Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Invocational Qabalah

The previous post mentioned writers who intentionally use Qabalah as a mode of communication. However, sometimes very profound qabalistic transmissions have come from sources who knew little or nothing about Qabalah.

The classic example of this is Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventure In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. No evidence exists, as far as I'm aware, that either Lewis Carroll or his alter ego Charles Dodgson ever had any formal training or knowledge of Qabalah, although he was a mathematician. Yet both of these stories contain profound insight. Also, both of these are on Aleister Crowley's fiction reading list with the comment: Valuable to those who understand the Qabalah.

I was advised to reread these books every few years at the very least. I found they act as a barometer for how much Qabalah I've learned and assimilated. They have much greater depth and actually impart more practical information as one's awareness of Qabalah grows. Some elements from the Alice stories play a prominent thematic role in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, a qabalistic masterpiece.

In a recent comment, LJ brought up another reference Crowley makes to Lewis Carroll in Liber IV Magick, one of his foundational works:

"But one can hardly comment upon a theme which has been so fruitfully treated by Ludovicus Carolus... His masterly treatment of the identity of the three reciprocating paths of Daleth, Teth, and Pé, is one of the most wonderful passages in the Holy Qabalah...."

- Magick p.84

As an aside... after LJ put attention on this, I reread Through the Looking Glass but couldn't find what AC referred to. If anyone discovers or knows the reference, please drop a line.

The point being made is not to run out and read Alice's stories right away, as a matter of fact it might be better to wait until one has a bit of a grasp on the subject. The point is that a qabalistic transmission can potentially come from any source whether consciously intended or not.

Crowley's comment on Lewis Carroll comes in the middle of an essay on nursery rhymes that starts out:

Every nursery rime contains profound magical secrets which are open to every one who has made a study of the correspondences of the Holy Qabalah.

A footnote to this reads, in part:

"... It (the essay) is here inserted, not for any value it may have, but to test the reader. If it is thought to be a joke, the reader is one useless kind of fool; if it is thought that Frater P. (ie Crowley) believes that the makers of the rimes had any occult intention, he is another useless kind of fool."

- Magick p. 81

A criticism sometimes brought up says that you can read any imaginary meaning into anything. This seems true, and perhaps can make a pitfall for anyone not armed with common sense. However, it will be noticed in practice that some interpretations have relevance to one's work while others don't. The search for a relevant meaning exercises Intuition, and naturally induces a more in-depth kind of self-observation. Intuition seems to behave like a muscle that can get strengthened with use. Practicing Qabalah strengthens Intuition.

I will admit to not getting much benefit from the qabalah of nursery rhymes except for learning of different methods of analysis. Probably this could get ascribed to a lack of interest on my part for this kind of poetry. Interest seems a critical component for gnostic reception. EJ Gold gives a formula in the American Book of the Dead that illustrates the importance of interest which goes:" zero interest, zero attention, zero information"

I am interested in the music and poetry of Bob Dylan and so have found much value there by applying qabalistic analysis. Why not Dylan? Lon Milo Duquette mentioned in an online tarot class I took something to the effect that he is a fan of The Beatles Qabalah.

Dylan is on record as approaching songwriting in an invocational fashion. Invocation means to "draw down from above". Without getting into a metaphysical conundrum about what "above" means, suffice to call it drawing inspiration from outside the normal bounds of ego and self. Also, from early on in his career, Dylan showed a strong familiarity with The Bible even basing some of his most well known songs such as The Times They Are A-Changing on Bible scripture. Esoteric Judaic scholars maintain that some of the books of The Bible have a kabbalistic foundation so perhaps this aided Dylan's innate qabalistic reception and transmission.

One clear example comes from the song Absolutely Sweet Marie:

Well, six white horses that you did promise
Were finally delivered down to the penitentiary

"Six" corresponds with Tiphareth, "white" to Kether and "horses" can get looked up in 777.
Penitentiary can mean a few different things. I initially took it in Gurdjieffian fashion as the prison of our own robotic and mechanical behavior, or the prison of our mundane awareness. Readers who have grokked some of Crowley's Book of Lies could see a further meaning in that word. The way I see it, a practical technique is being given for freeing us from one kind of prison or another.

Another interesting source of invocational Qabalah emerges from the films of the Marx Brothers, in particular Animal Crackers, A Day at the Races, Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, and Horsefeathers. I was once given the instruction to watch Animal Crackers once a week until I knew why I was watching it once a week. After doing this for a couple of months, I thought I'd wrung every bit of qabalistic data that film offered but was then keyed into much I'd missed.

Next, we'll explore some other qabalistic techniques including Gematria. I'm also open to questions.


  1. When Crowley talks about "the identity of the three reciprocating paths of Daleth, Teth, and Pé," he means the three horizontal paths on the Tree of Life. This refers to when Alice tells Humpty Dumpty, "What a beautiful belt you've got on!" She emends that to "a beautiful cravat, I should have said - no, a belt, I mean - I beg your pardon."

  2. Thank-you! In your quoted example, I could only see a reference to Pe and Teth ... after I looked up the meaning of "cravat." Reading this passage further in "Through the Looking Glass," Humpty Dumpty says:

    "It's a cravat, child, and a beautiful one, as you say. It's a present from the White King and Queen. There now!" which shows the Daleth correspondence.

  3. Interesting. I had taken this so literally and had never thought of such exact correspondences.

    Gemetria is fascinating but IMHO opinion not to be taken too seriously (Crowley warns about the two types of fool). Arithmology is another way of describing "Gemetria". Its fun applying it outside its original contexts (in the case of the Qabalah, Hebrew religious texts) but the connections only have limited significance. Crowley often bent the rules to get the right number.

    As for the correct numbers to be ascribed to the Roman alphabet in the context of the "Liber Al", there have been attempts...

    Just an anecdote: I once met a guy a who was actually certifiably insane (he often took rests in institutions)who was convinced that Bill Gates was the devil because his name added up to 666 in ASCII code (apparently it nearly does.) You have to be careful.

  4. Yes, you do have to be careful.

    I agree, Gematria may not be for everyone. It does seem to get taken seriously by a certain group that includes some notable writers.

    I find it a valuable tool for communuication which explains why I bother to write about it.

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