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Hod & Netzach

“Objects contain the possibility of all situations.

The possibility of occurring in states of affairs is the form of an object.

Form is the possibility of structure.” - Wittgenstein
“Since feeling is first

who pays any attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you.” - E.E. Cummings

The title of the sephira Hod is sometimes translated as Splendour and sometimes as Glory. The title of the sephira Netzach is usually translated as Victory, sometimes as Endurance, and occasionally as Eternity. Although there have been many attempts to explain the titles of this pair of sephiroth, I am not aware of a convincing explanation.

The two sephiroth correspond to the legs and like the legs are normally taken as a pair and not individually. They complement another but are not opposites any more than force and form are opposites. This pair of sephiroth provide the first example of the polarity of form and force encountered when ascending back up the lightning flash from the sephira Malkuth. Neither quality manifests in a pure state, as form and force are thoroughly mixed together at the level of Hod and Netzach: the force aspect represented by Netzach is differentiated (an example of form) into a multitude of forces, and the form aspect represented by Hod acts dynamically (an example of force) by synthesising new forms and structures. Both sephiroth represent the plurality of consciousness at this level, and in older texts they are referred to as the “armies” or “hosts”. To understand why they are referred to in this way it is necessary to look at an archaic aspect of Kabbalistic symbolism whereby the Tree of Life is a representation of kingship.

One of the titles of Tiphereth is Melekh, or king. This king is the child of Chokhmah (Abba, the father) and Binah (Aima, the Mother) and hence a son of God who wears the crown of Kether. The kingdom is the sephira Malkuth, at the same time queen (Malkah) and bride (Kallah). In his right hand the king wields the sword of justice (corresponding to Gevurah), and in his left the sceptre of authority (corresponding to Chesed), and he rules over the armies or hosts (Tzaba), which are Hod and Netzach. The use of kingship as a metaphor to convey what the sephiroth mean obscures as much as it reveals, but it is an unavoidable piece of Kabbalistic symbolism, and the attribution of Hod and Netzach to the “armies” does capture something useful about the nature of consciousness at this level: consciousness is fragmented into innumerable warring factions, and if there is no rightful king ruling over the kingdom of the soul (a common state of affairs), then the armies elect a succession of leaders from the ranks, who wear a lopsided crown and occupy the throne only for as long as it takes to find another claimant - more on this later.

The psychological interpretation of Hod is that it corresponds to the ability to abstract, to conceptualise, to reason, to communicate, and this level of consciousness arises from the fact that in order to survive we have evolved a nervous system capable of building internal representations of the world. I can drive around London in a car because I possess an internal representation of the London street system. I can diagnose faults in the same car because I have an internal representation of its mechanical and electrical systems and how they might fail. I can type this document without looking at the keyboard because I know where the keys are positioned, and your ability to read what I have written pre-supposes a shared understanding about the meaning of words and what they represent. Our nervous systems possess an absolutely basic ability to create internal representations out of the information we are capable of perceiving through our senses.

It is also an absolutely basic characteristic of the world that it is bigger than my nervous system. I cannot possibly create accurate, internal representations of the world, and one of the meanings of the verb “to abstract” is “to remove quietly”. This is what the nervous system does: it quietly removes most of what is going on in the world in order to create an abridged representation of reality with all the important (important to me) bits underlined in highlighter pen. This is the world “I” live in: not in the “real” world, but an internal reality synthesised by my nervous system. There has been a lot of philosophising about this, and it is difficult to think about how our nervous systems might be distorting or even manufacturing reality without a feeling of unease, but I am personally reassured by the everyday observation that most adults can drive a car on a busy road at eighty miles per hour in reasonable safety. This suggests that while our synthetic internal representation of the world isn't accurate, it isn't at all bad.

Abstraction does not end at the point of building an internal representation of the external world. My nervous system is quite content to treat my internal representation of the world as yet another domain over which it can carry out further abstraction, and the subsequent new world of abstractions as another domain, and so on indefinitely, giving rise to the principal definition of “abstraction”: “to separate by the operation of the mind, as in forming a general concept from consideration of particular instances”. As an example, suppose someone asks me to watch the screen of a computer and to describe what I see. I have no idea what to expect.

