So why do we bother with all this Qabalah nonsense? What are we trying to do? Two reasons spring to mind:
1. It greatly aids application of the ancient instruction for Initiation inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi - gnothi seaton - know thyself.
As we begin to sort some of the signals we receive into our Tree of Life filing cabinet we necessarily make interpretations and choices about what, if any, qabalistic communication to consider. Observing these interpretations over time can reveal much about ourselves previously hidden.
Mapping the conventional language we encounter onto the Tree of Life bears resemblance to a psychic medium gazing into a crystal ball. It exercises Intuition
2. The function of Qabalah is to create or contact a guide, a guide to the Unseen World. Also a guide to the Bardo, maybe even the Bardo guide.
In Crowley's system, the highest functioning realization of this guide is called the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
When Crowley walked across China in 1905, he went through a particularly difficult spiritual crisis that eventually resolved in the realization that his purpose in life was to teach people about the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Of course, later in his life he may have had other realizations about his life's purpose but he never lost sight of that mission.
We are not concerned whether the HGA has an objective existence outside ourselves or if it only presents a method for pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps to contact a higher part of our brain. Crowley chose to use that term, the HGA, because the absurdity of it should discourage all debate as to whether it is real or not. The reality of it - it works, it does what it advertises - expands both consciousness and morphology of Being to an extent one would initially not realize possible.
It's very easy to begin looking at things through the lens of qabalah. Puns, looking at words in different ways, discerning and putting together different meanings is a simple form of qabalistic exegis.
For instance, the sentence I started with:
"So why do we bother with all this Qabalah nonsense? " The word nonsense can get viewed in multiple ways: non-sense = sense of non = sense of none = sense of 0
Sense of zero relates to the 3 veils of Nothingness that precede Kether, the first sphere or emanation on the Tree of Life:
Ain - the highest, translates as "Nothing"
Ain Soph = "Limitless"
Ain Soph Aur = " Limitless Light"
Sense of none also corresponds with the Buddhist's Void.
In modern physics, the search for the basic building blocks of matter reveals nothing there at the bottom of it all but the motion of vibrating strings of energy.
The word "nonsense" also describes the qabalistic trick of bypassing the rational mind. One theory of how Qabalah works to raise consciousness discussed by Robert Anton Wilson holds that at some point the intellect will get overloaded with symbolic data and snap into a Zen satori-like state.
James Joyce seems the master of puns and multi-levels of meanings found in words most notably in Finnegans Wake. Reading him will help facilitate a multiple view outlook. He presents a wealth of qabalistic material which perhaps partially explains why Aleister Crowley called him a genius in a review.
Next up - where to begin.