1. The point of view from which I approach the Holy Qabalah in these pages differs, so far as I know, from that of all other writers on the subject, for to me it is a living system of spiritual development, not a historical curiosity. Few people, even among those interested in occultism, realise that there is an active Esoteric Tradition in our midst, handed down in private manuscripts and by "mouth to ear." Still fewer know that it is the Holy Qabalah, the mystic system of Israel, which forms its basis. But where may we look more aptly for our occult inspiration than to the Tradition which gave us the Christ?
2. The interpretation of the Qabalah is not to be found, however, among the Rabbis of the Outer Israel, who are Hebrews after the flesh, but among those who are the Chosen People after the spirit-in other words, the initiates. Neither is the Qabalah, as I have learnt it, a purely Hebraic system, for it has been supplemented during medieval times by much alchemical lore and by the intimate association with it of that most marvellous system of symbolism, the Tarot.
3. In my presentation of the subject, therefore, I do not appeal so much to tradition in support of my views, as to modern practice among those who make use of the Qabalah as their method of occult technique. It may be 'alleged against me that the ancient Rabbis knew nothing of some of the concepts here set forth; to this I reply that it is hardly to be expected that they should, as these things were not known in their day, but are the work of their successors of the Spiritual Israel. For my part, although I would not willingly mislead anyone concerning the teachings of those of ancient days, and upon matters of historical accuracy stand subject to cor rection from any who are bettet informed than I am in these matters (and their name is legion), I care not one jot for the authority of tradition if it hampers the free development of a system of such practical value as the Holy Qabalah, and I use the work of my predecessors as a quarry whence I fetch the stone to build my city. Neither am I limited to this quarry by any ordinance that I know of; but fetch also cedar from Lebanon and gold from Ophir if it suits my purpose.
4. Let it be clearly understood, therefore, that I do not say, This is the teaching of the ancient Rabbis; rather do I say, This is the practice of the modern Qabalists, and for us a much more vital matter, for it is a practical system of spiritual unfoldment; it is the Yoga of the West.
5. Having thus guarded myself as far as possible against blame for not having done what I never undertook to do, let me now define my own position in the matter of scholarship and general qualifications for the task in hand. So far as actual scholarship goes, I am in the same class as William Shakespeare, having little Latin and less Greek, and of Hebrew only that peculiar portion which is cultivated by occultists-the ability to transliterate unpointed Hebrew script for the purposes of Gematric calculations. Of any knowledge of Hebrew as a language I am guiltless.
6. Whether such frank acknowledgment of my deficiencies will serve to disarm criticism I do not know; no doubt it will be alleged against me, and not without justification, that one so ill-equipped should not have undertaken the task at all. To this I reply that if one saw a man dying injured, should the admitted absence of a medical qualification debar one from going to his assistance and giving him what help one could, pending the arrival of qualified attention? My work upon the Qabalah is of the nature of first aid. I find an invaluable system lying neglected, and ill-qualified for the task as I may be, I am stnving to draw attention to its possibilities and restore it to its proper place as the key to Western occultism; and it is my chief hope in so doing that it may attract the attention of scholars, and that they will continue the task of translation and investigation of the Qabalistic manuscripts, which are as yet a vein of which only the outcroppings have been worked.
7. One qualification for my task I can plead in justification, however. For the last ten years I have lived and moved and had my being in the Practical Qabalab; I have used its methods both subjectively and objectively till they have become a part of myself; and I know from experience what they yield in psychic and spiritual results, and their incalculable value as a method of using the mind.
8. It is not required of those who would use the Qabalah as their Yoga that they should acquire any extensive knowledge of the Hebrew language; all they need is to be able to read and write the Hebrew characters. The modern Qabalah has been pretty thoroughly naturalised in the English language, but it retains, and must ever retain, all its Words of Power in Hebrew, which is the sacred language of the West just as Sanscrit is the sacred language of the East. There are those who have objected to the free employment of Sanscrit terms in occult literature, and no doubt they will object even more strongly to the employment of Hebrew characters, but their use is unavoidable, for every letter in Hebrew is also a number, and the numbers to which words add up are not only an important clue to their significance, but can also be used to express the relationships existing between different ideas and potencies.
9. According to MacGregor Mathers, in the admirable essay which forms the introduction to his book, the Qabalah is usually classed under four heads:
The Practical Qabalah, which deals with talismanic and ceremonial magic.
The Dogmatic Qabalah, which consists of the Qabalistic literature.
The Literal Qabalah, which deals with the use of letters and numbers.
The Unwritten Qabalah, which consists of a correct knowledge of the manner in which the symbol-systems are arranged on the Tree of Life, and concerning which MacGregor Mathers says, "I may say no more on this point, not even whether I myself have or have not received it." But as this portentous hint is elaborated by the late Mrs MacGregor Mathers in her introduction to the new edition of his book in the following plain-spoken words, "Simultaneously with the publication of the Qabalah in 1887, he received instructions from his occult teachers to prepare what was eventually to become his esoteric school," it may be justifiable to say that if he did receive the Unwritten Qabalah, it has for some years ceased to be unwritten, for after a quarrel with MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley, the well-known author and scholar, published the lot. His books are now rare and hard to come by, and being much valued by the more scholarly of esotericists, their price has gone up out of sight, and they seldom come into the second-hand book market.
