Chapter Fourteen; The Klippoth

The word "Klippoth" is the plural of the word spelt Qoph-Lamed-Peh-Heh, meaning "shell, husk, skin, peel or rind'. This indicates at once that the Klippoth are the shells or leftovers of a process, in the same way that an eggshell is related to an egg, or the peel related to a.n apple. In the cosmology of Kabbalah, these shells or "envelopes" were said to hold their abode beneath the world of Assiah into which Adam descended at the Fall. Much of the development of this idea was made by Issac de Loria (1534-1572) who in his commentary on the "Book of Concealment" added his own viewpoint to the original Zoharic teachings.

Commenting on the formation of the nations of the gentiles, he said that the recrements, the evil and rejected parts of the Edomite Kings (who existed in the void before the world was formed) are the cortices or shells which compose the adverse Adam Belial, or the "shadow" side of humanity. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, their Fall confounded the Good and the Evil of the cortices, and after this Fall the nations of the world were produced from the shells. In this we can see some reflection of the politics of the age, and the history of the Jewish people, but also a commentary on the nature of the Pysche, which in its "fall" or attachment to the apparent world, forms many identities from the beliefs that in truth are the shells which separate us from recognition of our inherent "core".

The unbalanced forces of the Universe, the world in its void state, are considered under the symbolism of the Kings who reigned in Edom before a King was raised up to rule over the children of Israel, that is to say, before the emanation of the Microprosopus, or Lesser Countenance. This single King or state is that which reigns after the synthesis of the multiple fragmentary states of identity that flicker in and out in the constant picture-show of our awareness, each of which in its turn demands temporary rulership.

The Edomite Kings were seen by Loria as Sons of the Mother, the Pillar on the left hand, perfect Severity, but had no foundation in the Holy Ancient One. They are the "empty lights" dispelled by the Source of Lights which is concealed within the Mother.

Halevi states that the first origin of the concept of the Klippoth lies in the Kabbalistic model of the Universe itself being composed of a series of shells. The first kernel is the light of Ain Soph, with the first shell being Kether, enclosing Ain Soph. Then Kether becomes the kernel of the Shell which is Chockmah, and so on. Beyond the Malkuth of Assiah come the thickest of the shells, with hardly any of the light of Ain Soph in them.

In terms of the Practical Kabbalah, the 'husks' are depicted as the singular enemy of the Kabbalist. As Rabbi Chaim Vital (1543-1620) states, when talking about the decline in Kabbalistic practice;

"... they [the practitioners] no longer make use of these techniques to ascend to the orchard ... people only make use of the techniques involving the Universe of Assiah. Since this is the lowest of the Universes, its angels have only a little good, and are mostly evil. Besides this, it is a level where good and evil are closely entwined, and it is very difficult to separate them. This does not bring any enlightenment, since it is impossible to perceive good alone, and one's perceptions are therefore a combination of good and evil, truth and falsehood. Even if one does gain some perception, it is truth intermingled with falsehood ... since one cannot purify himself, the uncleanness of the husks attaches itself to the individual who attempts to gain enlightenment by the practical Kabbalah."

Therefore, "he who watches his soul should keep far from these things". Unfortunately, the rise of practical occultism in recent times has repeated the aforementioned error, and has taken the concept of the Klippoth into the realms of personified beings. Once this has been done, it is easy to see how practitioners may attempt to work with the Klippoth, and yet in reality be themselves worked by them! In the glossary of his Magnum Opus, "Magick in Theory and Practice", Aleister Crowley defines Klippoth as "shells or demons, the excrement of ideas", and it is this definition that has permeated the workings of such groups as the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis with respect to the Klippoth. Indeed, in recent publications by the Head of that Order, Kenneth Grant, the Klippoth are associated with the "shades of the dead whose names appear in the books of Dyzan, or Thoth, of the Necronomicon ..." and other such fictional works. The organisation of these entities into hierarchies is post-Zoharic, and found popularity with the publication of Francis Barrett's "The Magus" in 1801, which was composed of many tables indicating the structure of the Universe.

The Kabbalist Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi points out that any event or being can become Klippothic if its central axis or reason for being is removed, causing imbalance in the system. Thus tradition is klippothic if it is merely blind observance of a form of ritual or belief which no longer unites with its original source. As such, tradition is indeed a shell or screen which separates us from reality, the wrapping and not the present itself. In a personal sense, when someone becomes obsessed as a result of a personality disorder, then the Klippoth are at work, as the individual then has no central point to come back to in order to regain themselves. Another view of the Klippoth can be found in Roald Dahl's fantasy, "Charlie and the Glass Elevator", where Willy Wonka's glass elevator, which, like the Chariot of the mystics, can travel through many worlds, passes through a shadowy place wherein exist hosts of grey wraithlike entities formed from all the uncompleted thoughts and hopes of mankind. Each time an individual thinks, "If only ...", they create a Klippothic world which begins to separate them from the actual world existing around them. If the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Physics is correct, then every time we make a decision, an infinite number of Klippothic worlds are created where that decision was not taken, and we must be careful to live in the world we have chosen to.

Some authors see the Klippoth as simple reversals or negative polarities to each of the Sephiroth (see table one). Thus, Gray gives the Klippothic form of Malkuth as materialism, and that of Geburah as cruelty, and so on. The four elements themselves have Klippoth;

Fire: Arrogance

Air Superfluous talk

Water Cupidity

Earth Melancholy

The Golden Dawn society had this to say in their Theoricus ritual; "Be thou therefore as prompt and active as the Sylphs, but avoid frivolity and caprice. Be energetic and strong like the Salamanders, but avoid irritability and ferocity. Be flexible and attentive to images like the Undines, but avoid idleness and changeability. Be laborious and patient like the Gnomes but avoid grossness and avarice."

As well as a reversal of the personal aspect of the Sephirah, the Klippoth can represent a reversal of the essential nature of each of the Sephiroth. Thus, the Klippothic form of Kether are the "dual contending forces", which is the exact opposite to the idea of unity which Kether is said to be. The Golochab, attributed to Geburah, are Giants like volcanoes, symbolising tyranny or aimless destruction, rather than the precise discernment and functional cutting away which Geburah should bring to any process.

During Kabbalistic work, as the Baal Shem Tov (1698 - 1760) stated, "when an extraneous thought comes to you, this is a sign that you are being cast out. But if you are wise, you can use that thought itself to bind yourself to God all the more.", and in the words of Maggid Devarav Leyaakov, "these thoughts do not come by chance, but in order that you elevate them to their root." This is an important part of Kabbalah in that nothing is seen as intrinsically evil, all being part of the one Tree. The only evil is separation, and even this can be redeemed through the process of unification.

Back to the Kabbalah Contents Page