As the work of self-transformation of the personality progresses, the initiate comes to see that the personality exists between two poles -- rationality or logic, and emotion or instinct. In kabbalah, these poles are symbolized by Hod (rational intellect) and Netzach (instinctual emotion). Along the ascending path of initiation (as opposed to the descending path of creation), the first of these poles that the initiate encounters is the rational intellect, represented by Hod. The work of Hod therefore, is to pursue a rational understanding of the dynamics operative within the inner and outer worlds. This leads to the vision of the "Eternal Splendor" and the infinite complexity of the Universe, symbolized here by the "Library of Hermes" which contains rational information about every aspect of existence.
The "32 Paths" text states that this is the "power of sustenance among all the Sephirot". To understand how this is so, we must refer to the Genesis passage from which the 23 rd Path is derived.
Genesis 1:24 -- "AndElohim said: 'Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beast of the earth after its kind.' And it was so."
The specific phrasing of this passage holds the key. Here we see that Elohim is letting the earth bring forth these things, out of its own substance, as opposed to Elohim creating these things out of nothingness. This indicates a sequential process of self-sustaining self-propagation as opposed to direct creation. It expresses the mechanism of infinite complexity as one thing begets another, endlessly creating subtle shades of difference between the generations. This mechanism fills and thus stabilizes the sequential infinity, and can be seen within the kabbalistic doctrine of emanation at every level of the Tree.
Hod is the terminus of the Pillar of Severity or Form. In the language of the "32 Paths" the Pillar of Severity is the receptacle of the "substance of the Unity", whereas the opposite side-pillar (Mercy or Force) is the receptacle of the "splendor of the Unity" and the Middle Pillar, the receptacle of the "holy powers". In Hod, as Paul Case stated, we "realize" the splendor of the opposite pillar, but this is different from the actual experience of that splendor. Here in Hod, the splendor is seen with the rational mind alone, as it appears reflected through infinite complexity. Thus it is not experienced in its wholeness as a more-than-rational force. In other words, in Hod we come to a rational understanding of the infinite complexity in much the same way as we came to understand our personalities in Malkuth -- by analyzing their manifestations.
Path #28 -- "The twenty-eighth path is called the natural consciousness. Through it is completed the nature of all that exists beneath the sphere of the sun."
In Hod, we learn the lesson that how and what we think, shapes our reality. With the path of Ayin, we apply that understanding to the transformation of our personality. The Tarot imagery depicts the natural mechanism that, when left as an unconscious process, binds the personality to the whims of subconscious reaction. Initiation however, demands more of us. It demands that we take this natural mechanism and use it consciously in the work of self-transformation of the personality.
The "32 Paths" passage speaks directly to this, stating that the action of the rational mind is what "completes" the astral matrix or personality. The term "beneath the sphere of the sun" refers to the Sephirot Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malkuth -- the lower astral realm of the personal self. Thus with Ayin, the initiate's task is that of consciously applying their rational understanding of things to the realm of their personality, with the unrelenting aim of transforming it into a closer semblance of their truest Self.
Path #31 -- "The thirty-first path is called the perpetual consciousness. Why is it called this? Because it directs the movements of the sun and moon according to their natural order, each in its proper orbit."
With the path of Tav, connecting Yesod to Malkuth, the "32 Paths" text mentioned directing the motion of "the seven planets, each in its own proper course", but here we have "the sun and moon according to their natural order, each in its proper orbit." The sun is the primary planet of the Individual Self (Tiphareth) and the moon, that of the personal self (Yesod). Thus we see here a more refined sort of direction being imposed, relating to the Individual Self and the personality as whole things which interact. Whereas with Tav, the directing concerned the internal components of the personality alone (the seven planets).
"Qooph" translates into English roughly as "back of the head" and as a symbol, refers to the subconscious mind. In the Western Tree, the path of Qooph is placed on the opposite side and connects Netzach with Malkuth, expressing the concept that the subconscious mind is more closely related to the chaotic instinctual emotions than it is to the ordered rational mind. However, in the "32 Paths" and the Hebrew kabbalah in general, the subconscious mind is seen as the interaction of both ration and instinct, but shaped most immediately by our thinking. In other words, it's our thinking that gives form to the force of instinctual emotion. It is how we complexify the simpler instinct and create our own little manifestation of the infinitely complex Eternal Splendor (Hod).
