Why and How:

The Usefulness of Useless Ideas

    This book is an attempt to analyze my own personal qabalistic memory theatre, and present it in a way that provides a potential map and demonstrates its usefulness. Although these practices and connections seem tedious and nonsensical, true practical applications will emerge to help use abstract concepts such as art and language to live efficiently and fulfilled in the physical world. A large point of this essay attempts to remove “truth” from the system of qabalah, and instead show its ability to function outside of that strict confine. This is what I believe to be the downfall of religious qabalah, the end goal of which is some claimed “truth.” It is more fun than it is truthful, I can guarantee it. Instead of focusing on the perceived truth that emerges from this work, let us focus just on the usefulness of the application. As Uncle Al states so clearly in chapter 46 of Liber Aleph, “Every Thing has its right Use; and thou art great as thou hast Use of Things.”

    Qabalah, from its most traditional point of view, is supposed to be decoding the language of “God,” who supposedly spoke the universe into existence with the Hebrew language. “And then God said, ‘Let there be light!1’” This is why early qabalists believed they had to be discreet about their findings, thinking God might punish them for revealing too much about His Nature, or more importantly be misunderstood and therefore persecuted. Because of the deeply religious nature that these theories developed within, people only applied qabalistic thinking to holy texts, such as the Tenach, the New Testament, and the Quran. Although these are great go-to ‘inspired texts,’ there are many other ‘inspired texts’ which did not happen to spawn religions, such as mathematical tomes, philosophy books, and even fictional novels. I would say most genuine artistic expression would share similar amounts of inspired zeal as any early religious text. This means that strict qabalists, who only use these techniques on a very limited number of art pieces, i.e. their holy text, are missing out on an even bigger picture, which is my goal to present. These types of connections can be made between any bits of information, creating an incredibly complex patch matrix of synapses providing many pathways to various ideas for ease of access and efficiency.

Qabalistic Building Blocks

    Qabalistic theory is essentially about connecting various ways people describe things into ideological packets. Most fundamentally, there are three ways in which something can be signified: by its actual shape (Symbol), by a name (Word), and its quantity (Number). I would define a qabalistic language as one that has emerged to have these three qualities inherently connected - by any means, logical or illogical, truthful or not. The Semitic languages, which eventually morphed into many of the modern qabalistic languages2, are the clearest examples of languages constructed this way.

