Why would anyone bother to learn the Qabalah, you might ask? What could you possibly gain by studying such a complicated and obscure occult system? Is it even relevant in these post-modern times? Is it relevant to someone who isn't a Christian or a Jew? These are compelling questions, and they require some straightforward answers. Perhaps the greatest use and importance of the Qabalah is that it makes order out of chaos. It takes a large volume of unrelated and seemingly disassociated occult data and produces an ordered and related system, one that also imparts information about the relationships between these various items.
Additionally, the ordering and relating of this occult data has its own powerful effect, including the enlivening of all of the symbols contained within it. Its overall structure becomes iconic, assuming the shape of a veritable archetype that represents the holistic and empowered union of all of its internal parts. It is also a system and a methodology that is not wed to any particular faith or religious creed, since it seems to be able to accommodate them all.
Making order out what appears to be a chaos of different symbols, Godnames, mythologies, lists of spirits, practices, and approaches to both religious liturgy and practical magic seems to be an important stage in the evolution of Pagan occultism. Similar to any hobby-based collection, things might start out quite simple and sparse. You can keep everything for that beginning collection in a simple box. Yet after a while, the various unrelated mass of items becomes unwieldy and unsustainable. You end up with an ever larger number of boxes overflowing with the results of a zealous collecting regimen. An avid collector is either forced to eliminate everything but the essentials or found a system for organizing it all, so that locating a specific item in that collection (and all of the information about it) is simple and efficient.
This process of making order out of chaos as it applies to Paganism and occultism employs what is called a "meta-system," and this meta-system can be naturally derived, it can be acquired through study, or even shown to the seeker in a vision. This meta-system consists of nothing more or less than applying an organizing, grouping, and labeling (tagging) methodology to a large mass of seemingly unrelated items. One useful analogy is that of a large filing cabinet; a simple meta-system could also be seen as a kind of an inventory system used in a store or a warehouse. But, an occult meta-system has greater value and assumes an archetypal structure for a number of reasons that we will tackle later in this article. A meta-system is defined as a system that describes other systems, but it simply enforces a regimen of order and structure upon a large array of diverse occult symbology.
I have based this overall analogy of an evolving process on what I personally experienced while traveling upon my own occult and Pagan journey. Nothing ever stays simple, and it would seem that there is always the habit of adding new lore and information to an existing methodology. Speaking about my personal journey, I encountered seven identifiable stages within my evolving spiritual and magical process. Although it might be particular to my own idiosyncratic path, I believe that these seven stages would represent the kind of evolutionary process that others might undergo.
Many years ago, I began my journey and spent the formative years of my life learning to master the basic religious liturgy of a Pagan and particularly Wiccan tradition. That basic liturgy consisted of devotion (through offerings, prayers, meditations, and gifts); invocation of the Deities; Godhead assumption (Drawing down the Moon and Sun); communion (cakes and wine); the celebration of the cycles of the Moon and Sun; and various spiritual works within my local community. From that foundation, I began to approach the ever more complicated regimen of working magic. What I discovered at an early point is that knowledge of the Qabalah seemed to greatly aid my work, making it more organized and more effective.
If I might list the stages that I went through, you will be able to see how the level of magical workings will become ever more complex and engaging.
Of course, the process of integration and systematization usually begins when the student passes the threshold and adopts either the ritual or ceremonial magical disciplines. Yet once the student begins to perform advanced workings, he or she has already adopted a meta-system. For me the choice was simple: I had begun to learn the Qabalah while I was still in the early stages of my development.
Another point that I would like to make is that the symbols, myths, and the characteristics of various Deities, religious, and occult practices and beliefs are not simply a collection of lifeless data. Indeed, these various symbols and archetypes, since they are being actively used by the seeker, are actually fully activated, empowered, and collectively impacting his or her conscious being. We could say that these various symbols and myths are alive and have a certain power and effectiveness not only to the seeker but also to the members of the cultural collective.
Since these symbols are alive, at some point they achieve a certain critical mass and begin to function as a holistic entity, a veritable "ghost" in the system. Organizing these symbols and myths into a meta-system has enormous ramifications for the seeker, and even if he or she isn't disposed towards organizing them, they will begin to produce visions and powerful insights that will reveal the symbolic icons and organizing structures of a meta-system. Additionally, incorporating an already completely developed meta-system like the Qabalah will have an even greater impact on the seeker, since these active symbols, myths, and Deities will powerfully resonate within the conscious mind of the seeker once he or she adopts and loads this system architecture with personalized religious and occult symbology.
So now that I have shown just how important, empowering, and significant it is for the practicing Pagan occultist and magician to use a meta-system, the final question will be: how does one acquire such a device? As I pointed out earlier, even if a seeker doesn't choose to develop a meta-system, one will be revealed to the seeker as a vision, simply because the large collection of religious and occult symbology will begin act and to reveal itself in a holistic manner. However, a simple solution in my opinion is to adopt the Qabalah itself, and then to catagorize and organize all of that symbology within the structures of that meta-system. Since that is exactly what I did so many years ago, I can break down the mastery of this discipline into five easy steps. These five steps organize the complex topic of the Qabalah into five subject areas. (This is how I have structured my new book, Magical Qabalah for Beginners.)
Additionally, the seeker will also have the tasks of building and populating the structures of the Tree of Life with the active symbology of his or her religious and occult practices. He or she will also need to incorporate certain practices and specialized disciplines, none of which should be either alien or incongruous to modern Pagan practices. Adopting this regimen will enable the seeker to master a form of efficient and direct magical workings that will directly incorporate the power and intelligence of the Deities into his or her work, and do so in an organized fashion that would otherwise be absent.
All of these topics are succinctly covered in my book, Magical Qabalah for Beginners, and erstwhile students are given a list of tasks that they may follow to fully engage with the Qabalah and to thereby make it their own personal meta-system.
Frater Barrabbas (Richmond, VA) is a practicing ritual magician who has studied magick and the occult for over thirty-five years. He is the founder of a magical order called the Order of the Gnostic Star and he is an elder ...