The task of Qooph then, is to apply the rational understanding gained in Hod to the transformation of one's life circumstances (Malkuth). In effect, the initiate takes conscious control of their subconscious mind. The Tarot image depicts this process in reverse, indicating a journey upwards from Malkuth along the winding path of the subconsciousness which leads to the sun and moon in their "proper orbit". The task of Qooph however, is to descend along this "natural order" and consciously "direct" the motion (i.e., manifestation) of the interaction between Individual Self and personal self.
When this task is complete, the initiate will have integrated their rational Hod understanding into both Yesod and Malkuth -- the personality and life circumstance. This prepares the initiate for their rise to the next level of the personal self -- Netzach and the realm of emotional archetypes.
Netzach: Sephirah #7
#7: Living from that Will, supported by its unfailing Wisdom and Understanding, mine is the Victorious Life.
Path #19 -- "The nineteenth path is the consciousness of the secret of all spiritual activities. It is so called because of the influence disseminated by it from the highest blessing and the supernal glory."
Our rational mind reacts to, and interprets, instinct. For example, when we encounter something, our first reaction is at a pre-rational, emotional gut level. It is immediate and spontaneous and we have no conscious control over it. Our ration then takes over and modifies the primary emotional response, crafting it into a more personal form. Generally, our ration focuses not on the something we've encountered in and of itself, but upon the force of our own primary response. Another way of putting it would be to say that the primary emotional response is generally the force which ignites the ration to action -- the action of ration being the giving of form to emotion.
Within the structure of the personality or lower astral body, Netzach is the pre-rational, instinctual gut reaction. The work of Netzach therefore, is to look within the rational reaction and penetrate to the initial gut-level instinct. In other words, to experience the force that ignites ration. This force is the "secret of all spiritual activities" because the direct perception of this force is what enables the completion of the transformation of the personal self.
This force is referred to in the path description as an "influence disseminated by it from the highest blessing and the supernal glory". In the symbol language of the "32 Paths", this is the "splendor of the Unity" emanated from Kether (the supernal glory) unto Chokmah by the path Heh. This splendor becomes Truth (Amen) within Chokmah and then descends unto Chesed/Gedulah via the path of Gimel as pure thought (Transparent Consciousness) where it becomes Loving Kindness. From there it descends into Netzach
via the path of Kaph as "Arcanum and veiled ideas". So what we encounter in Netzach are these veiled ideas whose root is the splendor of the Unity.
Netzach is usually perceived as the realm of emotional archetypes and is symbolized by Venus, the goddess of love (quite fitting for the terminus of the Pillar of Mercy or Loving Kindness). In Netzach, one seeks out encounters with the astral images of these emotional archetypes and attempts to penetrate beyond the normal rational reaction in order to reach the direct experience of these forces themselves.
Path #16 -- "The sixteenth path is called the eternal consciousness because it is the pleasure of that glory beyond which is no-glory like unto it. It is also called the garden of pleasure (Eden), which is prepared for the compassionate (Khasidim)."
This is the first horizontal path encountered as one rises up the Tree and it represents a significant experience for the budding initiate. Here, the initiate's task is to consciously combine instinctual emotion with rational response. Instead of following the normal path of this being a subconscious, habitual mechanism, one empowers it consciously and predicates their rational response upon the direct perception of the force which naturally ignites it. In relation to the normal function of human consciousness, this turns one's perspective topsy-turvy and up becomes down, left becomes right, etc.
This has a deeply transformative effect upon the rational mind, described in the '32 Paths" text as "the pleasure of that glory beyond which is no-glory like unto it".
