Within the planetary circuit, Gimel follows Bet and precedes Dalet. In the sequence of the week it follows Resh and precedes Pe. Upon the plane of orifices that constitute the face, Gimel speaks within the mouth. Within the Tree of Life, it is the highest double upon the pillar of mercy, crowned with Chokmah and resting upon Chesed. In all of these assemblages, it finds expression through the geomantic figures of Laetitia and Tristitia.
Within the planetary circuit, Gimel is second only to Bet. The network of ties that develops under Bet is given hierarchy and structure through Gimel. Gimel gives to the planetary bodies their capacity for emission (Laetitia) and reception (Tristitia) which makes possible their independence from each other and their capacity for communication as independent beings. This stabilizes the planets, protecting them from the potentially wild transformations of Saturn’s Conjunctio. On the opposite end of the material scale, Gimel appears in the valence of atomic particles.
Gimel is the power behind planetary atmosphere and many of the effects produced thereby. Tristitia is the rain and storm with its battering power, but Laetitia is the rain and lightning in their nourishing aspect. Gimel’s relationship to the constitution of the atmosphere is distinct from from Tav’s stirring of the atmosphere. Since I have approached the series through the order of days, Tav appears much earlier than Gimel but in the planetary constitution of matter Gimel operates on a more fundamental plane than Tav. Tav in the planetary circuit does not generate and cloak matter in an atmosphere but modulates the atmosphere that Gimel creates.
Gimel stands alone in the plane of the face, constituting the mouth through which the inner is revealed through words and breath (Laetitia) as well as the means through which the inner is nourished through eating (Tristitia). Like Bet, it possesses a secret relationship to an orifice unseen, in this case the foramen magnum, the point at which the skull is joined to the spine and communication between head and body secured.
As the tongue and taste are related to our capacity to smell, Gimel of the face has a special relationship to the Bet and Tav. Tav, especially, appears in the interplay of scent and taste, in the influence of the atmosphere of what is consumed on the taste of it. Both Bet and Tav can enhance or spoil what is tasted, Bet with its memories and Tav with its immediate apprehension of the scent. In many ways, the tongue is a point of interface between Bet and Gimel because of this, both a point of Conjunctio between creature and world through taste as a tactile expression of scent as well as the point through which words are first articulated (the tongue is a face in Gimel as a corollary to the face as a tongue in Bet).
More broadly, the figures of Gimel give voice to vegetal intelligence. Though awareness of this likely begins with the consumption of plant matter through the mouth, under Laetitia we find the plant itself with its leaves outstretched and under Tristitia the plant with its life force drawn tightly into its protected root structure. The plant, like Gimel in the mouth, can be a vehicle for communication between earth and heaven.
The production of Carcer appears in this communication vegetally, too, with Laetitia and Tristitia making the transfer articulate. Laetitia yields up the secret wealth of the earth and Tristitia plants the heavens. Under this Carcer by way of Gimel, we find the discovery and concealment of treasures. Trees, especially, seem to embody this vegetal dimension of Gimel. Though not strictly vegetal, mushrooms have a potent presence in Gimel’s flora by virtue of their relationship to rain and storm that transmit their spores. The spores that are brought up into the clouds (Laetitia) are rained down into the earth (Tristitia) in order to rise again (Laetitia).
Within the sequence of days, Gimel follows Resh. Its signs have a close affinity with Resh’s as both are composed of three double lines and one single line. In Gimel, the hidden element of Resh is made manifest and stable, the strategies of the warlord giving way to a ruler (e.g., a king). The order forcefully applied in Rubeus is reproduced in a stable hierarchy (Laetitia) while the wisdom of Albus is memorialized (Tristitia) in the habits of that hierarchy. This stability often attempts to sever its ties to the damage of Resh and brings with it a sense of the independence of the affairs of human beings from the rest of the natural world, a sense of primacy of the cultural over the natural. In the separation is born the possibility for propoganda and ideological false consciousness.