This above image demonstrates the development of a symbol into a letter. It was originally wholly pictorial, with the letter name, Aleph, literally translating as “Ox.” This means that originally the image of an ox and the word for it were represented by the same object. Over time, this became abstracted to mean one component of the composite word3, the A, and not the attached L and Ph. Many early letters were derived this way. It is interesting to note that these types of languages are most often consonantary, or “abjad,” meaning they are written down without vowels. When pictures are being used as language, and people begin making complex pictorial ‘sentences,’ they start creating macro concepts that are informed by the individual characters within the sentence. This development seems to imply that words then have a formulaic construction, depending on what symbols were used to make up the word. These pictures that have morphed into letters have eventually become the core letters of many languages of the world, as seen in the table to the right. Any language derived from a Semitic language has wonderful potential for qabalistic work. Traditional Hebrew qabalah, and its Greek counterpart, (not yet properly named), have maintained these core traditional attributions. Many points made in this book will also be using them for future examples of their application.
   Further than this, many early civilizations had not yet created a numerical system separate from their alphabet. This meant that many cultures used the same symbols but attributed them to numbers. Before the Hindu-Arabic numerals were adopted, and along with Roman Numerals, the Greek and Hebrew alphabets were both used as numbers. It was a simple distribution of the first nine letters being 1 - 9, with the next group of 9 being 10 - 90, and with hebrew, there are only 22 letters, giving 100 - 400, while Greek has 26 letters, making Omega 800. Roman numerals decided to work in smaller chunks, playing I as 1, V as 5, X as 10, L as 50, C as 100 etc... which removes it from being a fully qabalistic language, although certain parts of its construction have been included in modern qabalistic thinking.4 Because these cultures had no concept of separating the letters from their numerical values, it would be clever for an artist to be able to make poems, which beyond their lyric beauty also had a mathematical structure as well. There are some examples of this in Kieren Barry’s book, The Greek Qabalah. With these three descriptors all attached together, one can now draw connections between symbols (which became text), spoken words, and numerical logic.
    In traditional Hebrew qabalah, this concept has been formulated fractally into itself. The important qabalistic text, Sepher Yetzirah, or The Book of Formation, discusses this in the first chapter.
הוא וברא את עולמו בשלשה ספרים בספר וספר וספור
    The most interesting thing to note about this passage is that these three concepts all use the same letters in Hebrew, S (ס), P (פ), and R (ר). Text (which I equate to symbol, because it is pictorial) and Number are the same word, pronounced differently, (Sepher vs. Sephar6), while communication is also the same but with an extra vav added in,ספור, sippur. This now demonstrates to the qabalist that those three letters together have something to do with perception and communication. Notice the wording in that phrase carefully, “He created His universe.” How do we create our universes but with symbol (visual art), word (sound art), and number (science), combined with memory? Books do not forget, and neither do humans with access to that book.
    Here is where the arbitrary and useless part gets introduced, to absolutely no detriment to my argument, as one will eventually see. With each word now corresponding to a numerical value, it is the duty of the qabalist to start finding connections between words that add up to the same numbers. Again, traditional qabalists would tell you that “God organized it this way for a reason.” I’m here to tell you that no matter how one organizes it, it will work. Realizations will occur, and some people like to attribute that sort of thing to God. Creating connections in the brain will inherently strengthen memory, regardless of what the connections are. One of the most beautiful parts about removing this “technology” from its “religious confinement,” is stripping the idea that it is “holy” and therefore immutable. The best qabalah stems from humor, and further personal examples will hopefully demonstrate the fun7 in useless mental exercises.
    When ספר is added up, it is 340. Another word that has a numerical value of 340 is Δελτα, Delta, the name of the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, and the word used to describe a river emptying into the sea. The shape of the letter is supposed to represent that shape, Δ. A qabalist would now attempt to create connections between these concepts, which in this case is surprisingly easy. When presenting art, whether it be painting, music, writing, mathematics, or sculpture/construction, one is putting new information into the collective understanding. They are emptying their river into the sea of the populus; another representation of the individual presenting to the whole, a bold move but as an artist it is inevitable. Because this SPR triplicity also relates to communication and interpretation, deltas are also where one “enters the public library” so to say. Not only do rivers empty into seas, but they also can begin at seas, a metaphor for an individual interpreting a mass amount of information.This is just one example to try and demonstrate how one would find any sort of connection between concepts. More will be presented in the core of the book.

    This brings up another interesting8 practice done by many qabalists, which is creating a numerical dictionary. This is a long process of slowly adding up words and organizing them in numerical value, to collect all words of the same number. With the development of computers, many programs can take texts and automatically calculate their numbers and organize all the words, although I am not tech-savvy enough yet to write that code on my own. Many people have their dictionaries posted on the internet, and as soon as mine is well stocked, it will be included in this book as an appendix, as aid for anyone wanting to use this way of thinking. These dictionaries force the brain to stretch even further when many words (and therefore concepts) must be connected. Sometimes extremely conflicting information is presented, and it is very easy to brush certain connections under the rug. One should attempt to wane this neglect, but even so, certain experiences may present their connection in a whole new way - in a lightning flash.

