Saturday, July 30, 2011

Qabbalah and Sacred Sexuality

One of the more supposedly interesting and fascinating themes that was proposed by various commentaries in the Zohar was the focus on sacred sexuality. This would have been, of course, a regimen of sexual activity completely in accord with orthodox rules and regulations concerning sex between married couples, yet colored with a symbology which would suggest that such activity emulates the unity of the Deity. We are not talking about the proper conduct of a husband and wife, which would be completely understood by a classical qabbalistic practitioner. What we are talking about is how that conduct could have a powerful symbolic provenance in regards to the Godhead polarities (and their union) as specifically found in the Tree of Life, and generally, in qabbalistic symbology.

It would seem that a qabbalistic practitioner would not only meditate, contemplate and perform other operations by himself, but he would also engage his spouse in some of these activities, so that when they would physically unite, it would briefly bring them into an ecstatic realization of the Godhead. Since there was a masculine and a feminine pillar in the Tree of Life, then the place of mediation (the middle pillar) would be symbolized in the perfect union of masculine and feminine attributes. Of course, it was also expected that the Jewish qabbalist would adhere to the strictest rules associated with bodily purity, which would require avoiding one’s wife at certain times (menstruation, pregnancy, and a period of time after postpartum), avoiding unlawful emissions of semen (either accidental or through masturbation), and to fast, perform regular ablutions (bathing), and many other practices and prohibitions.

Some of these prohibitions have been famously incorporated into the moral foundation of various laws that ban sodomy, prostitution and all other supposed unnatural forms of sexual congress. Masturbation isn’t illegal (it is considered immoral), but oral sex is illegal in some locales. These laws have been lionized by conservative Christians, strict followers of Islam, Orthodox Jews, and many others. However, since I am a pagan and a witch, I consider these various sexual prohibitions and rules to be highly unjust, unwarranted and completely irrelevant to my spiritual practices and beliefs. If others wish to enforce these prohibitions in their personal lives, then they may do so, provided that they don’t force their restrictive and repressive beliefs on the greater populace who don’t share their views. I also believe that laws which ban or discriminate against same sex relationships as well as victimless crimes (prostitution) should be eliminated. From the standpoint of civil liberties, I am a firm believer in allowing the populace to govern their own libidos between consenting adults without government interdiction or interference. (You could call me a radical in regards to social liberties, and in some ways, I admit that I am.) 

Therefore, I can honestly say that the various titillating tropes found in the Zohar are at best, mildly interesting, but certainly not compelling enough for me to attempt to read and somehow incorporate them into my spiritual work. In fact, since the Hebrew Bible is only marginally interesting to me personally and to my work, then a Midrash, which is an exegesis or commentary on that work, is not something that I need to study or intimately know (unless I have a lot of spare time). The essential Qabbalah has all of the symbols and qualities that I need to develop a profound perspective on sacred sexuality. Of course, my interpretation and use of the Qabbalah is guided by a pagan spiritual point of view, which tends to be polytheistic with a strong emphasis on being compassionate, non-judgmental and highly inclusive. I will, therefore, use the same perspective in determining a sexualized Qabbalah.

Now that I have set the stage to discuss a sexual interpretation of the Qabbalah, you might be wondering how we should proceed? If we have rejected the moral code of orthodox Judaism, then what do we put in its place. Obviously, approaching sexuality in a disciplined and spiritual manner should be the hallmark of a sexual Qabbalah. Otherwise, one’s spiritual practice would disintegrate into nothing more than a pathetic excuse for unrestrained libido. So if sex is your goal, then why bother sugar coating it with spiritual pretensions? It also tends to make sexuality into an overly complex and even boring proclivity. I will make the assumption that as the sexual act is heightened by symbolism, physical practices and through a program of rigorously controlled sexual activity, then the ecstatic result will be nothing short of profound. This is the underlying assumption that I will use in assembling this article. One other point that I would like to make is that because this is a brief article it will not be a comprehensive study of a system of western sexual mysticism and magick. A comprehensive study would require a fully developed book in its own right. What I am interested in providing in this article are a number of insights and suggestions, which will effectively guide any knowledgeable student into creating their own system.

Qabbalah has been, since its inception, a system and methodology primarily dominated by men. Therefore, all of the themes and the point of view have had a decidedly masculine perspective. The relationship of a male qabbalist to his study and practices was decidedly sexist, to say the least. While the practicing qabbalist, who would have been a married man, did peripherally involve his wife in his work, she was never to be taught any of the deeper meanings nor would she be engaged in the work as anything other than a worthy and respected assistant. Unlike alchemy and magick, there were no famous women qabbalists prior to the late 19th century, so we must assume that if any women studied this subject, it was either in secret or not at all. It was only when the Qabbalah became an occult tradition that women began to examine this discipline, and then only because women’s role in traditional society had expanded to the point of being on an equal parity with men.

