Can anyone please explain the basic idea of Qliphoth? Where can I find information about it? I tried to read Kenneth Grants "Nightside of Eden", but to me it is unreadable. Grant just rambles on and on without any structure.

As far as I have understood it, Qliphoth is "the other side" of the tree of life. The ToL is an abstract structure to allow/ease reasoning/understanding about the world. The Qliphoth are "inverses" of the sephiroth and somehow serve to balance the tree. Each Sephira has an according Qliphoth. They can somehow be reached over Daath, which I have not understood at all.

Please feel free to enlighten me.

Also, is there any connection to the tarot? I would expect the Qliphoth to be printed on the back of the major arcana ;)


Interested in seeing responses.


I can detail some dead ends I encountered.

There seems to be this thread: http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=230117 which is interesting, though very speculative.

Then there is this tarot: http://www.shadowtarot.net/ Which is a tarot based on Kenneth Grants "Nightside of Eden" and Crowleys Liber 231.

An then there is Crowleys Liber 231: http://hermetic.com/crowley/libers/lib231.html
In fact I am not sure why I keep running across references to this liber. To me the connection to the Qliphoth is not apparent. It looks like a description of some boring sigils. At least they are boring with my level of knowledge.


There's some stuff in wikipedia. I have no idea whether it is of any use to you...


Snaut, congrats on delving deeper into the mysteries of the Tree of Life!
So Qliphoth is not exactly the -reversed- side of the Tree of Life, even though a lot of graphs kinda show it with inversed colours; nor is it the upside down Tree of Life (Malkuth being the highest), though this is how some Satanists picture it.

The idea of Qliphoth is that when the sephiroth are not in balance, then some of the sephirah lose their structure and reveal the shadow side. It is interesting, because it retains the idea of natural entropy - when tension is lost, the shadows are revealed.

My favourite approach to the "shadow" concept is very similar to what e.g Ian Daniels uses in his Phantasmagoria (the companion book for Tarot of Vampyres). We don't use reversals and we don't "turn the meaning around", we merely distort and twist the energies so that they reveal the shadow side. Picture the 9 of Cups - abundance, happiness etc. So we could imagine it as a great table for a feast, covered in gilded tableware, fruits, wine, every kind of dish you could imagine. Now the SHADOW side would be the great table for a feast for the wedding in Dickens's Great Expectations, Lady Havisham had left to rot for decades. That could be the shadow side.

We have the 10 sephiroth on the "shadow" side as well, each represented by something implicit on the "light" side as well. So for instance, Kether represents the concept of unity, whereas its "evil twin" Thaumiel represents duality, especially the struggle of it. So - in the prevalence of unity, we much assume victory over a struggle between forces.

My recommendation is to first acquaint yourself strongly with all the concepts regarding the Tree of Life (the entities, the worlds, Da'ath, the Abyss, Ain Soph etc). Then it will be easier to understand their relations to Qliphoth. For example, Da'ath is usually considered to be the "portal" through which one accesses the shadow side.

Sure there is a connection to Tarot - as said, Qliphoth is the representative of the shadow side present in everything. The 10 qliphoth represent the shadow side of the cards, and the paths represent the major arcana. It is all the same.

The best resources to these topics, I feel, always come from the orders. So here, I would recommend you to look into Thelematic resources (Thelemapedia is a good one that lists all relevant attributes). Definitely read Liber Carcerorum, that is exactly on this topic; Liber 777 lists practically all attributions, including those of the Qliphoth. All this listed literature is easily accessible for free online.

Hope I was of some help, feel free to ask more clarifying questions.

Michael Sternbach

I do find the topic of the Qliphoth somehow attractive, but I am not sure what can be gained from studying it. Any thoughts?


Well, in my opinion there is actually nothing you can learn which has no use. There is always something beneficial to learning. But banalities aside,

It truly depends on your approach to Kabbalah, Tarot and the unification of these two. Studying qliphoth is not studying "something else", it is studying the same sephiroth, just their shadow sides; if you are interested in studying the angelic correspondences or you are deeply interested in the sephiroth, studying qliphoth is a logical step.

If you open up Thelemapedia for example, just to check some correspondences or maybe just to study a little, even then you would have qliphoth correspondences listed under the ToL. The choice is yours, how deep you want to go, but I have found that a deep understanding of Qliphoth also deepens the understanding of the shadow side of Tarot, and helps you understand the underlying forces that create struggle underneath.


Delinfrey's explanation makes much sense. By studying the shadow side, you learn about the side of light. Like by studying negative space, you realize what you actually see (simple example: Bugs Bunny going straight through the door leaves an empty space and negative space, the door, around it. By looking at the negative space, you recognize Bugs Bunny.)