Going Further

    Most of the attributions that had emerged naturally through the development of language were only a basis for forward thinking qabalists in the renaissance until now. Over time, mystical ideas were attributed to these letters, to provide a hidden framework of energy that made up the ideas or words. Certain letters were related to the planetary objects, which back then were the first five planets (other than Earth) with the Sun and the Moon, while others were related to zodiac signs. This may have occurred even as early as Pythagorean times, but is most clearly codified in the Sepher Yetzirah, a qabalistic text from at least the 10th century but might be much older.9 The Sepher Yetzirah took the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and gave 12 to the zodiac signs, 7 to the planetary objects, and 3 for the elements of Air, Water and Fire. These attributes then influenced many of the societies claiming lineage to the Rosicrucian Society, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which is where we get most of our traditional attributions. The work of MacGregor Mathers, along with huge expansions by Aleister Crowley, lead to the system of qabalah most commonly used by “magicians” and occultists outside of the traditional Jewish qabalistic sect. Many claim that the attributions were set before Mathers was even involved, and even he just expanded on previously passed down knowledge. It is clear that Eliphas Levi knew the same attributions that Mathers used,10 and died when Mathers was only 21 years old. Regardless, there was much synthesis in the Golden Dawn’s qabalistic system that was not in either the traditional Hebrew sect nor Levi’s system.

Tarot emerged as the pictorial representation of all these attributions, and it will very commonly be referenced. In the appendix is a small collection of attributions to make sense of the references to the Tarot, although I hope the surrounding concepts being discussed will be enough to inform the Tarot card if not vice versa.

The Patch Bay

    Making connections between ideas can be done in various ways, which I will list. It is not all-inclusive because there is always room for more creativity.
  1. General analogy. (i.e. A:B::C:D.) (Etymology included.)
  2. Gematria number. (Isopsephy in Greek.)
  3. Acronyms. Notariqon in traditional qabalah.
  4. Anagrams. Same letters arranged differently. (Would be obvious when looking at the gematria numbers. Includes Temurah.)
  5. Puns. Homophones and Homonyms. These are usually the funniest.
    With these few tools, qabalah is born. Connection through concept resonance is probably the most common of all mental connections made by humans. Most often it can be represented with the classic A:B as C:D, i.e. sock is to foot as glove is to hand. These types of connections occur naturally in the brain, without us even realizing it. Nostalgia is a byproduct of revisiting forgotten connections that once struck an emotional chord. I would even consider “genres” as a concept to be wholly in this category.11 The word ‘category’ in general might be interchangeable with ‘concept’ and ‘genre’ depending on how it is used. Horror, Drama, Action, Comedy, are just general conceptual sorting bins, and because most movies aren’t quite so easy to pigeon-hole, the most general of descriptions are adopted. In a personal qabalistic system, the individual decides how detailed the categories become. Sometimes detail is more useful, sometimes it isn’t. Organizing by concept is the backbone of qabalah, but it is also mostly logical, seeing patterns in A relating to the same patterns in B. This isn’t much of a stretch for the brain, which may be why they occur so naturally in the mind, but helps in solidifying information in memory. It is the other jacks in the patch bay that push normal mental boundaries. Most people who consider analogy only on this level have the horrifying limitation of thinking that analogy is related to logic and reasoning, and that it exists externally in the physical world. All analogies are made between mental concepts, and nothing more. Magickal workings will these analogies to be connected with the physical world, but this is most commonly achieved through a new perspective.

    Etymology is something I would also place under the “general analogy” category, because it mainly develops through unconscious analogies that our brains have made throughout history. Learning the origins of words can quickly make strong webs of concepts. Having a root word, which is then used to create a whole variety of words, inherently creates a qabalistic category.12 Authors with an ability to create lots of words, such as Shakespeare, Rabelais, and Adams13, had a great qabalistic understanding of language and were able to make new pathways between previously unconnected ideas. The fact that so many of their words are still in use means the pathways are now highways, and their avant-guard became our tradition.