Gimel embodies social order and furthers assignment (Tristitia) and advancement (Laetitia). Gimel moves out of Bet’s dark individuality in birth and death into illuminated social identities. Whether we take pleasure in that is another matter, but the part is not immediately ours to choose. We make choices and changes after having discovered ourselves bound up in society’s rules and expectations. Gimel is in relationship to what philosophers variously describe as normativity and interpellation (the divide between thinkers like Robert Brandom and Louis Althusser isn’t all that wide on this point). In this Gimel’s charity can be two-edged, granting a boon of recognition (Laetitia) as long as the recipient accepts the place to which this boon is destined (Tristitia).
Or, more pointedly, the charity of the rich man can here turn into the demand that poor play their part as poor, that they not put on airs. With hierarchy comes the full panoply of sumptuary laws. The face (mouth) and the day mingle, pointing us toward what Leonard Cohen described as the “homicidal bitchin’ that goes on in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.”
Gimel’s history is of successes (Laetitia) and defeats (Tristitia) rather than the evaluation of mistakes (Rubeus) and the cultivation of wisdom (Albus). Gimel’s historical awareness is born of the exclusion of Resh’s probing and sits uncomfortably between overseeing a new order (the cultural) and spouting a lie (that there is an order distinct from nature). Resh’s exploration of time and tempo gives way to Gimel’s memory (Laetitia) and history (Tristitia).
In Gimel the king is a sign and symbol of this transition. Kingship carries with it the line of history, for what each king takes up is the mantle of the kingship left by their predecessor, even when that predecessor is a politic fiction. Commemoration is the order of the day.
The pageants of commemoration that animate and sustain a society include reminders of both past joys (Laetitia) and betrayals (Tristitia); the past becomes the basis for the future. Tomb and womb (Carcer, the result of Laetitia’s and Tristitia’s summation) become potent points that anchor human society in history and lineage.
The scapegoat sacrifices appear as a means of negotiating this boundary between cultural and natural. The scapegoats are offered up to receive and negate the natural order that threatens to disrupt the reproduction of the social order on its own terms. In the deferral and regulation of this violence kingship begins to define a person capable of favoring and punishing, of putting something into social circulation or isolating it. The interaction between culture and nature appears under the rubric of agriculture from the simple to the complex. Planting (Tristitia) and harvesting (Laetitia) form part of Gimel’s stabilizing function.
Gimel manifests under the merciful right hand of the tree of life, and the merciful character of the pillar can be redefined as those aspects of the tree which are especially supportive of human life. Mercy on the tree is the divine as it opens into human society and relationship. Gimel gives form to this by defining a sacred or sacral order in which the natural and the cultural converge, in which they come into contact and nourish each other.
Under Gimel on the pillar of mercy, offerings are made to natural order and social life is integrated around prominent natural objects either by their being positioned prominently within the community (Laetitia) or isolated from it (Tristitia). As Bet oversees the most fundamental aspects of magic, sympathy and contagion, Gimel regulates both. Rather than operating in the domain of magic as such, Gimel unfolds a sacral or sacred response to the magical. Totem (Laetitia) and taboo (Tristitia) together constitute holiness.
In divination, Laetitia can speak to much more than just joy. Laetitia speaks of exposure (not always a positive thing if what is exposed is uncomfortable, raw, or scandalous) and revelation, of truths coming to the surface. It speaks of esteem and prosperity, often as a result of being favored by another higher than you.
Similarly, Tristitia isn’t just a matter of sadness or despair. Tristitia can speak of isolation as a form of preservation, as when you conceal a treasure so that the envious are not tempted to steal or demean it. It can also refer to the anomie and pain of social ostracism or to the hardship of keeping a secret concealed.
Laetitia is the joy haunted by its necessary impermanence and Tristitia is the sadness yearning for pleasure. The two forces intensify each other. Our experience of sadness makes us savor joy, and our memories of joy can make sadness and despair more intense. This intensification can develop into a unstable cycle of despair and joy, the cycle of hedonism and even addiction, but it can also be steadied into a non-attachment that allows us to savor the joy and endure the despair. Note that the two figures together yield Carcer and the trap of hedonism and the possibilities of non-attachment both develop aspects of that.
Both signs involve something being singled out, whether that is being singled out and raised up through Laetitia or singled out and withdrawn through Tristitia.