Howls & Whispers: The Averse Sephiroth and the Spheres of the Qlippoth (4).

‘The City’

© Ann Skea

‘The City’

(H&W 8, THCP 1179).


Above Chesed and Gevurah, separating the Supernal Triangle of Kether, Chokmah and Binah from the rest of the Tree, lies the Abyss and the so-called ‘Invisible Sephiroth’ of Daath (Knowledge). Daath is the most occult of places. Dion Fortune describes it as “the point of unity in which all knowledge is contained…the unification of all on the Tree of Life. ”(MQ 334). It is never shown on the graphic representation of the Sephirothic Tree. It has no deity name, no angelic host, no planet or element assigned to it. It is the least known and yet the most important Sephira, and all descriptions of it are metaphorical and incomplete.

Daath is situated at the point where the Abyss bisects the Middle Pillar of the Tree but it is not on the same plane as the other Sephiroth. Sometimes it is imagined as projecting from the Supernal Triangle of Kether, Chokmah and Binah as if it were the apex of a pyramid of which they form the base.

Crowley depicted it as the place where, from the chaos of the Abyss of un-being in which swirl all possible forms, elements which are struggling to ‘become’ find a point of unity and coalescence1. He described it as “this desert…wherein is the Universe”, and he wrote of it as the place where “I”, the ego, “breaks” and “All life is choked”, but from it new life must come (BOT 73). And Fortune calls it the “Sphere of Becoming” where lies “the secret of generation and regeneration, the key to the manifestation of all things”(MQ 51) where “past and present are synthesised in the future” (MQ 338).

Daath also bridges the Abyss so that the essence of Kether can be carried to the created world. Like Yesod, it touches the Yetziritic World and is a tunnel or doorway through which we may glimpse our own innermost nature (our shadow), and through which the Divine creative energies may reach us in flashes of intuition and imagination and, so, make the unmanifest manifest in our own creative endeavours. Most importantly, by means of Daath, the knowledge of Truth, which is born from the union of Understanding (Binah) and Wisdom (Chokmah), reaches the fully evolved Soul and brings it into a state of cosmic awareness.

‘The City’, which is the eighth poem of Howls & Whispers, occupies Daath.

Ted, as a mature and experienced Cabbalist could, whilst seated at Tiphereth, meditate on Daath with reasonable safely2. In this way, he would have been best able to balance Justice and Mercy, unite Wisdom and Understanding, and perhaps find Truth. So, he became a shadow in his “own darkness” and, as if driving through a dark city, he used Sylvia’s worldly creations as an aid to his meditation, “pondering” what she did as she strove to reach and express her true Self. By this means he caught glimpses of Sylvia’s spirit. And, from amongst the shells of the Averse Tree, these are the glimpses of light that he gathered. These, too, are the “blocks of light” to which “scholars, priests” and “pilgrims” come, to lodge there briefly and increase the light by their own creative efforts.

Suitably, since Daath is the threshold between the uncreated and the created, between death and life, and life and death, Ted “nearly always” glimpses Sylvia “at some crossing” where crowds of strangers “surge past” her like Souls passing to and from the desert of the Abyss. And since she is “Staring upward, lost” in that desert, her face seems to him like “a desert Indian’s, wild, bewildered”.

‘Bewildered’, here, is exactly the right word, and this was not the first time Ted had used desert imagery to convey something of the anguish of Sylvia’s spirit or had linked it with formlessness and becoming. In ‘The God’ in Birthday Letters (BL 188-191), for example, Sylvia’s heart “mid-Sahara, raged / In its emptiness”; in ‘18 Rugby Street’ (BL 20 -24) he saw her face as a “spirit mask”, a “prototype face” like one seen through “the smoke of a Navajo campfire”; and he used desert imagery in ‘The Badlands’ (BL 82-86) to describe the “Hellish” “afterlife” atmosphere which had so disturbed Sylvia’s spirit when she was alive.

In ‘The City’, Ted looks into the teeming darkness from the protective safety of his car and sees Sylvia “stock still”, as if on a threshold, wanting “to ask something” but not able to; wanting to recognize and communicate with someone, but not able to; and, finally, “trying to remember” or (and in Ted’s imagined vision he sees uncertainty) “suddenly not to remember”3. ‘Remember’, is the final, most important word of this poem, but its full meaning does not become apparent until the last lines of ‘Superstitions’ – which is the final poem of the sequence.

So, the poem ends in uncertainty. And this uncertainty about whether or not Sylvia’s spirit will eventually cross that threshold between unbeing and being remains with Ted for the rest of Howls & Whispers.


1. See Colin Low’s discussion of Daath in his Notes on Kabbala, p.59.

2. “… it must be emphasized that meditations on Daath, unless very carefully decided on beforehand and directed, are not very safe, except when they are just approached with a view to helping the human idea of Justice when such a thing is necessary for balancing up the development of the Soul”. Fortune, The Mystical Qabala, p.336.

3. In the version of ‘The City’ published in The Sunday Times, 26 October 1997, “suddenly” is omitted.

Howls & Whispers text and illustrations. © Ann Skea 2005. For permission to quote any part of this document contact Dr Ann Skea at

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