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Kabbalah and Manchester United

(For an introduction to the principles of Kabbalah please click here)

Everything in the universe reflects the Divine – this includes a football club just as much as a great cathedral built in the twelfth century.

To gain a better understanding of how a football club works we can place its various components on a diagram of the Tree of Life. We’ll use Manchester United as an example since it is an internationally known club with many famous incidents in its history.

Manchester United has its origins in 1878 when it was founded as Newton Heath LYR Football Club. On the evening of 24 April 1902, after becoming virtually bankrupt, it was rescued by four local businessmen and the name was changed to Manchester United

At that time the club played at Bank Street stadium but moved to Old Trafford eight years later in 1910 which has remained its home ever since. Known as the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford is one of the most prestigious football grounds in the world.

On the Tree of Life, Old Trafford belongs at Malkut,

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Manchester United set on the Tree of Life

the stage on which the dramas of football are played out, the physical platform where ball meets earth.

The outward definition of a football club is the team colours – many teams play in red or blue and Manchester United belong to the former group. Prior to the name change in 1902 Newton Heath played in a variety of colours but, since then, the Manchester United strip has consisted of red shirt, white shorts and black socks with only minor variations. They have gone by the nickname of the “Red Devils.”

Other major English teams playing in a predominantly red strip are distinguished from Manchester United by some particular feature such as the white sleeves of the Arsenal shirt or the all red strip of Liverpool. Thus we have a clear image for the club and these colours are replicated on all merchandise.

For a match to be played there need to be players and these are placed at Netzach on the Tree of Life. This is the sefirah where a cycle is initiated and, by virtue of its pathway to Malkut, where action takes place through matches on the pitch.

The action triad of Malkut-Netzach-Yesod contains the matches which are played on the Theatre of Dreams (Malkut) by players (Netzach) in their strip or uniform (Yesod).

Manchester United – or any other professional team – is part of a business. In order for the business to succeed supporters are needed as a source of revenue and to adopt the image of their club. Football (and other sports) is military warfare – soldiers wear their uniforms as Manchester United wear their red shirts and white shorts with the objective of obtaining victory over their opponents.

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Marcus Rashford of Manchester United wearing the familiar red shirt, white shorts and black socks.

Supporters are dependent on the cycle of action having been initiated at Netzach since they are placed at Hod on the Tree of Life. One aspect of this placement is that some supporters will have all the facts and figures about their team’s performance and the history of the club at their fingertips.

These are contained within the thinking triad of Hod-Yesod-Malkut. No action takes place here but the supporters concerned will seek to prove their own team’s superiority (Yesod corresponds to the ego when the psyche is laid on the Tree) over everyone else.

The supporters (Hod) physically present at the games (Malkut) or virtually through television will often identify with the team by wearing hats, scarves, shirts or other accessories in the club colours (Yesod).Other supporters may be less concerned with statistics (thinking triad) and more pre-occupied with the various songs and chants which are sung at matches.

This corresponds to the feeling triad of Hod-Yesod-Netzach and the connection between Hod and Netzach is exemplified by the way in which songs are adopted about particular players or how the players’ names are chanted either in adulation or derision.

Chants and songs may be specific to the player (Netzach) or the club overall (Yesod). Through the use of these songs and chants a particular atmosphere is created. While visiting teams may be daunted by the size and grandeur of Old Trafford they may experience different feelings at other grounds.

Millwall, for example, long had a bad reputation for violence and abuse while the atmosphere at Liverpool has been felt to be particularly daunting to visiting teams and supporters.

Four different levels of the Tree of Life diagram correspond to four different worlds and from Malkut to the Hod-Netzach line is the equivalent of Assiyah, the physical world of action where crowds gather on the Kop to sing the club anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

The puppet master to whom the players must answer is the manager who resides in the awakening triad of Tiferet-Netzach-Hod. It is he who is the visible face of authority at the highest triad of the lower – visible – face of the Tree. Besides maintaining control of the players at Netzach (with help from his coaching staff) he must also retain the confidence of the supporters at Hod.

A manager can be forced out of his job by pressure on the Board of Directors from supporters after a poor run of results just as much as he can for any other reason originating directly from the Board.

At the time of writing (2020), the manager at Manchester United is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the fourth attempt in five years to find a successful replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson under whom the club thrived for 27 years.

To the outsider it may appear that Solskjaer – or any other manager – is the man in charge but this is only true to a certain level. He is a manager, not a director and it is hard to think of another commercial setting where a mere manager – however highly paid – would be mistaken for the Boss.

Manchester United is run, like the majority of

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In 1968 Manchester United became the first English club to win the European Cup.

businesses, by a Board of Directors mostly comprising members of the Glazer family who have effectively owned it since 2005. In the case of Manchester United there are actually two people acting as co-chairmen, Joel and Avram Glazer, which can have the effect of complicating decision making.

Within that grouping of the Board there will be voices for expansion corresponding to Hesed and voices for restraint corresponding to Gevurah. It is the function of the chairman to steer a detached path between these dissonant voices and this detachment corresponds to the position of Tiferet on the Tree of Life – the buck stops here.

Much of the decision making process remains hidden from public view at Old Trafford as is the case in many businesses, Tiferet being the highest point of the visible lower face of the Tree and the lowest point of the invisible upper face of the Tree.

