Geburah is the fifth Sephirah of the Creative Process, and signifies in Hebrew a number of related meanings, around the theme of strength :
Strength, power, force, valour, courage, victory, might, God, strong, mighty, hero.
Geburah is connected with the punishment of God, rigour, severity, and justice. An alternative title of this Sephirah is Pachad, meaning "fear". Its most negative aspect is said to be blind fanaticism, which is often the result of a fear of that which is considered different to one's own beliefs. When the seven sins are allocated to the Tree, the sin of Geburah is said to be that of anger. It is also connected, in a more positive sense, with discipline and energy. Obviously, these aspects are counterbalanced by those of Chesed, "loving kindness" or "mercy", on the opposite side of the Tree, across the path marked by the "Strength" card of the Tarot. Indeed, that card can be taken to depict the harmonised relationship between Geburah, symbolised by the Red Lion, and Chesed, symbolised by the Peaceful Lady, whose own demeanour in sufficient to placate the beast. It should be noted that Geburah is passive to Chesed, and that as Dion Fortune states, many of the social and psychological problems we face can be modelled by our constant functioning, inappropriately, with an active Geburah. That is to say, we shoot first and ask questions later, or allow our fear to drive us rather than our urges to creativity. Obviously, if Chesed were not constrained by a correctly functioning Geburah, life would become dysfunctional in the opposite extreme, with chaos and anarchy without point. It is the work of the Adept grades in the initiatory system to learn to balance these states both within and without, to ensure that Tiphareth, the pivotal point of the Tree, is maintained in a dynamic equilibrium.
The Zohar puts it that the "left arm draws the immensity of space in rigour", and that Geburah is associated with the "repentance of God" and the Archangel Samael. It also points out that Mercy and Severity are united in Tiphareth.
The Sepher Yetzirah states "the fifth path is called the Radical Intelligence, because it is more similar than any other to the Supreme Unity and emanates from the depths of the Primordial Wisdom." It is the conciliatory force, restricting and directing the expansion of Chesed. The link with
Kether is in its role in defining the process of Zimzum as Din, which will be examined later in this chapter. The connection to "primordial wisdom", or Chockmah represents that Geburah plays a role in connection with the expansion of Chesed (the "Chockmah below the Abyss", as explained in the former chapter) in a similar way to the role played by Chockmah in ordering the "first swirlings" resulting from the expansion of Kether.
Indeed, it is hard to examine Geburah without connecting it with Chesed, or showing how the two merge into Tiphareth as a functional Triad. Geburah, like all the Sephiroth is only one "snapshot" of a synergetic process, or one node of a network, and thus can only be fully expressed as a relationship to the whole.
If Chesed is the irrepressibly expanding impulse of love and growth, then Geburah is the counteracting restraint and concentration. If Chesed is the inclination towards things, the outgoing nature and the opening-up of the Psyche, then Geburah is the inward withdrawal of powers and the concentration of power. In Tiphareth is married these dynamic attributes of attraction and repulsion.
An example of the difference between the two Sephiroth is further provided in the martial arts, and can be found in any other system, where the flow of Tai Chi Chuan is that akin to Chesed, whereas the Chi focusing of Kung Fu is of the nature of Geburah.
Din, or "judgement", associated with Geburah, plays an important role in the doctrine of Zimzum, "contraction", detailing the creative process of manifestation. In this Lurianic doctrine, Ain Soph gathered the "roots" of Din and placed them aside for the process of Zimzum, thus showing the "withdrawal" of the point of Kether from the Ain Soph Aur as a concentrated act of judgement and self-limitation. Indeed, it could be called the "original definition", and Geburah embodies the qualities of definition in its aspect as positive limitation.
In cosmological terms, Geburah represents the state 300,000 years after the Point Zero of the Big Bang model, the "Epoch of Recombination" (at -255 degrees), where heavy chemical elements were first formed in the gravitational collapse of stars and the first formation of galaxies. In Kabbalistic terminology, "the Left hand of God traced the firmament". In the Book of the Law, by Aleister Crowley, a similar model is utilised in symbolism :
III.72. I am the Lord of the Double Wand of Power; the wand of the force of Coph Nia - but my left hand is empty, for I have crushed an Universe; & nought remains.
