Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thoughts About the Qliphoth

“It is futile and false to imagine a coin with one side only.”
  Kenneth Grant - “Nightside of Eden,” p. 2.

A number of occultists have over the last few decades written about the Qliphoth, or Qliphah (singular), and some have stipulated that there is a Tree of Evil or Death in addition to the Tree of Life, acting as its reverse or negative image. This seems to be a theme expressed by some adherents of the left hand path, and some have proposed a Tree of Evil, and through it to assign a quasi hierarchy for the various lists of evil spirits and devils that supposedly populate the material world. Having two such trees allows one the duality of choosing one or the other, or perhaps, going to one then the other. According to Genesis it is true that there were two sacred trees in the Garden of Eden, one was indeed the Tree of Life; but the other wasn’t its opposite. The other tree was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since humankind ate from the later and not the former, we have the power and potential of knowing truth on all levels of being, but we are not immortal. Yet the scriptures never mention a Tree of Evil, so one would have to assume that it is apocryphal or even a recent urban myth. However, there is another way of interpreting the Qliphoth and determining how it fits into the overall schema of the Qabbalah without having to propose two opposing trees.

The word Qliphoth or Qliphah comes from the Hebrew root QLPh, which means “to peel off,” and the noun means “husk, shell or rind.” Qliphah, therefore, means in Hebrew, a shell or the outer covering of some kind of fruit or nut. When applied to the Qabbalah it has been variously interpreted as a kind of afterbirth or discarded element. It could even be defined as a previously failed attempt at creation (an abortion), but only if one doubted the perfection of the Godhead. Yet there is another meaning to the word that would allow it to merge into the Tree of Life, but only if we can overcome the basic prejudice built up by the previous definitions. The Qliphoth could simply be the outer shell or husk of the corresponding Sephiroth, and in actuality, it would function more like a socket or the bottom foundation of a specific Sephirah. In other words, the Qliphoth are the backside or unconscious dimensions of the Sephirotic Tree of Life. I believe that Kenneth Grant was the first to propose this interpretation in print, even though Michael Bertiaux has insisted that he first proposed it as a part of the deep esoteric qabbalistic descriptions in his traditional lore (Monastery of the Seven Rays). A few friends of mine have said that such lore would likely have been part of the infamous Choronzon Club workings, and there is, at least, a little bit of evidence to support that belief. (Which I intend to show at the end of this article.) 

Using this revelation, suddenly the Qliphoth are neither evil nor the negative partners to the Sephiroth in the Tree of Life. The troubling Tree of Evil or Death disappears, and in its place is just the night and light sides of the one Holy Tree. Just as we have a light and darkside, so, too,  does the Tree of Life; but that darkside represents neither a duality nor a split between good and evil. As the glyph of the Tree of Life is outwardly defined, all of the elements contained within it are seen as a unified whole, and that includes the Sephiroth, the Pathways, and even the Qliphoth.

I have found it most productive to see the Qliphoth as the arising potential for each Sephiroth - they are, in a word, the unmanifest potential first laid down by the emanations of the negative veils. The fusion of Sephirah and Qliphah is seamless, but each represents a different kind of spiritual quality and hierarchy. One can’t enter into the corresponding qliphah from the sephirah, since through the sephirah, they are both perfectly united. The backside of the Tree of Life can only be accessed through the portal of the gateway of Da’ath, which is also the gateway of the Greater Abyss. Therefore, the individual qliphah can be acquired and realized only through the gateway of Da’ath, otherwise their influences are nearly invisible, except through the periodic subtle dark emanations coming from the abysmal gateway. (Some have called these dark emanations the heartbeat of darkness itself.)

It is my belief that the Qliphoth contains all of the unknown and invisible chthonic proto-elements of our spiritual, mental and physical worlds. Atavism, archaism and dark inner pathways connect the backside of the Tree of Life, like the endless tunnels of the catacombs in Paris. The light side of the Tree of Life has only twenty-two pathways, but the backside has as many possible permutations for pathways as there are sephiroth. Thus all of the sephiroth are interconnected below the surface at the level of the qliphoth with what is nominally called “Typhonian wormholes.” The underworld domain of the backside of the Tree of Life is populated with the dead ancestors, gods and goddesses of the underworld, and the various demonic and sub-elemental spirits and powers.

