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In the Zohar, Lurianic Kabbalah, and Hermetic Qabalah, the qlippoth (Hebrew: קְלִיפּוֹת, romanizedqəlīppōṯ, originally Jewish Babylonian Aramaic: קְלִיפִּין, romanized: qəlīppīn, plural of קְלִפָּה qəlīppā; literally "peels", "shells", or "husks"), are the representation of evil or impure spiritual forces in Jewish mysticism, the polar opposites of the holy Sefirot.[1][2]

The realm of evil is called Sitra Achra (סִטְרָא אַחְרָא sīṭrāʾ ʾaḥrāʾ, the "Other Side") in Kabbalah texts.

In the Zohar[edit]

The Qlippot are first mentioned in the Zohar, where they are described as being created by God to function as a nutshell for holiness.[3] The text subsequently relays an esoteric interpretation of the text of Genesis 1:14, which describes God creating the moon and sun to act as "luminaries" in the sky. The verse uses a defective spelling of the Hebrew word for "luminaries", resulting in a written form identical to the Hebrew word for "curses". In the context of the Zohar, interpreting the verse as calling the moon and sun "curses" is given mystic significance, personified by a description of the moon descending into the realm of Beri'ah, where it began to belittle itself and dim its own light, both physically and spiritually. The resulting darkness gave birth to the qlippot.[4] Reflecting this, they are thenceforth generally synonymous with "darkness" itself.[5]

Later, the Zohar gives specific names to some of the qlippot, relaying them as counterparts to certain sephirot: Mashchith (Hebrew: מַשְׁחִית mašḥīṯ, "destroyer") to Chesed, Aph (Hebrew: אַף ʾap̄, "anger") to Gevurah, and Chemah (Hebrew: חֵמָה ḥēmā, "wrath") to Tiferet.[6] It also names Avon, (Hebrew: עָוֹן ʿāvōn, "iniquity"),[7] Tohu (Hebrew: תֹהוּ ṯōhū, "formless"), Bohu (Hebrew: בֹהוּ ḇōhū, "void"), Esh (Hebrew: אֵשׁ ʿēš, "fire"), and Tehom (Hebrew: תְּהוֹם təhōm, "deep"),[8] but does not relate them to any corresponding sephira. Though the Zohar clarifies that each of the Sephirot and Qlippot are 1:1, even down to having equivalent partzufim, it does not give all of their names.

In Lurianic Kabbalah[edit]

In the Kabbalistic cosmology of Isaac Luria, the qlippot are metaphorical "shells" or "peels" surrounding holiness. They are the innate spiritual obstacles to holiness, and receive their existence from God only in an external and circumstantial manner, rather than an internal and direct manner. In this sense, qlippot have a slightly beneficial function, as much like a peel protects a fruit, so do the qlippot technically prevent the flow of Divinity (revelation of God's true unity) from being dissipated as it permeates throughout the various facets of Creation. Nevertheless, as a consequence, the qlippoth conceal this holiness, and are therefore synonymous with what runs counter to Jewish thought, like idolatry, impurity, rejection of Divine unity (dualism), and with the Sitra Achra, the perceived realm opposite to holiness. Much like their holy counterparts, qlippot emerge in a descending seder hishtalshelus (Chain of Being) through Tzimtzum (God's action of contracting His Ohr Ein Sof, "infinite light", in order to provide a space for Creation). Kabbalah distinguishes between two "realms" in qlippot, three completely impure qlippot (Hebrew: הַטְמֵאוֹת haṭmēʾōṯ, literally "the unclean [ones]") and the remainder of intermediate qlippot (Hebrew: נוֹגַהּ nōgah, literally "light"). The qlippot nogah are "redeemable", and can be refined and sublimated, whereas the qlippot hatme'ot can only be redeemed by their own destruction.

Similar to a certain interpretation of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the qlippoth are sometimes imagined as a series of concentric circles which surround not just aspects of God, but also one another. Their four concentric terms derived from various phrases used in Ezekiel's famous vision of the Throne of God (Ezekiel 1:4), itself the focus of a school of Jewish mystic thought, "And I looked and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it..."[9] The whirlwind, great cloud, and infolding fire are associated with the aforementioned three "impure" qlippot, with the "brightness" associated with the "intermediate" qlippot. In medieval Kabbalah, it was believed that the Shekhinah (God's presence) is separated from the Sefirot by man's sins, while in Lurianic Kabbalah it was believed the Shekhinah was exiled to the qlippot due to the "shattering" of Divinity into Tohu and Tikun, which is a natural part of its cosmological model of Creation. This in turn causes the Sephirot's various "Sparks of Holiness" to be exiled in the qlippot as well, thereby causing these respective qlippoth to manifest as either the qlippot nogah or qlippot hatme'ot. From there, the qlippot nogah would be redeemed through the observance of mitzvah, whereas the qlippot hatme'ot would be indirectly "redeemed" through abiding by the negative prohibitions put forth by the 613 commandments. In addition to righteous living, genuine repentance also allows the qlippot to be redeemed, as it retrospectively turns sin into virtue and darkness into light, and thus deprives the qlippot of their vitality. According to Lurianic Doctrine, when all the Sparks of Holiness are freed from the qlippot, the Messianic era will begin.

