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?
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.