given witness in the apertures, many of the diagonal lines are given witness in the interior of the body, suggesting a passage from the outer to the inner which are almost the inverse of the relationship of the planets to the constellations. The body’s apertures open into a dark interior where the organs are discovered, while the planets serve as an aperture through which the visible constellations acquire influence on the earth.

Segol brings to the fore a feature of much Jewish literature in antiquity which we don’t often appreciate in the contemporary period, what she and others call a ‘ring structure’ which proceeds to establish order according to a A-B-C-B-A pattern, according to which:

“first there is an introductory section, a prologue that presents the theme and context. The story then proceeds toward its crucial center: the turning point and climax. Once there, the beginning is invoked again, and the tale reverses direction. The second half of the story echoes the first, as if the writer is walking backward through the plot. The ending is a return to the beginning.” Marla Segol, Word and Image in Medieval Kabbalah (43)

Segol proceeds to note how the chapters of the SY proceed in this way, developing complex rings within each chapter, so that you have rings within rings. What I haven’t noticed her to have observed (at least not yet) is the way in which the witnesses themselves play a role in establishing this structure. I’m not exactly surprised at that, since she is engaging in textual analysis and I’m trying to get at a spiritual reality that it manifests.


Creation of the Heavens (AB) – The Time in Which it Transpires (C) – Creation of Human Beings (BA)

Which is also the structure of the Tree of Life diagram itself, with the central pillar the C to the AB/BA of the left and the right. Which is also to suggest a mirroring between the witnesses through a series of displacements. The central pillar anchors time most firmly in the witness of the heavens and the body, with the left and the right manifesting the heavenly and the human, either by way of intensification (mercy, strengthening the temper of the witness) or contradiction (opposing the temperament of the witness).

In other words, the human is the severity of the heavens and the heavens the severity of the human. Which makes time itself an…what, inherently balanced tree? I don’t know.

Thinking in those terms, I would wonder if the assignments if the mirroring looks something like this as regards the apertures and the planets (time is a harder nut to crack!):

Sun :: right nostril

Moon :: left nostril

Saturn :: mouth (okay, and it’s hard not to wonder at the back of the throat and Da’at)

Because each of these fall on the central pillar of their respective trees. The Sun, Moon, and Saturn because of their intimate relationship with the marking of time (albeit Saturn in a subtler way than the obvious movement of Sun and Moon). The nostrils and mouth because they are joined to breathing (the time of the body) and to eating (which, like Saturn) is also joined to the regulation of time, albeit in a less immediate fashion (though if you are hungry or thirsty…).

The other apertures are a little tricky, because I am torn between two impulses. Either, assign the right and left pillar according to the functions (hearing and seeing), or according to the bicameral halves of the brain (left and right).

The functional approach would look something like this:

Venus :: Left Eye

Jupiter :: Right Eye

Mercury :: Left Ear

Mars :: Right Ear

And I admit to liking that, because it suggests the amount of ‘hardware’ the brain has for processing visual stimuli.

The bicameral approach looks more like this (right brain involving that which is more pleasing and the left brain more severe and analytical):

Venus :: Left Eye

Jupiter :: Right Ear

Mercury :: Right Eye

Mars :: Left Ear

And I’ll admit to liking this because the chiasmus of the optic nerve here suggests a certain crossing that I have felt to happen between Mercury and Venus.

Anyway, I’m noodling and thought I would share in case it sparks some ideas on the part of others.

8 thoughts on “[NB] From the Head to the Interior

  1. OK the argument for mouth, and the nostrils seems solid to me.

    if we are going to divide them into merciful and severe it would make more sense to have Mercury and Mars on the left, and Jupiter and Venus on the right so:

    Mouth – Saturn (nice link to Chronos eating…)
    Left Nostril – Moon (as the dark one of the luminaries)
    Left Eye – Mars (evil eye)
    Left Ear – Mercury
    Right Nostril – Sol (as the bright one of the luminaries)
    Right Eye – Jupiter (good eye)
    Right Ear – Venus (lesser benefic/mercy/merit)

    I also feel that there is a bit of an overlap between Mouth/Pe and Venus attribution here although that might not be something to worry about particularly. One thing I had considered was Saturn and Mars vs Jupiter and Venus as malefics versus benefics with Mercury as the mouth…?

    Can I ask what version of the SY she is using? The structure is very different bewteen Saadia and the others.

    1. Io

      She isn’t using a specific version when she is talking about the structure and she has some discussion around how she is establishing a ‘center’ around which she can negotiate talking about the structure when there are so many versions. When I get a chance, I’ll throw up a few quotes that highlight her thinking there.

      One of the things she does note which I didn’t realize (and which I have a notebook post lined up to highlight more publicly) is that in almost all of the oldest manuscripts of the SY available, there are several versions of the SY gathered together, which I find intriguing in and of itself.

      Regarding the mouth and the different attributions possible to it…that is actually one of my reasons for thinking it parallels Saturn, because Saturn seems to have this subtle extractive capacity to draw forth and contain the essences of the other planets. In other words, one of the things that is special about the mouth is the manner in which it can articulate the different powers (sweetness, harshness, etc.).

  2. Iago Pereira

    Blogos arrangement ring a bell with me. If the middle pillar is the starting point for the mouth and nostrils, so we should keep with it consistently to the end, associating the orifices on the left side to the planets of the left pillar, and same with the right side.

    I can fathom yet another approach, this time giving priority to the astrological Sects (in usage since ancient hellenic astrology). Please stick with me if I talk nonsense, for this is just an experiment.

    So Mercury who is in both sects get the mouth (in it’s dual function of speech and ingestion).

    Saturn and Jupiter are considered forming Sect with the Sun, while Venus and Mars form Sect with the Moon.

    So besides Sun x Moon, the sects offer no clues to pairing the other planets. By following Agrippa (probably anchored in older sources) we have some affinities and enmities to the planets, allowing for a clear contrast between them: Jupiter is said to antagonize with Mars, while Saturn antagonizes with Venus.

    Having the pairs astrologically formed, the next step is to attribute to these pairs the cavities of the eyes, ears and nostrils. My first impulse was to give the eyes for the Sun and the Moon (as they’re the “luminaries” and the eyes were widely regarded to emit light – and also for their eminence), but yogic material links the nostrils to the Solar channel (right nostril) and Lunar channel (left nostril). The closeness of the nostrils to each other also springs out as significant, highlighting again the association with Sun and the Moon (who are indeed married).

    This leaves Jupiter and Mars to take up the right-sided “good” eye and left-sided “evil” eye, accounting for the roles of these planets in creation and destruction.

    Thus Venus and Saturn likewise get the Ears. I got no specific rationale for this, except they’re astrologically very appart in meaning as are the Ears on the head.

    Any comments?


    1. Io

      Plato in the Parmenides sings the praises of informed speculation as a means of proceeding toward the truth, so I welcome the experiment!

      Ditto what I said to Blogos about the mouth, though it isn’t unpersuasive to consider the mouth as mercurial or venusian.

      I’ll admit, too, to thinking about having Saturn mirror an ear because when people are on the cusp of gaining or losing consciousness, it is our sense of hearing is one of the first to come back to our conscious awareness and the last to depart. That actually sits well with the intimacy of the voice, too, and might suggest a relationship to Venus by way of how the planet appears in the day and the night.

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