The Qliphoth/Qelippot or Kelipot (Heb. קליפות) – literally “Peels”, “Shells” or “Husks”, from singular: קליפה Qliphah/Kelipah “Husk”) – are the representation of evil or impure spiritual forces in Jewish mysticism. The realm of evil is also termed ‘Sitra Achra/Ahra’ (Aramaic סטרא אחרא, the “Other Side” opposite holiness) in Kabbalah texts.
In the Kabbalah, the Kelipot are metaphorical “shells” surrounding holiness. They are spiritual obstacles receiving their existence from God only in an external, rather than internal manner. Divinity in Judaism connotes revelation of God’s true unity, while the shells conceal holiness, as a peel conceals the fruit within.
They are therefore synonymous with idolatry, the root of impurity through ascribing false dualism in the Divine, and with the Sitra Achra (סטרא אחרא “Other Side”), the perceived realm opposite to holiness. They emerge in the descending Seder hishtalshelus (Chain of Being) through Tzimtzum (contraction of the Divine Ohr), as part of the purpose of Creation. In this they also have beneficial properties, as peel protects the fruit, restraining the Divine flow from being dissipated. Kabbalah distinguishes between two realms in Kelipot, the completely impure and the intermediate.
Their four “concentric” terms are derived from Ezekiel’s vision (1:4), “And I looked and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it…” The “Three Impure Kelipot” (completely Tamei “impure”) are read in the first three terms, the intermediate “Shining Kelipah” (Nogah “brightness”) is read in the fourth term, mediating as the first covering directly surrounding holiness, and capable of sublimation.
In Medieval Kabbalah, the Shechinah is separated in Creation from the Sephirot by man’s sin, while in Lurianic Kabbalah Divinity is exiled in the Kelipot from prior initial Catastrophe in Creation. This causes “Sparks of Holiness” to be exiled in the Kelipot shells, Jewish Observance with physical objects redeeming mundane Nogah, while the Three Completely Impure Kelipot are elevated indirectly through Negative prohibitions. Repentance out of Love retrospectively turns sin into virtue, darkness into light. When all the sparks are freed from the Kelipot, depriving them of their vitality, the Messianic era begins.
In Hasidic thought, the kabbalistic scheme of Kelipot is internalised in psychological experience as self-focus, opposite to holy Deveikut self-nullification, underlying its Panentheistic Monistic view of Kelipot as the illusionary self-awareness of Creation.
Hermetic magical views
In some non-Jewish Hermetic Qabalah, contact is sought with the Qliphoth unlike in the ethical–mystical Jewish prohibition, as part of its process of human self-knowledge. In contrast, the theurgic Jewish Practical Kabbalah was understood by its practitioners as similar to White magic, accessing only holiness, while the danger in such venture of mixing impure Magic ensured it remained a minor and restricted practice in Jewish history.
Christian Knorr von Rosenroth’s Latin Kabbala denudata (1684) (translated The Kabbalah Unveiled by MacGregor Mathers) equates these forces with the Kings of Edom and also offers the suggestion they are the result of an imbalance towards Gedulah, the Pillar of Mercy or the merciful aspect of God, and have since been destroyed.
In subsequent Hermetic teachings, the Qliphoth have tended, much like the sephiroth, to be interpreted as mystical worlds or entities, and merged with ideas derived from demonology.
In addition to this, there are also The Seven Infernal Habitations or seven hells (Tehom, Abaddon, Titahion, Barshacheth, Tzelmoth, Shaarimoth and Gehinnom), twelve Qliphotic orders of demons, three powers before Satan and twenty-two demons which correspond to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Crowley, Regardie, and Heidrick
According to Aleister Crowley, the three evil forms (before Samael), are said to be Qemetial, Belial, and Othiel.
According to Israel Regardie, the “qlipothic tree” consists of 10 spheres in opposition to the sephiroth on the Tree of Life. These are also referred to as the “evil twins”. They are also the “Evil Demons of Matter and the Shells of the Dead”.
Bill Heidrick gives his own interpretation on the adverse tree, saying that the spellings are “mostly reconstructions with alternatives. Nonetheless, it is believed that the majority of the above are at least suitable if not perfect”. He also goes on to say that “These names are sometimes called the ‘adverse Sephiroth’ instead of the Demonic Orders. A.E. Waite makes this later point in his Holy Kabbalah, page 256.”
The following comes from the Notes on the Demonic Orders (Adverse Sephiroth) in Magical Correspondences by Bill Heidrick.
