Segol talks for some time aboue the golem operation which is almost always closely related to the Sefer Yetzirah in the manuscripts she studies. As she talks about the gathering of dirt, I am thinking over the long relationship my practice has had with dirt, beginning almost a decade ago when a spirit suggested that I might find the ‘church of dirt’ more suited to my work and disposition, a church that my spirits have repeatedly rooted in an ambiguously Levantine antiquity. It seems like just one more way in which the SY work seems to be one of the capstones of the practice that I already have.
The way in which earth appears in the working stands in contrast to the absence of it in the various elemental attributions mentioned in the SY. Fire, Air, Water, various permutations of breath, and so on, but no earth. From what Segol describes, in most cases there would have been plenty of earth present in many of the ritual practices that the SY inspired and structured. It was this earth, carefully shaped and activated, that forms the substance of the golem. Even if you argue that the golem was a spiritually animate astral being rather than a materially animate one, that animation took place through the work with earth.
The SY provides the tools through which earth is differentiated and thus given life. The various diagrams of the tree of life look like rubrics through which that differentiation took place, as well as a map of the sorts of interactions that animated and sustained those differentations. This brings the linguistic dimensions of the SY to the fore (contra Segol who favors the astrological ones). The invocation of the differentiation of sound into letters is the invocation of the creative differentiation of God. This ritual understanding gives ontological depth to later structuralist notions about the nature of language, but the golem work itself seems rooted in the way language differentiates the breath.
The core metaphor for creation in the SY is God’s breath and what makes the letters sacred is that they serve as the means through which the breath is modulated and shaped. There is the tongue of discernment between the pans of merit and liability, but there is also a letter operating upon each witness, bringing differentiations in them into existence. Apertures, planets, and days all break up witnesses into discernible units, as letters shape words which give exhalations meanings.
What makes the golem especially potent is that it receives these distinctions and through its reception of them, the distinctions themselves become animate, mobile, capable of articulation in a manner that allows the participants to interact with the divine voice, to communicate and negotiate.
The gathering of earth also suggests something about the original creation. It suggests that the original creation began with the projection of the ordering divine word into an inchoate (or perhaps just relatively less structured) substance. I suspect that the story of the fracturing of the vessels has to do with a mismatch between the latent structure of that mass and the structuring force of the divine word. The klippot could be understood as the latent structural properties of the substance breaking into the structuring action of the word, simultaneously disrupting it and engaging with it, being transformed by it.
That captures the sense that the klippot are ‘husks‘ (i.e., substance), but also that they provide the vehicle through which the sefirot and channels manifest, without relying on more neoplatonic conceptions of emanation. It also links the practice to a family of practices that work the dirt, that make use of the ‘klippotic’ or latent residues within dirt to carry and manifest magical operations.