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..:: Qlippoth ::..


Alan Schneider


             The Qlippoth are generally considered to be demonic, shadow expressions of the otherwise balanced, positive influences represented by the Sephiroh, or radiant Spheres, on the Cabalist Tree of Life. This depiction of the Descending Forces of Creation that originate with the manifestation of the Logos in and around the tenth, highest Sephira of Kether – translated from the Hebrew as “Crown” – emanates down the Tree image through the remaining nine Sephiroh to Malkuth, the first Sephira – representing the Physical Plane experienced in the senses. The Tree of Life is presumed by Cabalist mystics to be an inherently perfect description of the Creation process. There is certainly much to support this contention in Cabalist Theory – even the implicit inclusion of the “eleventh”, or so-called “invisible”, Sephira, known as Da-ath, hidden in the Abyss of Ignorance below the Supernal Triangle composed of Kether, Chokma, and Binah – and  representing the nonexistent manifestation of the void – points to the subtle perfection of the Tree of Life symbolism. It is even maintained in Cabala that each complete expression of the Tree is itself another full Sephira – a whole that exceeds the sum of its parts as a functional Twelfth Sephira – and represents the beginning of another, subsequent Tree form. The Cabalist sees the world as a complex composition of interleaved Tree expressions that take on the appearance of manifestation that we detect in the senses as existence and reality. 

            As we all know, the world experienced in the senses is fraught with turbulence and chaos, and certainly nly appears to be much less than perfect, although order and organizing influences fortunately tend to predominate there. The Cabalist explanation of the persistent imperfections that emerge in life and spoil the otherwise perfect harmony represented by the Tree expression is furnished by the Qlippoth, whose influences are present almost everywhere in the sensory world. There are many explanations in Cabalist Theory regarding how the Qlippoth came to be, what their continuing presence implies for the human beings in general, and students of the Mysteries in particular. 

            One of the preeminent theories is that the Qlippoth are remnants of a previous universe of Darkness and Chaos that collapsed through inherent instability into the present universe, creating a significantly more stable form. In this primordial universe, the Qlippoth composed the Tree of Chaos, also having the same nominal ten Sephira, but emanating “darkness” instead of light. This may well be a reference to the Jungian archetype of the Fertile Void, the disordered, dark, unknowable state that nonetheless gives birth to human consciousness and the ability to create and perceive order for the duration of life. The Qlippoth have some of the characteristics of the Sephira – they appear to be similarly radiant and glowing – but are fragments that lie in broken pieces around the base of the Tree. These pieces can be very distracting to the senses and the ego, as we attempt to understand our incarnate condition, and live orderly, meaningful existences.  Each of the Spheres of the Tree of Chaos had a corresponding, and diametrically opposed, vibration to the Sephira of the Tree of Life, beginning with a Crown of Evil in the place of Kether (the Crown of Light), and ending with the demonic entity Lillith, a female destroyer archetype, in the place of Malkuth, the otherwise neutral world we experience today. Since the primordial universe was fundamentally incompatible – that is, essentially evil and destructive – with our universe, all of the Qlippoth represent dangerous, negative vibrations that will inevitably cause harm to humanity, no matter how attractive and innocuous they may initially seem to be. 

            Another competing theory is that the Qlippoth were originally Sephira on the Tree of Life that represented cosmically unstable forms of energy or vibrations that could not be sustained for the long term of existence, fell to the “ground state” at the base of the Tree (i.e. Malkuth), and shattered there. In this view of things, the Qlippoth are slightly less toxic than that presented in the previous paragraph, representing fragments of manifest conditions that could not, and cannot, be maintained in this life, such as gluttony and vice, both of which will “terminate” with the accompanying termination of the unfortunate human vessel that succumbs to them. This nonetheless remains a dilution of the Tree of Chaos theory that postulates an anti-universe of evil, malicious intention, and destruction. 