Aleister Crowley and other occultists (like Grant) have taken some incomplete information from Jewish qabbalistic sources and have given names, qualities and rulers to the ten anti-sephiroth of the Qliphoth. Grant has attempted to extrapolate on this incomplete information and attempted to build up a system of anti-correspondences. I have found this work to be quite weak and incomplete, and based upon a decided Jewish monotheistic mystical bias, which I think is contrary to any practical magickal workings with these forces. I would recommend that the forces and spirits of the qliphoth and their wormhole pathways be examined as merely the negative source potentials for the obverse sephiroth and glyph determined pathways. If they have any names or qualities, it would not be just a mirror image of the surface structures of the Tree. They would be the veritable archaic sources for those structures. The backside of the Tree of Life is without morals and spiritual values, and is therefore, beyond good and evil.

High adepts are supposedly those individuals who have crossed the Greater Abyss, having left their old lives, motivations and aspirations (like lifeless shells) behind them. That crossing is not so much a leap across a chasm as it is the voluntary leap down into the abysmal gateway, and therein fully engaging and resolving the various powers and spirits of the Qliphoth before one is allowed to emerge on the other side, profoundly transformed and completely remade. A high adept has supposedly completed the process of conquering his or her internal issues and complexes before ever attempting this greater passage, and thereby seeking to resolve the sins and inequalities of the world as opposed to the self.

This underworld passage and ordeal has always been the theme of the exalted apotheosis, but it has reflections in the underworld transformative journey of the proto-shaman. Even Jesus descended into hell and underwent its harrowing before ascending into heaven to sit at the right hand of the throne of his father. The oldest written variation of this theme is the Egyptian underworld ordeal known as the Book of Gates (Am Duad), where the sun god, ensconced in his solar boat, had to fight the forces of darkness to achieve passage to the eastern horizon every night. As an initiation theme, it is the most important and the greatest of all ordeals, since few emerge as victors from that terrible descent. Likewise is the theme of a mock burial and resurrection, particularly if it is enacted within a temple, vault or sacred grove. Such a theme emulates the famous initiatory burial and ascent that took place in the pyramid tombs of ancient Egypt. All of these themes characterize that the spiritual, mental and physical changes to the one undergoing such an initiation are massive, radical and quite permanent. Madness and death instead of illumination and rebirth could easily be the end result for such an ill prepared undertaking. (One does not take the Oath of the Abyss either lightly or presumptuously.)

In the system of ritual magick that I use, there are some prismatic shaped energy fields that can emulate these kinds of structures and aid one in opening the abysmal gateway, allowing the magician to gain passage within. Such an act must only be undertaken by someone who is supremely knowledgeable and capable of dealing with the consequences. Although I have the knowledge of how to accomplish this kind of working, I have yet to attempt it, for obvious reasons. Still, such an undertaking is definitely on my list of things to do in the next five years or so. Here are the steps that one would need to perform in order to open up this kind of gateway.

  1. Establish a highly polarized cross-roads using the four Angles.
  2. Build a double concentric spiral vortex, each with a common midpoint. This is done by generating a basic vortex, then establishing a central circle, and finally erecting a vortex within that central circle. Thus generating a vortex within a vortex with a common central point. Both of vortices would have a negative spin (widdershins), so they would produce a kind of black hole singularity with gateways extending into four different universes (what Bertiaux calls his universe A, B, C and D).
  3. Establish an inverted Tetrahedral gateway - this would be the entrance into and out of the abyss.
  4. Once within the abysmal gateway, Qliphotic path workings would commence. Supposedly, there are thirty-three separate and distinct path working encounters, grouped into three sections of eleven encounters.
(That means that this rite would have to be repeatedly performed at least thirty-three times to satisfy all of the possible variations.)

The Order of the Gnostic Star has a ritual working already written (but not yet attempted) that makes use of the above ritual elements, but there are other attributes to this rite as well. It is a ritual working that has been carefully constructed and refined over the years, but it is still untried. Hopefully, someday, if my progress in self purification and perfection has been sufficiently adequate, I will attempt this working. However, there is no hurry and I am under no obligation to begin this rite at any future date or time. For now there is only the need to continue to learn, grow and work out my internal issues, following a progressive path towards spiritual illumination.

