Rethinking Astrological Priority in the Sefer Yetzirah

I’ve been going through the thirty-one drafts that I had accumulated for this blog. I went through them ruthlessly and was left with nine posts that I can’t quite let go. They were composed at various points over the last few years, some reference discussions on blogs that don’t exist, and they are united in not quite fitting in with whatever I was working on at the time, oftentimes picking up a thread from an earlier post that I had left behind.

I want to shut this blog down cleanly, so before I get to the summation I am going to clear them out. That means some rewriting and, so far, that process has already resulted in one of those posts being binned, happily. Others of the nine will surely follow it into the bin, but I will probably end up posting at least a few of them. Those that do will be posted because (1) I like them, flaws and all, (2) they might be useful to someone else thinking about these things, even if only to disagree with, and (3) they are linked to some discussion that has gone on here, even if it is a very old discussion.

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Geomancy on the Tree of Life Diagram

[Oy. I don’t know, part of me is tempted to delete this and let the more recent series on geomancy and Kabbalism hold its place, but I don’t think that is quite right. Part of that is bearing witness to the process which I think is what gives us permission to give others permission to work through their own errors. Part of that, too, is that the more recent series doesn’t precisely supplant this so much as lay out its foundations more clearly, with the implication that there is still more to build atop those foundations. I didn’t quite have the right story to anchor what I was doing. Anyway, I think this may be the last page to take down and roll into a post.]

The first thing I want to discuss at length is the relationship between the geomantic figures to the Kabbalistic tree of life diagram. As with the geomantic discussions, I will presume some familiarity with the esoteric Kabbalism that circulates through the Western Magical Traditions like the Golden Dawn and Thelema. Similarly, though, I will expect readers to consider my work as belonging to an alternative formulation of it, one rooted in an rearticulation of the Tree of Life diagram upon the model presented in the Saadia retention of the Sefer Yetzirah (SY), as well as in some study of Jewish Kabbalism more broadly.

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.

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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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[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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