Beneath the Panels #3: Nameless and the Tree of Life

Nameless02Way I see it, everything’s been fucked up since 2001 anyway. Since the towers came down – since the pylons fell on Trump 18 and Malkuth was gathered up into Yesod.”

This direct reference to the Qabalah is where I left off at the end of my previous entry into Beneath the Panels, my attempt to catalogue the Occult correspondences Grant Morrison has built into the “code” beneath the surface of his new comic Nameless. And Qabalah is an area I am considerably more familiar with than last week’s foray into the staggering subject of Enochian Magick – although researching that particular arm of ceremonial Magick really rekindled something in me. But before we jump into a new area of study I wanted to drop a link to the Donald Tyson essay I referenced at such great length last week. As you will recall, I am familiar with Tyson’s The Enochian Apocalypse by way of its inclusion in the Richard Metzger edited The Book Of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to the Occult, however in searching the internet for an online version of the article to pass along to a friend I happened upon it in its entirety here. This is DEFINITELY worth a read, however I’ll warn you, after reading it again for the first time in twelve or so years I’ve found myself unable to stop thinking about it since, as the implications Tyson suggests are both poignant to our modern era and chilling. That said, Tyson really lays out a theory for the age we live in.

Now, let’s get into some Qabalah, shall we?

Right off the bat I feel as though I should establish a distinction; the Qabalah we’re going to deal with here shares some of the same DNA as the one that has come to serve as something of a substitute for Scientology among Hollywood-types, however it is definitely not the same thing. Qabalah, as I’ve chosen to spell it in an effort of distinction, is an ancient symbol/philosophical system that, according to some, dates back to Ancient Egypt and the god Thoth but which is most often associated with ancient Hebrew mysticism.

As one version of the story goes, the ibis-headed god Thoth is said to have given humanity the knowledge of science, religion, philosophy and magic. Thoth distilled his vast knowledge into what was later recorded and named the Book of Thoth. This book was found to be a kindred spirit to that of the ancient Hebrew practice of Kabbalah – the generally accepted spelling in Hebrew study – and was eventually woven into the Tarot by nineteenth century French Magician Eliphas Levi. This was primarily accomplished by juxtaposing the twenty-one Trumps of the Major Arcana of the Tarot with the twenty-one paths on the Qabalahistc Tree of Life and the Minor Arcana – Aces through Tens – with the ten Sephiroth of the Qabalah, Sephiroth being representations of the distinct levels of existence. The end result looks a little something like this:



Today this practice of marrying the Tarot and the Qabalah are common place in Western Magickal tradition, popularized by The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. This is most definitely what Morrison is referencing with the quotation I began this essay with. Knowing this let’s go back and dissect that quote to see if we can figure out what Nameless is saying with that fairly cryptic remark.

The towers fell on Trump 18” – the 18th Trump of the Major Arcana in the Tarot is The Moon. While in fairly standard practice the Tarot the Moon can designate Occult influence/something hidden, here because of the images before us we are perhaps better served looking at Crowley’s definition of Trump XVIII in The Book of Thoth, which plays nicely into Burnham’s visuals:

Nameless01_Page7 Nameless-001-2015-Digital-Mephisto-Empire.cbr-Page-9-660x639

The Eighteenth Trump is attributed to the letter Qoph, which represents Pisces in the Zodiac. It is called the Moon. Pisces is the last of the Signs; it represents the last stage of winter. It might be called the Gateway of Resurrection (the letter Qoph means the back of the head, and is connected with the potencies of the cerebellum).

So there’s a lot that Crowley says in there that would appear to directly inform Nameless #1 so far. We have the 18th Trump and Pisces directly in front of us on page 7, and we also have the idea of this particular Trump being called “The Gateway of Resurrection”, which seems as though it could be where Morrison mutated the Gate of Az, mentioned later in the book just before Nameless goes where?