One final thing that I would like to discuss is the practice of Qliphotic path working that is used in this kind of ordeal, and how that supposedly relates to the Choronzon Club workings. As you may or may not know, the Choronzon Club and its lore has become the exclusive property of Michael Bertiuax. This lore, along with other inducements, was offered to me many years ago if I made myself accessible to Bertiaux. Of course, I refused, so I never got to see any of that lore. The one exception was derived from what Michael penned on the back inner cover of my copy of Nightside of Eden, which I had bought from him. The few lessons found at the back of the Voudoun Gnostic Workbook are almost comically useless and meaningless, so all I have is what’s written in the back cover of Kenneth Grant’s book. Still, let us digress a little and discuss the history of the Choronzon Club.

First of all, Choronzon was a powerful evil spirit mentioned by John Dee in his diaries and then elaborated upon by Mathers and Crowley, and later, Grant and Bertiaux, among others. Choronzon is considered the lord of the domains of the Qliphoth and is its guardian and chief initiator. Grant has determined that the gematric value for Choronzon is 333, making its name half the value (and therefore, functioning as the consort and opposite) of the Great Beast, whose number is 666. Choronzon was vividly encountered when Aleister Crowley began to invoke and gain visions through the higher level of the Aethyrs of the Enochian system of magick. This entity was perceived by Crowley as being highly aggressive and quite negative, requiring the magician to engage and defeat it in order to gain access to the more exalted states revealed by the Aethyrs.

For some reason, one of Crowley’s favored American students, whose name was Cecil Frederick Russel, became enamored of this entity and used it to name his personal magickal organization. Thus was born the Choronzon Club, which he assembled first in Chicago, and then later in California. Russel had received certain teachings and initiations from Crowley at the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu, Sicily. Supposedly, he was taught and initiated into the mysteries of the IX and X and XI degress of the O.T.O., and used these teachings to propose a shortcut to becoming an initiated higher adept. Of course, very little of this lore was Russel’s own invention, so he had been plagiarizing and misrepresenting the teachings of the A. A. and the O.T.O. Once exposed, his organization fragmented into two parts and mostly died out.

One of these fragments was the Order of the G.B.G (Great Brotherhood of God), whose lore and practices were published in the late sixties and early seventies by Louis T. Culling, the last chief of that organization. Another fragment of that group had retained the name Choronzon Club and the location, Chicago, but practiced a form of exclusive homosexual trantric magick. By the 1960's this group was dying out when it was discovered by Michael Bertiaux, who merged its teachings with his own. It’s hard to see how such a direct tantric system of magick would have had anything to do with obscure forms of qliphotic qabbalah, but according to Bertiaux (if we are to believe him), the Choronzon Club did indeed teach this kind of lore. Since no one has come forthpresenting the Choronzon Club teachings as they existed before Bertiaux acquired them, we will never know what that lore looked like. Supposedly, it became the basis of the O.T.O.A. (Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua), but since I am outside of that organization and not privy to the exact nature of its teachings, I can only guess and surmise this from rumors and internet related gossip. (I have recently found an interesting article on the web about this subject, and you can read it here.)

All of this would be the barest and meanest of speculation on my part if were not for the colored notes penned by Michael Bertiaux in the back inside cover of my copy of Nightside of Eden. It is labeled “Choronzon Club Pathworking”, and works with the symbolic numbers of eleven and three, which were supposedly very significant to both the higher degrees of the O.T.O. and the Choronzon Club, from which it was based. I am reproducing it here for your curiosity and amusement, perhaps you will find it useful as well. I have been studying these diagrams for many years, and they now make a lot of sense to me. These diagrams show the patterns of the qliphotic pathworkings and how they are to be deployed. There also appears to be alchemical and a sex magick attributes to them as well. I will leave the rest to your erudition and imagination.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. hmm..I have a copy of "The Tree of Evil" by William Gray that is yet unread, this inspires me to read it and perhaps glean a bit more on the subject.
    Interesting article, thank you!

  2. Well, apart from seeing that he's mixed up his Teyth and Lamed in the grid (probably a copying error), I don't really follow the pathworking structure. The progressions and connections don't appear to add up to 11 for each separate ordeal, and the order of visitation jumps in an odd, arbitrary fashion, as do the polarities (++, +-, -+, --). I wouldn't expect any less from this kind of work, though. My only experience of qlipphothic working left me struggling to find meaning in anything. I still subscribe to the "cosmic compost heap" view of the Qlipphoth, so I would treat it as a useful resource if I wanted to engage in a little self-destruction. I guess that's precisely why it plays such an important role for those passing through Da"ath: you can't take your (individual) self with you, can you?

  3. Yet the scriptures never mention a Tree of Evil, so one would have to assume that it is apocryphal or even a recent urban myth.

