The Qliphoth/Qlippoth/Qlifot or Kelipot (Hebrew: ?, the different English spellings are used in the alternative Kabbalistic traditions of Hermetic Qabalah and Jewish Kabbalah respectively), literally "Peels", "Shells" or "Husks" (from singular: qlippah "Husk"), are the representation of evil or impure spiritual forces in Jewish mysticism, the polar opposites of the holy Sefirot. The realm of evil is also termed Sitra Achra/A?ra (Aramaic ? ?, the "Other Side" opposite holiness) in Kabbalah texts.
|The Qliphoth in Kabbalah |
In Jewish Kabbalistic cosmology of Isaac Luria, the qlippot are metaphorical "shells" surrounding holiness. They are spiritual obstacles receiving their existence from God only in an external, rather than internal manner. Divinity in Judaism connotes revelation of God's true unity, while the shells conceal holiness, as a peel conceals the fruit within. They are therefore synonymous with idolatry, the root of impurity through ascribing false dualism in the Divine, and with the Sitra Achra (? ? "Other Side"), the perceived realm opposite to holiness. They emerge in the descending seder hishtalshelus (Chain of Being) through Tzimtzum (contraction of the Divine Ohr), as part of the purpose of Creation. In this they also have beneficial properties, as peel protects the fruit, restraining the Divine flow from being dissipated. Kabbalah distinguishes between two realms in qlippot, the completely impure and the intermediate.
Their four "concentric" terms are derived from Ezekiel's vision (1:4), "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..." The "Three Impure Qlippot" (completely Tamei "impure") are read in the first three terms, the intermediate "Shining Qlippah" (Nogah "brightness") is read in the fourth term, mediating as the first covering directly surrounding holiness, and capable of sublimation. In medieval Kabbalah, the Shekhinah is separated in Creation from the Sefirot by man's sin, while in Lurianic Kabbalah Divinity is exiled in the qlippot from prior initial Catastrophe in Creation. This causes "Sparks of Holiness" to be exiled in the qlippot, Jewish Observance with physical objects redeeming mundane Nogah, while the Three Impure Qlippot are elevated indirectly through Negative prohibitions. Repentance out of love retrospectively turns sin into virtue, darkness into light. When all the sparks are freed from the qlippot, depriving them of their vitality, the Messianic era begins. In Hasidic philosophy, the kabbalistic scheme of qlippot is internalised in psychological experience as self-focus, opposite to holy devekut self-nullification, underlying its Panentheistic Monistic view of qlippot as the illusionary self-awareness of Creation.
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 in such venture of mixing impure Magic ensured it remained a minor and restricted practice in Jewish history.
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.
In most descriptions, there are seven divisions of Hell (Sheol or Tehom; Abaddon or Tzoah Rotachat; Be'er Shachat ( , Be'er Shachath -- "pit of corruption") or Mashchit; Bor Shaon ( ? -- "cistern of sound") or Tit ha-Yaven (? ? -- "clinging mud"); Dumah or Sha'are Mavet ( , Sha'arei Maveth -- "gates of death"); Neshiyyah ( -- "oblivion", "Limbo") or Tzalmavet; and Eretz Tachtit ( ?, Erets Tachtith -- "lowest earth") or Gehenna), twelve Qliphotic orders of demons, three powers before Satan and twenty-two demons which correspond to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
According to Israel Regardie, the "qlipothic tree" consists of 10 spheres in opposition to the sephirot on the Tree of Life. These are also referred to as the "evil twins". They are also the "Evil Demons of Matter and the Shells of the Dead".
Bill Heidrick gives his own interpretation on the adverse tree, saying that the spellings are "mostly reconstructions with alternatives. Nonetheless, it is believed that the majority of the above are at least suitable if not perfect". He also goes on to say that "These names are sometimes called the 'adverse Sephiroth' instead of the Demonic Orders. A. E. Waite makes this later point in his Holy Kabbalah, page 256."