The Moon.7290

Let’s go back to The Book of Thoth for a moment and analyze a little more of Crowley’s definition for Trump #18:

The Moon, partaking as she does of the highest and the lowest, and filling all the space between, is the most universal of the Planets. In her higher aspect, she occupies the place of the Link between the human and the divine, as shown in Atu* II. In this Trump, her lowest avatar, she joins the earthy sphere of Netzach with Malkuth, the culmination in matter of all superior forms. This is the waning moon, the moon of witchcraft and abominable deeds. She is the poisoned darkness which is the condition of the rebirth of light.

This definitely feels like the soil from which Morrison grew the opening to this issue. “Witchcraft and abominable deeds” fits in nicely with the outbreak of atrocities that Nameless catches us up on in his narration for page one, and “… the poisoned darkness which is the condition of rebirth of light.” sounds as though it might be what the Billionaut Paul Darius is trying to sell Nameless on joining him for – to stop the encroaching apocalypse and give humanity a re-birth. I’m reading into the actual dialogue here, but I think I’ve shown there’s good reason to.

As long as I’ve gotten around to Paul Darius and the Billionauts this is a good place for a quick tangent. In this week’s edition of the other regular column I write here on Joup, Thee Comic Column, I talk about how writing these columns on Nameless has spurred me to begin re-reading Alan Moore and JH Williams III’s Promethea as a kind of crash-course re-introduction to Occult study, a passion of mine that has been on standby for nearly ten years. And in discussing Alan Moore – who it seems harbors an irrational hatred of Morrison – I make the point that one of the things that defines Moore’s majestic career in comics is his ability to find new takes on the concept of the superhero, often tying their abilities into high concepts such as scientific study, the environment and Magick instead of the generally practiced X-gene/radiation sort of cause for powers we’ve seen in the more iconic, franchise characters of the Big Two. It occurs to me then, with that interpretation of Moore’s work, that what Morrison is doing here is tying the Heroes of Nameless – the men and women who contact Nameless on behalf of saving the planet – with a completely new kind of “Power” behind their heroic stature.

Wealth. Hence Billionauts.

Are we on the verge of seeing Morrison present us a kind-of JLA/Avengers team comprised of billionaires? I’m thinking we are. But let’s get back to The Kingdom…

Malkuth gathered up into Yesod.” Okay, after feeling as though I had an understanding of this idea from trumpsontreethe moment I first read it, I quickly began to feel confused once I integrated the Trump 18 information above, which came to me later. Because if you refer back to the Tree of Life you see that Trump 18 acts as a path from Malkuth to Netzach, not Yesod.

“Since the towers came down–since the pylons fell on Trump 18 and Malkuth gathered up into Yesod” definitely sounds as though it’s one event, however the actual path between the two lowest sephiroth is not Trump 18 but Trump 21, The Universe. What’s even more confusing is as you read about The Universe and the transition it enables from the material realm of Malkuth to the first of the spiritual realms Yesod, you see that Yesod is associated with the moon, as the moon governs dreams and the unconscious.

From The Watkins Dictionary of Magic:

In western magic, Yesod is associated with the moon and the element water…On the Tree of Life, Yesod has the function of channeling the energies of the higher planes down to the earth below (Malkuth). Occultists associated Yesod with the astral plane because if the sephiroth above Malkuth are collectively regarded as a map of the unconscious psyche, Yesod is the most accessible area of the mind.

So, what the hell is Nameless talking about?

Well, we still have five issues to get there but my take at this point is that the pylons falling on Trump 18 means that particular path up into the higher realms has been shattered, or at the very least blocked to us. Remember Trump 18 is the path from Malkuth to Netzach. Netzach, according to Watkins:

“Netzach…regarded as the sphere of creativity, subjectivity and the emotions…Netzach is the sphere of love and spiritual passion…“.