A basic explanation of the Jewish concept is here: http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/q/qlippoth.html

And I agree that every piece of knowledge is precious. You never know where you'll meet it again. I saw the exhibition of the German artist Anselm Kiefer in Tel Aviv, Shvirat ha-kelim - inspired by the Lurianic concept of the qlippoth which are left when the divine light breaks (shover) the vessels (kelim).


Obviously, these works of art deal with German-Jewish past hopes and horrors. But it helps to know there's a kabbalah background.


I do find the topic of the Qliphoth somehow attractive, but I am not sure what can be gained from studying it. Any thoughts?

I'm actually in your camp, I've never made a study of them, although I feel I should. They certainly add to a more rounded view of each emanation, but I also find them somewhat problematic. The "evil" things we associate with some of the more difficult sephiroth like Geburah, implemented in the Five of. Discs, for example, isn't the Qlippothic side of the sephirah, it merely displays its energy in a certain configuration, which is a little like desire for what you don't have. I'm not sure the Qlippoth refer to the "shadow side," since that is already inherent in the normal Tree.

So, I'm basically confused as to what they're good for. Can anyone give an example of a comparison between a sephira and its adverse sephira?


The root of the word "Qliphoth" (קלפ) means "husk" or "shell", and the original idea behind them is very much one of obfuscation. The Sephiroth of the Tree of Life are the path we must ascend to reach the divine; the Qliphoth are the obstacles to our understanding of those Sephiroth. Yes, the Abyss must be breached to reach the supernal triad, and the Veil must be pulled back to find Tiphereth, but what if we don't even get that far? What if we're unable to properly understand the energy of Hod? Or even of Malkuth? This certainly can happen (if only on a temporary scale), because the concerns of the material world make it more difficult for an individual to step outside of him-or-herself and access the divine.

I have a mental image which I found helpful when I started looking at the Qliphoth, although for other people it may be useless. I sometimes think of each Sephirah as a lightbulb covered in a thick layer of mud. The mud is Qliphotic energy, which is the product of mundane life and which prevents us from seeing the Sephirah for what it is. Instead of a shining light, we see it as another dirty part of the world, and we attribute to it all of the mundane characteristics of the other things in our lives. In short, we think we understand it for what it is, but in reality we do not.

So for example, we have Gamaliel (which, according to sources that aren't necessarily trustworthy but that all seem to agree with each other, translates into English as "the obscene ones"), which is the Qliphah corresponding with Yesod. And where Yesod was about fertiliy, sexuality (ish), and man's foundation in the material world, Gamaliel is a twisted understanding of those principles. It's a misrepresentation of the energy of Yesod--Gamaliel is all about extreme promiscuity, self-indulgence, materialism, etc. And the idea here is that people will approach Yesod, see casually what it's supposed to be about, and think that they understand it. But in reality, they haven't accessed the truth of it; they only understand the shadow, the husk of what Yesod is meant to be, and what they think of as Yesod is actually the murky, misdirected, even chaotic energy of Yesod.

I hope that makes sense.

There are other ways to approach the Qliphoth, but in terms of direct work with the Tree of Life, this one seems the most practical to me. Each Qliphah is the challenge, the potential misunderstanding, misdirection, and unbalanced manifestation of a Sephirah's energy if practitioners approach it wrongly.

Another approach is a more theological one, and has to do with the enormous (and, as has already been pointed out, highly speculative) ramble I went on in the thread that Snaut linked earlier. The Qliphoth can be used as a theological tool to explore the problem of evil.

Yes, the Tree of Life has Geburah, which manifests some of what we might call "evil" in the world (or perhaps "suffering" would be a better word). But at the same time, the Tree of Life is an expression of the emanations of a fundamentally omnibenevolent godhead, and therefore it could be viewed as inconsistent (depending on your philosophical viewpoint) to have the Tree of Life be the source of evil in the world.*

And so if you do see this as an inconsistency, the Qliphoth put things back into balance. The Qliphoth are perversions of the energy of each Sephirah--not creations in their own right, but twisted versions of the godhead's original work. And this is consistent with, for example, the Catholic myth of Satan (although it doesn't fit nearly as much into a Jewish theological framework) as the source of evil in the world. In this case, studying the Qliphoth might not help you understand the Tree of Life or enrich your Qabalistic work, but would be a more personal exploration to try to understand and quantify the nature of evil and suffering in the world.

*At the same time, the Tree of Life is also an expression of a fundamentally omnipotent godhead, so there are those who would argue that evil cannot have come from anywhere else, because the Tree represents the energy of the unmoved mover. There are also those who would question the description of God as omnibenevolent, and who would describe the divine energies of the Tree of Life more as a Jungian Abraxas. Like I said. It depends on your philosophical viewpoint.

Anyways. These are just some thoughts on the matter. God knows I'm not an expert, so everything I say here is really just a matter of speculation and conclusions that I've drawn based on my own reading. But maybe I can add a different perspective into the mix.