Mem is the Mother Letter corresponding to the Element Water (the solidifying influence). In the structure of the Tree, Mem represents the lower astral manifestation of the "Plan of the Primordial", whose mental manifestation is seen in the path Aleph (Mother Letter of Air, the mediating influence) and whose supernal manifestation is seen in the path Shin (Mother Letter of Fire, the volatile influence). Each of these Mother Letters is attributed to a horizontal path that connects the two side pillars. In other words, they are stabilizing factors, essential to the overall equilibrium of the structure.
Each Mother Letter also defines a veil. Mem is the astral veil which hides the more essential mental reality by dressing it in a clothing of symbol. Aleph is the mental veil which hides the non-sequential supernal reality by dressing it in a clothing of sequential-ized thought. And Shin is the supernal veil which hides the essential Unity by dressing it in a clothing of non-sequential duality.
Conversely, these veils also act as filters which distort or refract the descending creative influence. Shin refracts the Unity into non-sequential duality; Aleph refracts the duality into sequential thoughts; and Mem refracts sequential thought into dense astral symbol.
With the path of Mem, the initiate is faced with the task of walking this veil, exploring its natural mechanisms and employing them consciously.
Path #27 -- "The twenty-seventh path is called the exciting consciousness because, through it, is created the life-breath of every created being under the supreme orb, as well as the motion of them all."
The direct emotional forces that underlie the aspects of the personality serve as their "life-breath". With the path of Samekh, the initiate's task is to consciously shape the aspects of their personality through the direct application of this life-breath. This comes after the transformative Mem work of integrating ration and instinct, and one thus employs a balanced force (well illustrated by the Tarot image) in this aspect of self-transformation.
The path description refers to "every created being under the supreme orb, as well as the motion of them all". In the specific symbol language of the "32 Paths", this indicates the planets of the personality which, astrologically speaking, exist "under" the orbit of the sun (the supreme orb, from the perspective of the personal self). Thus the work of Samekh has the effect of enlivening these archetypal aspects of the personality and setting them in motion.
Path #29 -- "The twenty-ninth path is called the corporeal consciousness because it marks out the forms and reproduction of all bodies which are incorporated under every cycle of the heavens."
The work of Tzaddi marks the completion of the initial phase in the transformation of the personal self. Here, the task is to integrate the perception of the instinctual emotional forces directly into one's daily life circumstances (i.e., to corporealize them). As the Tarot image implies, this brings the initiate into closer alignment with nature's own fluid mechanisms of corporealization.
The Hebrew word "Tzaddi" translates into English as "fish hook". Symbolically, this is what captures the "fish" of Qooph (Pisces), the subconscious mind. In Hebrew symbolism, the fish is a sign of fertility, so what we have here with Tzaddi is the capturing or hooking of the fertility of the subconscious mind. With it, the initiate feeds, sustains and nurtures the personality, and anchors it in the material life circumstances.
This final step illumines the personality and allows it to more clearly expresses the solar light of the Individual Self (Tiphareth). It is this illumination of the personal self that empowers the ensuing rise to a direct cognizance of the Individual Self. Without this firm foundation from which to rise, a direct cognizance of the Individual Self is, at best, temporary, incomplete and unstable.
Tiphareth: Sephirah #6
#6: In all things great and small, I see the Beauty of the divine expression.
Path #15 -- "The fifteenth path is called the constituting consciousness because it constitutes the essence of creation in pure darkness. According to masters of contemplation, this is that darkness referred to in scripture: 'and thick darkness its swaddling band.'"
Having completed the work of transforming the personality into a conscious expression of one's understanding of the true self, it is almost inevitable that the initiate will rise to Tiphareth and experience the perspective of the Individual Self. This "Individual perspective" confers a sense of detachment and objectivity in regard to one's own personality and material life circumstance. From this perspective, the initiate looks "downward" at their mundane life and "outward" toward all the other Individual Selves that inhabit this level of the astral realm. One sees and directly experiences the Individual Self within every other thing that has material and astral existence. The only word that comes close to describing the vision of another Individual is "beauty" (in Hebrew, Tiphareth) because the realization of the fact that this other IS a divine expression, is inescapable. Furthermore, the realization that one's own self is also an expression of the divine, is equally inescapable and this particular realization is a most cathartic one indeed!