Thamiel: Duality in God
“Thamiel represents duality whereas Kether represents unity. Thus Thamiel is the division of that which is perfect only in unity. As a demonic order name, the Thamiel were before their ‘revolt’. This signifies ‘Perfection of God’. These angels sought to become more powerful by adding an Aleph to their name. They then became the ‘Duality of God,’ an order of the lesser demons. In the lowest state of their ‘fall’, they become ‘the Polluted of God.’ The cortex or outer form of the Thamiel is called Cathariel, ‘the Broken’ or ‘Fearful Light of God’.”
Satan: Adversary and King
To Thamiel, “there are two demons that are attributed to stress the view that the demonic opposite of Kether is duality instead of unity and are Satan and Moloch or Malech”.
Chaigidel: Confusion of the Power of God
“These are the confusion of that great power which, as Chokmah, goes forth at the beginning to give the vital energy of creation to the processes of Binah. The cortex of the Chaigidel is called Ghogiel, ‘Those Who Go Forth into the Place Empty of God’.”
Beelzebub: Lord of the Flies
Adam Belial: Wicker Man
To Chaigidel, “both Satan and Beelzebub are attributed as well as Adam Belial. The name Belial is often used separately as a demonic name.”
Sathariel: Concealment of God
“Even as Binah is the great revealing one who bestows the structure of the Absolute onto the created, its opposite, the Sathariel, conceal the nature of The Perfect. The cortex or outer form of the Sathariel is called the order of Sheireil, ‘The Hairy Ones of God’.”
Lucifuge: One Who Flees Light
To Sathariel, Lucifuge “is attributed and is probably a name made up to replace the name Lucifer, ‘Light Bearer’”.
“Chesed is the source of bounty both in idea and in substance to the lower forms. Gamchicoth is the order of ‘Devourers’ who seek to waste the substance and thought of creation. The outer form is the order of Azariel, ‘The Binding Ones of God’.”
Astaroth: from the Flood
To Gamchicoth, “Astaroth is attributed. This is the name of the goddess Astarte, the Ishtar of the Babylonians and perhaps also the Isis of the Egyptians”.
Golachab: Burning Bodies
“Geburah is a going forth in power to rule in strength. The order of Golab is composed of those who burn to do destruction — even on themselves. The outer form is Usiel, ‘The Ruins of God’.”
Asmodeus: The Destroying God
To Golachab, Asmodeus is attributed. “This name is half Hebrew and half Latin. Asmodeus is often mentioned in the literature of demonology. The name can also be translated as ‘The one adorned with fire’.”
Thagirion(n): Those Who Bellow Grief and Tears
“Tiphereth is the place of great beauty and rejoicing. The Thagirion build ugliness and groan about it. The cortex of the Thagirion is called Zomiel, ‘The Revolt of God’.”
Belphegor: Lord of the Dead
To Thagirion, “the replacement of Tiphereth, the sphere of the vitalizing Sun, with a place holding Belphegor, the lord of dead, is most striking”.
Harab Serapel: Ravens of the Burning of God
“Netzach is the openness of natural love. The Harab Serapel are the Ravens of Death who reject even their own. The outer form is Theumiel, ‘The Fouled Substance of God’”.
Baal: Lord and Tubal Cain: Maker of Sharp Weapons
To Harab Serapel, “Baal is attributed, and is “a word which means Lord, much as Adonai means Lord. The word Baal or ‘Bel’ has become restricted in its usage to signify a ‘Lord of Darkness’.” Also attributed is Tubal Cain.
Samael: The Desolation of God, or The Left Hand
“Hod is the complex working of the will of the Absolute. Samael represents the barren desolation of a fallen and failed creation. The outer form is Theuniel, ‘The filthy Wailing Ones of God’.”
Adrammelech: Powerful King
To Samael, Adrammelech is attributed. “This name is found in Fourth Kings: XVII, 29-31: ‘ And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.”
Gamaliel: Polluted of God
“Yesod is the place of the final forms that become matter in Malkuth. The Gamaliel are the Misshapen and polluted images that produce vile results. The outer form is the order of Ogiel, ‘those Who Flee from God’.”
Lilith: Night Specter
To Gamaliel, Lilith is attributed and “is the grand lady of all demons. The demons are sometimes considered to be the children of Lilith and is said to be the woman who comes to men in their dreams.”
Nehemoth: Whisperers (or Night Specter)
“These are responsible for frightening sounds in strange places. They excite the mind and cause strange desires.” This corresponds with Malkuth as well.
To Nehemoth, Nehema is attributed, “and is traditionally a demon and the sister of Lilith, possibly a remembrance of the Egyptian Nephthys and Isis. It is conceivable that Nehema is the same as Naamah, the sister of Tubal Cain.”