The Holistic Qabala


Title:  Hod, Glory

Magical Image:  A Hermaphrodite

Position on the Tree:  At the base of the Pillar of Severity

Yetziratic Text: The Eighth Sephira is called the Absolute or Perfect Intelligence because it is the mean of the Primordial, which has no root by which it can cleave or rest, save in the hidden places of Gedulah, from which emanate its proper essence.

God Name:  Elohim Tzabaoth

Archangel:  Michael

Order of Angels:  Beni Elohim, Sons of God

Planetary Correspondence:  Mercury

Spiritual Experience:  Vision of Splendor

Virtue:  Truthfulness

Vice:  Falsehood, Dishonesty

Physical Correspondence:  Loins and legs

Symbols:  Names, Versicles, Apron

Tarot Cards:  The four Eights

Color:  Orange

Introduction to Hod

Hod is the first Sphere encountered on the ascending Path of Return on the Tree of Life which deviates from the central Middle Pillar of Consciousness.  It lies at the base of the Pillar of Severity, and indicates a mode of self-expression.  This is in direct contrast to its balancing Sphere, Netzach, at the base of the Pillar of mercy, which exemplifies the action of the non-ego.

Since this Sphere is corresponded with Hermes, or Mercury, the roots of this mode of self-expression are found in Hermetic Philosophy.  Though the oldest extant texts of popular Hermetism date back to the Third Century B.C., its roots may be far older.  Hermetic philosophy seems to have developed in Egypt, and its mythology supports this view.

The god, known as Hermes in the Hellenistic period, was call Thoth in ancient Egypt.  He is patron of sciences, writing, mathematics, and he was a master magician.  As the dispenser of the highest Wisdom, or the Logos, Thoth is corresponded on the Tree of Life with Chokmah.  But as scientist and keeper of records, he is attributed to Hod.

Hermes-Thoth is accredited with categorizing the "secrets of nature," and is the father of the system of analogies used in QBL, known as the correspondence system.  These sympathetic relationship among varying planes of the cosmos give the magician "control" over his environment.  Because Hermes revealed this "secret" network, Hermetic science is initiatory in nature, as is the revelation of any God.  It is a Mystery which one must enter in order to attain its specific experience.

The value of Hermes-Thoth's revelation extended past the Hellenistic period, and was highly succesful hrough the Middle Ages and up to the time of Sir Isaac Newton, and his scientific revolution.  The value of the Hermetic viewpoint, with its correspondences between Macrocosm and Microcosm, was rediscovered in the 19th Century "magical revival."

Hermes-Trismegistus, or Thrice-Great Hermes, is said to be the author of the bulk of Hermetic literature, including the famous Emerald Tablet containing the basic Hermetic Axioms, (such as "That which is above, is like that which is below.").  Hermes Trimegistus may actually be a composite character, synthesized from the personalities of several magicians.  It may represent a lineage, rather than a single individual.

Hermetic Philosophy is dualistic, devaluing the world and the body.  Its chief aim is for man to "become god" through the aid of divine knowledge.  The aspirant detaches himself from the world and is regenerated in an immortal body.  The theology underlying this view is Gnostic in character, but it is not equivalent in all respects with Gnosticism.

The gnostic worldview is characteristic of the historical period, during which Hermetic Philosophy flourished.  The "saving value" of Hermetic science through the development of an immortal body is similar to Asian and Persian traditions, and later developments in Christiantiy.

Hermetic initiatory practice was not hierarchical in nature.  There is only one degree of intitiation: either you heard the Word, or not.  Its major injunction was the rule of silence, keeping the revelations secret from outsiders.  It also incorporated certain ecstasy-inducing practices.

However, the main basis of the initiation was the revelation of the Gnosis through a certain number of revealed texts.  If you read, understood, assimilated, and applied this esoteric knowledge, you were "initiated."  Initiation did not specifically require lineage, or the tutelage of a master in the art.

Consider a modern example in the sciences.  Say for some reason, all houses of higher learning suddenly vanished, and the compiled wisdom of science was lost to the world, temporarily.  An intelligent person finding a compendium of information on a given science might become proficient in its application, even without a Professor to show the way.

This autotelechy or self-teaching is part of the Hermetic path.  In this sense, the writings of Hermeticism and alchemy are similar.  If it is rediscovered by a competant aspirant, the directions may be applied in a contemporary manner, so its message is highly relevant.  Hermes is the embodiment of universal wisdom and intelligence.  He is the epitome of analytical thought and reasoning logic.  His cult-forms survive in the Masonic and Rosicrucian traditions.