So in Nameless’s world, which I’m betting is a direct stand-in for our own, because of the Enochian language bandied about in this first issue it definitely feels as though maybe Crowley and Neuberg did pry open the Watchtowers and allow something malevolent in (see last week’s column). And given the aforementioned atrocities Nameless describes – or any given news day in our world – the argument could be made that those forces took root inside the minds of humanity and the resulting violence and insanity – coupled with the way in which that insanity can be broadcast everywhere instantly – has created a kind of hyperreality that is considerably more pliable than it has ever been. In his essay “The Precession of the Simulacra” French philosopher Jean Baudrillard posits a America to be in a “panic-stricken attempt to shore up the real that has been eroded.”

And a pliable reality would indeed be one possible outcome of gathering Malkuth – the world, up into Yesod – the dream realm.

TTThe internet, constant information collection/dissemination, surveillance trump_16_thetowermonitoring, social media, photoshop – all of these things point to and promote reality tampering as a way of life. Look at the news, the dozens if not hundreds of different spins that get placed on one event. Certainly the reality we knew, the Kingdom that has defined our world during the modern era of humanity changed forever when the Towers fell. We had been building to this for some time; if Crowley started it in 1909 and WWI followed within five years then things got really out of hand with WWII, which is often spoken of by Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” as the beginning of something new for our human culture; a new kind of war, a new kind of evil. And much has been written about the countless amount of ‘psychic scarring’ that resulted from the terror beachhead of the third reich. If that is the case consider the scarring left behind after 9/11/2001, an event that was not only a major upset to a large amount of humanity’s modern worldview but was amplified exponentially in a way previous events of such a nature in other countries were not; by the all-pervasive, all-invasive media frenzy that had just become possible with the world wide consumer proliferation of the internet. So when The Kingdom traverses the path of Trump 21 up into Yesod, realm of the moon, things get weird, the world becomes dream-like and the everyday reality is no longer that at all. It’s two realities forcibly merged.

So did Nameless call? it. Is our world is no longer our world, it is our world shoved smack dab up the arse of another? That appears to be the case in the pages of this book, with the culmination of this event on the horizon as a giant meteor hurls toward earth and only a group of wealthy heroes and their newly added expert on the Occult have any idea how to stop it.

Or do they? I guess we will find out.

Okay, I think there’s just one more issue to tackle in this first issue, and that’s the furthest from my knowledge base so I’ll save it for its own piece: Xibalba: “Place of Fear”. Next week in Beneath the Panels.


* Atu is another word for Trump.

** I’d like to make the distinction that after much thought since Beneath the Panels #2, although the rituals Dee/Kelley were handed and Crowley/Neuberg performed are alternately known as The Enochian Keys and/or The Enochian Calls, from here out I will refer to them as Calls. My reasoning is simply the fact that “Keys” tends to, I think, evoke the idea of physical instruments, while Calls, by nature of the word’s associations in our vernacular, intimate spoken or enacted procedures.


NOTE: all images and any text accompanying them do not belong to me. Most herein are from the comic Nameless, published by Image Comics and created and owned by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham. I am reposting material found freely online via reputable (ie not torrent or other illegal download sites) journalistic/critical sources and using here only for my own analytical purposes.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

2 Responses to Beneath the Panels #3: Nameless and the Tree of Life
  1. Joyia Reply

    You are right, Yesod (“Foundation”)is associated with the moon.
    It is our ego, the most manifest emotionally receptive and thus suggestible “lunar” (=emotional) part of our being, in between our earthly (=physical) body (along with the rest of the material world), Malkuth (“Kingdom”), and our solar (=spiritual) “heart” & core Tiferet (“Beauty”).
    It (Yesod) is the window through which the inner dragon, by whatever name you chose to call it, whispers its deceptions (which come in all the forms of the hundred snake heads of medusa – fear, distrust, anger, resentment, lust, greed, envy, pride….) in hopes to keep us locked outside the garden, chained to our passionate ideas to fulfill the yearnings of our soul [- for our Qi from below (- life force, sex drive, impetus, impulse, animal instinct,… and Spirit-) to be re-uinited with the Qui from above (- Spirit of Love, compassion unity -)] with purely physical gratuities.

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