Monday, September 15, 2008

Nightside of the Tree of Life

Frater B.H. requested that I do a post on the Nightside of the Tree of Life. So... here ya go. There was a time that I did a lot of work on this subject, but its been a long time. So, here goes a trip down memory lane...

Mostly my interest was sparked by a gift from my Mother. She got me Linda Falorio's original Shadow Tarot back in 1993 or so. These 22 images were actually photos (not mounted on cards mind you, but kodak paper) of paintings that Linda had done while traveling the nightside paths of the tree, otherwise known as the Tunnels of Set. Her basis for this were the 22 images of the Qlippoth taken from Crowleys Liber 231, and further commented upon by Kenneth Grant in Nightside of Eden.

The images of the major arcana were strikingly beautiful, and lent themselves to the shiny photo paper that they were sold on. Sadly, her release of the minor arcana 12 years later, consisting of goetic and other sigils photoshopped with cowrie shells and other crap, was such a crushing disappointment that I actually went through the trouble of returning it through Amazon.

The original 22 paintings however, as well as Mishlen Lindens Typhonian Teratomas which were meditations on the nightside paths, made for a lot of interesting and mind-bending experimentation. I remember one Halloween when I "cooked" a circle of the cards on the floor of my bedroom for 24 hours in darkness, fed with hourly chanting, drumming, hissing, and any other kind of insanity that came into my head. I invited members of Thelesis camp to meditate in the circle one at a time. One person walked out after 5 minutes, left the apartment and never contacted the camp again. Another who was doing heavy daily devotional work to Thoth at the time had a vision of Thoth decomposing than crumbling to dust that disturbed him so much he swore never to work with them again.

I have heard different peoples take on the nightside of the tree, some of which conflict with one another. My own take is not far off from one traditional view of Khabbalah towards the Qlippoth, that they represent the Tree out of balance or pushed to the extremes. Instead of the martial power of Geburah, you have the murder instinct. Instead of Venusian allure of Netzach, you have unbridled lust and obsession.

They also tie in to our deep reptilian brains and pre-linguistic nature, which is why some equate them with Lovecraft's "Great Old Ones". This aspect of them is especially rewarding to the shamanically inclined Sorcerer.

So, if they are the spheres out of balance, why would anyone want to screw around with them? What's the point?

Fair question.

Many people, Linda Falorio and Fred Fowler included, seem to like it because its "Dark Magick". This falls under that category of what Cliff, one of my Thelemic Initiators would call "Ookie Spooky Magick" and what Issac Bonowitz cleverly termed "Dork Paganism". With all due respect to Linda and Fred and their contributions to the craft, I find "Dark Paganism" and "Nightside Mages" to be no different that the White Light Fluffy Bunny's.

Beyond the aesthetic though is real work that can be done in assimilating some of our unconscious impulses into our conscious awareness. Think of it as having a card in your hand during a poker game instead of being buried in the deck where it can pop up without warning. It is dangerous work, and sometimes I still wonder if I didn't really screw up in one of the Tunnels, leaving a psychic scar that remains to this day. Apart from that, I learned a few sorcerous tricks of the trade in the Tunnels that I could not have learned any other way and which I still use to this day.

My recommendation, if people want to work with them, is to do so only after you have at least had the abyss experience of non-duality, as the tunnels are accessed through Daath, so to speak. If you cant get your hands on one of the original decks, than use just the sigils from Liber 231, and focus in on them. Call the name associated and than let your mind go. Do not use language. Drum, hiss, wail, get primative. Than delve in.

The best online pictures of the Shadow Tarot is not on Linda's site, but here.


Frater BH said...

Thanks, I find that most interesting. I can see the use here for a bit of theurgy when you have guts and nothing else has worked.

Jason Miller, said...

Well, I wouldn't quite put it as "last resort" as all that. Its an initiatory experience and magickal adventure. I would not recommend it as the solution to a single issue.

Donald Leitch said...

Very interesting. I have long since made friends with the reptilian modality, and often find it useful for more primal/shamanic-type workings; it is simple and direct, if one know how to balance it.

I figured I would let you know about a connected dream... but some background first:
Some time ago, Marc was reading a book. I glanced over his shoulder and spotted a table, it turned out to be from Liber 231. Marc was vague regarding his current workings, but showed the other table that he was working with. My eyes immediately drifted to another set of images. I told him that I would be curious about working with those images. He was a little freaked, but we considered a set of simple "blind" meditations to see what I might glean. The idea being that I should have had no idea what I might be expected to discover.

We never actually ended up doing anything with them.

However, I did have a dream that I used as the basis of a story I was trying to write at that time... I'll have to see If I can find it. I remember most of it.

There was a small group of people, mixed occultist-types, and one of them had locked himself in his room for some time. He was in the dark moaning and banging things around, occasionally babbling and screaming... The door was locked and nobody could open the door. One character, a guy with dark hair and dark eyes, merely knocked on the door and asked if he could enter. The door opened.

The person who was in the room was sitting atop an old wooden bar stool, rocking back and forth, as if he might topple at any second but didn't. A series of cards were arranged in a circle about him, more of a slight spiral. He waved out his arms and said, "behold the world." He then began to laugh, but told them to not touch anything. There was a series of connection made between the cards. colored string, sticks, and dental floss drew lines in what might be a random pattern. Odd objects: a feather, a stone, a bit of broken glass, etc. were arranged on the cards or at key intersections.

Some of the occultist-types were freaked out and ran away after looking at what he had created, others just shook their heads.

I was never sure what to do with this, so never finished the story. I figured you might find that interesting.

Jason Miller, said...

WOW Don.

Your Dream describes a ritual that I once did with the cards very closely, using colored string to set up a mandala and various totem items inside it.

Thanks for sharing

Donald Leitch said...

I though you might find it interesting. It was, of course, the symbols from the dark side of the tree of life. Marc simply called them the back of the tree.

I actually had no idea about the shadow tarot, or your particular working. But it triggered my memory of that dream... and I generally don't remember my dreams unless there is something more to them.