“Hmmm…lots of dots moving around randomly…different colour dots…red, blue, green. Ah, the dots seem to be clustering…they're forming circles…all the dots of each particular colour are forming circles, lots of little circles. Now the circles are coming together to form a number…it's 3. Now they're moving apart and forming another number…its 15…now 12..9..14. They've gone……….that was it..3, 15, 12, 9, 14. Is it some sort of test? Do I have to guess the next number in the series? What are the numbers supposed to mean? What was the point of it? Hmmm..the numbers might stand for letters of the alphabet…let's see. C..O..L..I…N. It's my name!”

The dots on the screen are real - there are real, discrete, measurable spots of light on the screen. I could verify the presence of dots of light using an appropriate light meter. The colours are synthesised by my retinas; different elements in my eye respond to different frequencies in the light and give rise to an internal experience we label “red”, “blue”, “green”. The circles simply do not exist: given the nature of the computer output on the screen, there are only individual pixels, and it is my nervous system which constructs circles. The numbers do not exist either; it is only because of my particular upbringing (which I share with the person who wrote the computer program) that I am able to distinguish patterns standing for abstract numbers in patterns of circles e.g.

    oo

   o  o

      o

      o

     o

    o

   o

  ooooo

And once I begin to reason about the meaning of a sequence of numbers I have left the real world a long way behind: not only is “number” a complex abstraction, but when I ask a question about the “meaning” of “a sequence of numbers” I am working with an even more “abstract abstraction”. My ability to happily juggle numbers and letters and decide that there is an identity between the abstract number sequence “3, 15, 12, 9, 14” and the character string “COLIN” is one of those commonplace things which any person might do and yet it illustrates how easy it is to become completely detached from the external world and function within an internal world of abstractions which have been detached from anything in the world for so long that they are taken as real without a second thought.

In parallel with our ability to structure perception into an internal world of abstractions we possess the ability to communicate facts about this internal world. When I say “The cup is on the table”, another person is able to identify in the real world, out of all the information reaching their senses, the abstraction “chair”, the abstraction “cup”, and confirm the relationship of “on-ness”. Why are the cup and table abstractions? Because the word “cup” does not uniquely specify any particular cup in the world, and when I use the word I am assuming that the listener already possesses an internal representation of an abstract object “cup”, and can use that abstract specification of a cup to identify a particular object in the context within which my statement was made.

We are not normally conscious of this process, and don't need to be when dealing with simple propositions about objects in the real world. I think I know what a cup is, and I think you do too. If you don't know, ask someone to show you a few. Life gets a lot more complicated when dealing with complex internal abstractions: what is a “contract”, a “treaty”, a “loan”, “limited liability”, a “set”, a “function”, “marriage”, a “tort”, “natural justice”, a “sephira”, a “religion”, “sin”, “good”, “evil”, and so on (and on). We reach agreement about the definitions of these things using language. In some cases, for example, a mathematical object, the thing is completely and unambiguously defined using language, while in other cases (e.g. “good”, “sin”) there is no universally accepted definition. Life is further complicated by a widespread lack of awareness that these internal abstractions are internal, and it is common to find people projecting internal abstractions onto the world as if they were an intrinsic part of the fabric of existence, and as objectively real as the particular cup and the particular table I referred to earlier. Marriage is no longer a contract between a man and a woman; it is an estate made in heaven. What is heaven? God knows. And what is God? Trot out your definitions and let's have an argument - that is the way such questions are answered. Much of the content of electronic bulletin boards consists of endless arguments and discussions on the definition of complex internal abstractions (what is ritual, what is magic, what is karma, what is ki, what is…).

