Tree of Life – Kether

I walk up the lightning strike from Malkuth to Kether. It feels like I am leaving every known thing and even my life – literally being alive – behind. I look people in the eye and kiss them goodbye, as I walk past them. I thought it would be a joyful progression but it is so solemn and severe I am almost weeping. When I reach the disc of Kether recognition settles in me, I take a deep breath and turn to face the rest of the Tree.

It is so far away. I am so far away. Even though everything is equally spaced, it’s as if a vast distance has opened up between me and the rest of the Tree; they are light years away. I want to cry, to burst into tears at being so alone but I feel too far away even for tears. As it happens, there’s no-one holding Hokmah or Binah, so although I see their pure clarity, unmuddied by human elements and know them as intimately related to myself, it means the whole top triad and the abyss separate me from everyone else who’s here. I am far, far distant. Remote. I tremble with it.

There are four people in the middle pillar and I like that, the solidness of it. That feeds into Kether, a little. It is not all emanating from here, absolutely everything; some energy and spark feeds upwards, back to this position. It feels as if I am laid bare, here, in undifferentiated love; that each other sephiroth is a love, a lover; each utterly adorable to me and each completely different. They are all my lovers, even though I am so separate from each one of them; they are closer to each other than to me. But I am fully here, offering it all. Everything came from here, from me. I am. I am the I am. I am the I am that I am.

Tree of Life – Hokmah

In Hokmah the veil descends, it is every way I turn. I am veiled. It’s grey and I am weeping for the separation – the thrusting away that I feel – from Kether.

I am turned completely to face Kether, upwards and across; I more or less know the rest of the Tree is there, mostly below me but I don’t feel that I care about it. There is a piercing ray coming at me, from Kether. From the place I originate. There is that, even in this grey place and perhaps one doesn’t need anything more than that? It is the eye-gaze of love. It is finding orientation in this meeting with another; this reflection of self that is greater than self. This gaze that confirms the presence of the other, the difference of the other.

In this gaze I am complete. I hold the whole of Kether here, in reflection. It’s not that I don’t yearn for more, I do; but within that gaze I have a still place of absolute presence and utter intimacy. Kether, I am sure, has a wider view than only-me, only-Hokmah but that does not matter. It’s in my ability to hold and reflect utterly that I am formed, that I exist. In maintaining that focus – although already the light, the knowledge and presence is not as clear as it was in Kether – I grant it as much clarity as possible and I cannot afford to be distracted by anything else. I am dedication and in service to this reflection and the veil protects me.

Tree of Life – Binah

When I stand in the black sphere of Binah everything collapses in on itself, underneath me. It’s like a reverse big bang, a black hole maybe, swallowing everything elegantly and completely. Utter. There seems nothing at all to hold onto but I am aware of gravity, definitely; the power and suck of downwardsness. And I am swirled into it, barely able to hold onto any thought other than that.

After a while that settles, that sensation of endless falling into a void – it’s still there, but I’m able to put it in the background and focus on some other things – and the feeling that comes to me is compassion. It’s not empathy – nothing so warm and human – more the recognition, at a slight distance, of suffering. I feel compassion for Binah, for the sephiroth itself. For the loss of being so distant from Kether and the separation from the rest of the Tree, that transition through Da’ath that looms ahead. I feel compassion for women in labor, involved in bringing forth life from this impossible place of distance and nothingness; from the stars into the earth, manifest. I feel compassion for Hokmah, stuck over the other side of the Tree and held apart from me and turned, it seems, only towards Kether as a mirror and neglecting everything else.

There is a softness here that I didn’t know about, before. Maybe it correlates with a softness in myself. Binah is in being with what is; like the Dark Goddess in being able to be with that and not needing to change it. To be with Binah is to have no desire other than this moment. It is also about receiving. Someone strokes my hair for half an hour… receive. The woman holding Hokmah agrees that holding Hokmah and Binah between us is like being sisters… receive. My friend flings himself onto me… receive. It also seems a place where one could ask, and one could offer. All these notions – of receiving, of asking, of offering – seem fairly alien to me. I wonder if it is why I have avoided Binah so long. I think Binah is saying be soft. Be the softness that you are. And I know this softness contains and is also expressed by that fierce black hole of gravity, sucking stars down into it. In eating everything up, it loves everything. Gives everything. Receives everything.

Da’ath Ritual #2

Just before I began writing I had a memory I had written about this ritual once before (when I did it the first time) so I looked back in my blog and – this is slightly spooky – I wrote it on February 13, 2010. Four years ago to the day!

