For each of the days of the coming week, you will see a post. Each post is organized around a double letter of the Sefer Yetzirah, a pair of geomantic signs, and a network of correspondences that I have derived from their interaction with each other. These posts are the fruit of a period of exploration and work on my part to introduce the two systems to each other and allow them to engage in a dialogue with each other.
This project develops a sense of mine that magical correspondences have their basis in the active operation of spiritual intelligences and that one of the best ways to develop a flexible system of correspondences is to develop a deeper relationship with the intelligences that produce them. Rather than develop a table of equivalences, the goal of this work is to develop a sensibility for the modes of manifestation for these intelligences.
It also posits something of the nature of spiritual intelligences, that it is the nature of such intelligences to interact with each other and develop patterns of communication that enable them to both integrate and reflect elements of each other to each other. Correspondences are then also expressions of these communications with each other, making proper sense only as the living edge of these interactions. At their best, then, systems of correspondence are language-like operations that articulate and facilitate divination, invocation, and evocation.
Ideally, correspondences are points in a field whose shape defines the action of an intelligence or set of intelligences, of which the magical worker is one, most specifically a conscious intelligence animating the consciousness of other intelligences. They relate both to action and praise. As action, they can be so practical as to be mute, directed to a specific scene and response to it, while as praise can reach points of baroque ripeness and rupture into conceptual fragments. Both possibilities are part of the life cycle of correspondences, though I am trying to navigate a path between those two extremes.
In elaborating these particular correspondences, I am tracing the outlines of a particular intelligence or set of intelligences. Whether these intelligences are identical with the intelligences that generated the various SY texts or the geomantic forms of divination, I can’t answer for certain. It feels like they are animated by a common intelligence that extends backward and forward through time, as intelligences that are themselves directed toward the engagement of other intelligences.
The SY forms the foundation for this project. Its spareness invites work before interpretation. The spareness rests in part on an opposition to idolatry, an opposition to symbols that are readily converted into metaphoric frames of meaning and reference. The series that follows works through just one aspect of the SY, that dealing with relationship of double letters to each other. As such, it is one step toward a deeper exploration into SY’s models for special sorts of crossroads, crossroads known as sefirot.
Geomantic signs provide a register in which the double letters of the SY can be explicated and, at the same time, find anchorage in the material ordered by the double letters. By their nature, geomantic signs are mobile and receptive. They can easily appear alongside any other sign in a reading or working. Finding their internal sympathies under the system of doubles structures that mobility. The special sympathy that they have with each other under the auspices of the double letters illuminates the geomantic signs and enhances them for use in their most mobile expressions, in divination. I have found a pair of geomantic signs rests easily in each of the double letters.
When I talk about the system of Hebrew letters in Kabbalism and the system of geomantic signs being language-like, I understand them to be forms of assemblage in the sense defined by Deleuze & Guattari:
“But at this point, everything turns around, and the reasons why a regime of signs is less than a language also becomes the reasons why it is more than a language. Only one side of the assemblage has to do with enunciation or formalizes expression; on its other side, inseparable from the first, it formalizes contents, it is a machinic assemblage or an assemblage of bodies. Now contents are not ‘signifieds’ dependent upon a signifier in any way nor are they ‘objects’ in any kind of relation of causality with the subject. They have their own formalization and have no relation of symbolic correspondence or linear causality with a form of expression: the two forms are in reciprocal presupposition, and they can be abstracted from each other only in a very relative way because they are two sides of a single assemblage.”—Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (140)
Kabbalism and geomancy are foremost forms of connection and disjunction, forms of order. They should be understood according to the character and nature of the connections and disjunctions they foster. They are open and active means of creation with shadows of activity that are often mistaken for stable and discrete fields of reference and networks of meaning.
The letters of the SY participate in four registers, four fields of creation. Three of these are clearly identified as the witnesses of God’s creation, witnesses that are differentiated according to the action of the letters under God’s direction. All three witnesses are of the same substance, the stuff of creation, but under the influence of God come to be distinguished and integrated into each other. They are the living body, the heavenly circuit, and sequence of time. The fourth register is implicit, the letters as they are ‘at rest’ in the breath of God prior to the action of creation.