In Hasidic philosophy, which is underlined by panentheistic and monistic thought, the qlippot are viewed as a representation of the ultimately acosmistic self-awareness of Creation. The Kabbalistic scheme of qlippot is internalized as a psychological exercise, by focusing on the self, opposite to devekut, or the practice of "self-nullification" in order to better grasp mystic contemplation.

Hermetic Qabalah magical views[edit]

In some non-Jewish Hermetic Qabalah, contact is sought with the Qliphoth unlike in the ethical-mystical Jewish prohibition, as part of its process of human self-knowledge. In contrast, the theurgic Jewish practical Kabbalah was understood by its practitioners as similar to white magic, accessing only holiness, while the danger inherent in such ventures involving the intermingling of holiness and impure magic ensured that accessing the Qlipoth remained a minor and restricted practice in Jewish history.

Mathers' interpretation[edit]

Christian Knorr von Rosenroth's Latin Kabbala denudata (1684) (translated The Kabbalah Unveiled by MacGregor Mathers) equates these forces with the Kings of Edom and also offers the suggestion they are the result of an imbalance towards Gedulah, the Pillar of Mercy or the merciful aspect of God, and have since been destroyed.[10]

In subsequent Hermetic teachings, the Qliphoth have tended, much like the sephirot, to be interpreted as mystical worlds or entities, and merged with ideas derived from demonology.

In most descriptions, there are seven divisions of Hell (Sheol or Tehom; Abaddon or Tzoah Rotachat; Be'er Shachat (בְּאֵר שַׁחַת, Be'er Shachath — "pit of corruption") or Mashchit; Bor Shaon (בּוֹר שָׁאוֹן — "cistern of sound") or Tit ha-Yaven (טִיט הַיָוֵן — "clinging mud"); Dumah or Sha'are Mavet (שַׁעֲרֵי מָוֶת, Sha'arei Maveth — "gates of death"); Neshiyyah (נְשִׁיָּה — "oblivion", "Limbo") or Tzalmavet; and Eretz Tachtit (אֶרֶץ תַּחְתִּית, Erets Tachtith — "lowest earth") or Gehenna),[11][12][13][14] twelve Qliphotic orders of demons, three powers before Satan and twenty-two demons which correspond to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.[citation needed]

Crowley and Regardie[edit]

According to Aleister Crowley, the three evil forms (before Samael), are said to be Qemetial, Belial, and Othiel.[15]

Crowley (who call them "Orders of Qliphoth")[16] and Israel Regardie[17] list the qliphoth as: תאומיאל (Thaumiel), עוגואל (Ghogiel), סאתאריאל (Satariel), געסכלה (Agshekeloh), גולחב (Golohab), תגרירון‎ (Tagiriron), ערב זרק (Gharab Tzerek), סמאל (Samael), גמיאל (Gamaliel), and לילית (Lilith).

Kenneth Grant[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Book of Concealed Mystery translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers
  2. ^ The Kabbalah or, The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews Adolphe Franck translated by I. Sossnitz (1926): Relation of The Kabbalah to Christianity page 279
  3. ^ Zohar 1:19b, Sefaria
  4. ^ Zohar 1:20a
  5. ^ "Zohar 2:115b". Archived from the original on 2021-10-10. Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  6. ^ "Zohar 3:279b". Archived from the original on 2021-10-10. Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  7. ^ Zohar Chadash, Tikuna Kadma'ah 31, Sefaria
  8. ^ "Zohar 3:227a". Archived from the original on 2021-10-10. Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  9. ^ Ezekiel 1:4 (King James Version)
  10. ^ "The Kabbalah Unveiled: Greater Holy Assembly: Chapter XXVI: Concerning the Edomite Kings". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  11. ^ (edit.) Boustan, Ra'anan S. Reed, Annette Yoshiko. Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  12. ^ Mew, James. Traditional Aspects of Hell: (Ancient and Modern). S. Sonnenschein & Company Lim., 1903.
  13. ^ Lowy, Rev. A. Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 10, "Old Jewish Legends of Biblical Topics: Legendary Description of Hell". 1888. pg. 339
  14. ^ Pusey, Rev. Edward Bouverie. What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment: In Reply to Dr. Farrar's Challenge in His ʻEternal Hope,' 1879. James Parker & Co., 1881; pg. 102
  15. ^ Liber 777 by Aleister Crowley
  16. ^ Liber 777. Weiser Books. June 1986. p. 2. ISBN 0-87728-670-1. Table VIII. Note: No translation of the Hebrew is given by Crowley.
  17. ^ Israel Regardie (1970). The Golden Dawn. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 82. ISBN 0-87542-663-8. Fifth knowledge lecture Note: Only the translated names in the parentheses given by Regardie.

Further reading[edit]