I participated in this ritual for the second time, slightly different version but same idea, as we worked through the Experiential Kabbalah intensive late last year. We all gathered around Da’ath on the second day – we had been transiting across it every time someone did the lightning flash and we had spoken about it before, but not in depth. We had a gold ribbon as our lightning flash and for every other sephiroth the ribbon went under the disc, but for Da’ath it went over the top, creating an interesting perspective, particularly since the Da’ath disc was reflective silver with nothing drawn or written on it.

We began with some preparation, talking about the place Da’ath held and some of its possible meanings, then held silence for a little. Finally one of us stepped forward, to the edge of the silver disc and we asked as a group, “What do you seek?” and the person answered. Then we asked, “What will you leave behind?” to which they answered “Everything” and then stepped onto the disc. We said, “Where does the path lead you?” And at that point all the rest of us backed out of the Tree, leaving the person standing in Da’ath to find a path through the Tree that would lead them to what they sought.

When it was my turn I stood on the edge of that silver disc and it seemed already magical to me; already promising the unknown, a translation through experience from the imagined to the real. I answered “Presence in love” to the first question. I felt my whole journey through the Tree this time to be about this, finding a way to be fully present, in the experience of love. I understood, hovering near that silver disc, that I could not take any previous mind-set with me, if I really wanted to have that, so when they asked what I would leave behind I was really clear; “Everything” and I stood into the centre of the disc, like stepping forward into a black hole, but not frightening, more the allure of distant universes and unknown stars.

The others melted away leaving me to find my path… it seemed obvious to me; direct and immediate. I went to Tiferet. Tiferet that seems all abundant promise, Tiferet of the golden, open heart, sharing the centre of the Tree magically, mystically with Da’ath; like the dark and the light together. But sitting or standing there was not enough; I lay down, over the top of the disc and reached my hands up to Da’ath, above me, and my feet down to Yesod, below. I felt like I was lying in my own heart. I thought these words: Offer. Surrender. Open… and I knew that Tiferet could teach me how to do that. I felt, lying there, as if I had already become it, that as long as I remembered Tiferet and the open heart in the midst of the Tree, I could be that.

Looking back I see that when I did that ritual four years ago, I also went to Tiferet.

Tree of Life – Tiferet

Tiferet – in the middle of the Tree. I seemed to arrive there suddenly, unprepared. On the one hand it was just the place I was heading to next, as we did this process of moving through the Tree sephiroth by sephiroth; on the other hand it felt more dramatic than most of the other shifts, being in the centre of everything. I felt suddenly vulnerable – Paths coming in from every direction – and there’s no way I could turn to see everyone at once, someone’s always behind me. In the end I lay down on the floor, to have this sense of them all around me and surrendered to being in the heart of it. There’s no way to be here but to be open. The cardboard disc underneath me is yellow and I feel its radiance might be able to shine through me.

This place in the centre of the Tree is surrendered open, feeling all other parts, giving itself out in all directions, receiving from all directions. It’s falling in love, it’s both supported by and supporting the whole rest of the Tree. It’s lying together with a lover, whispering and knowing the whole world turns around that place, that moment. It’s gazing into their eyes and seeing another, who’s also a reflection of oneself. It’s being held and knowing oneself as precious, an essential part of the universe. It’s feeling the lightning flash transversing through oneself, making room for it.

Tiferet’s the centre of the centre – middle of the middle pillar; together with Gevurah and Chesed making up the centre triad; helping them brace the Tree across. It’s a place for falling in love, for becoming love; it’s the force of beauty – not in human terms, particularly but as living light – and holding that place, lying in Tiferet I know that it’s here, within my reach; I don’t even have to ask for it, it’s already given. All I can do is share it with every breath.

Tree of Life – Hod

Hod was one of my favourite sephora when I first did this work – I had started in that position and in a way borrowed the eyes of Hod to understand the whole rest of the Tree, all the way through that working, over eleven months. This time around I experienced a rush of familiarity when I arrived in Hod – as if my eyes cleared and everything made a lot more sense, suddenly – but I noticed that I had to leave the world of sensory information behind and I regretted that. Feelings in Hod I experienced more as something to interpret, rather than oceans of sensation and immersive input.

Looking around the Tree, as we each sat in our places, from Hod it was if I could think everyone’s thoughts. I could look over to the person in Binah, the person in Hokmah and instead of feeling what they might be feeling, I was thinking it; from their perspective; what it meant, what the Tree looked like from there. I could also look at the whole Tree, as it was with everyone in their current positions and see the version of the Kabbalah that we created… that exact formation. And whatever I thought of got re-interpreted, through this cool and analytical way of thinking; I saw how different combinations of people, or of sephora create such unique combinations – of events, of creative expression, of intimacy.

