[NB] Of Planets, Trees, and Metals

I have been working my way through a translation of Diwan Malkuta Laita (Scroll of Exalted Kingship) that Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley published. The scroll is a liturgical guide to the consecration of new priests among the Mandaeans and is full of tightly-packed nuggets of their particular Gnostic cosmo-ontology. Considering it as a well-preserved piece of a dialogue with other Gnostic practices from antiquity has been very rewarding.

(I’m not saying it is just a well-preserved bit of dialogue, for it is part of a living Mandaean practice, too. I am, however, outside of that living practice, so for me it is most readily accessible as evidence rather than as testimony.)

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Magical History

Very early on in her book on medieval Kabbalism, Marla Segol raises her concerns regarding ‘popular Kabbalism’ in a footnote (the first, in fact). She addresses two prominent and popular figures in specific, the Bergs who run the Kabbalah Centre and Aryeh Kaplan. Her concerns are the concerns of a historian, but they raise an important question for spiritual-magical practitioners who are trying to remain historically informed.

More pointedly, it raises an important question for this practitioner, whose work has crisscrossed both the work of the Kabbalah Centre and of Aryeh Kaplan (much more the latter than the former, but I won’t deny either influence). I don’t take that influence to amount to an uncritical endorsement of either, but the way in which Segol attempts to exclude both from the outset troubles me.

At what points do historical and magical study converge and at what points do they diverge? How do we make use of historical information to inform our personal and communal practices?

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[PSA] Edited Page, Pictures

Working through the Elemental lines of the Sefer Yetzirah made clear that I needed to update one of the geomancy pages a bit. I haven’t quite gotten a full revision done, but I’ve done some work toward that end. It’s a bit messy, really, updating as I learn, but I like having stable pages where that gets reflected, so for now I’m sticking to the plan of having stable pages that get edited to reflect improvements in my understanding.

This revision also saw the addition of diagrams. They are just photos of hand drawn material, but they are definitely an improvement over the wall of text. One of the three images is included below. It represents my current take of how to map a number of kabbalistic concepts onto the Gra diagram. Inset to the right are diagrams of each of the three kinds of lines (Elemental, Double, Mother) on their own, with the sefirot and klippot dotted in for reference.

A drawing of the tree of life as described in this essay. Sefirot are represented as blue squares, elemental lines are in red, double lines are in black, and mother lines are in gree.

[NB] Sefer Yetzirah historical notes: trees and recensions

I realized recently that I didn’t have a solid grasp on the historical horizon of the SY’s transmission, so I thought to do a little more digging. That is where I came across Segol’s Word and Image in Medieval Kabbalism. It is a compact work of scholarship—a fair amount of information and argument in a very brief monograph. I’ve already talked a little about what that has set me to thinking about, but I want to flag a few other details that might be useful and/or interesting in thinking about the SY.

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[NB] Fallen Stars

I’ve had them on my mind most of the week, since completing the geomancy page on the relationship to the tree of life diagrams, because I had to gesture to them there. I knew there was more to discuss, but I didn’t quite have the conceptual apparatus hooked up to the experiential apparatus, so I put it on the back burner. I can’t recommend that enough, really. Once you have taken some time to elaborate an important bit of work, step back and let the release of it open up the next step in the work to be discussed.

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[NB] Spirit typologies (imagine there’s no heaven)

So, second seal completed, third seal perhaps on the horizon (name and boundary form at work), and I have one of those dreams that I know I’ll need to remember when I wake up because it’s got information I will need packed into its structure. I wake up and start sketching that information out as diagrams. Pretty soon, I have what might as well be the spiritual equivalent of a dance step diagram composed of interlocking and bifurcating triangles.

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I’m skipping across the surface like a stone over water. I’m skimming across a topic, then jumping off from it into another topic, then another, all the way across the pond. There is nothing complete; it’s all schematic. At some point, I’m going to turn back and start to take a look at what gathers to the ripples, at the still and stilling waters.

The talk of ripples is useful, too, because Kabbalists have also used a rippling diagram to model the relationship between the sefirot. Keeping that in mind helps make clear that the diagram is a model, one with limits, and that we will benefit from exploring alternative diagrams, too.

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