A third element which goes together with abstraction and language to complete the essense of the sephira Hod is reason, and reason's formal offspring, logic. Reason is the ability to articulate and justify our beliefs about the world using a base of generally agreed facts and a generally agreed technique for combining facts to infer valid conclusions. If reason is considered as one out of a number of possible processes for establishing what is true about the world we live in, for establishing which models of reality are valid and which are not, then it has been phenomenally successful: in its heyday there were those who saw reason as the most divine faculty, the faculty in humankind most akin to God, and that legacy is still with us - the words “unreasonable” and “irrational” are often used to attack and denigrate someone who does not (or cannot) articulate what they do or why they do it. There is of course no “reason” why we should have to articulate or justify anything, even to ourselves, but the reasoning machine within us demands an “explanation” for every phenomenon, and a “reason” for every action. This is a characteristic of reason - it is an obsessive mode of consciousness. A second characteristic of reason is that it operates on the “garbage-in, garbage-out” principle: if the base of given facts a person uses to reason about are garbage, so are the conclusions - witness what two thousand years of Christian theology has achieved using sound dialectical principles taken from Aristotle.

If the sephira Hod on the Pillar of Form represents the active synthesis of abstract forms in consciousness (and abstraction, language and reason are prime examples) then the sephira Netzach on the Pillar of Force represents affective states of consciousness which influence how we act and react: needs, wants, drives, feelings, moods and emotions. It is difficult to write about affective states, to be clear on the distinction between a need and a want on one hand, or a feeling or a mood on the other, and I find it particularly difficult because the essence of sadness is being sad, the essence of excitement is the feeling of excitement, the essence of desire is the aching, lusting, overwhelming feeling of desire, and being too precise about defining feelings is in the essence of Hod, not Netzach. These things are incommunicable. They can be produced in another person, but they cannot be communicated. It is possible to be clinical and abstract and precise about the sephira Hod because an abstract clinical precision captures that aspect of consciousness perfectly, but when attempting to communicate something about Netzach one feels tempted to try to communicate feelings themselves, a task more suited to a poet or a musician, an actor or a dancer. Please accept this unfortunate limitation in what follows, a limitation not necessarily present when Kaballah is learned at first hand from someone.

Netzach is on the Pillar of Force, but in reaching Netzach the Lightning Flash has already passed through Binah and Gevurah on the Pillar of Form and so it represents a force conditioned and constrained by form; when we talk about Netzach we are talking about the different ways force can be shaped and directed, like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube. The toothpaste we are talking about is something I will call “life force” or “life energy”, and as a rule, when I have a lot of it I feel well and full of vitality, and when I don't have much I feel unwell, tired, and vulnerable. To continue the somewhat phallic toothpaste metaphor, the magnitude of pressure on the tube corresponds to vitality, the direction in which the toothpaste comes out corresponds to a need or a want, and the shape of the nozzle corresponds to a feeling: all three factors, pressure, direction and nozzle determine how the toothpaste comes out; that is, we could say that there are three factors giving a form to the toothpaste (or life-energy). It may seem sloppy and unnecessarily metaphysical to imply that all needs, wants and feelings are merely conditions of manifestation of something more basic, some “unconditioned force”, but Kaballah is primarily a tool for exploring internal states, and there are internal states (certainly in my experience) where this force is experienced directly with much less differentiation, hence the clumsy metaphor.

Textbooks on psychology define a need as an internal state which results in directed behaviour, and discuss needs such as thirst, hunger, sex, stimulation, proximity seeking, curiousity and so on. These things are interesting, but for virtually everyone such basic and inherent needs are in the nature of “givens” and don't provide much individual insight into the questions “why do I behave differently from other people?”, or “should I change my behaviour?”, or more interesting still “to what extent do I (or can I) influence my behaviour?”. In addition to inherent needs it is useful also to look at needs which have been acquired (i.e. learned), and for convenience I will call them “wants” because people are usually conscious of “wanting” something specific. To give some examples, a person might want:

  • to buy a bar of chocolate.
  • to go to the toilet.
  • to own a better car.
  • to have a sexual relationship with someone.
  • to live forever.
  • to be thinner (more musculer, taller, whiter, browner…).
  • to read a book.
  • to gain social recognition within a particular group.
  • to win in sport.
  • to go shopping.
  • to go to bed.

