The Kabbalah, the Tarot and the Middle Way
4. The World of the Resplendent Intelligence
The map of the spiritual path begins at Malkuth, the base of the Tree of Life in Assiyah. This is usually the basic spiritual state we are born with, a state of natural inclination to venture the paths from Malkuth to Hod and from Malkuth to Netzach. It is, however, not the lowest spiritual state, for there is another Tree, the Qliphothic Tree, which lies below Assiyah. Although we shall not be exploring the Qliphotic Tree, it should make us aware that we need to tread warily, so as not to slide into it. Unfortunately, it is actually not difficult to slide into the Tree below Assiyah. This can occur if we lose, through neglect, our natural tendency to take the two paths leading from Malkuth to Hod and from Malkuth to Netzach. Thus, we need to realize what these two paths represent, so that we keep nurturing them and not lose them.
The first path is that from Malkuth to Hod. All the paths from Malkuth to Hod, on all the Trees of Life, draw us ever closer to a sense of unity. Here, in the Tree at Assiyah, the path is described in the Yetziratic text as follows:
The 31st Path: Malkuth – Hod
“The Thirty-first Path is the Perpetual Intelligence, but why is it so called? Because it regulates the motions of the Sun and Moon in their proper order, each in an orbit convenient for it.”
Hebrew Letter: Shin. Tooth.
This is the Perpetual Intelligence, for it perceives perpetuality in the workings of phenomena. Nature weaves its manifestations in a pattern that pervades the heavens as well as the sentient depths within us. This is no haphazard chaos and chance. The motions of the Sun and Moon are thus regulated, their paths charted by an evident order in the universe.
The Yetziratic passage is given as a question and answer, characterizing the nature of this path, that of natural enquiry. The Hebrew letter has the meaning “tooth,” to chew and pry open the secrets of nature. It is a path of analysis and exploration, to unveil the hidden machinery in the motion of the heavens and in all phenomena. This is the path of the seeker trying to make sense of the universe. It is the quest for something deeper than the routine of mundane and materialistic living, a quest to unveil the truth behind the patterns in the universe.
The second path we have to take is from Malkuth to Netzach. All the paths from Malkuth to Netzach, on all the Trees of Life, are of the nature of an aspirational process. Here, in the Tree at Assiyah, this path is described in the Yetziratic text as follows:
The 29th Path: Malkuth – Netzach
“The Twenty-ninth Path is the Corporeal Intelligence, so called because it forms every body which is formed in all the worlds, and the reproduction of them.”
Hebrew Letter: Qoph. Back of the Head
This path from Malkuth to Netzach helps to develop Netzach which is known as the Occult or Hidden Intelligence. Netzach is so called because it represents our emotional and inspirational nature as opposed to Hod which represents our intellectual, logical and deductive nature which is more evident.
The path from Malkuth to Netzach is the Corporeal Intelligence because it acts to bring into the physical world our emotional and spiritual aspirations. It is our aspiration to build something of value, to create some meaning in our life. This is not merely something of a mundane nature, but one of higher value, something formed in all the worlds, in the spiritual as well as the physical.
The Hebrew letter, back of the head, refers to the occipital region which has been identified by some mystical schools as a focus or gateway for the flow of energies enhancing sensitivity to physical and spiritual aspirations. “Back of the head” also suggests an emotive path and contrasts with the Hebrew letter “head” assigned to the path between Yesod and Hod, which is more of an intellectual nature.
The inclination to take the first two paths on Jacob’s Ladder is innate in us, as part of the spiritual state of Malkuth, unless we have lost it by prolonged neglect. This can occur if we focus our lives on the mundane pursuits of life like building our personal wealth, power and reputation, to the extent that we are no longer interested in the wondrous nature of the universe or even in the meaning of life. If we have lost this tendency to take the two paths from Malkuth to Hod and Netzach, it is crucial that we regain it; otherwise, we risk wasting away our whole life, never peering past the walls we imprison ourselves with. We then live and die trapped by contrivances of our own making.
Why are these two paths so important, and why would they lead us out of darkness, out of ignorance? The answer is found in the Yetziratic description of Malkuth:
MALKUTH – THE KINGDOM
“The Tenth Path is called the Resplendent Intelligence because it is exalted above every head and sits upon the throne of Binah. It illuminates the splendors of all the Lights, and causes an influence to emanate from the Prince of Countenances, the Angel of Kether.”
Spiritual Experience: Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
It is the Resplendent Intelligence because it holds all the keys to enlightenment. We already have all the conditions necessary for traversing the Left Pillar of the Tree of Life, which represents our fundamental state of mind and core perspective of our being. Every one of us already possess within us all the requirements to reach the state of Binah, and hence “it is exalted above every head and sits on the throne of Binah.” All that is really needed is for us to realize this, and that is the nature of the path—to attain the realization and to transform our being to one that corresponds to the realization.
The Yetziratic text statement that “it illuminates the splendors of all the Lights, and causes an influence to emanate from the Prince of Countenances, the Angel of Kether” tells us that help is available and this is to be found in the Central Pillar of the Tree of Life which represents the route to higher and higher mystical experiences and states of realization.