Hermetic arts include astrology, alchemy, writing, mathematics, architecture, invocations, and other priestly arts.  The "Way" to salvation through Hermetic Arts is synthesized in the pictorial Book of Thoth.  It is the revelation of the archetypal symbolism contained in our modern Tarot cards.  The origins of these cards is lost in antiquity.  But one thing is certain, in symbolizing the Path of Return, they embody a series of transitions which is defintely Hermetic in quality and character.  Hermes, himself is depicted in the Trump entitled The Magus.

The Inner Companion or Soul-Guide

Both Hermetic Philosophy and alchemy sought the inner experience of the daimon or "companion" who shows the way.  This inner figure was held in religious esteem comparable to that of the inner guru or higher Self.  Hermes, as soul-guide imparts his secret wisdom in a state of ecstasy.  He lifts one into the special world of the spirit where one is bathed in Nous and becomes divine.  Hermes in this sense is both a cosmic and personal guardian spirit.  He embodies a paradox which means he is a symbol of the Self.

The equivalent soul-guide for a woman frequently appears as the earth-mother goddess, or mother-virgin paradox.  This mystery of the goddess of Nature is associated with Hermes.  Like Hermes the all-mother possesses dark characteristics including cleverness, cunning, cruelty and unfathomable passion.

As the aspirant contemplates Hermes as soul guide, he is transformed into the inner teacher, who embodies the whole cosmos.  This is a process of progressive internalization of those qualities.  The personality is confronted with the necessity for transformation.  There is a deep and far-reaching change in the conscious attitude.  This is a long and painful process for the ego, but ultimately produces detachment from the world's illusions.

Hermes functioned in Hermetic Philosophy much as the modern yogi.  He was a way shower who pointed out that the world consists of our projections, and is only one reality among many.  Hermes is not only a magician, but corresponds with the archetypal Trickster figure who spins illusions.

Hod represents the mental body, seat of the self-conscious objective mind.  In moderns terms, it is Left Hemisphere functioning--logical, analytical and above all interpretive.  The object of mental practice here is to exercise healthy scepticism.

Here you examine to confirm or verify knowledge gained in Malkuth and Yesod by direct experience.  We learn to perceive unity through diversity.  For example, the synergetic meaning of seemingly unrelated symbols begins to become ingrained in us at the visceral level.  When we perceive the essential nature of anything, we also perceive how it fits into the Whole.

Science has shown that the essence of the universe is the One Force, Light.  It has shown that all natural forms reveal orderly, harmonious, geometrically indentifiable construction patterns.  Certain simple forms are perceptible throughout all the kingdoms of nature.

In Hod we learn to recognize patterns that occur and recur and correlate these patterns with the universal principles of which they are representations.  This ability to recognize basic patterns, symbols in images and life is the key to real discrimination, the ability to separate the subtle from the gross.

To become identified with the Light of the Self, we must learn to focus the attention of our conscious mind.  Imagery is the virtual matrix of form.  This imagery must be controlled and directed to be valuable in our work.  We can use our self-conscious ability to focus attention to intiate imagery which will link to with the higher self.  One of these is simply to act as if you are that Self of Tiphareth.  Consistent practice makes this easier as time goes on and builds an identification without inflation, because the personality learns the differences between itself and That.

Practicing identification and disidentification with the Self is a potent transformational exercise.  It is a process morph that is part of pathworking which will allow moving from the Astral to Causal once the body of light is congealed.

First become aware of this superpersonal level by recognizing it.  Don't just mentally affirm that it is there--practice it.  Mentally reach upward toward it.  Visualize the light and concentrate to make it even brighter...limitless.  Make yourself constantly aware of it in every detail of your personal life, leading the way, functioning much like an inner guide or guru.

It is an influx of tremendous power when you focus on it.  This subtle awareness doesn't come all at once.  So the exercise must be repeated until it is habit to recall your True Self.  Remind yourself that you every mental state, act, thought, emotion is a transformation of superpersonal, superconscious energy.  In Hod we learn to begin identifying with the Self, rather than the limited personality.  Personality becomes the instrument for the Higher Self.  It isn't perfect, but is becoming.