Not only are these “wants” the sort of thing many people want these days, but these “wants” can all occur concurrently in the same person, and while some may have been simmering away on a back burner for years, there can be an astonishing variety of pots and pans waiting for an immediate turn on the stove. The average person's consciousness zips around the kitchen like a demented short-order cook stirring this dish, serving that one, slapping a pot on the stove for a few minutes only to take it off and put something else on, throwing whole meals in the bin only to empty them back into pots a few minutes later. The choice of which pot ends up on the hot plate depends largely on mood and accident: some people may plan their lives like military campaigns but most don't. Most people have far more wants than there are hours in the day to achieve them, and those which are actually satisfied on a given day is more a function of accident than design. Careers are thrown away (along with status and security) in a moment of sexual infatuation; the desire to eat wars with the desire to be slim; the writer retires to the country to write the great novel and does everything but write; the manager desperately tries to finish an urgent report but finds himself dreaming about a car he saw in the car park; the student abandons an important essay on impulse to go out with friends. One activity is quickly replaced by another as the person attempts to reconcile all his wants and drives, but unfortunately there is no requirement that wants should be internally consistent or complementary; like a multi-process operating system, a single thread of energy is randomly cycled around an arbitrary list of needs and wants to produce the mixed-up complexity of the average person. Each want can be treated as a distinct mode of consciousness - I can eat a slap-up meal one day and thoroughly enjoy it, while the next day I can look in the mirror and swear never to touch another pizza again. It is as if two separate beings inhabited my body, one who loves pizzas and one who wants to be thin, and each makes plans independently of the other, and only the magic dust of unbroken memory sustains the illusion that I am a single person. When I view my own wants and actions dispassionately I can conclude that there is a host or army of independent beings jostling inside me, a crowd of artificial elementals individually ensouled with enough of my energy to bring one particular desire to fruition. I cope with the semi-chaotic result of mob rule by using the traditional remedy: public relations. I put together internal press releases (various rationalisations and justifications) to convince myself, and others if need be, that the mess was either due to external circumstances beyond my control (I didn't have time last night), the fault of other people (you made me angry), or inevitable (I had no choice, there was no alternative). In cases where even my public relations don't work I erect a shrine to the gods of Guilt and make little offerings of sorrow and regret over the years.

This is normal consciousness for most people. It is a kind of insanity. Wants rush to and fro on the stage of consciousness like actors in the closing scenes of Julius Caeser - alarums and excursions, bodies litter the stage, trumpets and battle shouts in the wings, Brutus falls on his sword, Anthony claims the field - perhaps this is why the sephira is called Victory! Every day new wants are kicked off in response to advertising or peer pressure, old wants compete with each other in a zero-sum game. Having said this, I should point out that it is not desire or wants or drives which create the insanity - Kaballah does not place the value judgement on desire that Buddhism does (that desire is the cause of suffering, and by inference, something to be overcome). The insanity arises from mob-rule, from the bizarre internal processes of justification, rationalisation and guilt, and from the identification of Self with the result - I will return to this when discussing the sephira Tiphereth, as the misidentification of Self is a key element in the discussion on Tiphereth.

Netzach also corresponds to our feelings, emotions and moods, because this background of “psychological weather” strongly conditions the way in which we think and behave: regardless of what I am doing, my energy will manifest differently when I am happy than when I am not. Sometimes moods and emotions are triggered by a specific event, and sometimes they are not: free-floating anxiety and depression are common enough, and perhaps free-floating happiness is too (I can't speak from experience there ;-). There are hundreds of words for different moods, emotions and feelings, but most seem to refer to different degrees of intensity of the same thing, or the same feeling in different contexts, and the number of genuinely distinct internal dimensions of feeling appears to be small. Depression, misery, sadness, happiness, delight, joy, rapture and ecstacy seem to lie along the same axis, as do loathing, hate, dislike, affection, and love. It is an interesting exercise to identify the genuinely, qualitatively different feelings you can experience by actually conjuring up each feeling. I have tried the experiment with a number of people, and you will probably find there are less than 10 distinct feelings.

The most immediate and personal correspondences for Hod and Netzach are the psychological correspondences: the rational, abstract, intellectual and communicative on one hand and the emotional, motivational, intuitive, aesthetic, and non-rational on the other. The planetary and elemental correspondences mirror this: Hod corresponds to Kokab or Mercury, and the element of Air, while Netzach corresponds to Nogah or Venus, and the element Water.

