"Is There Gender Equity in Hermetic Qabalah?" -

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"Is There Gender Equity in Hermetic Qabalah?" -

Post  Khephra on Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:23 pm

See Matrifocus for the complete article:



Is There Gender Equity in Hermetic Qabalah?
by Judith Laura

Many people on various Pagan paths are drawn to study Qabalah, a form of Western mysticism. At first glance it may seem like a good fit. Qabalah includes both female and male divine images as part of the sefirot (Hebrew, plural; singular, sefirah), also called emanations, which occur on the Tree of Life, long a Goddess symbol. But a closer look at Qabalah reveals problems for those who seek gender equity in spiritual life, reject hierarchies, and see spirit immanent in the material world.

Hermetic Qabalah, the basis of the Western mystical or "mystery" tradition, took its most widely known form in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Great Britain and to a lesser extent continental Europe and the United States and gave the world several influential teachers including Arthur E. Waite, Aleister Crowley, and Dion Fortune. The Golden Dawn grew out of Rosicrucianism and Masonic Lodges of the 1800's. One motivation for its formation may have been the inclusion of women, who were banned from the lodges.(1)

The beliefs of the Golden Dawn were a pastiche of Jewish Kabbalah, Egyptian and Greek traditions and deities, and Christianity. Their practices were interwoven with the use and symbolism of Tarot, a deck of 78 illustrated cards. Parts of the Order's rituals appear similar to today's Wiccan practices.

The Golden Dawn used the kabbalistic tree in a way it had never been used in Judaism: as a model for its organizational hierarchy, which had "secret chiefs" at the top, public chiefs such as Samuel L. "MacGregor" Mathers a little further down, and the rest of the membership scattered beneath. The Order retained the Jewish concept of creation emanating from the top of the Tree of Life down, but those studying Qabalah climbed up the Tree from the bottom, beginning with a feminine sefirah named Malkut. Though we might hope this signaled a more naturalistic concept of the Tree, this was not the intent. Rather, it meant that the person, ignorant of mystical truth, has to start at the bottom of the ladder, the location of matter--the material world. Each sefirah was seen as a step closer to spirit, in a system that looked with disdain on the Earth and matter.

Among the deities recognized in Golden Dawn rituals were the goddesses Isis, Nepthys, and Hathor. For example, in one ritual, a priestess wearing a mask of Hathor says: "I am the Ruler of the Mist and Cloud, wrapping the Earth as it were with a garment, floating and hovering between Earth and Heaven. I am the Giver of the Mist, the Veil of Autumn, the successor of the dew-clad Night." Yet while allowing female deities, the ritual is quick to assert the supremacy of the Father God: "For in the whole Universe shineth the [goddess] Triad, over which the [Paternal] Monad ruleth." Ritual material also states: "And the Great Goddess bringeth forth the vast Sun and brilliant Moon, and the wide Air, and the Lunar Course and the Solar Pole.... And above
the shoulders of the Great Goddess is Nature in Her vastness exalted." Yet the same ritual affirms: . . . "all things are subservient through the Will of the Father of All."

The feminine sefirah Malkut is described as the evil part of the Tree of Good and Evil. She is related to the element earth, and as such is "the receptacle" of air, fire and water. Because of her earthiness or closeness to the material plane, Qabalists considered Malkut to contain evil, which needs to be purged by fire and water.

To Malkut were assigned several Christian personifications: the three "holy Women" (i.e., the Marys) at the foot of the cross; also just Mary, Mother of Jesus; and also Eve. The representation of Malkut as the three Marys could be seen as a reference to the triple Goddess. The symbolism of Mary and Eve, however, contain more negative connotations. For example: " the Son should be crucified on the Cross of the infernal Rivers in Daath [an upper, "invisible" sefirah]; yet to do this He must descend to the lowest first, even unto Malkuth and be born of Her." The implication here is that Malkut/Mary is "lowly," as is woman, but that in order to fulfill his mission, Christ had to lower himself to be born of woman.

