The following papers describe Hod, the Eighth Sephirah (More to follow)...
(Updated 15 November 2020)
By Margaret Pepin (1987)
Hod is the last Sephirah on the negative pillar and the eighth on the Tree. It is negative to Geburah and Tiphareth, but positive to Yesod and Malkuth. Here is magnificence which emanates from its own proper essence. This is the sphere of splendour and of glory, and from it issues the stellar light.
The mundane chakra for Hod is Mercury, and, through its mundane chakra, Hod consciousness is quick-moving and adaptable. Scintillating humour comes from the mental level of Hod and this is the sphere where the Glory of God is expressed through science. The Fire God Loki and the fire opal gem are in affinity, and Hod is the Sephirah of the mercurial, analytical mind, the logical categorisation of the unknown into knowable structures. Mercury is the god of science and books, and all philosophical systems are under the aegis of Hod. His Egyptian counterpart, Thoth, was the inventor of all arts, science, and indeed of hieroglyphs.
The intellectual and analytical aspect of Hod can also be seen in the prudence and discipline which can be developed at this level of consciousness. It is the level of the diplomat and the sphere of intrigue. Here lies the belief in self-preservation and even deceit. The prudence and scepticism are reflected in the tarot cards assigned to Hod, the four eights, all of which suggest an element of restraint.
It is, however, this very suggestion of inhibition and restraint on lower planes, which leads to swiftness on a higher level. Hod is the Absolute or Perfect Intelligence, because it is the mean of the primordial. It is power in equilibrium, again symbolised by Thoth, known as the Divine Judge or Balancer.
Thoth in fact provides a further link with one of the primary facets of this sphere. He was the first of the magicians and Hod is the sphere of esoteric philosophy and magic. Indeed, Mercury - under his name of Hermes - is responsible for the expression "Hermetic tradition". The magical weapons of this sphere are the tools of the magician, versicals and apron, the latter concealing, the splendour of the magician. The magical capacity referred to is the work of the intellectual imagination, formal magic, as distinguished from simple mind power. Though the Purple of devotional mysticism (colour in Atziluth) is closely associated with Hod, it is the Orange Ray of magic and occult philosophy which presides.
Hod is the sphere of magic because it is the sphere of the formulation of forms, form emanating from Binah through the medium of Gedulah. Hod clothes with form the ideas of Netzach brought down from the visualisations of Gedulah. It must be remembered that no single Sephirah ever functions as such and that Netzach and Hod are in close conjunction, representing to a degree the force of Chokmah and the form of Binah on a lower arc. Though Hod gives the formal aspect of magic, here is no ensouling without the empathy of Netzach. While Hod is the left hip and leg of Adam Kadmon, Netzach is the right, and, if not balanced with Netzach, the scepticism of Hod can destroy the spirit.
Balance is essential to Hod, the means of the primordial, and the qualities of Chokmah and Binah are perfectly balanced in the Hermaphrodite, the focal image of the Sphere. Here the individual can balance the harmony of the masculine and feminine within himself. The mean has no root by which it can cleave, nor rest, except in the hidden places of Gedulah.
Even the God-name, Eloah Tzabaoth, contains the curious feminine noun with a masculine plural, while the Archangel Michael is frequently seen to hold in his hand a pair of balances. The twin serpents with an affinity to Hod represent the double current. Thoth, the balancer, points also to equilibrium of the anima and animus, and the union of Binah and Chokmah, Wisdom and Understanding.
It is a sad corollary that it is at the Hod level of consciousness that a man or woman can turn away from a union with the opposite sex and seek instead of union of like with like. Equally undesirable is the state where the sharpened intellect and analytical mind in Hod casts aside the balancing sympathy of Netzach, for the essential is the harmony of the masculine with the feminine.
Essential too, is that the student be wary of falling into illusion, brought about by incomplete analysis – the other side of the coin – for Hod is the Sphere of illusion and here religions are created or destroyed. At this level of consciousness it is possible to commit the error of worshipping the teacher rather than the teachings themselves. In the World of Atziluth are the Archetypes of Gods and religions, and the World of Briah creates the abstract, but pure, forms. At Yetzirah the Formation, with slight deviation, takes place, while Hod in the world of Assiah completes the gods and religions with even more deviation; and herein lies illusion. It is well to remember that, especially in the field of esoteric pursuits, there is but an ill-defined boundary between truth and falsehood, respectively the virtue and vice of Hod.
The spiritual experience of the Vision of Splendour, the Sphere of Science and of magic; the mercurial consciousness of Hod, are fraught with pitfalls, into which the unwary can descend. Of critical importance is the maintenance of equilibrium; empathy and analysis; anima and animus; and of prudence and restraint. Under the auspices of Michael, the Protector, the forces of darkness can be dispersed revealing the fullness of the Glory of Hod.
Mercury - the Mundane Chakra of Hod
By Jane Young (1984)
Mercury is the smallest of the planets in our solar system, and is the nearest to the Sun. It is also the swiftest moving of all the planets (except the Moon). Mercury completes one rotation every 59 earth days (not 86 as originally believed) - 59 reverts to 5 in numerology. 5 is the number of Mercury, and is a number of communication, invention and knowledge, it is also the number attributed to the nervous system and the mind.