Hermetic philosophy was concerned with in-depth questions about the nature of life and the universe, an intimate personal relationship with God, and revival of the ancient wisdom of Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Most of the texts are in the form of dialogues allegedly with such figures as Hermes Trismegistus, Asclepius, Isis and Horus.  The dialogue format is easily accounted for since the core of these teachings come from Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle.  The main texts include the Corpus Hermeticum, Poimandres, and the Asclepius.

The teachings are definitly mystical, in that man is said to combine a mortal and godlike nature.  The Hermetic creation myth begins with Darkness and Light, which produce moisture and the other elements.  Light is a Spirit (Nous or Mind) and gives birth to reason (Logos).  The original spirit creates a demiurge, creator of the worlds of heaven and earth.

The Hermetics practiced a vegetarian lifestyle, as did the Orphics.  They believed that at death (and in meditation) the soul abandons the body and senses and ascends to the spheres of the seven planets.  Finally one enters the eighth sphere and comes before the Father and enters God, where all is one and the hierarchy is transcended.  "Whoever co-operates with God merits release from his mission in the world and a return to the godlike life of the pure spirit.  Those who fail to do this are reborn after death in other forms."  This echoes notions of redemption and transmigration.  These mystics sought to become God by aspiring with will and skill to the stage of absorption:

"For the is through mystical experience that main attains liberation.  In that experience, at its greatest intensity, the soul is wholly absorbed in the vision of God...He forgets all bodily sensations and all bodily movements, and is still.  But the beauty of the Good bathes his mind in light, and takes all his soul up to itself, and draws it forth from the body, and transforms it wholly into the essence of God.  In the ecstatic vision of the divine, man's being is deified; he  passes into the divine is possible to rise to the knowledge of God, which implies identification with Him, by the application of the principle that 'like is apprehended by like'...Such equalization to God can be attained by the illimitable extension of our being...By such an expansion of the range of his consciousness man may rise into oneness with God, who is Himself the Whole." (Sidney Spencer, Mysticism in World Religion).
Hod also represents the concept that basic geometries underlie the proportions and relationships of physical manifestation.  One changeless law of scale and proportion pervades the universe.  In Hod we learn to recognize them even through complexities of outward form.

Because we can observe, analyze, order, arrange, and visualize, we can extend the possibilities and potentials inherent in nature, much the way a gardener creates hybrids.  The elaboration of mineral forms through metalurgy and chemistry were part of the foundation of civilization and alchemy.

In general, Hod relates to the development of skill, in science or mystic ascent.  This is similar to the scientific method when working Qabala.  First we carefully observe natural phenomena, then create a theory or principle based on observation.  Now we are in the experimental stage that either proves the validity of the theory or shows that it needs to be modified or discarded.  To be scientifically valid, an experiment must be repeatable or reproducable.

Experimental work always has the purpose of bringing something into form.  It shares this telos with art.  It may not be a physical form.  It may be a state of consciousness or a conscious realization which represents the answer to an enigma.  Or, the concrete grasp of something we wanted to understand more fully.  This grounds abstract ideas in experience.

The choosing of a project--an act of will--sets processes in motion that lead toward the concretion or completion in the phenomenal world.  Therefore, we intitate the practice of reaching for guidance from the higher self for the purpose of making guidance more definitive in our lives.

Another practice, that of formulating specific geometrical shapes in the mind's eye, is for the purpose of gaining skill in control of mind wandering.  We can learn to manipulate subtle formative substances and recognize proportions, measurements and relationships that are basic in all form building.

Discrimination is the keyword for the Astral, which (as Hod) has the sword for its symbol.  By use of the sword of discrimination, acquired through receptivity to the planes above, errors and distortions are dissolved; relationships, forces and energies are rearranged.  What is irrelevant, useless or harmful must be discarded as an obstruction.  This stabilizes one ideal quality after another into our personal sphere.  This is another step in the process of integration and unification.

Magic as a Hermetic Art

Hod is a curious admixture of pre-scientific magic, and the technical humanistic willed approach of science.  Magic has existed as a sacred psychology among all peoples since ancient times.  Whether it was practical or "impractical" magic matters little.  The distinction which concerns us here is between magic and wisdom, magician (Hod) and saint (Netzach).