The Zohar describes this development in terms of malbush, a "garment", whose folds create the matrix of manifestation as the letters of the Hebrew alphabet recombine as the folds overlap. This mirrors modern cosmology, as it is stated in Kabbalah that an "umatched Yod" remains once the combinations have taken place, which then transmits the light of Ain Soph Aur into the Creative Process and Manifestation (signified by the Hermit Tarot card).
This is similar to chemistry and physics, where unmatched particles form the basis of further reactions and energy bounds. Indeed, the recent discovery of background radiation from the edge of the cosmos is written of in identical terms, as the Epoch of recombination, the first ripples of cosmic structure, and is the stage where light was set free from the foggy soup of radiation.
Dion Fortune writes that "Binah is perpetually binding force into form, and Geburah perpetually breaking down form via the preserving influence of Chesed".
The Sepher ha-Temunah, amongst other works, uses the doctrine of cosmic cycles associated with the Sephiroth. These cycles or the "shemittah", are said to last 6000 years, and are associated with the 7 sephiroth below the Abyss, thus making 42,000 years (or 49,000 years if the cycle is 7000 years), leaving the last 8000 or 1000 years to complete the "Great Jubilee", (the Jubilee is a period of 50 years). It is said that we are currently in the Shemittah of Judgement, presided over by Geburah, which matches the Thelemic "Aeon of Horus" and the "Kali Yuga" of the Hindu system.
If this system is applied to the big bang cosmological model, then it is immediately apparent that we had exactly 50 cycles to reach the Epoch of Recombination, the first Cosmic Jubilee, and that cycle would have been that of Malkuth, or manifestation!
The process of Gematria may be applied in a number of ways to this Sephiroth, as follows :
Geburah is spelt GBVRH, numerating to 216, which is also the value of DBIR (Holy of Holies, Inner Sanctuary), and ChVBR (Sorcerer, snake-charmer). This latter equation reminds us that Geburah functions as the restrictive influence on the process of the Tree, whether that of the lightning flash of creation down the Tree, or the Snake of evolution up the Tree. That the god Pan, player of pipes and inspirer of panic, can be attributed here, and that the pipes are used to charm snakes, is an interesting link. It could also be said that the snake uses "fear", Geburah, to freeze its victims, or that the vibrations caused by the pipe act as Chesed on the "fearful serpent" of Geburah.
Also 216 equals RAIH (Proof, evidence), which might have bearing on the grade of this Sephirah, as it is where the Adeptus Major attains a complete mastery of practical magic, which is evidence and proof of the initiatory system. There is a final note of interest in that 216 = 6*6*6, the number of Man found in the Biblical Revelations.
The God-name of the Sephiroth is ALHIM GBVR, the "God of Judgement", which equates to 857, as does NVAP (Satyr). The God Pan, Lord of Satyrs, could well be associated with Geburah in his aspect of Panic and Awe, as Geburah is sometimes called "Pachad", meaning "fear".
The Archangel Kamiel, equating as KMAL to 91, is the same value as AMN (Amen), LBNH (Moon), MLAKh (messenger), PHOD (robe), MAN (to refuse), and EHLON (Tree).
Crowley, in "The Daughter of the Horseleech", writing of Elohim Gibor and Kamael points to this Gematria when he says, "He too bore the wings and weapons of space and Justice, and in himself he was that great Amen that is the beginning and end of all."
A brief digression can be made at this point to mention one of the over-utilisations of Gematria. As a system of numerology, Gematria is useful in that many Kabbalists used it simply as a form of code, as did Aleister Crowley. That there is a belief that each letter/number embodies a unique essence, and that these can be equated with one another can be looked at as either real, or simply a useful form of thought-provoking letter play. However, one cannot take the belief, and then in other cases step outside of the structure that the belief has meaning within. The Golden Dawn society referred to this as one example of a "confusion of the hierarchies". Other examples are common in the New Age movement as well, where beliefs are taken out of context of the systems which make sense of them (one that springs to mind is that of "Karma"). A Gematria example occurs in "Nightside of Eden", written by Kenneth Grant, the Outer Head of the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). He links Samael, attributed to Geburah, with the Greek God Pan on the basis that SMAL = 131 by Gematria, and he states that the letters Peh-Aleph-Nun (PAN) also value 131. This includes a number of confusions, namely; if there were a Hebrew word PAN, it would equate to 581, as a Nun final has a value of 500; the word PAN in Hebrew might mean anything, i.e. "spectacles", and be nothing to do with either Geburah or a Greek Shepherd God; Pan is a transliteration of a Greek word into the English alphabet in the first case - surely Crowley's "Greek Gematria" would be better suited?