The Virtue of Hod is honesty or truthfulness, and its Vice is dishonesty or untruthfulness. One of the features of being able to create abstract representations of reality and communicate some aspect of it to another person is that it is possible to misrepresent reality, or to put it bluntly, lie through your teeth.

The Illusion of Hod is order, in the sense of attempting to impose one's sense of order upon the world. This is very noticeable in some people; whenever something happens they will immediately pigeonhole it and declare with great authority “it is just another example of XYZ”. A surprising number of people who claim to be rational will claim “there's no such thing as (ghosts, telepathy, free lunches, UFO's)” without having examined the evidence one way or the other. They are probably right, and I have no personal interest either way, but it is not difficult to distinguish between someone who carefully weighs the pros and cons in an argument and readily admits to uncertainty, and someone with a firm and orderly conviction that “this is the way the world is”. The illusion of order occurs because people confuse their internal representation of the world with the world itself, and whenever they are confronted with something they attempt to fit it into their representation.

The illusion of order (that everything in the world can be neatly classified) relates closely to the klippoth of Hod, which is rigidity, or rigid order. As children we start out with an open view of what the world is like, and by the time we reach our late teens or early twenties this view has set fairly solid, like cold porridge - there are few minds more full of certainties than that of an eighteen year old. A good critical education sometimes has the effect of stirring the porridge into a lumpy gruel, but it gradually starts to set again (unless the heavy hand of fate stirs it up), and it is generally recognised, particularly in the sciences, that a deeply ingrained sense of “how things are” is the greatest obstacle to progress. If you hear some kids listening to music and find yourself thinking “I don't know what they find in that noise!” then it's happening to you too. If find yourself looking back to a time when everything was so much better than it is today and find yourself declaring “nostalgia isn't what it used to be” then you will know that the porridge has gone very cold and very stiff.

The Vision of Hod is the Vision of Splendour. There is regularity and order in the world - it's not all an illusion - and when someone is able to appreciate natural order in its abstract sense, via mathematics for example, it can lead to a genuinely religious, even ecstatic experience. The thirteenth century Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia developed a rigorous system of Hebrew letter mysticism based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, their symbolic meanings, and their abstract relationships when permuted into different “names of God”; many hours of intense concentration spent combining letters according to complex rules generated highly abstract symbolic meanings and insights which led to ecstatic experiences. The same sense of awe can come from mathematics and science - the realisation that gravitational dynamics in three dimensions is geometry in four dimensions, that plants are living fractals, that primes are the seeds of all other numbers, are just as likely to lead towards an intense vision of the splendour of the world made visible through the eye of the rational intellect.

The Virtue of Netzach is unselfishness, and its Vice is selfishness. Both the Virtue and the Vice are an attitude towards things-which-are-not-me, specifically, other people and living creatures. If I was surrounded by a hundred square miles of empty desert then my attitude to other living things wouldn't matter, but I don't, and nothing I do is without some consequence; my needs, wants and feelings invariably have an effect on people, animals and plants, who all want to live and have some level of needs and wants and feelings too. Unselfishness is simply a recognition of others' needs. Selfishness taken to an extreme is a denial of life, because it denies freedom and life to anything which gets in the way; my needs must come first. Netzach lies on the Pillar of Force and is an expression of life-energy, so to deny life is a perversion of the force symbolised by Netzach, hence the attribution of selfishness to the Vice.

The Vision of Netzach is the Vision of Beauty Triumphant. Whereas the Vision of Splendour corresponding to Hod is a vision of complex abstract relationships, symmetry, and mathematical elegance, the Vision of Beauty Triumphant is purely aesthetic and firmly based in the real world of textures, smells, sounds, and colours, an appropriate correspondence for Venus, the goddess of sensual beauty.