Gematria number is the quickest way to encounter two concepts that seem to have absolutely no reasonable relationship to each other, therefore forcing one to use extreme creativity to come up with a reason why they might share the same number.14 Some of the earliest examples of this are from ancient graffiti.15 The fact that it was used in graffiti shows that it originally emerged through humor and art, rather than from “God.” These are mental tools for anyone. The most famous of examples is the Beast 666, which most scholars believe to represent Nero Cesar, which adds to 666 when transliterated into Hebrew letters.16 An interesting side- effect of using numbers to represent words or ideas is that mathematical functions can happen between ideas to create even further maps of how the ideas interrelate. The use of addition, multiplication, division, subtraction, square roots, squaring, cubing, etc... can lead to extremely funny and interesting poetic ideas. Many of these functions have words that can describe them, so after the equation is figured out, one can re-translate it back into language, creating a beautiful bridge between maths and poetry - often considered to be immiscible.

    Acronyms are also another way to create far out connections between concepts, but is not dependent on number. Many acronyms are taught to young children as a means of remembering phrases. In math: PEMDAS, Please Excuse my Dear Aunt Sally, for Parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction. In music, Every Good Boy Does Fine, for the lines of the staff, E, G, B, D, F. Acronyms seem to be the most common connection in early education, which may be because of their simplicity. This technique is also used heavily in traditional Jewish qabalah under the name Notariqon. The word Notariqon was adapted from the Greek word νοταρικον, derived from the Latin “notarius,” which means “shorthand writer.” Many magical phrases used in the western mystery tradition use this technique, including words like אגלא, AGLA, a notariqon of אתה גבור לעולם אדני, Ateh Gibor Le’olam Adonai, which means “Thou art powerful and eternal, Lord.” There are numerous examples that will continue to be presented throughout this essay.

    Anagrams are similar to acronyms, in that it is about discovering other hidden connections within words, but anagrams are made by rearranging the letters of a word to make new words. An excellent example of this is the title of Douglas Hofstadter’s book, Metamagical Themas, which was an anagram of the existing Scientific American column, Mathematical Games. There are certain scholars who use anagrams as a means to explain the etymology of certain words. For example, the Greek goddess Rhea, Ρεα, is presumed to come from a rearranging of the letters of “ground,” ερα. A fancier name for this kind of operation is ‘metathesis,’ which comes from the Greek word μετατιθημι, meaning “I put in a different order.” This effect is much less common in english but still present in words, mostly through mistakes. A good example of a mistake would be Spaghetti being pronounced Pasghetti. A more practical example would be the pronunciation of “Iron,” which would more accurately be spelled “Iern.” In Hebrew, these sorts of operations are much more fruitful, due to the abjab, or consonantary quality of the language. This means that each letter is a consonant, with vowels assumed through pronunciation.17 This turns the language into a sort of code, where there are less strict rules as to how the consonants can be arranged. In English, this effect is less pronounced because certain letters will never be next to others, as in the case of Q and almost any other letter besides U. Because this is so effective in Hebrew, and other early abjabs, traditional qabalists came up with even more ways to permute the text. Exchanging the first letters for the lasts (atbash18), shifting the word down the alphabet (avgad19), and replacing the letters with the letters half way through the alphabet (albam20), are all different translations one can use in traditional qabalistic Temurah. It is very rare that any of these operations would make sensical translations in English, but that just means whenever it does happen, one should pay special attention to that example.

    Puns, or more specifically (stretched) homophones/homographs, and metonyms, are the last and least traditional form of creating connections in the brain. They create connections purely based on the similarity of the spoken sound or the spellings of the words, which can connect two different words that contain no common concepts. One reason why I believe puns to be so important in qabalistic thinking is that it is spontaneous. Certain puns will only work within certain contexts. If a pun is presented outside of its appropriate time and place, it is more of a “hmm” response, rather than the expected “haha.” This means that their humorous application is intuitively connected to their situational application, forcing the user to connect several things on the spot for a successful pun to occur. Qabalistic thinking is very much dependent on the theory of the “Lightning Flash,” a burst of instant inspiration that provides major insight to a particular idea. Puns are a great practice for familiarizing oneself with the effects of the Lightning Flash, making it easier and easier to occur the more it happens. I would say that practicing puns was my first real discipline in generating an irrational but wholly useful21 set of random connections between concepts in my brain, and I have my parent’s corny jokes to thank.22