For this reason, a modern approach to a sexualized Qabbalah must include women along with men, and that they must be equal partners and given the same consideration and respect. It should also be stated that where men and women differ from each other in terms of their physical bodies, there would also be some differences between their spiritual perspectives and associated practices. These differences can be great or small, depending on the cultural background associated with one’s gender. However, a woman has the potential to give birth to a living being, whether she is either willing or even physically capable, and a man is an important participant, initiator and helpmate in that process. Beyond these obvious differences, everything else is to be considered culturally and individually determined, since in reality, there are more than two genders, and therefore, more than two kinds of sexual preferences and types of pairing. I am not going attempt to examine all of these variations in this article, except to state that students will need to work these out for themselves. Therefore, I will assume that practicing qabbalists will either elect to work with a suitable partner or they will decide to work alone. Either approach can be accommodated by a true engagement with the practical Qabbalah.

If a qabbalist has decided to work with a partner, then that other person must be as engaged and committed to the work as his/her partner. They must be completely equal and committed to the work in order for the results to be uniformly consistent and rewarding. Goals associated with the individual student are therefore shared by both members of the pairing. An important point in working with partners is that their combined abilities and efforts will only achieve what the weakest member is able to achieve. This is why it is important for both of them to be equally zealous and engaged with the work, since the objective is for them to be capable of producing the same equal level of results. Imbalances in this kind of work can either thwart and frustrate the results, or it could cause some real problems, due to the inherent disharmony and dissonance that such an ill matched bond would produce. Perhaps this is the reason why some qabbalists prefer to work alone.

There are three considerations that must be thoroughly examined if one is to consider engaging in a regimen of sacred sexuality while studying and practicing the Qabbalah. Mixing these two major topics isn’t necessary, especially for someone who is just starting out or lacks a suitable partner. Qabbalah by itself is challenging enough to learn and master, and adding to it a level of sacred sexuality could make it far more difficult than most people could handle. It’s important for anyone who wants to integrate these two disciplines that they have a certain confidence and familiarity with them both. Lacking those two essential elements is certainly a recipe for disaster. If it takes the student an adequate period of time to be fully acquainted and knowledgeable about sacred sexuality before applying it to a study of the Qabbalah, then I believe that it would be time well spent.

The first consideration is that if the student is working with a partner, then they both must perform and independently engage in their practices and study in a regular and consistent manner. This is also true for solo practitioners. A constant, periodic and regular practice will produce the best results. Partners can perform their practices separately, and they can also perform them together. Eventually, they will perform all of their more important work together and act as a team, thereby assisting the process of reinforcing and objectifying everything that happens. The basic regimen consists of the following five operations (these have already been expounded upon).

1. Meditation session - cyclic and periodic - represents the essential foundation of the discipline.

2. Contemplation session - periodic - incrementally more frequently performed and for greater duration.

3. Pathworking - cyclic - performed first singly, then in partnership.

4. Invocation/Evocation - strategic - performed in partnership for specific angelic entites.

5. Godhead assumption - periodic - performed first singly, then later in partnership

The second consideration is that in the disciplines of contemplation and Godhead assumption, the practitioner should begin to engage in a sexual interpretation of the various qabbalistic symbolism. An important fact is that the Tree of Life is formulated through three pillars, creating a kind of dialectic process. Advanced techniques using these structures would consist of following the flow of masculine and feminine energies in the Tree of Life and observe how they are mediated in the Middle Pillar.

Sephiroth have specific sexual attributes, since they are masculine, feminine and also neutral. In Hebrew, a noun has only two genders (unlike Greek and Latin), so therefore, when one considers the gender of the name of one of the sephirah, it creates a complex fusion of genders. For instance, Chokmah is a feminine noun occupying the top place on the masculine pillar, so it would seem to indicate a blending or combining of genders, making Wisdom into a complex quality in regards to the Tree of Life. This same examination can be done to other sephirah as well, such as the planet Venus (Netzach) being associated with the masculine pillar, the Sun (Tiphareth) to the middle pillar (making it neutral), and Mercury (Hod) to the feminine pillar. All of these associations make for a very complex and integrated metaphysical system.

These complex symbologies imply that genders and polarities are much more complicated than one would suppose, and this would accord well with actual occurrences in the real world. Men behaving like women or women behaving like men is completely supported by the symbology of the Tree of Life, even though its original authors had not intended such an interpretation. To develop a system of a sexualized Qabbalah, students should very carefully and thoroughly examine the various subtle attributes of gender and polarity in regards to the Tree of Life. The full development of this analysis will greatly impact the disciplines of path working and Godhead assumption.

The third consideration is the nature and power of the Shekinah, and its importance in advanced qabbalistic work. The Shekinah, which means “place” or “presence,” symbolizes the actual materialized presence of the overall Godhead, known as the One. This entity is analogous to the Christian concept of the Holy Spirit or the Islamic concept of the Baraka. It is the tangible manifested blessing or grace of the Deity. It can be seen as both a spiritual aspect that blesses and manifests to an entire religious organization (analogous to an egregore), or as the individual intermediary between a person and their Deity. Thus, to the occultist, the Shekinah can represent (but is not limited to) an aspect of an individual’s higher self, known to qabbalists as the Yechidah. In fact, one of the most important goals that a qabbalist can accomplish is to invoke the Shekinah and make it become tangible. The personal Shekinah then becomes the embodiment of the mediator (Neschamah) between a person’s conscious self (as the Ruach) and his/her higher self (Yechidah), and facilitates their union.