The Planet of Geburah is Mars, MDIM, equalling 654, as do LHTIM (Secret arts, enthusiasm, witchcraft) and DMDVM (Twilight, dim light). This again suggests the mastery of practical magic as the skill attained in the initiatory system. The twilight follows the Day of Tiphareth and precedes the Night of the Abyss during the ascent of the Tree.
The Gods associated with Geburah are those of a martial nature, such as Thor, Ares, Mars, Horus, and Montu. Obviously, warfare and revenge are amongst the attributes given to such deities, but one should also see that Geburah embodies strict rulership and kingly attributes as well. Despite their superficiality, the "Conan" adventure stories of Robert E. Howard depict the translation of the barbarian aspects of Geburah into those required by the just king of a realm (learning when to hold one's tongue as effective diplomacy rather than lash out in anger is a lesson learnt from Geburah).
The Weapons of the Sephirah are the sword, scourge and spear. In "Magick", Crowley replaces the Spear with the dagger, and states that the weapons symbolise the following essential qualities in the Magicians world :
SCOURGE DAGGER CHAIN
Sulpher Mercury Salt
Energy Fluidity Fixity
Rajas Sattvas Tamas
The Scourge keeps the Aspiration keen, the Dagger shows that the magician is determined to make any Sacrifice required, and the Chain restricts his Wandering. The three "binding items" surround the Holy Oil, representing consecration, Grace and aspiration. This could be taken to symbolise in the concentric circles model of Kabbalah that Geburah is the outer circle of Chesed, which has its roots in Binah, to which the Oil can be associated.
Wippler mentions that one can meditate on Geburah and Chesed as analysis and synthesis, in order to reach an accurate self-evaluation. This resumes the idea of Justice, the Path running from Geburah to Tiphareth, the central Sephirah of balance. A useful object of meditation for this Triad, and indeed any part of the Tree, would be a Prism, into which light enters as a single "ray", and emerges "split" into the visible spectrum of colours. This signifies the process of manifestation down the Tree, as the Unified State is manifest in apparently seperative states, objects and identities.
On the psychological level, Geburah represents the Super-Ego, with its nature of punishment, whilst Chesed represents the Ego-Ideal, with its "reward" functioning when the Self in Tiphareth meets this Ideal. These all function "pre-self", and are thus in the individual unconscious. As the processes of Chesed and Geburah take place before awareness (Tiphareth), one cannot deal with them directly. Rather, one must observe their manifestation in awareness (Tiphareth), and trace back one's emotions, thoughts, beliefs and actions (Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malkuth) to their source.
Halevi, based on the work of Freud in particular, notes that the source of this conscience is originally formed from the parental model, and thus must be observed, and replaced by an individualised conscience. This is one of the minor inversions of work defined by the Tree as the Initiate progresses. It is interesting to note that when the ten commandments are allocated to the Tree, that of Geburah is "honour thy father and mother". I would suggest that this is Kabbalistically interpreted as "recognise the elements of parental conditioning in ones own nature and by analysis and synthesis, observing in awareness, judge which are appropriate, and which are not, discarding the latter and forming ones own model."
We must note that the punishment/reward complex signified by these two Sephiroth is a simplistic and dangerous model, as punishment, whether inflicted from without or within, only changes behaviour and not cause. Working for reward, again whether self-reward or peer-reward goes against the dictum of working "without lust of result" which is central to success. As already noted, the "trick" of working the two Sephiroth is, as one should expect from the system, pictured on the Tarot Card connecting the two, which is Strength. The Woman (Mercy) rests her hand upon the head of the Lion (Severity) without conflict. The Key represents an act of Tikkun, "restoration and reintegration", or restoring elements to their appropriate role in the creative process.
