What is the Nightside of Eden and Why Do We Care?
Rabbinical lore speaks very little about the Qliphot and the Qliphotic Spheres, the main aim of traditional Jewish Kabbalah being to understand the Law better, in order to be a better Jew. Early Western Kabbalah also cared very little about the topic party because they thought it was a bad idea to work with entities they considered "evil", partly because they had a lot to do. Crowley noted names and princes in his 777, but it was clearly not a full and complete system.
It was through the work of Kenneth Grant and others that the Nightside of the Tree became thoroughly mapped and travelling them understood as just as valid a system of working as walking the Shining Paths. It is obvious that Adepts involved with the forces of the Left Hand Path will feel the attraction, and the temptation of working just with this side, although we feel to traverse one polarity exclusively is to miss out on the whole, as there is much to be said for the interaction of the two. Even though the concept is worked out and understood quite extensively, there is precious little information and the aim of this article is to add to that.
The Gardens of Eden
Let us start by recapping the original Tree of Life. Please bear in mind that this has little to nothing to do with Traditional Jewish Kabbalah - Gershon Sholem, renowned scholar on the topic said Western Kabbalah is not worth anyone's time. From his point of view he was right, this doesn't teach people, how to be better Jews. However, for the serious students it does provide an immensely useful set of symbols, ideas and places to visit in their Bodies of Light.
The Divine Energy starts off by introducing AIN (Without, 'there is no..."), Nothing to create the possibility of Something. Within that Nothing it creates Infinity (AIN SOPH, literally "without end") to create possibility for Boundaries. It then fills this Infinity with AIN SOPH AUR, Light Without End.
From this light are the Sephirot, Spheres formed1, which are as follows:
Kether, the Crown (I) is the fountainhead. That is where "All is One" is essentially and in a very real way true. The energy then polarizes: Chokmah (Wisdom, II) is the male principle, that which radiates; Binah (Understanding, III) is the Great Mother, which is connected to the planet Saturn. These three are called the Supernal Triad. Below them is the Abyss called Daath, "Knowledge"2, which no one can pass. On most depictions they mark Daath with a dotted circle on the Path of Gimel (13, we will talk about the Paths in the next section), but that merely leads to the false assumption that a.) it's just like another Sephira (the singular of Sephirot) and b.) it's just there and can be circumvented via Paths He, Vav, Zayin and Cheth (15, 16, 17 and 18th). It is not so.
Below the Abyss comes Chesed (Mercy, IV), which has Jupiterial qualities, as it disseminates the abundance from above. Gvurah (Courage, V) is next (in most places erroneously spelled Geburah), this is where Martial energies come from. All the above have one focal point, Solar Tiphereth (Beauty, VI), which essentially connects the Above with that of Below. The energy then becomes even less subtle and enters the four Spheres most connected with Human experience: Netzach (Victory, VII) of Venus and of emotions and Hod (Splendour, VIII) of Mercury and Intellect are the last paired, then we arrive to the Lunar Sephirah Yesod (Foundation, IX), which consist of two parts. The top is turned towards Tiphereth and receives the warmth and light, making it the place of dreams, inspiration, knowledge and beauty. The lower part sees no light, hence it is the pit of all aberrations, sick desires, and lowest instincts. Finally we reach the Kingdom, Malkuth (X), the material plane.
1 Japanese-style pictures, animation and games seem to love words used in Western Occultism -
to the point where every single Google image search on any subject becomes a navigation
between drawings of feminine-looking sword-wielding computer game characters and underage
girls with oversized eyes and breasts to find the few relevant pictures. Incidentally, that is
the reason why most often the word Sephirot is written thus on the Internet, and not with a
"th" as the letter Tav at the end of the word would warrant
2 It's worthy to note that certain Rabbinical texts mentions this "knowledge" in the Biblical sense.
The Shining Paths of Horus
Between the Sephirot, we find twenty-two paths, that in the Western Esoteric tradition are thought to correspond to the twenty-two letters. We're emphasizing the Tradition, as the whole concept of the Tree of Life and the Spheres originates from a 4th century writing called Sefer Yetzirah, the Book of Formation, wherein we find mention of ten Sephirot and twenty-two letters, but no paths, and certainly not in this particular style. The Tree of Life in this particular form is no older than the 1800's. There are plenty of other types of depictions with different paths. Most often Malkuth is connected only by one to the rest, that being the trunk of the tree, while the Heavens are interconnected; but we can find old alchemical manuscripts where the paths here shown as 13, 15 and 17 flow together, and one joint path leads to Tiferet, that being the only connection between the Supernals and the Infernals. We can also find a totally different concept of concentric circles, where Malkuth is the middle and the disc / globe is bordered by Ain Soph (a term used in certain texts to describe God).
Following here are the Paths. To understand them, we have to look at the two Sephirot between which they are. We have included the interaction that we feel is most significant, but it is in no way an absolute truth, merely a pointer. To date, there is not a lot of information on the Paths besides dry tables of correspondences listing the Zodiacal and Tarot connections, we thought this could be a welcome change.