How does one invoke the Shekinah into a materialized form? To accomplish this goal, we can perhaps take a few ideas from the Jewish qabbalists of four centuries ago. The most important factor is to create a spiritual environment that is both harmonious and favorable for the Shekinah to reside. Such a spiritual environment would be greatly determined by the qabbalist’s personal spiritual discipline and regular practices. Frequent and continual spiritual work are an important part of this process, but they are not exclusive to it. A qabbalist must not be an insular practitioner who performs his work in complete secrecy. Personal holiness is also associated with acts of spiritual service and charitable gifts to one’s community.

A true qabbalist not only performs her personal spiritual discipline in a regular and intense manner, but she also engages with her community, giving money to charities and offering herself to help others less fortunate. In other words, she presents a compassionate and engaged persona in regards to her fellow humanity. She will also live the spiritual code of the Qabbalah, and not engage in any behavior that she might consider as immoral or unethical. Being true to herself and acting as a force for the greater good in the community but also seeking the spirit of the Shekinah as if she were seeking for the veritable “lover within;” all of these practices are a prerequisite for the Shekinah to become fully manifested to the seeker. The key to fully manifesting the Shekinah is to approach it as a Godhead assumption, and to engage in that practice until the process becomes completely tangible and experiential. Achieving this goal is no small event, since it requires the greatest single effort from the student in order to be realized. Encountering the Shekinah symbolizes that the qabbalist is ready for the final stages in her spiritual and magickal regimen, so it is the key to this whole process.

These final steps represent where the two paired seekers focus their efforts on emulating the spiritual union of the ultimate Godhead. They join at all levels of their being with the Shekinah guiding them to that final blissful glory of total at-one-ment with the Deity. If a solitaire qabbalist is performing this work, then the Shekinah becomes his or her complete focus and surrogate spiritual mate. Either of these two types of practices will require the addition of five high level operations to be mastered in order for the seeker(s) to experience spiritual union. These five high level operations would consist of the following practices. It’s assumed that the practitioner is able to invoke and summon the Shekinah whenever needed, and this entity will be the medium that will facilitate full spiritual union with the Deity.

1. Paired meditation and contemplation - beginning with the mirrored Opening Self technique done to allow the other to touch, merge and enter into a whole unified embrace.

2. Contemplation on all of the symbols of union found in the Qabbalah, these would represent a completely sexualized variation of the Tree of Life, where the ultimate symbol is the joining of the archetypal female (Binah) with the archetypal male (Chokmah) to produce the symbolic child, which is an emulation of the One.

3. Charging and physically realizing the Tree of Life superimposed on the body, and then joining analogous sephirah from one body to another, thus linking them.

4. Assumption of polarized Godhead aspects, and witnessing and experiencing them in combination with each other. Focus is placed on the polarity of the masculine and feminine sephiroth (Chokmah to Binah, Chesed to Geburah, Netzach to Hod, and Tiphareth to Yesod). Each Godhead should be revealed, shared, worshiped and loved in turn, alternating between the paired seekers.

5. Assumption of Kether and Malkuth Godheads, alternating between the roles of the pair of seekers, and in that state, performing various actual physical techniques and positions for sexual union. This rite should be performed as a personal and intimate ceremony, with all the trappings of a spiritual wedding rite, with particular emphasis on physical consummation.

When a couple is able to perform all five of these incredible and powerful operations, then they will experience, over time, total union with the Deity. These steps and procedures are based upon analogous steps and procedures found in other traditions, such as Indian Tantra and a highly ritualized version of the Great Rite as found in traditional Witchcraft. It has analogues in both Western and Eastern Alchemy, as well as in Tantric Buddhism. Wherever ecstasy is the key to spiritual enlightenment, you can find these kinds of operations being used.

As you can readily see, adopting and fulfilling this regimen would complete the sole spiritual objective of achieving union with the Deity. However, being able to perform it in its entirety would be the most challenging thing anyone could possibly imagine. All sorts of interferences and issues would emerge to attempt to thwart such an achievement. While I am able to determine what these steps and stages would need to be in order to produce the desired results, I have yet to do them myself. I am certain that I would add other exercises and augment what I have written here, but the basic idea is quite sound and true.

Accomplishing this great work does not end the overall process of spiritual effort and work. In fact, it is only the beginning of a whole new set of tasks, all of which characterize the work of an enlightened being seeking to guide and help others to the same goal. Spiritual service would be the essence of what a student does when he or she has achieved enlightenment. All others things would suddenly diminish in importance, since doing the work of the Deity would become the seeker’s sole objective. Where that would lead to is anyone guess, but achieving that sublime state would at least answer the ancient questions in the Halls of the Mystery Temple,  “Who serves the Grail, what is its source and where does it travel?” I look forward to that day and time when I am faced with such an amazing set of questions.   

Frater Barrabbas

No comments:

Post a Comment