And in Hod I no longer had that regret and loss of being separated from the top of the Tree; I felt contained and a (small) important part of the whole thing; not that grander and more important things were happening elsewhere, or that I was cast adrift in the lower reaches of the Tree. The self-satisfaction of a librarian in a well-run library, maybe – I thought of the Akashic records and the Alexandrian scrolls that Hod surely had recourse to; I thought here somewhere were Sappho’s complete works, and the books containing the history of each soul that had lived… It was self-reflective, to Hod and not really about my self or my own experiences.

Tree of Life – Netzach

In Netzach I had a revelation. Of all the sefirot Netzach was the one I had felt least connected with, the first time I did this work and I somewhat resented moving into it on this round. I felt it was taking me away from more interesting, vital places and I didn’t want to be swamped with emotion or dragged downwards towards earth…the whole realm of Netzach felt deeply uncertain to me and I wasn’t sure why I was there. I also felt some resentment to being that low down on the Tree, as I was dragged lower and lower with every changeover we made; I had felt so celestial and expansive, higher up, and more certain of both myself and the Tree.

Because we were working this whole thing over three days, there were two sefirot I got to spend a night in – Netzach was one of them. And during that time, I got Netzach (or maybe Netzach got me). It filtered through to me during the night, in the shape of a half-dream… that somewhere way up above me, impossibly far away, there’s been a conception of an idea. And then, coming slightly closer towards me, the idea itself has arrived. And then there’s been the architecture of that idea; the expansion of it; the refining of it; then all the details have been added – but all of that means nothing, in a way… it is vague, conceptual, distant. But I am holding Netzach and what arrives to me, to my hand, is a piece of night jasmine. Now everything makes sense! Now I understand all that theory, that elaboration of concept – but it’s in Netzach that it becomes this exact thing; this physical/etherial fine green twig with the delicate white flowers and the powerful scent – now it has look/feel/scent – now it is real. It has processed through Kether, Hokmah, Binah, Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet to arrive here, with me in Netzach on the lower triad, approaching the human realm.

So that Netzach is a piece of Kether that has fallen so low it can be experienced by humans. And humans, experiencing that (that night jasmine, that Netzach experience) become more knowing of Kether; and are made more precious to Kether because of that knowing. And the jasmine itself becomes more precious to Kether when it is in Netzach than previously, because in Netzach it is known. And I felt, along with the jasmine, that I was precious to the world; uniquely me and all that I was, because in Netzach I became real, and knew of Kether from that place.

Tree of Life – Yesod

In Yesod, everything began again. It was like waves of dreams, washing down the Tree, from all the Pillars. I felt the recipient of all those vast concepts from further up the Tree, the place where everything washes around in the great tidal ocean, prior to being born. The sea of dreams, the womb of imaginings, the yet-to-become, the thought-of-but-not-yet-born. I feel the Tree resting on me, as I stand facing Malkuth – not exactly on my shoulders, more whole-body. as if this next step, into Malkuth, will be the bringing through from dream to reality and I must carry it physically.

I feel in Yesod I am dreaming up new ways of living, ways informed by my journey through the Tree; new ways of relating and being; that everything is possible. It’s the place of flow, the place where emotion exists and is expressed but I don’t hang onto it, it passes through me like sighs or ripples; I am with and within the tide of feelings; they arise from me and fountain up and then fall back and are reabsorbed and transmuted to other, still shifting, endlessly changing emotions. And that while I am aware of that, that I am the vessel, then I am not consumed or defined by it but able to contain it.

I sit sideways with Yesod for a while, appreciating it as a pivot-point; a funnel for all the top of the tree to get to Malkuth, like the eye in an hourglass which every grain of sand must pass through. Of course it works in both directions, so that Yesod is where everything from Malkuth must pass through to reach the rest of the Tree – that we must reach out in dreams, in imagining, the imaginal – to all those vast, distant points; the spaces inbetween them like the distance between the planets, impossible to imagine but somehow real anyway, as we fold space to suit our limited understandings and focus on the arrival points rather than the black space intervening. Yesod is the moment before becoming; as the child moves down the birth canal; as the star is sucked into a black hole or collapses on itself; that moment before the first breath –

Tree of Life – Malkuth

Recently I worked the Tree of Life with six other people during a three day intensive. We laid out the Tree on the floor, with large coloured cardboard discs for the sephirot and a gold ribbon connecting them in the lightning flash. Each of us began in one of the sephirah and over the three days we gradually moved through all of them, heading downwards each time until we fell off the bottom of the Tree below Malkuth, when we travelled the lightning flash up to Kether.

