Malkuth, מלכות, means ‘kingdom’. It is the tenth, bottom-most sphere on the Tree of Life. On the grandest scale it represents the entire physical universe, populated with galaxies beyond number. On a lessor scale it represents our galaxy, and lessor yet, the tiny spec of physical planet Earth. Scaled down even further it represents your and my physical self-conscious body’s sphere of sensations. This is where we start, and here we are. Within the physical body is where we begin our Road of Return. It is in this same body – or another after reincarnation – where we complete the Great Work. If physical transition comes before we complete the work this round, we pick up where we left off in our spiritual work and continue with the new physical vehicle, again and again, until we mature consciously and cooperate toward reunification.
In the Sepher Yetzirah (Book of Formation), the tenth path, sphere, is named שכל ממזהיר, Sakel Mezhir, the ‘Resplendent Intelligence’. Mezhir is equally translated as ‘brilliant, shining, glowing’ and other descriptions along this line. Arthur E. Waite’s commentary: “...because it is exalted above every head and has its seat in Binah; it enlightens the fire of all lights and emanates the power of the principle of forms.” Binah represents the ‘substance’ aspect or mode of the One Triune-Thing. That One Thing is the Limitless Light, Ain Suph Aur, which comprises everything we can possibly sense. Therefore, Malkuth, the physical universe, is made entirely of that same Light Substance. Malkuth “has its seat in Binah”. When we personally come full into The Self in Tiphareth “it enlightens the fire of all lights...” In the personal sense, ‘lamps’ and ‘lights’ refer to the chakras by which accomplished Masters’ and Avatars’ auras shine with a Light from within.
Another name for Malkuth is כלה, kalah, the ‘bride’. Kalah sums to 55. Fifty-five is the Theosophical Extension of 10. The same letters in kalah, interchanged, spell out הכל, ha-kal, ‘the All’. There is a Qabalistic axiom which states that: “Malkuth is in Kether, and Kether is in Malkuth, but after a different manner.” This can be illustrated in many ways, but here are three examples: 1) Sphere 10 reduces to 1, the implication being that the end of things (Malkuth) holds the beginning of a new round (Kether); 2) Kether is pure undifferentiated Spirit, while Malkuth is the physical manifestation of that pure Spirit. Reduce all physical matter to Prima Materia and it becomes Kether again; 3) The quotation in the Kybalion:
“While ‘all’ (Malkuth) is in ‘THE ALL’ (Kether), it is equally true that ‘THE ALL” (Kether)
is in ‘all’ (Malkuth).To him who truly understands this truth hath come great knowledge.”
The root of Malkuth, מלך, malek, means ‘king’ (one name for Tiphareth), but with the feminine plural suffix, ות, oth, it may also be translated ‘queens’ as in the Song of Songs 6:8. Malkuth then, may be considered both masculine and feminine. The early Qabalists well knew this. The genuine medieval and Rosicrucian alchemists were also aware of the subtlety and recorded so in their writings with the Latin term Rebis, the ‘two-thing’ (see Rebis in the Glossary section). We are each of us a two-thing. We are the conscious half and the sub-conscious half while in this physical world. Whether we reside in a male or female physical body, in the alchemical sense, the conscious mind is masculine, the sub-conscious mind, feminine.
Plato wrote somewhere in The Symposium, his dialogue on love and the erotic, that every being longs to find its complement, its missing half. He also developed the theory that all things are imperfect mirrors or shades of one ideal archetype. Plato might have been Sagittarius, they seem to love philosophical ‘ideals’. He claimed that imperfect objects strove to become the ideal. His theories were not too far off from the Rebis. Each half of the two-thing within strives for its complement. The True Self is that ideal within us all.
