Exploring the Tunnels of Set

by May 12, 20147 comments

Tunnels of Set in Nightside of Eden

I first came across the Tunnels of Set soon after I became Punditt Maharaj’s student, when I would have these weird dreams where I had to go down strange tunnels that would twist and turn in all directions. On the way, I would meet various spirits, who would take me to other places. Sometimes the tunnels would get impossibly narrow or vertiginous, but I had to continue – these are dreams after all. I never did get to discuss the Punditt.

The Tunnels of Set

The tunnels in Kenneth Grant’s books, named the Tunnels of Set. He discovered them after realising that if the Tree of Life is not a flat two-dimensional system, then the pathways have depth. Furthermore, he was particularly interested in the Other Side of the Tree:

The Tunnels of Set: “a network of dream cells in the subconscious mind,” reached by projecting consciousness through Daäth, “the gateway of the manifestation of non-manifestation”
Kenneth Grant, Nightside of Eden

In Kenneth Grant’s vision, these tunnels are truly nightmarish. In each tunnel is a guardian spirit related to a Major arcana of the Tarot, which he equated to the spirits of Liber 231. The whole system becomes qlipphothic, and Grant sees them as necessary to master the Dark Side, as he calls it.

The Desert of Set

Grant also discusses the Desert of Set, which is associated with the Order of the Silver Star, which is Isis. He also mentions that the singular of qlipphot, is qlipha, an old or strange woman. Grant further invokes another feminine aspect associated with the tunnels, the Goddess Maat with her Warrior Priests. The pure, virginal facet is emphasized when one remembers the design of the Princess of Disks in the Book of Thoth, where she is shown amidst many roots or tunnels. We shall come back to this theme.

My own experience with the Spirits of Liber 231 is found in my book, The Tarot and the Magus, where all these spirits appeared to me, but that was also at a point where my doubts about the truth of the Tree of Life were materialising. The reality and creativity of Tarot, however, strengthened as I turned away from the Tree. If the Tree is not the theoretical base of the Tarot, what is? I am still working on that conundrum. In the meantime, I need to bring in one extra dimension to the subject of tunnels. In shamanism, there is a healing technique for clearing out the tunnel of reality we all have as people. Entering the tunnel, the shaman would find loads of vegetation and mud or dirt that have to be removed. This technique was my favourite some years ago, but I had forgotten about it.

What do we have so far? The Tunnels exist – I had found them before I discovered Kenneth Grant’s books. Both Grant and I have explored the Spirits of Liber 231, but we have come to somewhat different conclusions about where they are located, since all of them appeared to me when I was writing my book. What we do agree on is that they are the ruling spirits of the Major Arcana, but then our ways leave. The Qlippoth is entirely a product of the dualistic thinking that is the basis of the Tree of Life when it is realised that there are two sides to it.  It might be slightly tangential, but Grant also mentions the feminine aspect, which evokes the concept of Justice (Maat), the warrior-priests, and I am reminded of the design of the Princess of Disks which has many tunnel-like roots in a forest of trees.

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  1. Frank Monday

    Recently, I began a study of the Tree of Life. I found these tunnels in my dreams… This is the first I have heard of it… I was starting in Malkuth and trying to go up, but first I was pulled downward into the earth. I assumed it was Shoal, land of the dead. I’ll give a more detailed report later. How fascinating!

    • gldaa

      Descent into the Earth is the correct way to go

      • Frank Monday

        I thought the way to go was up the tree and into the heavenly realms. While I was down there I experienced the darkness of humanity. My own works were good and I met an interesting character in one of the many chambers, but my dreams during that journey were most disturbing… Can you explain a little what you mean?

        • gldaa

          you are going the very long way round. Just descend into the earth

  2. Teresa A

    The Tree of Life is NOT the basis for the Tarot. Why would it be? It only seems likely because AEW obsessed over assigning cards to the paths of the TOL, and tweaked the images to make that work better.

    So what is? The complex evolution of people playing card and oracle games + Alchemy Imagery + Polytheistic Archetypes + Images of the Decans.

    Across the earliest Tarot Decks (see http://trionfi.com/i/ and http://a.trionfi.eu/WWPCM/ ) you will find an often amusing variety in the Arcana and that some pips incorporated decorative animals and flowers before adopting modified Sola-Busca images. Some striking examples are:
    A brother beats his brother to death on the Sun card.
    Death carries a very tall crossbow, but no scythe.
    Death harvests in a wheat field.
    The Tower is unassailed.
    Diana hunts with her dog under the Moon.
    Arcane 14 is simply a ship, sailing away.
    The hung man is hung and dead, hands bound.
    A fox balances on a set of scales over a porcupine.
    Atlas shoulders the World.
    On Lovers, Cupid aims at the dissident member of a couple being married.
    All the horses are white.

    They are hard to mass download, so email me if you want some image sets of old tarot cards.

    • Paul Hughes-Barlow

      I agree, but unfortunately the world and his dog believes that the Tree of Life is the basis. The Tree of Life cripples the tarot.

  3. Teresa A

    When reactionary reformed christians practice demon worship, everything is a nightmare.

    I have been working the Tunnels (not with Grant’s rites), and the Qliphoth, and the Planetary Spheres. I do not have nightmares. I have interesting dreams. And more energy.

    I had issues with working the Qliphoth because I do not see the Tree of Life as a valid thing or system (and I also think the whole emphasis on sinister is misplaced and just reactionary), but Samael (of the Black Sun) advised me that working the Qliphoth and Tunnels would be advantageous for me, regardless of them not being quite correct. The spirits are forgiving that way.

    I was also advised that working the tunnels along with the Qliphoth is better than not, because they are the connections of the shells. Integration of the Qliphothic energies is easier when they are energetically linked by tunnel workings.


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