Agrippa, in 1531, traced the symbol of Mercury to the form of the caduceus, but Gabella in 1615 likened it to a contraction of the Moon and the Sun over the cross of materialism. The symbol of Mercury in fact represents spirit (immortality) over the cross of matter.
Hermaphrodite is the magical image of Hod - here the individual can balance positive and negative in unity. The idea of duality is enhanced by the influence of Gemini whose symbol is the Pillars of Hermes - the pillars before the spiritual temple. Mercury is the expression of the dual aspect of the mind as it mediates between the higher and the lower.
Mercury is linked with the illumined mind, and this planet is the astrological influence of the subjective path of the Magician. Above the magician's head is the ∞ lemniscate, symbolic of serpent wisdom, and also of the continuous flow of the life force between body and spirit. At the level of the Magician we find Mercury in its highest aspect of abstract mind, no longer dominated by form contact. At the lower levels of Hod the magician can also be a cunning trickster, and this is the illusive side of the serpent.
In a way it is a paradox that Hod, while being a sphere of splendour and glory, is also a sphere of rigid form, whereas Mercury itself has always symbolised spirit, and freedom from matter. Through the mundane chakra of Hod the spirit can receive the illumination required in order to break away from the rigid barriers of concrete mind into Netzach.
The spiritual experience assigned to Hod is "the Vision of Splendour", which is the realisation of the glory of God manifesting in the created world. It is appropriate that one of the symbols of Hod is the apron as worn by the mason and the craftsman - creator of forms.
At Hod religions are built and destroyed because of their very rigidity, yet they provide a useful purpose in some respects during their lifetimes - after all most of us can only relate to an idea or principle wrapped in some kind of form.
At Hod the spirit is not free, but is conditioned in some kind of beliefs. Hod is strongly influenced by the Orange Ray (in Briah) - a Ray of knowledge and concrete thought. The Orange Ray is in a sense protective and disciplining in its action - only once discipline is learned can the spirit break free just as a caterpillar needs its cocoon in which to grow and transform before it can emerge as a beautiful butterfly. It as the influence of the Yellow Ray shining through Mercury which promotes this new spiritual freedom.
MacGregor Mathers, in his "Kabbalah Unveiled” refers to the cross-over of the Archangels Michael and Raphael - Michael the solar Archangel is applied to Tiphareth in the Yetziratic world and Hod in the Briatic world - Raphael to Tiphareth in the Briatic world and Hod in the Yetziratic world. Raphael asthe Prince Regent of the Sun helps transmit the solar energy which is required for the general maintenance and healing of physical manifestation.
Bailey says that the planets Mercury and the Sun are at their highest levels interchangeable because when the disciple realises that he is himself the son of mind, at one with the Universal Christ, he is then an initiate. The influence of the love and wisdom of Venus further transmutes the mind so the initiate gradually achieves liberation from the rigid lower mentality.
The initiate is then in full soul consciousness, and the sons of God who are the sons of mind are raised up into glory through experience and crucifixion because they have learned to love and truly reason.
Therefore in the Sun of Tiphareth we have the basis of spirituality, in Mercury/Hod the intellect required in order to appreciate this spirituality through the qualities of love and wisdom provided by Venus/Netzach.
Egyptian Mythology related to Hod
By D.M. Dalton (1981)
The planet Mercury was called Sebku under the 19th and 20th dynasties, and in the Greco-Roman period, and the god attached to the planet was Set.
Set was the murderer of his father Osiris, and also the combatant of Horus. He took on many forms, including those of serpent and strange animal quadrupeds.
Sebek was a crocodile god, and they both symbolized the negative aspects of Hod; trickery, deceit and all things contrary to the laws of Maat, or Truth.
Saa was the personification of intelligence, whether god or human. He is declared to have the ability to protect the numbers of the deceased by his magical powers and he also gave the deceased the power to perceive the god of the sense of touch. The form of this god was often used as an amulet in the bindings of a mummy.
Saa is usually mentioned in connection with Sesheta, the "lady of writing” who was a female counterpart of Thoth. Sesheta or Sefekh-aaubi was goddess of books, libraries, the recorder of history, and the founder of architecture.
Her brother, Thoth, who was originally a moon god, or the creator of the moon, was at a late period demoted to "scribe of the gods".
At one period of history it is Thoth who speaks the word that results in the wishes of Ra being carried out. He was held to be the heart and tongue of Ra, or, in other words, he was the reason and mental powers of the God, and also the means by which their will was translated into speech. From one aspect he was speech itself. He taught Isis the words to revivify Osiris and he also gave her the words with which to bring Horus back to life after he had been stung by a scorpion.
lt was his skill as a celestial mathematician which made use of the laws of Maat upon which the foundation and maintenance of the universe rested.
Thoth was regarded as the judge of words, and in the testing of the soul in the balance in the Osirian Hall of Judgement it is described as the weighing of words, not the judging of actions.