Suppose two housebuyers go to look at a house. The first is interested in the number of rooms, the size of the garage, the house's position relative to local amenities, the price, the number of square metres in the plot, and whether the windows are double-glazed. The second person likes the decoration in the lounge, the colour of the bathroom, the wisteria plant in the garden, the cherry tree, the curving shape of the stairs, and the sloping roof in one of the bedrooms. Both people like the house, but the first likes various abstract properties associated with the house, whereas the second likes the house itself. Suppose the same two people buy the house and decide to do ritual magic. The first person wants white robes because white is the colour of the powers of light and life. The second wants a green velvet robe because it feels and looks nice. The first reads lots of books on how to carry out a ritual, while the second sits under the cherry tree in the garden with a flute and a blissful expression of cosmic love. The first person has continued to make choices based on an abstract notion of what is correct, while the second makes choices based on what feels right. Both are driven by an internal sense of “rightness”, but in the first case it is based on abstract criteria, while in the second it is based on personal aesthetic notion of beauty.

The Vision of Beauty Triumphant has a compelling power. It is pre-articulate and inherently uncritical, and at the same time it is immensely biased. A person in its grip will pronounce judgement on another person's taste in art, literature, clothes, music, decor or whatever, and will do it with such a profound lack of self-consciousness that it is possible to believe good taste is ordained in heaven. This person will mock those who surround themselves with rules, regulations, principles, and analysis, the “syntax of things” as E. E. Cummings puts it, and instead exhibit a whimsical spontaneity, a penetrating (so they believe) intuition, and a free spirit in tune with ebb and flow of life. There are those who might complain about their astounding arrogance, fickleness, unreliability, and the neverending flow of unshakable and prejudiced opinions delivered with papal authority, but those who complain are (clearly) anal-retentive nit-pickers and don't count. For a total immersion in the aesthetic vision read Oscar Wilde's “The Picture of Dorian Grey”.

The Illusion of Netzach is projection. We all tend to identify feelings and characteristics in other people which we find in ourselves and when we get it right it is called “empathy” or “intuition”; when we get it wrong it is called “projection”, because we are incorrectly projecting our feelings, needs, motives, or desires onto another person and interpreting their behaviour accordingly. Some level of projection is unavoidable, and at best it can be balanced with a critical awareness that it can occur, but projection is insidious, and the strength of feeling associated with a projection can easily overwhelm any intellectual awareness. Projection usually “feels right”.

One of the most overwhelming forms of projection accompanies sexual desire. Why do I find one person sexually attractive and not another? Why do I find some characteristics in a person sexually attractive but not others? In my own case I discovered that when I put together all the characteristics I found most attractive in a person a consistent picture emerged of an “ideal person”, and every person I had ever considered as a possible sexual partner was instantly compared against this template. In fact there was more than one template, more than one ideal, but the number was limited and each template was very clearly defined, and most importantly, each template was internal. My sexual (and often many other feelings) about a person were based on an internal and apparently arbitrary internal template. This was crazy; I found my sexual feelings about a person would change depending on how they dressed or behaved, on how well they “matched the ideal”. It became obvious that what I was in love with did not exist outside of myself, and I was trying to find this ideal in everyone else. Each one of these “templates” was a living aspect of myself which I had chosen not to regard as “me”, and in compensation I spent much of my time trying to find people to bring these parts to life, like a director auditioning actors and actresses for a part in a new play. If a person previously identified as ideal failed to live up to my notion of how they should be ideally behaving then I would project a fault on them: there was something wrong with them! Madness indeed.

The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung [1] recognised this phenomenon and gave these idealised and projected components of our psyche the title “archetype”. Jung identified several archetypes, and it is worth mentioning the major and most influential.

The Anima is the ideal female archetype. She is part genetic, part cultural, a figure molded by fashion and advertising, an unconscious composite of woman in the abstract. The Anima is common in men, where she can appear with riveting power in dreams and fantasy, a projection brought to life by the not inconsiderable power of the male sexual drive. She might be meek and submissive, seductive and alluring, vampish and dangerous, a cheap slut or an unattainable goddess - there is no “standard anima”, but there are many recognisable patterns which can have a powerful hold on particular men. Male sexual fantasy material is amazingly predictable, cliched, unimaginitive and crude, and contains a limited number of steroetyped views of women which are as close to a “lowest common denominator anima” as one is likely to find.

The Animus is the ideal male archetype, and much of what is true about the Anima is true of the Animus. There are differences; the predominant quality in the Anima is her appearance and behaviour, while the predominant quality in the Animus is social power and competence. In the interests of sexual equality it is worth mentioning that female romantic fantasy material is amazingly predictable, cliched, unimaginitive and crude, and contains a limited number of stereotype views of men which are as close to a “lowest common denominator animus” as one is likely to find.