10. The breaking of an initiation oath is a serious matter, and a thing that I, for my part, do not care to do; but I admit of no authority that debars me from collecting and collating all available material that has been published upon any subject, and interpreting it according to the best of my understanding. In these pages it is the system given by Crowley of which I shall avail myself to supplement the points upon which MacGregor Mathers, Wynn Westcott, and A. E. Waite, the principal modern authorities upon the Qabalah, are silent.
11. As to whether I myself have received any knowledge of the Unwritten Qabalab, it would as ill beseem me as MacGregor Mathers to be explicit upon this point, and having followed his classic example of burying my head in the sand and waving my tail, I will return to the consideration of the matter in hand.
12. The essence of the Unwritten Qabalab lies in the knowledge of the order in which certain sets of symbols are arranged upon the Tree of Life. This Tree, Otz Chiim, consists of the Ten Holy Sephiroth arranged in a particular pattern and connected by lines which are called the Thirty-two Paths of the Sepher Yetzirah, or Divine Emanations (see The Sepher Yetzirah, by Wynn Westcott). Here there exists one of the "blinds," or traps for the uninitiated, in which the ancient Rabbis delighted. We find, if we count them, that there are twenty-two, not thirty-two Paths upon the Tree; but for their purposes the Rabbis treated the Ten Sephiroth themselves as Paths, thus misleading the uninitiated. Thus the first ten Paths of the Sepher Yetzirah are assigned to the Ten Sephiroth, and the following twenty-two to the actual Paths themselves. It will then be seen how the twentytwo letters of the Hebrew alphabet can be associated with the Paths without discrepancy or overlapping. With them also are associated the twenty-two Tarot trumps, the Atus, or Abodes of Thoth. Concerning the Tarot cards there are three modern authorities of note: Dr Encausse, or "Papus," the French writer; Mr A. E. Waite; and the MSS. of MacGregor Mathers' Order of the Golden Dawn, which Crowley published upon his own authority. All three are different. Concerning the system Mr Waite gives, he himself says, "There is another method known to initiates." There is reason to suppose that this is the method used by Mathers. Papus disagrees with both these writers in his method, but as his system does violence to many of the correspondences when placed upon the Tree, the final test of all systems, and as the Mathers-Crowley system fits admirably, I think we may justly conclude that the latter is the correct traditional order, and I propose to adhere to it in these pages.
13. The Qabalists further placed upon the Paths of the Tree the Signs of the Zodiac, the Planets, and the Elements. Now there are twelve Signs, seven Planets, and four Elements, making twenty-three symbols in all. How are these to be fitted on to the Twenty-two Paths? Herein is another "blind," but the solution is simple. Upon the physical plane we are ourselves in the Element of Earth, therefore that symbol does not appear upon the Paths which lead into the Unseen. Remove this, and we are left with twenty-two symbols, which fit accurately and, correctly placed, are found to correspond perfectly with the Tarot trumps, each elucidating the other in the most remarkable fashion, and giving the keys to esoteric astrology and Tarot divination.
14. The essence of each Path is to be found in the fact that it connects two of the Sephiroth, and we can only understand its significance by taking into account the nature of the linked Spheres upon the Tree. But a Sephirah cannot be understood upon a single plane; it has a fourfold nature. The Qabalists express this by saying that there are four worlds:
Atziluth, the Archetypal World, or World of Emanations; the Divine World.
Briah, the World of Creation, also called Khorsia, the World of Thrones.
Yetzirah, the World of Formation and of Angels.
Assiah, the World of Action; the World of Matter.
(See MacGregor Mathers, The Qabalah Unveiled.)
15. The Ten Holy Sephiroth are held to have each its own point of contact with each of the four Worlds of the Qabalists. In the Atziluthic World they manifest through the Ten Holy Names of God; in other words, the Great Unmanifest, shadowed forth through the Three Negative Veils of Existence which hang behind the Crown, declares itself in manifestation as ten different aspects which are represented by the different names used to denote Deity in the Hebrew Scriptures. These are variously rendered in the Authorised Version, and a knowledge of their true significance and the spheres to which they belong enables us to read many of the riddles of the Old Testament.
16. In the Briatic World the Divine Emanations are held to manifest through the Ten Mighty Archangels, whose names play such an important part in ceremonial magic; it is the worn and effaced remnants of these Words of Power that are the "barbarous names of evocation" of mediaeval magic, not one letter of which may be changed." Why this is so may readily be seen when we remember that in Hebrew a letter is also a number, and the numbers of a Name have an important significance.
17. In the Yetziratic World the Divine Emanations manifest, not through a single Being, but through different types of beings, which are called the Angelic Hosts or Choirs.
