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Is There Gender Equity In Hermetic Qabalah?

1409 words - 6 pages

Many people on various Pagan paths are drawn to study Qabalah, a form of Western mysticism. At first glance it may seem like a good fit. Qabalah includes both female and male divine images as part of the sefirot (Hebrew, plural; singular, sefirah), also called emanations, which occur on the Tree of Life, long a Goddess symbol. But a closer look at Qabalah reveals problems for those who seek gender equity in spiritual life, reject hierarchies, and see spirit immanent in the material world.Hermetic Qabalah, the basis of the Western mystical or "mystery" tradition, took its most widely known form in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which flourished in the late 19th and early 20th ...view middle of the document...

Rather, it meant that the person, ignorant of mystical truth, has to start at the bottom of the ladder, the location of matter--the material world. Each sefirah was seen as a step closer to spirit, in a system that looked with disdain on the Earth and matter.Among the deities recognized in Golden Dawn rituals were the goddesses Isis, Nepthys, and Hathor. For example, in one ritual, a priestess wearing a mask of Hathor says: "I am the Ruler of the Mist and Cloud, wrapping the Earth as it were with a garment, floating and hovering between Earth and Heaven. I am the Giver of the Mist, the Veil of Autumn, the successor of the dew-clad Night." Yet while allowing female deities, the ritual is quick to assert the supremacy of the Father God: "For in the whole Universe shineth the [goddess] Triad, over which the [Paternal] Monad ruleth." Ritual material also states: "And the Great Goddess bringeth forth the vast Sun and brilliant Moon, and the wide Air, and the Lunar Course and the Solar Pole.... And abovethe shoulders of the Great Goddess is Nature in Her vastness exalted." Yet the same ritual affirms: . . . "all things are subservient through the Will of the Father of All."The feminine sefirah Malkut is described as the evil part of the Tree of Good and Evil. She is related to the element earth, and as such is "the receptacle" of air, fire and water. Because of her earthiness or closeness to the material plane, Qabalists considered Malkut to contain evil, which needs to be purged by fire and water.To Malkut were assigned several Christian personifications: the three "holy Women" (i.e., the Marys) at the foot of the cross; also just Mary, Mother of Jesus; and also Eve. The representation of Malkut as the three Marys could be seen as a reference to the triple Goddess. The symbolism of Mary and Eve, however, contain more negative connotations. For example: " the Son should be crucified on the Cross of the infernal Rivers in Daath [an upper, "invisible" sefirah]; yet to do this He must descend to the lowest first, even unto Malkuth and be born of Her." The implication here is that Malkut/Mary is "lowly," as is woman, but that in order to fulfill his mission, Christ had to lower himself to be born of woman.And though Golden Dawn rituals at times referred to Eve as "Mother of all," and "the Great Goddess," she is seen as shirking in her duty to support three qabalistic pillars by "being tempted by the Tree of Knowledge," and thereby bringing about the Fall. In earlier Jewish kabbalistic doctrine, Adam brought about the fall, or cosmic catastrophe, by mistaking Malkut for all of divinity. In Hermetic Qabalah, Eve/Goddess herself causes the catastrophe, which becomes something that happens to Adam. Though, in a way, this could be seen as a positive step, since it bolsters the importance of the divine female's responsibility and at least gives...

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