Sturzaker states that Geburah is the "centre of the dark night of the soul", which relates to the progress between Tiphareth and Binah, and the Crossing of the Abyss.
Dion Fortune terms the Sephiroth as the "sacrificial Priest of the Mysteries", and resumes a description of Geburah as involved with the transmutation of force from one level to another (i.e.
sacrificing coal in a furnace to turn into steam and drive the engine). This is the true nature of sacrifice as represented by Geburah, rather than that of Tiphareth, which is a sacrifice based on an "incorrect" belief that is not shed until after the awareness appropriate to Tiphareth is attained. Even at the stage of Geburah, an "incomplete understanding" is reached, although as Crowley states, the Moral is "Become an Adeptus Major!", if one wants to "easily understand how to perform them [operations of Magick art] if necessary".
Fortune also points out the connection of Chesed and Geburah with running a group, or managing a team. She symbolises it by making an analogy to the reins of a horse team, where sometimes one needs to let the rein out, and sometimes one needs to rein the horse in sharply. This is part of the Mystery of the Chariot, the Tarot card running from Binah (Understanding) to Geburah (Severity). In modern management training, a balanced Geburah is the difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness.
The Paths of Rigour which lead to and from Geburah can be categorised as follows :
Cheth - Chariot
Teth - Strength The
Lamed - Justice The
Mem - Hanged Man The
The Mystery of Directing Mystery of Control Mystery of Equilibrium Mystery of Sacrifice
It should be noted that Geburah ultimately is only destructive to the transitory. If something is "real", no amount of doubt, analysis, examination, and so forth will destroy it. Thus the principle of Occam's Razor (the simplest explanation will suffice in cases of doubt) is a sound one. A final note comes from the "Thirteen Petalled Rose", where an analysis of the Kiddush ritual (that performed on the eve of the Sabbath), states that the cup signifying reception contains red wine, expressing an aspect of Geburah, but has a small amount of water added to represent the mercy of Chesed. It is important in all acts to harmonise Geburah and Chesed in Tiphareth to achieve equilibrium, as will be examined in the following Chapter.
Chapter Nine; Tiphareth, The Hub of Sacrifice
The text of the Sepher Yetzirah regards Tiphareth as a "mediating intelligence" which multiplies the flow of emanations into it, and communicates these emanations to those who unite with it. Thus is Tiphareth the centre of the Tree, acting as a functioning nexus for the operations of the Sephiroth.
As a mediator (from the Latin, meaning "middle"), Tiphareth can function as a translator and diplomat, organising the activities of the Upper and Lower Tree according to the dual states of each. This is the point where "as is below, so above" is equally "as is above, so below". The Upper Sephiroth cannot flow into the Lower in an optimum state if the Lower are unbalanced, and neither can the Lower Sephiroth function correctly when the Upper Sephiroth are disturbed. Tiphareth, the Sephirah representing human self-awareness, is the key-stone on which this balance rests. Indeed, in Ephesians 2.20, Paul makes reference to "the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone," which in Kabbalah can be read to say that Yesod (meaning the "foundation") is the Sephirah of prophecy and communication to the outside world (Malkuth), but the corner-stone is self-awareness as practised by Christ, a personification of Tiphareth.
Equally, the role of a mediator is often that of translation, and it is in translation we find Tiphareth functioning as the Sephirah of sacrifice, the "translation" of one state to another by release of the old pattern. An example is the sacrificial flame, where the wick (matter) is translated by fire (spiritual practice) into light (illumination). Thus, the ever-burning Lamp is a reminder of this task, as well as symbolising the ultimate goal of the Ain Soph Aur as explained in the chapter, "Crown of Tsimtsum", previously.
The Adeptus Minor, the Grade attributed to Tiphareth, finds himself of necessity abandoning old patterns of belief and behaviour based on his previous (Yesod-dominated) view of the world and his relationship to it, in favour of new goals responding to his unification with Tiphareth and the influences now being felt for the first time in actuality from the Upper Sephiroth. The difference is marked, as up until that state, "we see through a glass, darkly" (I.Cor.13:12).
Tiphareth, as each of the Sephirah, requires examination as part of a set of complex processes. The paths connected to Tiphareth each give aspects of its relationships to the Sephiroth of the Tree. It is important to note firstly, though, that there is only one Sephiroth to which Tiphareth does not directly connect, and that is Malkuth. Our awareness of the environment is always seen through Yesod, the "dark glass" of our own perspective.