I began (and ended) in Malkuth. I sat with the disc, looking up the Tree and saw everyone else held in it, in the branches… We began with the top triad of Kether-Hokmah-Binah empty, so all the people in the Tree were clustered close to me, sitting with their discs, as if arriving, settling into this first aspect of the Tree for them; the Tree receiving them like a flock of birds, or nesting animals. It was very beautiful, seeing them there; I felt both responsible for them and was also marvelling at their grace and life and the fact that they had come to be part of this working with me. I had my back braced against the wall and my legs open around the brown disc and it was as if I had given birth to it all; the whole Tree. I saw people paired across the pillars and holding the centre; I saw them all descending towards me.

Then I turned my back and sat the other way, facing the wall with the Tree growing out of my back. I could see nothing, I felt that I knew nothing. Which is often how I feel in regards to the Kabbalah. But in a line behind me – and I could feel that, the pull and tug and centrality of it – were the other two sitting straight behind me, in Yesod and Tiferet; the three of us holding the central pillar. I knew we were all sitting cross-legged, facing downwards into and through Malkuth and it seemed that everything in the universe was headed down here. I felt it like a line of live power down my backbone. The three of us are a pendulum and I’m the weight on the bottom of it. When I turned back and looked at them again, I felt as if they were my lovers.

Malkuth was the perfect place for me to start, given that I had written the workshop and the concept of physically laying out the Tree and journeying through it in this way was mine; so I was the point on which it all balanced, but I and the workshop wouldn’t have existed at all if it wasn’t for the others. And I loved that I began the whole process on earth, in our shared reality of body and this planet we live on and are part of; that it is both humble and also immense, called Kingdom and the stretch and breadth of that. That everything we imagine and build and live is contained within this sphere; that of them all Malkuth is the container that didn’t shatter with the force of light when that spilled unendingly out of Kether. That Malkuth and Kether are in love, begin and complete each other…

On the disc I drew the bare outline of a tree; roots, trunk and branches. At the end of the three days, when I returned to Malkuth the disc had been completely filled in; my tree was filled with apples, with leaves, with small creatures down near the roots and colours and shapes everywhere. It had come to life. Someone has laid a beautiful but wilting yellow rose above the disc and its perfume comes up to me where I stand, from the roots of the Tree. I have come through the whole Tree, ending up where I began and I feel so much a deeply part of it, so integrated into the bark and leaves and living sap of it; as if I have been eaten by it, digested and now I am fertilising the Tree with my breath and body.

Dark Goddess as Mirror

At The Children of Artemis’ Artemis Gathering last weekend I offered a workshop on the Dark Goddess. One of the most beautiful parts of it was right near the beginning, when after we had invoked the Dark Goddess we went around the circle and each of us spoke what we were seeking and what we were bringing, or offering to the circle. I began, seeking compassion and offering strength. As we went around the circle, three different people listed what they were bringing as compassion! Not only that – many said they sought understanding, while others said that was what they offered and then more and more matches happened this way, around the circle. It began to seem that whatever it was we sought, someone else was offering it; and whatever we offered would be what someone else needed. This was within the context of a Temple of the Dark Goddess and certainly I felt her weaving within it; but I also received it as a simple lesson of a circle; that we will bring what each other needs, that between us we have everything.

We did a wonderful and fast exercise in small groups – I think this is wonderful because it shows the workings of the Dark Goddess so clearly. Each of us identified a time in our lives when – on reflection – we could say that we’d been in the Underworld, or journeying with the Dark Goddess. We shared that time in our small groups, along with the feelings and experience that accompanied that time. The words spoken included isolated, lost, despairing, blank, fearful, alone, helpless, afraid. Then, thinking back into our history we saw what happened to us after this time, what followed on from it. The words spoken included empowered, self-knowledge, choice, inspired, becoming myself, alive. Across the whole group of about 25 people the pattern was startlingly clear. This is the journey to the Dark Goddess; a realignment with one’s inner self that appears to require relinquishing the old before it can take place.

We undertook a ritual journey to the Dark Goddess herself. Placing an empty chair in the centre of our marquee, we quietly sang a song, treading a circular path down into the Underworld in a light trance state. As each of us felt we were ready, we approached the empty chair, the throne of the Dark Goddess and asked a question – a question to do with a part of our current lives, the part we felt most on-edge and not-knowing about. Then the questioner sat in the chair, looking back at themselves as they had been a few seconds ago and felt – or heard or saw – the response of the Dark Goddess to the question. Sometimes we think of her as distant and obscure; but so many people who did this ritual – in crowded, imperfect, even somewhat rushed circumstances – received a strong impression not just of her, but of her answer to their question. It felt like she was there for us; just the other side of the curtain, just through the shadow, through the doorway.