It is this fourth register which I take most of the tree of life diagrams to represent. Because it represents the relationship of divine potencies ‘at rest’ within the generative breath of God, it is to this realm that I assign the structural resonances that develop between the letters according to the relationships that develop between their geomantic signs. Following my own sense that the order of time is first among the witnesses, primary in making them possible, I follow a diagram of the Tree of Life that is modeled upon a transformation of the temporal order.
This tree of life has the central pillar constructed of Bet, Kaf, and Tav, following the sequence of Saturday-Sunday-Monday. The left pillar of severity picks up the sequence with Dalet and Resh, Tuesday and Wednesday. The right pillar of mercy concludes this with Gimel and Pe, Thursday and Friday. The Tree of Life is a timeliness before time.
I should issue the caveat that this understanding of the tree of life diagram is my own, not clearly articulated within the SY itself, most especially as regards the place of geomancy. Still, having made the connection, it is difficult for me to see it any other way. The implied fourth of that resting word of God is what animates the relationships between all the witnesses and in attempting to draw a fixed articulation of the alphabet (alef bet or, perhaps, alef-pe-bet of this posting’s schedule) the tree of life diagram acts as a meditation on that other order.
To each of these registers, there is a distinct assemblage of the seven double letters and their associated geomantic figures. The doubles constitute the orifices which define the face; the planetary circuits of the planets; the ring of days that compose the week; and the pillars of the tree of life. Capturing the communications that animate each of these and that are transmitted between them will be tricky, to say the least.
Part of this trickiness has to do with the letters themselves being independent of the registers and can be installed in any point within them. That capacity is part of what animates the system of magic in the SY and allows one letter to occupy the domain of another, for Resh to find its way into the eye, for example. What is magically efficacious, though, is not identical with the witnesses as such and preserving that distinction is part of what makes such magical applications intelligible.
It will be even more tricky because I am going explore these registers as assemblages, as active and expanding domains that stretch and even explode the boundaries that animated them at the time of the SY’s composition. Rather than just consider the days as such, the planets as such, and the body as such, I am going to consider them as the assemblages of materialization or the constitution of space (heavens), system of life (body), and history (time).
I have spent some time thinking through the planetary correspondences since those are the ones that are most firmly inscribed within an older cosmology, one rooted in a sense of the solar system as closed, containing only seven planets, and geocentric. The sevenfold structure of the letters seems essential, so I have preserved the seven planets as the primary elements. I have, however, favored a model of the circuits that places the heliocentric structure of the solar system in the foreground.
I know there are good reasons for using a geocentric model from the perspective of Earth, but it doesn’t quite sit right for me here, in part because what I am after are the potencies of the planets as such, not as they are subsequently absorbed within the domain of the Earth. I take seriously our place on the Earth and the Earth’s division of the solar system into inner and outer planets. I also have a sense that as visible, the seven planets play a role in defining space as such and we can see in the seven planets a relationship to the six directions and an organizing center. That said, it’s a complicated problem and I acknowledge that my approach might not be the best or final staging of it.
As I proceed day by day through the doubles for the next week, each entry will treat a double letter, its geomantic signs, and the registers it helps constitute. In treating each register I will shuttle back and forth between the narrow frame elucidated in the SY proper and the greater frame into which its assemblage expands.
I won’t speak for the absolute correctness of these assignments, but they do resolve some of the problems I have with certain doubles appearing as others (e.g., Gimel having a Venusian quality, in the order of the week and in the classical tree diagram, the Pe and Gimel are close friends who share a crossroads). This is the result of my personal work and, because of that, there are variations in the depth and complexity of these illuminations from witness to witness and from letter to letter. There are letters with whom my understanding derives more from one witness than another. This results in some witnesses being treated more deeply in some letters than another. That said, I have done my best to connect with all of the witnesses through each of the letters.