The way in which fan fiction operates may serve as a case study for understanding the way in which the klippot can function, specifically as the klippot of a specific operation that can take place under the auspices of the sefirot Yesod. Let me see if I can walk you through my reasoning.
I keep coming back to this. The questions that animate spiritualism seem like they find many answers in Kabbalism both narrowly (e.g., through texts like the Sefer Yetzirah and the Zohar) and broadly (e.g., in relationship to the broader horizon of Middle Eastern mysticism, be it Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or other) construed. At the heart of this is the interplay of the material and spiritual, especially around the question of idolatry and iconography.
I keep meaning to post this, so now I am:
“They sewed together fig leaves. They knew to be covered by the shade of that tree from which they had eaten, called ‘leaves of the tree.’
And made themselves loincloths. Rabbe Yose said, ‘Once they knew of this world and clung to it, they saw that this world is conducted by those leaves of the tree. So they built themselves a stronghold, fortifying themselves with them in this world, discovering every kind of magic. They sought to gird themselves with the weapons of those leaves of the tree for protection.”—Zohar, translated by Daniel Matt (1:36b, p. 229)
This being Kabbalism, there are probably a few puns going on, but I do wonder if reading them like dream puns might be the way to go (i.e., all of the levels of meaning are active even if we favor one level at at time in discursive thought).
In other words, yes, these ‘leaves of the tree’ are the sefirot, and the sefirot ‘conduct’ the world (Chokmah and Binah), but they are also the leaves of a tree, a sacred tree through which magical-sorcerous knowledge was procured. The knowledge of the sefirot might then be joined to partaking of the knowledge of the plant world.
Also, that the world of plants ‘conducts’ this world.
At some point during the Quimbanda workshop at Viridis Genii, Jesse mentioned that Kalunga, the Kongo term for the great spiritual sea in which the dead swim, is generally thought to begin about handspan from the body. The dead are just that close, and during exceptionally dangerous times, even closer.
I had heard something like this before, but this time it settled against the Kabbalistic thoughts I had been posting (interesting trivia: one of the older strains of spiritualist work that feeds into Quimbanda was called, simply enough, ‘Kabbalah’). What else surrounds the material world, close but not identical with it? Chokmah and Binah, perhaps?
Yesterday, I had a brief exchange between Ted Hand and Cole Tucker on twitter that warrants a lengthier response for which twitter is not suited. The discussion began with a question from Ted as to whether we should identify the Kabbalistic sefirot with the Neoplatonic henads. He also posted a snippet from a related discussion in which the Porphyrian Tree was used to suggest the common roots of Kabbalah and Neoplatonism (here is a link to Wikipedia where you can see the tree more clearly).
I want to unpack my answer (that the proper units of comparison should be between the henads and the channels of the tree, the henads and the sacred alphabet) because I think that comparison helps to differentiate the Kabbalistic perspective from the Neoplatonic one. The tendency to fuse Kabbalism and Neoplatonism has obscured fundamental differences between them and I want to talk about how my practice has led me to redifferentiate them. This is primarily a conceptual discussion, though, and I touch on practical matters lightly, as illustrative tangents.
Today’s notebook post is brought to you by a pair of quotes from my ongoing Kabbalah-appreciation reading cycle. Today’s theme is reflecting on the generative power of spiritual work and the consequences that has for identifying ‘authentic’ traditions.
It seems like the next arc of this process requires some attention to be paid to the Lurianic sense that this world we live in results from a breakdown in the natural emanation of creation. Luria’s account remains more firmly orthodox than do some of his enthusiastic followers, definitely more so than anything I have or will develop through an appreciation of it. So, let me talk a little about that before I strike out from there.
I have been reading back and forth between two translations of the Zohar. One is the edition put out by the Kabbalah Center folks and the other is Daniel Matt’s critical translation. Part of that is just because I want to see two takes of it, especially since Matt takes a philological approach and attempts to reconstruct an original out of the variants.
I am working with the first volume of each right now (because I’m only a little crazy) and so far like the Matt translation better. Mostly, I am dipping in and out of different sections, reading a stretch here, then there. There is just one thing that grates on me a little, which I never imagined would—extensive footnotes. There is so much critical apparatus attached to the Matt translation that I am having a difficult time working through the text on its own terms.
Reading both the Sefer Yetzirah and Orlov’s Divine Scapegoats has put me back on the track of reading through the edges of Jewish mysticism proper. Obviously, I ain’t never going to be a Jewish mystic, but it’s pretty clear I’m sharing some of the same intellectual real estate. Ha, back in the day, I remember being somewhat startled when a fellow grad student accused me of being a closet Jewish mystic over my reading of Walter Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History.”