The following is a brief essay on klipot (Heb. shells) from the artist and contemplative David Chaim Smith. Currently undertaking 3 months of full retreat, he is releasing this piece to help those who are serious in pursuing deeper contemplative practice:
There is considerable confusion as to whether the klipot exist, and what they are or are not. The greater question is what is meant by the designation ‘exist’?
The view upon which this text operates does not invite concepts of being and non-being to be used as qualifying markers for phenomena. It is true that dark malevolent forces push and pull the human realm into distortions, and impressions of shadowed impulses persist throughout all the worlds. It is far better to hold these forces according to the essential nature shared by all phenomena.
This is only En Sof.
In this sense, even the worst klipot are primordially pure. Klipot are no different in essence from any of the structural limitations which shape the worlds. They lock cognition into limitation. When they do so in a manner which obscures and obstructs the free passage of mind, it is called klipah. In this sense, the difference between the lights and vessels of the worlds and the klipot becomes hazy. Klipot represent a function, not a domain in itself. In the view of this style of gnostic contemplation, when any phenomena obscures and obstructs gnosis it should be treated as klipah. In this manner the imperative for continual breakthrough is clear, and is reinforced in each encounter.
Beyond the question of existence and non-existence is a vivid living dream in which phenomena is free to be fluid, wild, and erratic. This includes both so-called ‘good’ and ‘evil’ associations for conventional religious doctrines. This can be a tremendous sidetrack for a contemplator who might have no interest in religion. Occultists are sidetracked in another way; by the silly dark glamour of the power of the klipot. Both the adolescent mage and the fretful religionist share the habit of reifying phenomena. The solution to both is a shift in view.Continually holding to primordial purity mitigates the rigid sense of reality, but not its vividness. Through the aspect of the vividness of its ever-changing continuum, primordial sparks can break through the superficiality of their mundane shells. Holding the gnostic view can dissolve these prison cells, and ultimately break its momentum free to join into one’s practice. Facing the klipot, like facing any kind of phenomena, is pure spiritual practice. Its strength and disposition is shaped in each moment, and in turn, shapes the meaning of our life.
The klipot are thickened echoes of the primordial tzimtzum which opacify and uphold the structure of the worlds. In this sense they perform a viable function. However the mystic is not satisfied abiding within limiting structures. The goal of mysticism is realization of the inherent essentiality of phenomena, which is En Sof. This can only be approached by an aspiration to penetrate the shells of every world. This aspiration should not be confused with ordinary goals, which point to a destination at the end of a linear path. This is inherent in every aspect phenomena. It is a disposition of continual breakthrough, always penetrating deeper and further, without end. What the mystic ultimately realizes is that this process never reaches anywhere. In the endless reaching the accomplishment is clear, inherent in the gnostic view and its practice.
Each klipah forces perception to a capacity, and then blocks further expansion past that point. Dissolving successive klipot is the basis of spiritual work. Each step introduces a set reflexes which shape the manner in which the universe appears, both in its inner and outer aspects. The general perception and understanding of what the universe and its laws are is a byproduct of the collective habit field of the klipot of the human realm.
This is elaborated upon by the individual klipot which are specific to each human mind. As well, both the collective and individual contexts have their respective inner and outer aspects. This complex network of klipot constitutes the general realm we share, and also keeps the world appearing differently to each human being. Each micro-klipah opens an incremental vista of primordial expanse. As breakthroughs dawn, former obstacles reveal treasures which ornament space with unfolding variation, each bit at a time.
David Chaim Smith (b.1964) is an artist, contemplative practitioner and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. He was educated locally and attended Rhode Island School of Design where he gained a BFA in drawing. In 1989 he graduated from Columbia University with his Masters.
In his long engagement with contemplative work he has found new methodologies, most notably those for approaching a non-dual perspective via a Gnostic-tantra praxis. Since 1998 he has continued this work through the language of Chassidic mysticism and traditional Hebrew Kabbalah through the devotional approach of Breslov.
In 1999 David encountered The Fountain of Wisdom, a text that has survived as a 13th century manuscript in the Vatican Library. He worked with the text for many years, drawing from his experiences as an ecstatic visionary artist. In 2004 he made a breakthrough in interpretation with the development of ‘graphic maps,’ and within a few years had reached a degree of fluency that allowed him to transfer their syntax and visual vocabulary to works of art.
His series of drawings such as Machinery of the Apparitional Playground (2007-2008), Blood of Space (2008-2009) and The Sacrificial Universe (2009 to date) are numinous examples of his progress. As a writer and artist whose creative engine is fuelled by a devotional approach to ecstatic visionary mysticism, a unique dimension of David’s work stems from aspects of ideational contemplation considered as a mystical path.
Smith’s most recent work The Blazing Dew of Stars is currently available in a strictly limited edition from Fulgur Limited (Click Here for details)