The Hole in the Law

    Something that qabalah has built into its system to allow such wide reaching and seemingly infinite connections is using polar opposite ideas as means of correlation. This is probably the funniest, but also most useful footnote in qabalistic thinking. It is something many qabalists seem to gloss over, but Aleister Crowley does mention it a handful of times. Every idea holds its opposite idea within it. Open implies a closing, bright implies a darkness, strong implies a weakness. This means that analogies can be made by virtue of their opposition as well as by their alignment. Some may consider this to be a cheat, and in some ways it is, but this is to grossly misunderstand the point of qabalah. Remember, we’re removing truth here. For one, it provides a distillation of categories one must use, meaning that one’s idea-drawers can be dedicated for truly unique ideas, rather than getting giant dressers and having a separate drawer for each opposite idea. This makes the whole system extremely compact, because now it can encode another whole level of information into the same size dresser. For two, this ensures the infinite expanse of connections within qabalah, and only an infinite system can come close to describing the infinite universe.

Cutting One’s Own Way Through the Forest

    So far, it has mostly been historical or traditional qabalistic systems that have been discussed. This is for no other reason but to provide some historical context, hoping to ground this lofty system in something everybody can understand. This is by no means a standard. My favorite analogy for describing the interplay between tradition and invention is the trail metaphor. Many feel that traditions must be followed exactly, and if not they are diluted by the Magician's own creativity. I don't believe any one's artistic expression dilutes anything, and the same thing goes for a trail. The trail doesn't exist to prevent you from exploring the forest, it is just a convenient tool for reference. And just because one has ventured off the trail slightly to take a look at a different view doesn't mean they'll never find their way back to the trail or find it useful. This being said, there are certain kinds of terrain that call for very acute passing. In the case of a desert, the trail is mostly pointless. The only use it has is a clear section of "no-cactus- zone." If one is careful about cacti and other spikey bushes, then b-lined paths are no problem, because there are no significant obstacles to overcome. The difficulty in deserts are the wide expanses, with no valuable resources. In the case of treacherous mountains, there may be only a limited number of paths that actually allow one to reach the top. Without following those carefully planned trails, one can easily fall or slip, etc... leading to serious pain or death. These are the situations in which cutting your own path may not be the best idea.

    In the development of the Golden Dawn, it was found out that Mathers had claimed to be in communication with the secret chiefs, when he had really forged no connection. This means that the system of the Golden Dawn, no matter how far they claimed to initiate up the tree of life, never passed beyond Adeptus Exemptus, the grade corresponding to the sphere of Chesed. It wasn’t until Aleister Crowley actually forged a connection with the secret chiefs originally in 1904, and repeatedly in 1909, that a path was even found across the Abyss of the Tree of Life. This path is represented by a desert, with a camel as one’s guide. As one passes thru the Abyss, one’s blood is said to be poured out into the cup of Babalon’s Fornication. As more people travel across the Abyss and spill their blood, the Cup of Babalon will overflow and spill, fertilizing the desert. Over time, this will change the character of the path, making it easier and easier for people to cross.

    This type of system is quite useful, having the ability to be followed. Many who rebel against tradition, thinking it is restricting, or limited, in turn create their own systems that are completely incomprehensible. This is fine if you want to completely alienate yourself and your own art work, but to make a change, others will have to be inspired by your work, which means there must be some sort of accessible trail head.

Qabalah Analyzed Qabalistically

    One of the most “convincing” connections for a qabalist is one that works on many different levels. The more levels, the better. The word Qabalah itself can be a good demonstration of this. In Hebrew it is spelled QBL, and as we try to find the “formula” for this word - and therefore concept - we take each letter individually. Q, Qoph, means Back of the Head, and its Tarot attribution is The Moon, the magickal mirror in which we see illusions and grow insanities. It is the world of dreams, potentially nightmares, or dreams too good to be true. This is an essential part of qabalah, insanity, stretching the mind to see illusions. The only thing is that these illusions are wholly willed. They are tools for mental strength, and hold no power within their details. It is only within their forms that the power resides, meaning each individuals realization is another’s conspiracy theory. Not everyone sees these things in the same way, so it will necessarily seem ridiculous until someone understands the qabalistic path taken to arrive at that conclusion - even then it might remain dubious. These parts of qabalah are the parts we keep to ourselves, and potentially write about in long, erratic books. But these “trivial” parts are the glue for the entire personal structure. None of the wisdom would be able to emerge without this initial sanity-stretching aspect.