The Nightside of Eden
We do hope the readers will forgive us the arduous prelude, but we feared without proper grounding, the entire article would be lost on those newer to Western Kabbalah. And now for the good part!
It helps to think of the Tree as having a "top", a "bottom" and some form of gravitational force working towards the latter. The Sephiroth are already viewed as being more coarse and increasing in density the closer we get to Malkuth, but there is another aspect to this. Think of the tree as a series of gardens that run up a hill. The topmost three are the most beautiful, and the house of the owner is at the very top. These are kept apart from the other by a gaping chasm.
Under these gardens are vast caverns, interconnected by huge, dark tunnels that look as though they were carved by the passage of a gigantic snake. Each cave is exactly under a garden and is, in a way, a mockery of it. Everything that is flawed, bad, sick and rotting is cast out from the well-kept garden and ends up - here. Ancient, tentacled entities that haunted mankind's dreams since the dawn of time slumber in the gloom, guarding unspeakable knowledge that predates childish conceptions of good and evil. This is the Nightside of Eden.
Every cavern is populated by its own order of Qliphoth (who are known by one collective name, name is often, erroneously used as a name for the Cave as well) and has its Prince. The whole system can only be accessed via Daath.
Gihinnon or Gehenna includes two caves: The Cavern of Malkuth, belongs to the Lilith (They of the Night, from the root "layla", night). Na'amah is the Prince. This level is concerned not only with all the hardships of physical existence, but all of its seductive and addictive qualities as well. Everything that makes us lazy, slow, unmotivated, uninspired, overworked, terrified, etc comes from either this Cave or the next.
The second cave is that of Yesod. The Gamaliel (Requital of God) are the resident Qliphot and Lilith is the Prince - as the names already suggest, these two caves are not very far and there is a certain interconnected quality to them. There is no addiction without illusions, if only the illusion of being well while satisfying it, overwork and fear comes from the illusion that we are physical beings and bad physical things will befall us if we stop.
Tzalmavet (Shadow of Death) is the name of the Cavern of Hod, the Samael (Poison of God, Blind God) populate it, under the princes Belial and Adramelekh. It is the domain of overthinking, logical fallacies, superstition, bad science and many other nasty pits our brain tends to land us in. this is also the source of anti- intellectualism.
Shari Marut (Gate of Obedience) is the Cavern of Netzach, the Orev Zarek (Raven of Filth, from ZRK to throw) live here, Ashmoday is Prince. Hate, heartbreak as well as confusing emotions, love-obsession and similar crippling emotions stem from here.
The Cave of Tiphereth is Tit Hayaven (which means suffering, but can be translated literally as "clinging mud"). Residents are the Thagriron (Joy of Challenge), Chioa and Belphegor are doing the princing. Conceit and egotism are not even the greatest threat that permeate our reality from this sphere. Nothing stops a person's spiritual progress so terribly as the belief that they are complete and have no more need for personal growth. This sickness often disease those professing to be spiritual teachers.
Ber Shacht (Pit of Corruption), the underside of Gvurah, home to the Golechav (which is usually translated as "Burners with Fire" or "Burning Bodies", but as I have not found credible Hebrew language source, I remain sceptical) holds the destructive energies that come from the abuse of Martial energies - bullying, annexation of land, police brutality. Ashtaroth is the prince of this domain.
Abaddon (Doom, Destruction, Abyss) is the Cave of Chesed, the Ga'ashkelev (Thunder dog) live here, and Lucifuge is the prince. This is the kingdom of the abuse of influence. Political corruption, murderous religious dogma, priestly pedophilia are born in this place.
The last three Caverns are all part of Sheol (Pit or Grave). The Infernal Sphere of Binah is populated by the Setheriel (Hiding of God), Ishaot Zenunim, the Whore is prince. This is the sphere of the Dark Mother. Defective birth, maternal neglect, the poison in the milk.
The Cavern of Chokmah is the domain of prince Samael and belongs to the Ogiel (Mocker of God). Source of false prophecies and blasphemy. The Pit of Kether, home to the Thaumiel (Twins of God), where Satan and Moloch rule as princes is the fountainhead of all sorrow.
I would like to note that Crowley's entries in 777 feel as if he asked someone about the names of Hells and he got his translations mismatched to the Hebrew by one. He gives the translation of Shadow of Death to Shari Marut, Pit of Destruction to Tit Hayaven, etc. Frankly, it's a bit of a mess.
The Tunnels of Set
Here are the Demons of the Tunnels of Set. Grant wrote extensively about them in Nightside of Eden, highly recommended reading. Crowley's 777 contains this information in Table I, Column VIII and LXVIII. Paths corresponding to elements are connected to the Elemental Kings, while those corresponding to planets follow the Sephirot.
It is glaringly obvious that I could but provide the briefest of glances into the immense world of the Nightside Tree. however, I hope that the article will provide inspiration and information enough for people to start exploring - we live the Aeon of Horus, seeking the Jewels of the Truth of Maat, and what boring children wouldn't climb down interesting caverns in the hope of finding treasure?