Tiphareth is the only Sephira below the abyss that receives the Kethric influx directly. This is through the path of Beth (#4) which transmits the "holy powers" across the Abyss, into the realm of Yetzirah. Within Yetzirah, these holy powers appear as light, hence the solar symbolism of Tiphareth. Each Individualized quanta of this light shines with a starlike radiance, yet has, as its backdrop, the black "darkness" of the Abyss. I think the corresponding Genesis text says it best:
Genesis 1:14-15 -- "And Elohim said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth.' And it was so."
One thing that this passage points out is the temporal nature of the Individual Self ("let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years" ) and its relationship to incarnation (" to give light upon the earth"). The Individual Self is the temporal mental body that incarnates over and over. When its cycle of incarnation is complete, it dissolves into the Greater Self or eternal mental body (spirit). Thus in Tiphareth, the initiate also gains access to all the Individual Self's memories of "past" incarnations.
The work of Tiphareth is to explore the Individual Self in a manner similar to the earlier analysis of the personal self. The rise above Tiphareth to Geburah and then Gedulah, mimics the ascent from Yesod to Hod and Netzach, except at the Individual level instead of the personal. The initiate must strive to completely identify with their Individual Self and then turn their Individual attention downward and infuse their personal self directly.
Tiphareth: Sephirah #6
This once again transforms the personal self, but this time, the transformation is accomplished from the Individual perspective, instead of from the personal perspective which must, by necessity, look "up" to the descending Individual influx and interpret its meaning. Here though, there is no doubting or guesswork.
Path #20 -- "The twentieth path is called the consciousness of will because it is the pattern of all that is formed. By this mode of consciousness one may know the actuality of the primordial wisdom."
The Hebrew letter, Lamed, is said to depict a snake uncoiled, symbolizing the unleashed force of Individual will. The task of this path is to direct this Individual, Tiphareth will to the Netzach level of the personality's instinctual emotions. With the light of their Individual will, the initiate illuminates the whole of their emotional nature, transforming and setting aright everything that does not reflect this will with clarity.
The essence of Tiphareth (i.e., the holy powers descending from Kether) is equilibrium or balance, so this willful act of self-transformation seeks to create balance within the realm of the personal Netzach. This conscious act of creating balance mimics the creativity of the "primordial wisdom" (Kether) and it is this to which the "32 Paths" text refers when it says: "By this mode of consciousness one may know the actuality of the primordial wisdom. "
Path #22 -- "The twenty-second path is called the faithful consciousness because, through it, the spiritual powers are increased. All dwellers on earth 'abide in its shadow. '"
With the work of the path of Nun, the Individual perspective completely fills the rational intellect, transforming and regenerating it. Every thought and every response to emotional instinct is permeated through and through with the Individual perspective. This, combined with the preceding permeation of the personal Netzach, vastly increases the initiate's spiritual (i.e., mental) powers. This transformation of the personal intellect is so radical that it resembles the death of an old self and birth of the new. The initiate cannot but look at their world through new eyes and from a new perspective.
It is an inescapable fact of the temporal universe that EVERY thing is temporary. From the personal perspective, this often brings sadness and fear, but the Individual Self understands that without this cycle of life and death, nothing would flourish. It KNOWS that the essence never dies. It KNOWS that for the essence to perfect itself and eventually return to its origin, it must pass through the cycle of life and death countless times. When this knowledge is impressed upon the rational mind by the Individual will, it frees the ini
tiate to fully pursue their spiritual advancement without fear. In fact, it is this death of the fear-of-death that the Tarot image depicts.
In Hebrew symbolism, the fish (Nun) stands for the concept of abundance and fertility. Indeed, it is the rotting matter of dead bodies that feeds the birth of the new and assures continuity. This idea of abundance is echoed in the Genesis text corresponding to the 22nd Path:
Genesis 1:22-23 -- "AndElohim blessed them, saying: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.' And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day."
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The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.