    The next letter is exactly the “Wisdom” which balances out this insanity. Beth, the name of the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, means House. This is a good pairing with the ‘back of the head,’ or more scientifically, the unconscious. Most unconscious minds wander with no control. Qabalah has a wonderful side effect of providing a structure for the unconscious mind (which is the main part making qabalistic connections.) It houses all the unconfined elements to a useful and accessible partition, allowing dreams to make more sense, as well as magickal or psychedelic visions. These visions are most often caused by the unconscious presenting symbols, and if one has taught a symbol library to one’s brain, it will most likely use the same symbols in its communication. The Tarot attribution for Beth is The Magus, the quintessential Mercury, who invented language, mathematics, symbolism, and the arts. This is the other essential element, true intellectualism.

    These two conflicting aspects, insanity and wisdom, must be balanced perfectly for qabalah to work just right. This is the third letter in the word: L, Lamed. Lamed means Ox-Goad, or the chariot-like farming tool pulled by any large animal. This goad steers the whole rest of the word. It directs it with justice and liberty. It must make a well tilled land, but the land is vast, and its organization mutable. Its Tarot attribution is Adjustment, related to Libra, the scales. These attributions are very clear in how it is supposed to inform the theory.

    QBL as a word means “to receive,” and is generally interpreted as “tradition.” This whole system, of insanity balanced with wisdom, establishes its identity by its ability to be taught or derived from ‘holy people’ or directly from the holy texts themselves. This brings it all back into a strange loop. Qabalah means “to receive”, and depends on tradition to maintain an identity, but it is also essentially personal and abysmal. This paradoxical concept is fractally at the heart of the words theoretical construction. All poetry can supposedly be analyzed this way, assuming it is written in a qabalistic language. (English is still in a grey-zone.) One last important reiteration: it doesn’t matter how one attributes things as long as it works. These are only useful because I’ve made them useful, not because they are correct.

    With this basis, the entirety of this system is constructed. This introduction is here for those who felt that their prerequisite knowledge wouldn’t be sufficient for the topics at hand, and I hope it provided some insight to the logic and illogic of the system. In the appendix are more direct aids for reference, including tables of traditional qabalistic correspondences, as well as gematria and anagram dictionaries.

Coming Full Circle

    To demonstrate how these types of things are more palpable then we realize, even our words for them are informed by these theories. Both ‘Name’ and ‘Number’ come from the same Proto-Indo-European root “Nem,” or “Nam,” which means “to divide, allot, count out, share, take, portion out.”24 This is exactly what the SPR connection does: it divides, counts out, shares, takes and allots, so that people can communicate. Nem- is also the root of the word Nemesis, an opposite. This justifies “the hole in the law” by virtue of the definition, if one needed any validation. Another word that shares this same root is “Nomad,” a greek word which means ‘wandering’ or poetically ‘roaming in search of an allotted abode.’ A nomad is one who divides from their town, but shares in a way different from all others living in the town. It brings to mind the line from Liber AL, “Every number is infinite, there is no difference.” If number and nomad are so closely related via “nam,” this line can be etymologically interpreted as ‘Every nomad is unbound, they have no discernment.” This directly reinforces the break down of QBL, where Q involves the nomad stretching out and connecting many new ideas in progressive ways (in short, insanity), while B is the ability to share and create a tradition that has distilled the most important of all the ideologies presented by the nomads throughout history. The balance between these two things is what creates qabalah. It is a tradition created by the fringe.