Magic and religion can be viewed as two different languages which interpret the perennial theme of our conscious evolution.  Magic concerns developing power through will, while religion develops us through denial of egoistic willfulness.  According to Needleman:

The religious path says to man: "surrender your trifling sense of ability which you magnify into something fantastic and grotesque, and allow the power of God to operate through you."  The path of magic says: "Create in yourself a will and an individuality that is an instrument of higher cosmic energies."  Both magic and the path of religion in their authenticity, and as properly understood, deal with the transformation of maninto a being who can consciously manifest fudamental power (or the "Will of God").
Magical power is related to the ability to create illusions or trance states in others.  People are susceptible to deception because of suggestibility, an intense desire to please others, and passive or uncultivated attention.  No amount of intellectual brilliance can compensate for passivity of attention.  It controls perceptual focus and conceptual processes.  It lets us deceive ourselves and is the source of denial.  Visual and mental misdirection, coupled with emotional misdirection can lead to the feeling and perception of another world or reality.

Perceptions, thoughts, and emotions can conspire to construct illusory objects and events.  In the everday trance of consensus awareness our attention is almost always passive, and we are susceptible to a variety of suggestions.  We can train the faculty by sustained attention directed toward self-observation of our own processes (thoughts, sensations, emotions) as they occur in ordinary experience.  This is called mindfulness in Buddhism.

Indian philosophy suggests cultivating attention to all aspects of our being:

"sensations (pleasant sensations, unpleasant sensations, indifferent sensations, interested and pleasant sensations, disinterested and pleasant sensations, etc.); emotion (a passionate mind, a mind free from passion, a mind full of hatred, a mind free from hatred, an infatuated mind, a mind free from infatuation, an intent mind, a wandering mind, an exalted mind, an inferior mind, a concentrated mind, an unconcentrated mind, an emancipated mind, an unemancipated mind, etc.); dispositions, thoughts, perceptions, reactions, sounds, tastes, colors, odors--in short everything that could possibly be seen as the contents of the mind." (Needleman, 1975).
Living in the world of real causes begins with cultivating attention.  Without active attention it is not possible to glimpse the inner aspects of reality.  Passive attention beguiles with appearances, both in regard to the universe and ourselves.  It is because of failure of attention that desire shapes our thoughts and understanding, and actions.  This leaves us without real mpower, acting in a false world, a construct of the ordinary passive  mind.

Maimonides spoke of the mystical application of attention and evocation of conscious energy:

"When we have acquired a true knowledge of God, and rejoice in that knowledge in such a manner, that whilst speaking to others, or attending to our bodily wants, our mind is all that time with God; when we are with our heart constantly near God, even whilst our body is in the society of men; when we are in that state...then we have attained not...this degree of pefection...Their mind was so identified with the knowledge of God, that he made a lasting covenant with each of them."

"Those who are perfect in their perception of God, whose mind is never separated from Him, enjoy always the inflience of Providence.  But those who, perfet in their knowledge of God, turn their mind sometimes away from God, enjoy the presence of Divine Providence only when they meditate on God; when their thoughts are engaged in other matter, Divine Providence departs from them. ...This person is then like a trained scribe when he is not writing.  Those who have no knowledge of God are like those who are in constant darkness and have never seen the light."


The skeptical philosophy of this sphere may not be religious.  It may be existentialist or Humanistic.  Like Hermeticism, humanism is a philosophy for people who think for themselves, as it challenges all metatheories.  It is fundamentally deconstructionist.  Humanism is focused on human means for comprehending reality, without access to transcendent knowledge.  It is a philosophy of reason and science.  Though rejecting arbitrary faith, authority, revelation and altered states of consciousness, it is a philosophy of imagination.

Humanists recognize that intuitive feelings, hunches, speculation, inspiration, altered states, and religious experience remain useful sources of ideas that can lead us to new vistas.  If they help in the here and now, they get applied.  They just don't take metaphysical notions literally.  If they relate to pie-in-the-sky after death payoffs, they are not embraced.

Humanism is a philosophy of compassion even though there is no fear of after-death punishment by an archetypal Parent-figure.  Humanists devote no energy to satisfying desires of supernatural entities, so they have plenty left over for social concerns.  Realistic philosophy recognizes the need for careful moral decision making.  It is a philosophy for those in love with life, and not afraid of personal responsibility.  With no prefabricated answers to the great questions of life, Humanists enjoy the open-endedness of a quest and the freedom of discovery.

NEXT: Sphere 8, Hod

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Date Created: 9/20/99     Last Updated: 8/3/02
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