    If it's Grant's contention that the "Tree of Evil" is something that is supposed to have existed in the Garden of Eden he's way off as far as the Jewish Kabbalistic perspective goes.

    According to that tradition, when God first attempted to create the universe the vessel he used to contain his creation was flawed and shattered. These "shards" or "shells" are the Qlippoth. God then created a new vessel that lacked the flaw of the original and used it to contain his second attempt at creation. It is this second attempt that is described in Genesis. So under no circumstances would a "Tree of Evil" existed in the Garden - that's just scrambling the myths up in a nonsensical fashion.

    I haven't read a lot of Grant, but from what I've read he's very good at that.

  4. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    @Ananael - I don't recall saying that Grant stated that there was a Tree of Evil - however, William Gray and other LHP individuals have made this proposition. I believe that I also covered the failed creation attempt in my article, although this is not uniformly believed in by Rabbis either.

    Some folks hate Grant and put down his work, others laud him and his books. I am somewhere in the middle, since I have found his first five books to be quite useful. The others, less so.

    A Face Book friend turned me on to a very interesting article about Grant. You can find it here -

  5. @Barrabbas: Okay, if it was Gray then my comments apply to him rather than Grant. I wasn't sure where the idea was coming from and since you started off talking about Grant that was what I assumed. I'm not familiar with Gray's work at all, and hearing that I frankly now have no interest in studying it.

    My understanding of the "failed creation" model is that it is the most commonly accepted interpretation among Jewish Kabbalists according to academics I have read such as Scholem, whereas your comment on it sounded more to me like you were treating it as some sort of extreme position. But you are correct in noting that there is some disagreement among the remaining Kabbalistic schools.

    I'm somewhat in the middle on Grant as well. "Nightside of Eden" is a perfect exemplar of his work - the first half of the book is a bunch of meaningless gematric gobbledygook and the second half is a solid, detailed exposition of the Qlippoth expanding on the material Crowley outlined in "Liber 231" and rendering it much more usable.

  6. "The backside of the Tree of Life is without morals and spiritual values, and is therefore, beyond good and evil." This is also my understanding of the Tree of Death (so called).

    It makes sense when one looks at it in terms of Human Evolution. The Qliphoth cannot be apprehended but through Da'ath (the faceless one), which means to basically 'revert.' I think Da'ath could be looked at as a lower function of the brain. Studies indicate that the effect of psilocybin is to diminish brain activity in the region we would refer to as 'ego-consciousness.'

    So I appreciate your article. I am interested in the Jungian notion that through 'repression/suppression' comes a kind of natural symbolic 'preservation.' So, to me, the Tree of Life (as it stood in ancient times, and stands still) is simply the preservation of the suppressed nature of Humanity.

    -Thanks for the essay :)

  7. It's fine to use Grant as a reference for all this stuff until you realise and understand that he was mad as a hatter. Why was he mad as a hatter? because he had fallen in the abyss and become prey to "CHORONZON".

    Why anyone wants to mess with this filth is beyond me. The qliphoth need to be addressed, certainly, but not raised up as ideals and gods. They are the false parts of self that a Thelemite works to liberate themselves from, not to worship.

    Insanity and death follow the adept who toys with the qliphoth unprepared. Be warned!

  8. Just found this post. It is very interesting and helpful. Navigating potential different meanings for the Shells (whether they are below the Tree or behind the Tree), their relation to the unconscious and their similarities/differences from traditional "demonic" forces can all be very complicated and interesting. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter.

  9. In traditional Orthodox Jewish Torah and Kabbalah, klippot have their origin in the vessels...sephirot...that shattered due to the intensity of light. This is alluded to, in Torah, to the Kings of Edom that reigned and died. The NaTZaL, fallen sparks alludes to fragments of the original light that were entwined with the reshimo or memory/echo/trace of light that the klippot 'remembered'. They are therefore described as the 'backside' of the tree.
    There is no negative tree as such, and since one is surrounded by klippot, why would one need to invoke/evoke them? Self-deception, which is regarded as the klippot's greatest force, thus deceiving the individual that it is something other than it is.
    It is unfortunate, in my view, that much of the Kabbalah is divorced from it Jewish and, now, Hassidic roots. In the writings one can find the answers to the apparent complexities, among which, Christian and Magical traditions have obscured, in their quest for 'hidden' knowledge.
    A good and informative article.