Love & Chaos – Two Initiations on the Tree of Life

The Qabalistic, or Kabbalistic, Tree of Life is the central glyph of both the Judaic and Western mystery traditions. There are thousands of books written about it. All I’m going to do in this piece is to write about the two types of initiation, or two types of transcendence, that may be pursued upon it.

Initiation at Tiphareth

The first place is at Tiphareth. This is initiation, or transcendence, at the level of the heart centre, or love. We feel our chest open. We feel boundless love for all that exists, regardless of its orientation towards our ego. It is both a physical and intensely emotional experience.

This initiation is the esoteric root of Christianity. By being immersed in the mythos and traditions of the religion, during our upbringing, the aspiration is that one day we will achieve transcendence at Tiphareth. In a sense, it is this possibility that justifies the myriad faults and corruptions present in the Christian church.

The New Testament first offered this possibility, in direct contrast to the older religious traditions of the time. No longer was it about creating some situation on Earth to forward transcendence – the building of the Third Temple etc. It became about the inner journey, available to all those alive on Earth, regardless of their status, or even their religious orientation. No longer did you need priests, or other religious intermediaries, in order to facilitate your transcendence. Salvation, on both a personal and planetary level, could be directly accessed by the individual.

The anthropocentric culture of humanity today developed in many ways from the person-centred perspective and mythos of Christianity. Whilst mundane for its ubiquity now, it would have been radical two thousand years ago. One way to grasp the depth of this is to consider, not humans, but rather an imaginary race of biologically-evolved golems with frontal lobes – golems that have a heart centre that could be opened if they are placed in the right environment.

The frontal lobes allow the golems to absorb information. By being immersed in a heavily anthropocentric culture, they develop a sense of self and become orientated to their environment in a specific way. They regard themselves as human. They regard others as human. They thus learn to treat others in a manner that they themselves would like to be treated, and to uphold humanitarian values. None of this is really innate to the golems. It is more like “training data” that they have been given, the final goal of which is to afford them the possibility of opening the heart centre that they have inside.

Learning to behave anthropocentrically can allow our heart centre, at Tiphareth, to open. Providing, that is, humanism is pursued with sufficient self-honesty, and a willingness to be vulnerable. In a sense, this both justifies and redeems the anthropocentrism of our culture.

Initiation at Da’ath

Achieving initiation, or transcendence, at Da’ath is a wholly different affair. Da’ath represents the end of knowledge, or in a sense pure knowledge, the state that Socrates spoke of when he famously said “All I know is that I know nothing.” Our deeply-held beliefs about ourselves and our world must be torn down.

The first phase is Reversal. Gods become devils and devils become gods. Yahveh, Christ, Allah, Buddha and the rest of the gang are now seen as actually being the equivalent of Satan, Belial, Leviathan, and Lucifer. Whilst the latter have become the good guys. This reversal is necessary to nullify the learned anthropomorphism inherent in traditional religious culture, with its sense of strict polarity.

One this reversal has taken place, the mind is now unable to experience a sense of either meaning or progress from its activity. Judgements have become meaningless. The slate is becoming wiped clean. No fixed beliefs about the nature of the self or the world will remain. A full factory reset, even the operating system. All philosophies, all magical systems are obliterated. The Tree of Life is burned to the ground. All mental activity is levelled, invalidated, nullified. This is Initiation at Da’ath.

On the Tree of Life, this initiation is traditionally undertaken when treading the path Chesed-Binah. However, because all maps and beliefs are devastated at Da’ath, it is not possible to predict if or when one might arrive at Binah, or even if the centre actually exists in the first place! Such is the nature of this initiation. This type of initiation might seem a daunting prospect. However, there exists a means by which it may be safely undertaken, which is alluded to, albeit in a highly vague manner, in the passages above.

Crowley in the Desert

The main writer on the topic of Initiation at Da’ath was the notorious English occultist, Aleister Crowley (Edward Alexander Crowley). In 1909, he travelled to the Algerian desert, around Bou Sa’ada, with the intention of treading the path Chesed-Binah, passing through Da’ath as he did so. As it was necessary for Crowley to enter a partial mystical state, and use a scrying crystal, in order to tread this path, which would make writing anything down impossible, he brought with him a novice mystic, Victor Neuborg, to record the experience. (Though this turned out to not be Neuborg’s only role.)

To achieve his goal, that of arriving at Binah and thus becoming a Magister Templi (8=3 in the Golden Dawn system), he utilised a system of magic known as Enochian Magic, originally brought to the world by John Dee and Edward Kelly in the 1580s.

There are nineteen Enochian Keys – short magical invocations in the Enochian language. The nineteenth key further acts as a gateway to open the Thirty Enochian Aethers – concentric rings of knowledge and power, progressively accessible to those sufficiently initiated into Enochian magic. There is also one which is unused. There are thus, in a sense, 49 Enochian Keys in total. When these are added to the infinitely condensed point, which Crowley termed “Hadit” in his Book of the Law, they comprise the “50 Gates of Binah.” Crowley’s intention, therefore, was to achieve Binah and thus Magister Templi status by opening the 30 Enochian Aethers, one at a time, from the innermost to the outermost ring.

This endeavour taxed Crowley to the limit, but he claimed to have completed it. He returned to the UK in January 1910, asserting that he was now a Magister Templi. His experience, recorded by Neuborg and then annotated by Crowley, was published as The Vision and the Voice.

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Further ReadingJohn Dee and the Empire of Angels, Jason Louv

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