Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The Qabalistic Tree of Life has ten sephiroth, or ‘vessels.’ Each represents a stable state or form of consciousness, the full decade of these vessels indicating the total psycho-spiritual make-up of a human being. And since, in the Torah, man is said to be made in the image of God, (Genesis, I, 27) then by identifying progressively with the sephiroth within us, we become progressively identified with Divine Consciousness.
Each sephirah on the Tree has a Virtue, a Vice and a Vision attributed to it. This is the first of a series of posts I plan to do on these, with particular emphasis on the Visions of each.
The tenth and final sephirah is called Malkuth, meaning ‘the Kingdom.’ It’s the actual concrete realm we inhabit and, when we are truly adept at life and living, we rule it as the kings or queens of our own life-experience. As Malkuth is the last stop on the line, so to speak, it represents a summary and concretisation of the primal Light. Thus, it’s seen as the sephirah of alchemical Earth, the densest element. While by this is meant not just matter but our subjective experience of the material world, the two notions are related.
Malkuth’s Vice, understandably, is Inertia. We can be overwhelmed by Earthiness, and find ourselves unable to move or be uninterested in doing so. To be engrossed in Malkuth can mean we lose sight of anything else. Since life in the concrete world is also about acquiring concrete things, some sources give the Vice as Avarice.
But however material the world about us seems to be, any sensitive or imaginative person intuits a spiritual dimension to living, beyond the simple perception that there’s a lot of ‘stuff-type stuff’ out there. Thus, the positive response to make to Malkuth is a careful one of noting what is and is not of value. Accordingly, the Virtue of the sephirah is Discrimination.
In mystery schools, students are exposed to Malkuth ceremonially via a specific series of ritual reference points that, among other things, trigger this deep sense of discrimination. It’s an important ability for any occultist to have and maintain, since the field of esotericism is so full of wild claims and odd experiences that learning to discern what is and isn’t of value is crucial.
The Vision of Malkuth is that of the Holy Guardian Angel, and this can be a tougher idea for us to wrap our heads around. Once again, it probably has to be stated that the HGA is not an ‘angel’ in the sense of a guardian watching over us. The name was chosen partly because wise, discriminating inhabitants of Malkuth would regard it as too ridiculous to take seriously at face value. That hope hasn’t worked out too well, but then, it’s only the best students of occultism who master the aforementioned Discrimination anyway.
If, for the moment, we take the term HGA to refer to an exalted Essence that contains, sustains and oversees our purpose in life and embodies whatever states we might consider to be Divine Consciousness, then this statement, however incomplete and inexact, will serve for now.
The idea of visions troubles some students because it feels as if they haven’t completed the sephirothic work if the Vision doesn’t appear. But as with many things in Qabalah, the word ‘vision’ has multiple meanings. There may well be an actual vision, a specific hour or moment when the inner eyes open to behold powerful and uplifting imagery. More likely, there will be gradual growth of a sense that you have shifted your point of view to embrace a broader conception of life
A classic line we hear is that Kether is in Malkuth, after a different manner. If the Light (or the spiritual force we refer to as Light) is at its purest in Kether at the top of the Tree, then at the bottom … it’s still just as pure, if obscured. Yet at the same time, by being reflected into this material world around us, this Light is actually more clearly visible than if it were self-contained on its own plane. If Kether is the root of the HGA, Malkuth is, paradoxically, where the HGA is most clearly glimpsed
While Malkuth is the formulation of consciousness that’s focused on physically discernible things, it is no more or less sacred in nature than any of the other nine. It’s the ‘place’ or condition where our individual truths need to be realised, expressed and fulfilled; in Hermetic Qabalah we have no concept of a spiritual realm to attain in an escape from the material one.
The HGA, then, needs to be – and is – found in the life we live, in the world. Of full Knowledge and Conversation, the few published reports of this event indicate it enlivens and totally inhabits the physical self.
But here we’re talking of “the vision of,” not the K&C. In Malkuth, we’re going to gain an appreciation of what it might be for each one of us, knowing that this will vary widely from person to person.
My own vision came in two phases. The clearest happened as I was waiting outside the temple to be admitted ceremonially to the work of Malkuth. Gazing at a Fire Marshall’s notice on the wall about the maximum number of people allowed on the premises, I found myself gazing simultaneously at wording about “No more than 80 persons” and looking into infinity. I can’t describe it differently than that, since … well, that’s what I was seeing. A notice posted by an official of the then-Borough of York, and a luminous endlessness.
It lasted until I was called into the ritual, and remains the most distinct images from my early training. The HGA, I realised, was about experience of the infinite and of wonder.
The second phase was cumulative, and much less clear. In the six months or so I spent in that degree of the system, I began to develop a perception of people as existing simultaneously on a humdrum, personal level and also as star-beings within that condition. It was a reflection of the fact that I was starting to unearth a deeper stratum of myself, and projecting this onto the world around me. I was still a long way from having the self-confidence to own this side of my nature, or even recognise its presence. But the atmosphere produced by the HGA had started to constellate within me. Unable to own it internally, I saw it externally.
The first example had a classic visionary quality, but from conversations with other people, the second was far more typical. A key factor was that while it was in my spiritual field of vision, it didn’t register consciously. Only in retrospect did it become clear to me what I had seen.
It’s also quite possible that the ‘vision’ of a sephirah is entirely non-visual. It might consist of the onset of increasing openness and understanding. I know someone whose awareness of their HGA is initiated by the smell of roses, even though there are none around. Someone with a strongly developed auditory side might hear a low hum, or non-physical sounds of bells. And so on.
So, it’s important not to expect something luminous and awe-inspiring to manifest before your eyes. Qabalah affects all aspects of our being, and we need to develop a broad sensory awareness, along with our knowledge of sephiroth, Hebrew letters and Tarot symbolism, to appreciate what’s emerging for us.
Love is the law, love under will,