            The common theme of both versions is that the Qlippoth represent a series of distractions and obstacles to the development of functional consciousness, doing so by generating sensory distractions that seduce the mind. In Cabala, the purpose of existence is considered to be assimilating the subtle, powerful spiritual meanings of each Sephira, beginning at Malkuth, as one essentially “climbs” back up the Tree toward the Logos at the Sephira Kether. This is a spiritual Ascension process that follows “The Path of the Flaming Sword” – a reference to the Angel placed by the Logos at the East Gate of Eden, armed with a “sword of fire that turned in every direction” to prevent reentry – along a zigzagging diagonal route up the Tree, thus permitting knowledge of all the Sephiroth in succession.  By distracting the senses and the ego, the Qlippoth interfere with this journey of Ascension, drawing attention away from the spiritual quest, and back down to the vices present in Malkuth.  Again, the broken pieces of the fallen Sephira may seem to be radiant and attractive, but represent equally fallen aspects of human nature that must be understood and avoided to mature in the spirit. 

            Cabala maintains that a human being can Ascend in the Spirit and return to the Logos by turning away from our inherent animal nature and focusing the mind and attention on the pursuit and practices higher consciousness.  Cabala has been called “The Yoga of the West” in the Mystery studies, and there are many similarities between the two, including the emphasis on following a restrained, moral lifestyle, reinforced by sustained spiritual study and practices. But, unlike Eastern Yoga, Cabala is a predominantly mental tradition that seeks to use the mind to control the body through prayer and contemplation alone, and this is where its shortcomings become evident. The body and senses are the tyrants of the mind, proceeding from the level of the ego in all other mental directions. If one really wishes to confront the reality of Ascension, one must begin where the problems are rooted – within the physical expression of the body.  Yoga does this by working with the Asanas – the postures that are such an integral part of Yoga practice. By achieving competence in the use of the Asanas, the practitioner renders the body into a fit vehicle for the achievement of Ascension. The postures themselves were designed over millennia by dedicated devotees using painstaking trail and error research, and are intended to balance the total energy and awareness of the human being in such a way that the Ascension process – which wants to happen anyway – will be facilitated.  If the body is imbalanced, the mind and spirit must also be imbalanced – the three are integrated together so very closely – in Yoga, the body as the essential carrier of human sensory experience comes first in the process of enlightenment. Once it is restored to harmonious functioning, the much subtler mind, and even subtler spirit, will automatically follow. 

            Yoga understands the overarching influence of the physical body on all perception, and also understands that the powerful physiological states seen in emotions and appetites must be progressively brought under conscious control to pave the way for spiritual progress.  The Qlippoth represent the temptation to succumb to the raw, unbalanced drive states of the organism, and do indeed constitute potent destructive valances if not physically controlled, mentally negated, and spiritually transcended.  For this reason, following the Yoga lifestyle is an indispensable aid in the practice of Cabala, and the retracing the Path of the Flaming Sword through the Sephira that is its core concept and discipline. 

            By focusing spiritual understanding on physiological processes, Yoga offers a more subtle perception of what the Qlippoth signify in human consciousness. What, for Cabala, are external demonic influences that represent the Fall of Humanity, are physical imbalances in Yoga that can be transformed into healthy processes through postural adjustment and practice, augmented by spiritual guidance and healthful living. Paradoxically, the more one struggles with a condition, the more one empowers it through focusing attention on it. When the Qlippoth are viewed as demonic, the tendency is to battle with them most vigorously. When they are viewed as imbalances, the tendency is to strive to understand their nature and influence on consciousness and transform them. As the ancient Chinese proverb so aptly puts this consideration, “One who fights too long with Dragons becomes a Dragon!”  It is no wonder that we tend to fail so often at the attainment of peace – we are so prone to focus all of our attention on the hole of chaos with dogged determination, when we need to redirect our minds to the donut of transformation!


                                                                               - With Love, Alan -

                                                                        (CR2008, Alan Schneider)


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