And though Golden Dawn rituals at times referred to Eve as "Mother of all," and "the Great Goddess," she is seen as shirking in her duty to support three qabalistic pillars by "being tempted by the Tree of Knowledge," and thereby bringing about the Fall. In earlier Jewish kabbalistic doctrine, Adam brought about the fall, or cosmic catastrophe, by mistaking Malkut for all of divinity. In Hermetic Qabalah, Eve/Goddess herself causes the catastrophe, which becomes something that happens to Adam. Though, in a way, this could be seen as a positive step, since it bolsters the importance of the divine female's responsibility and at least gives the female power enough to cause a cosmic catastrophe, the ultimate effect of this shift is stronger theological support for misogynist viewpoints.

The three pillars–middle, right, and left–that Goddess Eve was supposed to be supporting contain the sefirot. The middle pillar mediates between the right and the left pillars. The right pillar, symbolic of Adam, is considered active, masculine, and positive; the left, symbolic of Eve, is considered passive, feminine, and negative.

From a Goddess spirituality point of view, this stereotyping of feminine as negative and passive and masculine as the positive and active is detrimental to women and inaccurate.

[...]

Yet the Golden Dawn has, perhaps unintentionally, given us a picture of "the Fall" as the fall--or the catastrophic cessation--of Goddess worship. For in the "before" drawing, we see the Goddess as the sole divinity, understood to also contain the male god (or the masculine face of Goddess!). When she is recognized and honored, both man and woman are also crowned with honor, an honor connected to their sharing responsibility for the wholeness of divinity and for the well-being of creation. After "the Fall," which also can be seen here as the fragmentation of the Goddess, male and female can no longer be understood as full bodies--full people; they are depicted either as just heads or heads and shoulders. That is, without the wholeness of the Goddess, humans cannot be integrated spirit, intellect and body; they are only "talking heads,"--intellect only. Further, as shown at the top of the tree, woman and man--even in the divine world--do not see each other fully, there is a rift between them.

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Khephra

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Re: "Is There Gender Equity in Hermetic Qabalah?" -

Post  neutralrobotboy on Thu Sep 03, 2009 7:48 pm

This is a tricky subject. I actually think that it's easy to get contexts confused. An example of what I mean: When you have a pair of headphones and you're going to plug them into something (ipod or whatever), the end connected to the headphones is the "male" end, the end connected to the device is the "female" end. When offering this description, I don't mean to say that they somehow correspond to human genders as such -- it's just an expedient way of describing them. It uses an analogy that people will be familiar with.

If I were to take this particular analogy a bit further and apply it to a ritual, I might note that the device supplies the power. Physically, the "male" enters the "female" and is active in that sense. In terms of energy, the "female" is charging the otherwise empty and receptive "male". If you then take this and go back to the beginning and look for the relevant analogues in human males and females, YOU WILL FIND THEM. The trouble starts to arise when you then assume that this is therefore the intrinsic way of man and woman: "This is the structure of the universe: The man is an empty receptacle, worthless without the charge of a woman. I know because of a profound ritual I experienced..." Oops! Disaster!

Follow a similar procedure with the Qabalistic Tree of Life and a similar disaster may come to a brain near you.

At least that's my take. Of course, when you have a symbolism that regularly brings about that particular disaster, it's probably a good time to go back to the roots of the whole thing and see how to make it all clearer.

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Re: "Is There Gender Equity in Hermetic Qabalah?" -

Post  AxisMundi on Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:07 pm

The state preceding the 'fall' of light into matter is presented as an ideal state but in truth this is, in an emanationist sense and in general QBL, the state of Atziluth above the Abyss before material manifestation unpacks. We in fact very much needed the fall to live and to "redeem" as according to the Old Aeonic Law. The use of the term Paternal monad is another way of saying energetic alpha-spermatozoon; the egg preceding the first chicken. It is well known that Keter - the apex of Supernals, is sexually indeterminate, omnipotent and presumably omniform, coming from no-thing yet producing all forms.

The use of sexual polarity in QBL is exactly as the previous poster hinted at; the female is the material receptive aspect of manifestation, the male indicates the active impressing aspect. The female prefigures states tending to particle or matter, the male states tending toward waveform or light. It's no mystery that these active and receptive aspects are mirrored in our very sexual polarities and physiology.

The term 'Eve' in this sense could just as well relate in cosmic terms to general magnetic field-theory, the "Fall" a field-collapse (Eve's lust for material knowledge) as a nebula gave birth to the first solar system and it's super-heated sparks spilled forth from the black primordial womb into the paradox of potentiality :-)

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