What is the Qabalah?
It is often impossible to explain what is evident without succumbing to tautology. It is difficult to describe the wetness of water, or separate a thing that is intrinsically a property of another thing. One may ask what is the Qabalah? It is the Alphabet of a Language and it is the Language itself. It is a collection of terms and concordances, apparently nonsensical but verifiable in Practice, and evident in Experience.4
Historically, man’s egocentricity is projected onto Science and the re-interpretation of Fact, until Knowledge is rooted. This Knowledge is by Necessity ‘re-interpreted’ and so limited dimensionally by subjectivity. The situation is similar in the case of Language, and in Thought, devastatingly so.
An allegory: The sun rises and the lark sings. We hear the bird’s morning song, the florid downpour of notes in an intricate melody and we think, ‘The bird that sings, sings a song Nature has taught it; Nature sings through the bird.’5 But when a Man speaks, we think it is that particular man, not Nature speaking. That the man, unlike the bird, ‘writes’ his song.
Worse yet, we believe that Humanity invented Language, that some particularly adroit primate took to scribbling signs either to communicate intent or mark areas or territories—very much like what the bird does with its song. In the same way, that Man did not invent Music, He did not invent Language, and the way in which Nature unfolds itself in a bird’s song, so it reveals itself in Humanity’s language, speech and writing. The song, like music, like language, like all forms of Intelligence are forms already inherent in Nature. It is Nature’s way of blossoming, or flowering or making itself known, through its fruit, which is Life.6 From this perspective, Language or the Roman Script or the standardized Arabic numeral even, is seen as the ‘emergence of a form’. To the scientist, this is seen as a process of Natural Selection, the emergence of a dominant pattern within a competitive set; to the psychologist or philosopher as a process of revelation; and to the clear sighted as an extension of one’s sensory and cognitive powers: for the emergence is nothing but the development of new Organs of Sensation which upon opening allow apprehension of what always Was.
Liber 777, a work we refer to frequently in this book, seeks a definition of Qabalah, and pre-emptively addresses some criticisms.7 Though we find these definitions ultimately unsatisfactory for reasons of omission, they are accurate descriptions even if the list be incomplete.
- A language fitted to describe certain classes of phenomena, and to express certain classes of ideas which escape regular phraseology.
- An unsectarian and elastic terminology by means of which it is possible to equate the mental processes of people apparently diverse owing to the constraint imposed upon them by the peculiarities of their literary expression.
- A system of symbolism which enables thinkers to formulate their ideas with complete precision, and to find simple expression for complex thoughts, especially such as include previously disconnected orders of conception.
- An instrument for interpreting symbols whose meaning has become obscure, forgotten or misunderstood by establishing a necessary connection between the essence of forms, sounds, simple ideas (such as number) and their spiritual, moral, or intellectual equivalents.
- A system of classification of uniform ideas so as to enable the mind to increase its vocabulary of thoughts and facts through organizing and correlating them.
- An instrument for proceeding from the known to the unknown on similar principles to those of mathematics.
- A system of criteria by which the truth of correspondences may be tested with a view to criticizing new discoveries in the light of their coherence with the whole body of truth.
Ultimately, there can be no rational explanation for why the Universe is the Way it is. There is only empirical evidence which itself is arguable; and the joyous act of experiencing or sensing. Reason is constructed after the perception of the event, and this reason is a simple attempt at coordinating this new data into one’s knowledge map. Dhyana (transcendence of the Ego) is necessary before the Qabalah can unfold fully and Samadhi (transcendence of the Self) is necessary for it to be perceived without Error.8 All rationality is a fiction and any image of the universe, a projection; so that any description we may have of the Universe is but a definition of the limits of our comprehension. One can observe for instance, that all that exists on this Plane is attracted to the Ground. Thus if I raise a ball above my head and then remove my Hand, the ball does not remain in its position (which would seem odd if not for our conditioning), but falls, accelerating violently towards the Ground. Similarly, we see particles existing in entropy, combining in a vacuum through this force of gravity to create yet more complex particles, molecules, life. We may call this gravity. We may devise rationalities and electrostatic laws to explain such gravity. The Mystic may say that this is because “Love is the Law” and that all particles wish to unite with all other particles. These again are rationalities. All we know is what we observe, and even here, we cannot be certain of not being deceived by the mechanism of sensory or instrumentational apprehension itself.
What we say of bodies of mass attracting each other through gravity and thus combining and thus increasing in mass in order to exert a yet greater gravitational pull on its environment, can also be said of Energy, of Thought, and of Consciousness. We perceive synchronicity, concordance and contiguity as even identities or elements in the Field of Significance coalesce. One may even find that by looking into Time and Events as they occur in the World (any part of it), some form of organizing principle or intelligence communicates in a form that is whole and perfect, reactive and intelligent. This would imply a concordance of events, an architecture to the manifest events in time-down to the most “insignificant” details. Now, because our world is permeated with letter and number (and these being Perfect in themselves) it is natural for rational man to distill these components into their elemental blocks of Letter (glyph) and Number. Finally, converting to letter and number has immediate practical applications: addresses, names, titles, streets, words, etc.—their properties and functions on all planes are revealed through the perfection and concordances mentioned. This will be the Student’s laboratory with all its myriad tools and instruments; and the World, entropic as it may seem, will open up like a watchpiece and reveal its internal workings to the inquisitive investigator.
4 Fully and wondrously to the M∴T∴
5 We know that if we were to make away with an egg from the lark’s nest and hatch it in isolation, that newly-hatched lark would sing the same song as though it had heard it a thousand times before. This is wired not learned behavior to use popular terminology. Nonetheless, the same arguments apply to the process of ‘learning’ which can be viewed as a meta-language with its own syntax and operands, very much like the Qabalah.
6 We will resort to this unfortunate sort of Language now and then, and will assume the Reader to be familiar with such terminology and the summation of these ideas in such constructs as the ‘Tree of Life’ and Aethyrs.
7 The following passage appears in Appendix A of 777 & other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley Aleister Crowley ed. I. Regardie (New York, USA: WEISER BOOKS 1977, rpt. York Beach, ME: Weiser, 1993)
8 The study and practice of the Qabalah may be sufficient to provoke these. Note that these two attainments are in a sense equivalent to the ordeal ‘x’ and the Crossing of the Abyss, which are discussed in the section on “The Living Key” in this volume.