The Psychological Aspects of Hod
By D.M. Dalton (1979)
This sphere perhaps represents the ages of fourteen to twenty one, out of our three score years and ten. These years represent the full flowering of the emotional nature in the developing child, as well as a certain rigidity in the intellect. With the intellect and fully fledged emotions, an individual gets the first inklings of intuition and instinct, but this is strictly, limited and formalised by Hod.
For the male, the problem is to acknowledge this feminine aspect of himself and not let the masculine dominance of Hod rule him. He has to recognize that intellect alone will only let him express one half of his nature.
The female on the other hand must not let herself be trapped by the illusions of a dominant animus figure, but she must realise that she is equally capable of all that the male can achieve. Thus the magical image of Hod is the Hermaphrodite, a dual bodied and therefore dual-sexed being.
One of the main gods attributed to Hod, Hermes, has for a symbol the Caduceus. This symbol in many ways describes the state to which both male and female must equally strive, the hermaphroditism, or the necessary balance between their masculine and feminine halves.
This balance must go beyond a rigid static form. It must become a form of active equilibrium, which is a state where two seemingly opposing forces, that of anima and animus, balance one another to form a third higher form. The awakening of the psyche.
The Serpents of the Caduceus represent these two opposing forces, and the wand they twine around represents the third, higher stable form.
Hod represents, as it were, the first stage of the lower mental plane. So it would appear that to progress to the mental plane from the emotional plane, the individual needs to blend and acknowledge his/her other half and strive to achieve a harmony within. It is only when this is achieved that the psyche begins to develop and take control.
Because Hod is the sphere where wisdom is put into practice, through the development of prudence, if the desired balance between anima and animus is not achieved, instead of prudence we get illusion, and therefore confusion.
The Psychological Aspects of the Magical Image of Hod
By Sheila J. Bashford (1979)
Hermaphrodites was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, or Mercury and Venus. Therefore at a psychological level this symbolises the marriage of Hod and Netzach. It is supposed that Hermes and Aphrodite were indeed twins born of Ouranos, the night sky and Hemera, the brightness of day. This pedigree of united opposites found its synthesis when the youth Hermaphrodites was repulsed by the advances of the nymph Salmakis, who inhabited a magnificent fountain, but he found the pool irresistible and plunged into the water. Salmakis took advantage of his weakness and embraced the beautiful Hermaphrodites. Her desire was such that she became eternally one with him.
This composite being was not asexual, but partook of the nature of both male and female. It would appear that this image should be situated on the central pillar, but further consideration shows that the feminine principle was in control; therefore the image is placed on the negative column.
For the nymph - representative of the Devouring Mother - tempts the naive adolescent into the water (symbol of the unconscious) where she takes possession of him. The repulsion he naturally feels is indicative of the incest taboo operating, for although Hermaphrodites is subconsciously desirous to transfer his anima projection from his mother, he has not yet accepted the reality. So the nymph comes like a thief in the night.
Hermes was the god of thieves, as he was known for his agility and cunning. This explains why the archetype associated with Hod is the Trickster. Things are obviously not always that which they appear to be 'when the mercurial quick-silver nature of the Hodian Trickster is involved.
A man whose anima has been aroused but not assimilated can display much irrationality. With his passions still submerged his anima is like the dark side of the moon, an unknown quantity. His undeveloped imagination will project only crude, negative or overly idealistic images, according to his innate disposition and upbringing. His personal relationships will be coloured by the quality of these projections, leading to many trials and tribulations until these sufferings become the learning situations that lead to maturity. Then the Hermetic principle is transformed into the soothsayer and psycho-pomp who leads lost souls into the light.
Alternatively in a woman's psyche the female who becomes dominated by her animus will appear or sound as if she has obtained a striking level of authority. The thinking function becomes very superior in its appreciation and the men she attracts ultimately disappoint her as they fail to live up to her unreal expectations.
Unfortunately this is the result of an overcompensation for what is basically an inferior function in women. She is looking for a hero or mentor that will round out her character, but finds inadequate men with a history of domestic maternal tyranny who are only too willing to lean on her assumed strength.
With this recipe for disaster it is easy to see why there are so few properly integrated people; people atoned with their own contra-sexual counterpart.
But there is also a very positive side to this archetypal figure. Mercury's wings symbolize spiritual transcendence bringing healing to the weary soul. With his closeness to the source of light comes the flashes of intuitive illumination which welds the disassociated mortal mind together creating a language that transforms the hieroglyphs of the higher worlds into a philosophy that can sustain the battered ego in times of trouble.
In Egypt Hermes is identified with the bird-headed god Thoth, father of the Hermetic tradition, which has been a continual inspiration for countless souls throughout the generations of man. The Tarot pack itself is a series of motifs which depict the human predicament from a psychological viewpoint. That is why they appear on the subjective paths of the Tree ministering to the needs of the traveller, seeking to enhance the understanding of those who are not content to remain in the world of Assiah.
Hod reverberates with the life that is eternally stimulating the formative principle. It is the Sephirah of sublimination which directs repressed impulses, especially sexual, toward new aims and activities.
To be continued...