Binah: Understanding queer community sorrow

This post is the eighth in a series highlighting each sphere in the Tree of Life. For additional background on the Qabala, see Guided Meditation: Introduction to the Tree of LifeLearning Qabala through storyLearning Qabala: Where to start?, and Qabala is queer, and it isn’t even sneaky about it.

Binah is the third sphere on the Tree of Life, sitting at the top of the “feminine” pillar, also known as the pillar of form or the pillar of severity. Working down from Kether, Binah is the first point on the tree where the potential exists for form. The spheres that precede Binah are pure unity and potential (Kether) followed by pure energy (Chokmah). Binah takes that potential, and that energy, and does something with it: it gives it shape.

Energy becomes matter.

As energy flows down the tree, following the spheres in numerical order (the “lightning flash”), it performs a beautiful dance between energy/potential, limitation, and balance before it becomes manifest in Malkuth, like one long editorial process before a book is published.

Qabala lightning flash

As we look at the pillar of form as a whole, we see common threads. In Hod, we see the need to categorize, organize, and name things, so that we may communicate about them. In Geburah, we see the need to remove the things that aren’t needed to achieve balance. In both these spheres, limits are placed on things so that their function may be enhanced, and that concept of limitation continues in Binah, where form as a concept is expressed.

Chokmah, which we’ll go into more detail about next week, is a limitless outpouring of energy with no container. Think of it like steam. Steam can power engines, but not if it’s just loose in the air. It needs to be pushed through a container and a mechanism in order to provide movement, and therefore power. Binah is the engine, and Chokmah is the steam. Without form, energy can’t accomplish anything.

But the engine is, of course, a metaphor here. Nothing is manifest or real until it reaches Malkuth at the bottom of the tree, and as we get into the top three spheres on the tree, known as the Supernal Triangle, things become a lot more abstract. The potential for form in Binah can be likened to atoms — the building blocks to become form, without being form as we experience it from our perspective in this reality.

A sphere’s energy and action changes depending on the direction from which it is approached. If we look at Binah from the perspective of energy flowing down from Kether and Chokmah, we see Binah turning energy into the potential for form. But conversely, when approached from the spheres below it, Binah is where potential for form and matter are transmuted back into energy. Binah is, therefore, the sphere of both life and death.

Yes, you can goth it up with Binah!

What makes Binah queer?

Binah and Chokmah are both feminine names in Hebrew, so I like to think of them as the “lesbian power couple” that sits atop of the Tree of Life.

Binah’s queerness starts with its “taboo” nature. Binah is associated with the dark and mysterious aspects of that which has been often ascribed to the feminine: childbirth (and, by extension, sexuality), death, the near-infinite depths of the sea, darkness, and silence. And as the gate of birth and death, Binah is often associated with the underworld as well.

Why are these things considered taboo? Because our society fears that which is does not understand. (Sound familiar?) So yes, though Binah’s aspects are largely aligned with “feminine” forces and it sits atop the “feminine” pillar, the experience of Binah has strong parallels with the queer experience.

The experience of Binah and Chokmah together is a more meta version of that which occurred between Geburah and Chesed. Geburah was about letting go of parts of your old self and life that no longer fit after you come out, and building the courage to come out at all. Chesed was about exploring the possibilities of who you can become after you come out. Binah and Chokmah are those experiences on a higher arc: our community experiences of sorrow and exuberance.

Binah means “understanding.” One of the urgent requests being circulated on social media in light of the protests against police brutality is for non-Black people to educate ourselves on systemic racism. (And people are responding to this request, judging by last week’s list of New York Times nonfiction bestsellers.) The process of educating ourselves on the atrocities committed against Black people and the degree to which we as white people are complicit is painful, but necessary. And Binah is associated with sorrow and grief for the pain in the world — the sorrow and grief that motivates us to take action.

As we celebrate the civil rights gained for people of color, LGBTQIAP+ people, women, disabled people, and others, we grieve those in our communities who have died, those who have been and who still are tormented and silenced, on the pathway to getting us those rights. We have all lost so many lives to hatred, bigotry, and systemic and societal neglect and abuse.