The Shadow is the projection of “not-me” and contains forbidden or repressed desires and impulses. In most men the Anima is repressed and in most women the Animus is repressed, and so both form a component of the Shadow. The major part of the Shadow however is composed of forbidden impulses, and the Shadow forms a personification of evil. Much of what is considered evil is defined socially and the communal personification of evil as an external force working against humankind (such as Satan) is widespread.

The Persona is the mask a person wears as a member of a community when a large proportion of his or her behaviour is defined by a role such as doctor, teacher, manager, accountant, lawyer or whatever. Projection occurs in two ways: firstly, someone may be expected to conform to a role in a particularly rigid or stereotyped way, and so suffer a loss of individuality and probably a degree of misplaced trust or prejudice. Secondly, many people identify with a role to the extent that they carry that role into all aspects of their private lives. This “projection onto self” is a form of identification - see the section on Tiphereth.

The archetype of Self at the level of Hod and Netzach is usually projected as an ideal form of person; that is, someone will believe that he or she is highly imperfect creature and it is possible to attain an ideal state of being in which the same person is kind, loving, wise, forgiving, compassionate, in harmony with the Absolute, or whatever. This projection will either fasten on a living or dead person, who then becomes a hero, heroine, guru, or master with grossly inflated abilities, or it fastens on a vision of “myself made perfect”. The projected vision of “myself made perfect” is common (almost universal) among those seeking “spiritual development”, “esoteric training”, and other forms of self-improvement, and in almost every case it is based on an abstract ideal. The person will probably insist that the ideal has existed in certain rare individuals (usually long dead saints and gurus, or someone who lives a long way off whom they haven't met), and that is the sort of person they want to be. It should be comical, but it isn't. There is more to say about this and it will keep till the section on Tiphereth.

The klippoth or shell of Netzach is habit and routine. When behaviour, with all its potential for new experiences, new ways of doing things, new relationships, becomes locked into patterns which repeat over and over again, then the life energy, the force aspect of Netzach is withdrawn and all that remains is the dead, empty shell of behaviour. Just as the klippoth of Hod is rigid order, the petrification of one's internal representation of reality, so the klippoth of Netzach is the petrification of behaviour.

The God Names of Hod and Netzach are Elohim Tzabaoth and Jehovah Tzabaoth respectively, which mean “God of Armies”, but in each case a different word is used for “God”. The name “Elohim” is associated with all three sephiroth on the Pillar of Form and represents a feminine (metaphorically speaking) tendency in that aspect of God. The elucidation of God Names can become phenomenally complex and obscure, with long excursions into gematria and textual analysis of the Pentateuch and it is a quagmire I intend to avoid.

The Archangels are Raphael and Haniel. The Archangel of Hod is sometimes given as Michael, but I prefer Raphael (Medicine of God) for no other reason than the association of Mercury with medicine and healing; besides, Michael has perfectly good reasons for residing in Tiphereth. This sort of thing can give rise to an amazing amount of hot air when Kabbalists meet; for those who wonder how far back the confusion goes, Robert Fludd (1574-1607) plumped for Raphael, whereas two hundred years later Francis Barrett prefered Michael. The co-founder of the Golden Dawn, S.L. Mathers, went for both depending on which text you read. Kabbalah isn't an orderly subject and those who want to impose too much order on it are falling into the illusion of…I leave this as an exercise to the reader.

The Angel Orders are the Beni Elohim and the Elohim.

The triad of sephiroth Yesod, Hod and Netzach comprise the triad of “normal consciousness” as we normally experience it in ourselves and most people most of the time. This level of consciousness is intensely magical; try to move away from it for any length of time and you will discover the strength of the force and form sustaining it. It is not an exaggeration to say that most people are completely unable to leave this state, even when they want to, even when they desperately try to. The sephira Tiphereth represents a state of being which unlocks the energy of “normal consciousness” and is the subject of the next section.

  1. Jung, C.G, “Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self”, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1974

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