Within the average, normally, psychologically healthy human being (whatever that means) these two modes of our ‘consciousness’ express themselves in very different ways. And, depending upon the degree of our ‘average, psychological healthiness,’ their expressions can be extremely helpful or disastrously detrimental. The conscious half may plan and scheme a certain direction for ourselves, trying to make things happen, while the sub-conscious half thwarts or even subverts entirely the whole endeavor in the most subtle ways. This is because one part of us is scheming the path of Cain’s descendancy while the other part is very aware of Seth’s inclinations. On the other hand, we might perhaps harbor strong sub-conscious inclinations for ourselves, to perform great things for ourselves and/or others, and yet, consciously we hesitate, or we talk ourselves out of the plan for a multitude of reasons or fears.
For many of us, indeed far too many of us yet, these two aspects are at odds with each other. In some of us, they might even be considered at war with one another. Those of us who have this war raging within us are at detrimental odds with the opposite sex. When enough of us are at war with the opposite sex a culture is created at war with itself which expands into nations. Consequently, individuals with this inner imbalance find or create inharmonious relationships with their chosen mates. To the degree that we are individually in harmony with ourselves, to that degree do we find and maintain complementary harmony in all our relationships. Pretty basic psychology.
For alchemical purposes, however, the ‘two’ must function as one, equal to each other. No small feat. In fact, alchemists and Rosicrucians through the centuries have termed this endeavor Magnum Opus, The Great Work.
The number within Malkuth, מלכות, sums to 496. In recognition of the immense effort at the very beginning of the Great Work, Qabalists were aware of another appropriate term holding equal gematria with לויתן, levithen, ‘Leviathan, the Great Devourer’. Because, in the very worse case scenario, are we not that? Did we not through the centuries destroy and devour everything in our paths? Are we not yet continuing this course? Are we not at the very brink of self-annihilation today, given our continuing insatiable appetites? To reverse this course, individually, is our primary mission, especially if we are to progress anywhere with this Magnum Opus.
And yet it can be done if we truly recognize that surrendering to THAT WHICH IS WITHIN is the only sane course for us individually and collectively. Number 496 is the Theosophical Extension of 31 (1+2+3+... to +31 = 496). Number 31 is the numeric symbol of אל, el, the ‘strength, power, might’ of the One God. This is the complete extension, therefore the fullest expression, of the powers represented by אל, attributed to Chesed. Paul F. Case’s commentary: “AL is 31, and 31 reduces to 4. 10 is the numerical extension of 4, thus the name of the 10th Sephirah is the numerical extension of the name of God attributed to the 4th Sephirah. 31 is also the number of לא, lo, ‘not, or no-thing’, Malkuth is the full manifestation of the divine strength which is itself no-thing."
We are that full manifestation. This One God resides within us. What we can sense through the entire physical manifestation, from countless galaxies to yours and my body, is actually an illusion. Do not misunderstand the word ‘illusion’ in its most pejorative sense. This world and the entire physical plane is real to all our physical perceptions, as real as a granite rock. Pick up that rock and bonk it against your head and you will curse. Then you’ll stop. What is meant esoterically by the term ‘illusion’ is that our perception of this physical world is not a true perception. Our senses deceive. The physical manifestations are not what they seem. All that is manifest is the fullest extension of the ONE and ONLY GOD. That God is a Spiritual essence, an infinite ocean of Light Substance, condensed and coagulated into such compaction as to appear as something solid to our senses. The ancient philosophers had countless names and expressions for this ‘ocean of Spirit’ because that Spirit may manifest as all the objects we can name. They wrote: “Our matter has as many names as there are things in this world; that is why the foolish know it not.” The ancient Qabalists knew and understood it by the title Ain Suph Aur, the Limitless Light.
The mass mind in any generation has always believed that to prosper to any degree in this physical world we must fight on some level. The physical world is inimical to existence, we believe, therefore we must use our conscious minds to cleverly manipulate all we can for ourselves against all others attempting the same. This is one of the biggest illusions we face, and we are adamantly entrenched in it yet. This is a tyranny of conceptual locks impeding spiritual understanding, but this is the habitual stance of Rebis, and Rebis is mostly at odds with itself.