Our communities do not exist in isolation, and being intersectional means everybody’s rights are important and must be fought for, and we all need to examine our unconscious biases and the ways in which we perpetuate systems that oppress others so we can work together to unfuck this mess.

In experiencing Binah in a queer context, we acknowledge those who came and fought before us, who paved the way for our lives today. We acknowledge the pain caused by systemic discrimination and hate, and in acknowledging the pain and the suffering, we become motivated to do something about it.

Pathworking to experience Binah

Below is a recording and text of a pathworking to help you experience Binah. If you wish to subscribe to future pathworkings, you can do so on SoundcloudGoogle PlayTuneInStitcher, and Spotify.

Welcome to the Binah pathworking, from Major Arqueerna. Please ensure you are seated comfortably and won’t be disturbed for the next fifteen minutes while you do this pathworking.

Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths, slowly, in and out. With each exhalation, let go any tension you find in your body.

Without opening your eyes, visualize the room around you. Now picture it filling with a gray mist, starting at the floor and working its way up to the ceiling, until the only thing you can see is grayness. As the mist dissipates, you find yourself in a field, sitting on a small, wooden platform colored olive, citrine, russet, and black. It’s night, and as you gaze up into the sky you see many stars, and the new, dark moon. You see a yellow-brown dot that you know to be Saturn, high overhead.

As you stare at Saturn, the platform you’re sitting on begins to rise into the air and move. You zoom toward the moon, breaking Earth’s atmosphere. You see a dark ring in the sky above you and you pass through it, which brings the dark moon much closer in your sight. Then the moon disappears and you see the brilliant, bright sun, which grows larger as you zoom toward it, and then it, too, disappears. Behind the sun there is Saturn, with its beautiful, orange rings, and you zoom towards it. It gets closer and closer and then you are surrounded by a black mist, obscuring your view.

You expect the mist to dissipate, to show you something, but your vision stays dark. You are in an extremely dark, silent place, though you can feel a slight rocking, as if you were on the deck of a ship, and smell an ocean nearby. You look around, hoping to see something. Eventually, your eyes adjust to the darkness and you can see the faint outlines of waves churning in the distance. You’re still unsure where you are, but you have some sense of horizon now.

As you gaze out into the ocean, you hear a faint whisper in your mind. “Welcome to Binah,” says the voice. And then the floor drops from beneath you, and you are falling, falling, falling, until you splash into the ocean, and then you sink deeper, deeper, deeper, spinning and turning. You can breathe underwater, but you can no longer see even faint outlines. Your senses no longer mean anything. You feel the boundaries of yourself and the water around you begin to dissolve. Your senses are gone. There is nothing to hear, nothing to see, nothing to smell or taste, and only cool water surrounding your skin. It is the barest sense of existing. 

(pause)

The infinite ocean surrounding you is unknowable and vast. You hear that faint whisper in your mind again. “In this moment, you do not need your senses. Let go of what you think you need to know, to see, to feel.”

(pause)

As you release, you begin to notice that there is more than nothingness concealed within this vast ocean. You don’t know exactly HOW you know, but you become aware of other beings in the depths. You are not alone, but nothing here means you any harm. You remember that life on Earth began in the sea. You think of the first sea creature that crawled onto land. You think of beginnings…and then you think of endings.

(pause)

As you think, the voice whispers in your head once more. It has a message just for you. Listen.

(pause)

Eventually, you float to the surface of the ocean, and when you reach out your arms you touch a circular, wooden platform. You climb onto it, and are instantly surrounded by a black mist once more. When it dissipates, you are surrounded by the starry sky – stars that seem blinding now in comparison to the darkness where you were. You zoom towards the bright sun, then the moon, and finally down toward Earth. You break through the atmosphere, and soon you see the trees and the field, and the platform softly touches down onto the grass. You step off the platform, then look up to the sky at Saturn, sending it a silent thanks for your experience.

Eventually, the air around you begins to fill with a pearly-gray mist, until you can no longer see the field. When the mist dissipates, you find yourself seated comfortably once more. Take a deep breath, wiggle your fingers and your toes, and when you are ready, open your eyes.   

Thank you for listening to this pathworking from Major Arqueerna. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to subscribe and share it with a friend. More content can be found at majorarqueerna.com.

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