Interest in the Tree of Life—an esoteric glyph, drawn from the Jewish Kabbalistic philosophy—has grown significantly over recent decades. As a universal map of spiritual consciousness, it can be found in connection with a large number of differing spiritual traditions. However, most of them describe the Tree of Life in fairly traditional esoteric terms. Unknown to many, and in juxtaposition to this, there also exists what many refer to as a ‘Dark Side’ to the Tree. It is a place that few people are openly prepared to explore.
Kenneth Grant is one of the few magickians to work with the back side of the Tree. It is with reference to Grant’s research in Nightside of Eden, as well as Aleister Crowley’s Liber 231, that Jan Fries describes his explorations for the Nightside of the Tree.
Nightshades opens with an extensive introduction by Mogg Morgan of Mandrake publishing. In it, Morgan introduces the history and significance of Liber 231 and explains the Oxford Golden Dawn’s approach to 22 diagrammatic sigils within Liber 321. He also mentions the entities that are said to inhabit the tunnels (a term used to describe the paths that exist at the rear of the Tree).
Jan Fries then takes the helm. He begins by describing the core structure and meaning of the Tree along with its ten sephiroth and traditional pathways.
He then exposes his reader to the coarse and chaotic world of the Nightside. Fries likens it to the repressed state of Freudian psychoanalysis, somewhere comprised of both the wonderful and the terrifying.
Fries compares the powers that inhabit the tunnels to the appearance of the Great Ones in H P Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
He analyses the most powerful energy signatures in terms of the most significant emotional human experiences and expressions, such as love, lust, desire, the ego, hunger, music and addiction. These he describes as energy clusters of varying shapes and form.
Fries talks a little about his journey into the Nightside that began in 1982, following an introduction to his Higher Guardian Angel.
During the months following his experience, he entered the Darkside of the Tree whilst in a deep hypnotic trance. From his resulting visions, he created a series of drawings to illustrate his experiences. These proved to be a psychological challenge in themselves.
The final part of the book then showcases Fries’ artwork with 72 illustrations of each one of the elemental energies found inside the tunnels along with its own unique title.
Anyone who is the slightest bit uncomfortable with the cozy, rose-tinted and often insipid world of modern magickal practice will find in Nightshades a book of resplendent darkness.
As a commentary on the Kabbalah, as well as an illustrative manual on the spirits that reside within the ‘Tunnels of Set’, this book is darkly resonant and a richly rewarding read.
Old, hackneyed interpretations of our magickal meta sphere have no place in the pages of this remarkable treatise on the Nightside. Whilst referencing and acknowledging the important contributions to the subject from Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Grant and H P Lovecraft, this is an important occult tome in the truest sense of the word.
As for the accompanying illustrations?
They are every bit as engaging as the text. Being a large format book, the additional page sizes make them particularly impressive. Their accompanying commentary is not just informative. It is written with such passion and degrees of shading that it flows through your consciousness in a wholly transformative way.
Nightshades is a triumph in contemporary occult literature.