The conscious half of Rebis cannot control anything, especially Ain Suph Aur, which is everything! The conscious mind, as Qabalists have taught through the centuries, can only effectively perform acts of attention and concentration. The subsequent manifestation of anything put to attention and concentration is the function of the sub-conscious half of Rebis. Since these two aspects are yet at odds with each other within the mass mind chaos is the result. Look around you.
Moreover, the illusion Qabalists speak of is getting greater, and more powerful. We can philosophize and say it may have begun in the most innocent manner, when technologies first appeared on the horizon. Long after the printing press appeared around the 1490s, photography made its debut around the middle of the 1800s, a novelty back then. The phonograph amused masses shortly thereafter, followed by the zoetrope and other pre-film animation devices. Telephones, movies and television continued to arrest attention. The internet emerged from television; addiction soared. Unfortunately, in many cases, technological knowledge spread rapidly, but the sense to use it wisely lagged. The ‘toys’ were grasped by some unfit persons only to abuse the power behind it all. Telephones have now evolved into addictive attention arresting devices such as the i-phone and smart phones accessing social sites like Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc., to the point where highly organized criminal elements (and I am NOT suggesting ethnic ‘families’ or mafias here, but corporations) actually manipulated duped users into an addictive state where a sub-conscious need has surfaced to stay connected...to nothing.
What is coming next on the horizon may be worse yet. Virtual Reality was being perfected as this was being written. These powerful devices will possibly arrest all the senses simultaneously to the point of total addiction. Already being advertised and flaunted as the ultimate entertainment experience the true underlying purpose will be to enslave and control. And everyone will must have one. Imagine. We are already more or less entrapped in the illusion of a physical world due to our deluded senses. It is difficult enough to free the spirit of its grip. How much more so, then, will the grip of Virtual Reality enslave? We will then be trapped in the illusion of an illusion. Very spooky.
Why has אל, el, the ‘strength, power, might’ of the One God done all this, and continues to do so? To guide us into evolving, into maturing, and into changing the course for ourselves for the ‘return home’. Humanly manufactured inventions and devices will bring us no closer to a true, lasting happiness any more in the future than they have in the past. It will all be merely accelerated continuation with more illusions to delude. The delusions will continue to bring suffering. And it is that very suffering which will eventually disgust each and every soul, in its time, to become fed up with all of it, declare “Enough,” and take up some effort toward return.
It is inherently built into the Grand Illusion to never satisfy completely. If any aspect of that illusion were to satisfy totally, we would never seek return and become one and whole again. We would choose to remain in the perpetual state of separation and create more chaos. And that is not possible since the past, present and eternal future condition of the entire universe is One. The Creator manifested a physical universe for the sole purpose of giving all its creation pleasure; to enjoy, not to selfishly take and hoard at the expense of others. When joy is abandoned for the pursuit of ‘personal’ happiness, the illusion begins to seduce. We are more enamored by the pleasure of senses gone amuck than seeing the joy in creation. When the second Commandment was given: “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me,” it was not merely suggesting other gods of ‘other’ religions, for indeed, all religions themselves are ‘strange gods’ are they not? Anything we hold so dear as to worship on some level or other is actually a ‘strange god’. Our cars, our stocks and bonds, our religion, our houses, clothes, careers, habits...anything we consider MINE above all else is a ‘strange god’. We will not be punished for coveting these places and things. The suffering inherently attached to all those things of the illusion is punishment enough.
Attempting to conquer or change the whole physical manifestation around us in the pursuit of happiness is the height of delusion and folly. We can only change ourselves individually. When enough individuals change, then some degree of change in the greater arena may be affected. Some old schools of Qabalah call this change, תקון, tikkun, meaning ‘correction; repair, improvement; reform’. The ‘correction’ is gently moved from within us. We cannot and do not change for the better willingly. We change when current conditions become unbearable and eventually intolerant. Change only becomes permanent, however, when we realize it is actually we ourselves who created the intolerable condition in the first place. Then we will cease chasing our tails in the pursuit of happiness ‘out there’. Rebis begins to adjust, to correct.