The Paths Of the Heart
II. High Priestess : This path connects Tiphareth to Kether and is the path of transcendence from self-identification to universal-identification. It functions as the impact of our true state into our self-aware state (when operating as awakened consciousness by various practices), and hence the High Priestess shows Tiphareth as a measure of our reflection of Truth, which hence flows into the Lower Sephiroth.
IV. Emperor : The Emperor represents the Power accessible to the fully operating Tiphareth from Chockmah, the Source of all movement and direction. The Emperor is the Light of Creation which bears one upwards through the letter Heh, meaning "window".
VI. Lovers : Operating at the same level as the Emperor, but on the other side of the Tree, the Lovers represent the "impact of inspiration" from Binah, "Understanding". Regardie also notes that one interpretation of the card is "the liberating effect of the descent of the Higher Genius", a specific experience attributed to Tiphareth.
IX. Hermit : The Hermit connects Awareness to the expansive force of Chesed, Love or Mercy. The Hermit embodies the contemplation of the Heart on the Mysteries of Creation in the Inner silence of devotion. As the Sufi saying states, "The Worker is hidden in the Workshop".
XI. Justice : The Atu of Justice is the balance of Tiphareth with respect to Geburah, discrimination. Lamed, the letter attributed to the Path, is the "ox goad", and symbolises the work of the Initiate in balancing the "two cells" which St. Catherine of Siena speaks of, where "...if you dwelt in self-knowledge alone, you would despair; if you dwelt in the knowledge of God alone, you would be tempted to presumption. One must go with the other, and thus you will reach perfection."
XIII. Death : Passing through the Veil of Paroketh, the Path to which the Death Atu is attributed connects to Netzach, one of the Sephiroth involved with the active creation of Life. This juxtaposition points to the Awareness that Life and Death are not opposites, but phases in the same process. Although even this duality is false (one presumes to someone above the Abyss), it is an important recognition and one essential to the understanding of "sacrifice".
XIV. Temperance : The Temperance card symbolises the State when Tiphareth is functioning to harmonise the Lower Sephiroth, whereas the High Priestess, its equivalent on the Middle Pillar above the Veil, shows the effects on Tiphareth of the proper functioning of the Upper Sephiroth. The Golden Dawn Rituals of Advancement to the State of Tiphareth and the Grade of Adeptus Minor always move the candidate along one side path, then bar them, then move along the opposite path to be barred and forced to return, until at last the "Middle Way" is walked and the goal attained.
XV. Devil : The Devil Atu, partnering Death on the other side of the Tree, shows how Hod, the Intellect, can enslave the Awareness by being glorified for its own sake. There are many paradoxes which can break the chains of the Devil, and Zen Koans are specifically designed to work on this level, amongst others. It also shows the danger of attempting to make Netzach subservient to Hod (working on "controlling the emotions") and is a parody of the more appropriate discipline which can be entered into by balancing the Square Dance of Geburah and Chesed with Hod and Netzach in Tiphareth.
In "777", Crowley attributes three Magical Formula to Tiphareth, being ABRAHADABRA, IAO and INRI. The latter two are expounded by Regardie in his "Foundations of Practical Magic", but bear some brief mention here.
IAO is the formula of Isis, Apophis and Osiris, and can be summarised as the formula describing three phases in all systems, be they events, acts or psychological occurrences. The Formula describes the three phases as Growth, Death and Rebirth. For example, Group Dynamics go through these phases, as does ones personal resolutions, or a day at work. The Initiate welcomes the Apophis phase as a "necessary evil", and works to time the Osiris phase as appropriate.
Crowley connects the IAO formula by the Gematria of 17 (10 + 1 + 6) to the numbers of squares of the Swastika, and from that to the Aleph, in that the shape is similar, and thus to the Unity. The IAO formula hence signifies the Unity of an act broken into its Motion.
INRI is taken as an anagram of various phrases, but the most usual is "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". However, by Kabbalah, this phrase embodies the Mystery of Tiphareth in its analysis as Yod, Nun, Resh and Yod.
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