To understand this world, you must understand the underlying principles that govern it. Kabbalists call this Divine Law, and everything that exists does so according to Law. Social media is a good example. We post our thoughts and these are communicated to others who read them; in Kabbalah this is associated with Hod on the Tree of Life¹.
In understanding Hod, we can perceive more clearly the nature of social media. Like a game of tennis, Hod bats to and fro thoughts, ideas and messages. Even the exchange of money or goods is an expression of Hod. In the context of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any other, Hod is concerned with storage and transference of data. I type my blog, press publish and it is there for anyone to read.
So what is Hod not concerned with? Hod does not make moral judgements. It does not distinguish between ideas that are positive and constructive, and those that are negative and potentially dangerous. It is not from Hod that we make responsible decisions. This requires input from Tiferet, Gevurah and Hesed. Just as Hod is not concerned with judgement, Gevurah is not concerned with tradition or law. These require input from Binah. When the whole left-hand pillar is activated, Hod can act according to accepted, social morals. The right-hand pillar makes possible inspired and considerate action. Without these others, Hod publishes without discernment or discrimination.
Facebook, to take one example, has faced considerable criticism for facilitating all sorts of undesirable activity. Put this on the Tree and we can see why. Its founders were idealists, concerned with inventing a way to allow people to communicate quickly and widely using the internet as a medium, but without restriction. No great moral judgements were made, other than the ideals of bringing people together through the internet. Because the internet is so new, there were no immediate historical traditions that could guide its development. Nick Clegg, the UK politician and former UK Deputy Prime Minister, made exactly this observation only recently, suggesting that Facebook needs external authority (governments) to provide the rules by which it must function. The same is true of any social medium, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram etc…
There are rules and regulations for other forms of publishing, but even these have their limits. Newspaper journalism, especially, is not good at self-regulation. It is ruled by Hod (communication), functioning at the level of Yesod (ego, reflecting back today’s “news”) and requires a responsible individual, ideally an editor, functioning at Tiferet, to apply appropriate moral guidance. The lack of a traditional basis in law means that social media, which is so new and so exploratory, cannot regulate itself any more than a small child still acquiring boundaries.
The difference is that, now, having become so influential and powerful, Facebook must face the critical judgements of those who want it to take responsibility. But power is a dangerous thing, especially where there are no moral and legal controls to limit and regulate. Think of a child growing to adolescence, physically strong and keen to experiment with his/her newfound strength, the drives that come from Nezah, but without the boundaries of adult self-awareness. That’s where social media is right now.
There is an added problem, and that’s us. We buy into social media on an habitual basis, and most of what happens as a result of habit is governed by Yesod – ego and the ordinary mind – which rarely exercises discernment without external pressure. How easy is it to type a Tweet and press send without properly considering the implications of what we are typing? Donald Trump’s Tweets are a case in point, though I suspect he is far more aware of what he is doing than people give him credit for.
Hod bats ideas back and forth – I tweet, you reply; I click like, you click a happy emoti; we communicate in ways that have never before been possible. In so many ways it is wonderful, opening new opportunities and potential. But every word we speak, publish, or even think, has a consequence. Divine Law and Karma are not put on hold because we pressed enter before we meant to.
So far we have looked at the Hod of Yezirah, the psychological World of Forms, but now let’s shift this up a level, and consider how this resonates in the upper/inner Worlds.
Social Media has a global impact. The Hod of Beriah sits behind the Binah of Yezirah, which is concerned with Law and Tradition. Without Law, there is nothing to contain its growth or regulate its impact, and the result is potentially toxic, like a virus that destroys the body it inhabits. The flow of Spirit is blocked, and society becomes dysfunctional. What was once a wonderful idea, opening up worlds (and Worlds!) becomes a source of instability and suffering.
However social media, like most human inventions, is in itself neither good nor bad. How we use it determines its value. I am no politician, nor am I especially interested in politics. Living in a Democracy, I can vote in elections, but my real power as an individual and a teacher is how I use words. We each of us have a responsibility to regulate our actions, considering our words with care. When we Tweet or text or email, put a post on Facebook, or even a blog on wordpress, at a distance from our audience that might incline us to forget there is someone out there reading what we say, we have as much responsibility as when that person is standing in front of us. Our Karma for our actions is no less real, stored away in the side triads of Yezirah.
At the Hod of Beriah, the airy World of Spirit, is the Archangel Raphael, God’s Healer. The health of this world relies on the clean flow of Spirit at the transpersonal level. While day-to-day use of social media is very personal – sometimes too personal, consider the effect of online bullying on our children – the Hod of Beriah affects the collective. Raphael impersonally sweeps away that which is unhealthy. Divine Law is always at work, and we do well to remember that the Holy One observes our actions with interest!
¹See my page entitled “Introduction to Kabbalah” for an overview of the relationship between sefirot, and the bibliography page for further reading.