18. The Assiatic World is not, strictly speaking, the World of Matter when viewed from the Sephirotic standpoint, but rather the Lower Astral and Etheric Planes which, together, form the background of matter. Upon the physical plane the Divine Emanations manifrst through what may not inapdy be called the Ten Mundane Chakras, likening these centres of manifestation to the centres that exist in the human body, an exact analogy. These Chakras are the Primum Mobile or First Swirlings, the Sphere of the Zodiac, the seven planets, and the Elements taken together-ten in all.
19. It will be seen from the foregoing that each Sephirah will therefore consist, firstly, of its Mundane Chakra; secondly, of an angelic host of beings, Devas or Archons, Principalities or Powers, according to the terminology used; thirdly, an Arch-angelic Consciousness, or Throne; and fourthly, a special aspect of the Deity. God as He is, in His entirety, being hidden behind the Negative Veils of Existence, incomprehensible to unenlightened human consciousness.
20. The Sephiroth may justly be considered macrocosmic, and the Paths microcosmic; for the Sephiroth, connected as they sometimes are in old diagrams by a flash of lightning, which is often depicted as hilted like a fiery sword, represent the successive Divine Emanations which constitute creative evolution; whereas the Paths represent the successive stages of the unfolding of cosmic realisation in human consciousness; in old pictures a serpent is often depicted as twined about the boughs of the Tree. This is the serpent Nechushtan "who holdeth his tail in his mouth," the symbol of wisdom and initiation. The coils of this serpent, when correctly arranged upon the Tree, cross each of the Paths in succession and see to indicate the order in which they should be numbered. Witb the help of this glyph, then, it is a simple matter to arrange all the tables of symbols in their correct positions upon the Tree, granted that the symbols are given in their correct order in the tables. In certain modern books which rank as authorities upon the subject the correct order is not given, the writers apparently holding that this should not be revealed to the uninitiated. But as this order is given correctly in certain older books, and, for the matter of that, in the Bible itself and the Qabalistic literature, there seems to me no point in deliberately misleading students with spurious information. To refuse to divulge anything may be justifiable, but how is it possible to justify the handing on of misleading statements? No one is going to be persecuted nowadays for their studies in unorthodox sciences, so there can be but one purpose in withholding teaching that relates solely to the theory of the universe and the philosophy arising therefrom, and in no way to the methods of practical magic, and that purpose is to retain a monopoly of the knowledge which confers prestige, if not power.
21. For my part I believe that this selfishness and exclusiveness is the bane of the occult movement rather than its safeguard. It is the old sin of retaining the knowledge of God in the hands of a priesthood and denying it to all outside the sacred clan; justifiable enough when the people were savages, but unjustifiable in the case of the modern student. For when all is said and done, the desired information can be worked out from existing literature by those who care to take the trouble, or purchased plainly set forth by those who can afford high prices for books now rare. Surely the possession of ample time and ample cash should not be the test of the fitness to obtain the Sacred Wisdom?
22. No doubt I shall expose myself to a shower of abuse from the self-constituted guardians of this knowledge who may hold that their precious secrets have been betrayed. To this I reply that I am not betraying anything that is secret, but collecting that which has already been given to the world and is of a simple and well-known nature. When I first had access to certain manuscripts, I believed them to be secret, and unknown to the world at large, but a wider acquaintance with occult literature has revealed to me that the information is to be found scattered broadcast through it. Much, in fact, to which the initiate is sworn to secrecy has been published by Mathers and Wynn Westcott themselves, and as recently as 1926 a new edition of Mathers' work on the Qabalaba was brought out under the editorship of his widow (who may be assumed to have known his wishes), and in that work will be found most of the tables that I give in these pages. As these catalogues of beings were originally given to the world by Isaiah, Ezekiel, and various mediaeval Rabbis, it may justly be held that the copyright in them has lapsed owing to the passage of time. In any case such ownership as there may be in these ideas is vested in the original author and not in any subsequent commentator, and that author, according to the Qabalah itself, is the Archangel Metatron.
23. Much that was once common knowledge has been gathered up and confined under the initiate's oath of secrecy. It is Crowley's jibe at his teachers that they bound him to secrecy with terrible oaths and then "confided the Hebrew alphabet to his safe keeping."
24. The philosophy of the Qabalah is the esotericism of the West. In it we find such a cosmogony as is found in the Stanzas of Dyzan, which were the basis of Mme Blavatsky's work. Herein she found the framework of traditional doctrine which she expounded in her great book, The 5ecret Doctrine. This Qabalistic Cosmogony is the Christian Gnosis. Without it we have an incomplete system in our religion, and it is' this incomplete system which has been the weakness of Christianity. The Early Fathers, in the homely metaphor, threw away the baby with the bath-water. A very cursory acquaintance with the Qabalah serves to show that here we have the essential keys to the riddles of Scripture in general and the prophetic books in particular. Is there any good reason why initiates of the present day should put all this knowledge into a secret box and sit upon the lid? If they consider that I am wrong to give accurate information upon matters which they consider their private preserve, I reply that this is a free country and they are entitled to their opinion.