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The wreckage of the aeroplane which crashed at Munich killing 23 people including eight players known as the Busby Babes - manager Matt Busby survived the crash.

The level from the Netzach-Hod path to the Hesed-Gevurah path is the level of the unconscious or the psychological world of Yetzirah which inlcudes the emotional side triads of the club. These are both pleasurable (Hesed-Netzach-Tiferet) and painful (Gevurah-Hod-Tiferet).

Examples of the former would include the successes in 1968 when Manchester United were the first English club to become European Champions and 1999 when they won three trophies inlcuding the European Champions League.

The most painful memory, even 60 years later, probably remains the air crash at Munich in 1958 when 23 people died

including eight players and three members of the coaching staff.

The area between the path from Hesed to Gevurah to the path from Hokhmah to Binah is the transpersonal level. The events here are no longer about who occupies the temporary position of manager or chariman or the emotional memories which, by definition, are energised by individuals.

On the passive side of the Tree lies the triad Binah-Gevurah-Hesed which deals with legal matters such as the constitution of the business (or club). The public meeting in 1902 which rescued Newton Heath from bankruptcy and changed the name to Manchester United is an example of this - it had conseuqnces which are still felt nearly 120 years later.

The complement of this triad on the active side of the Tree is Hokhmah-Hesed-Tiferet which is where Development occurs. New  ideas are brought in from time to time such as sponsorship deals, a women’s team (after much resistance) and the founding of the Manchester United Foundation which seeks to use football as a means of improving life in local schools.

Hokhmah and Binah work together. The single evening when the name of the club was changed is typical of the sudden changes which Hokhmah can bring about as the innovator while the long term effects are stabilised and played out through the agency of Binah which establishes a tradition.

The great triad of the spirit formed by Hokhmah, Binah and Tiferet allows moments of grace to flow from heaven towards the earthly entity and at the centre of this is the non-sefirah of Da’at which brings through the spirit of the club. The nature of this spirit will clearly be different for each club.

Just as the ground at Millwall (aptly named The Den – an updated version replacing the original version in 1993) has different characteristics from Old Trafford so the unique spirit of Manchester United has been formed over more than 120 years through its triumphs and failures, triumphs and tragedies and the passions of its supporters both living and dead.

Everybody ever involved with the club will have contributed some small piece to the jigsaw of its present reality. Even when the physical entity is eventually wound up or closed down – hard as that may be to imagine - the intangible essence will remain within the Divine world of Atzilut from where the Presence watches this aspect of Itself. On the diagram of the Tree of Life Atzilut is contained within the top triad formed by Keter, Hokhmah and Binah.

Using the Tree of Life in the context of this business known as Manchester United the activities and state of the club can be observed from time to time and imbalances which are seen can be removed to regain a stable entity.

There may, for example, be times when the team plays badly and so the right hand side of the Tree where the action triad sits becomes weakened. The tendency at this time might be for fans to become disillusioned and either not attend matches or become abusive to players when they do.

In order to bring the Tree back into balance exactly the opposite is needed – strength and enthusiasm from the

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Sir Alex Ferguson, the tough Glaswegian manager under whom Manchester United enjoyed a prolonged run of success from 1986 to 2013.

supporters in the lowest passive triad will help to re-energise the team.

Conversely, when the team plays well everybody inevitably gets behind them and a bubble is built in which, in extreme cases, an illusion is created that the team is invincible. The seasoned observer will know that this is not the case. Manchester United’s era of success which started in the 1990’s came on the heels of 28 years without winning the domestic championship and Liverpool’s domination of English football came to an end as Manchester United’s star began to rise again. “Don’t get carried away” is a good maxim in these times of excitement.

Within every success is the seed of failure and vice versa – it was Sir Alex Ferguson who commented that winning the League was the easy part but defending the title the following year was much harder.

Keeping the Tree in balance requires constant vigilance and it is the role of the chairman to keep the balance between the various levels. When Board Room squabbles spill onto the front pages of the newspapers then attention inside and outside the club is easily focussed on this rather than on the playing field.

On the other hand, problems or success on the pitch which engage everybody’s mind to the exclusion of all else may mean that decisions at Board level are taken with the short term rather than the long term in mind.

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Manchester United set on the Tree of Life with the planetary correspondences to each of the Sefirot.

All clubs and businesses, like human beings, have a moment of birth – or at least a moment which radically defines its existence and astrology, which is one aspect of Kabbalah, can be used to great effect in this context.

An astrological chart drawn for this moment will provide the basic characteristics of the entity and of its strengths and weaknesses.

On the evening of 24 April 1902 when the name Manchester United was adopted the Sun was in the sign of Taurus while the Moon was in the sign of Scorpio – both signs indicate durability.

A Lunar Eclipse had occurred a couple of days earlier on 22 April which often shows a crisis point or the ending of something – in this case the era of Newton Heath as a football club.While Taurus is a sign of tranquillity and good living, Scorpio is the sign which signifies struggles and battles. It is also very likely that Scorpio was sign on the ascendant (the intersection of the ecliptic and the eastern horizon)

at the moment the resolution to change the name was passed giving the new club a double Scorpio flavour.

The phoenix rising from the ashes is a symbol of Scorpio and is very descriptive of the team recovering from the disaster the Munich air crash to win the European Cup ten years later. The nickname for Manchester United, “The Red Devils,” is also redolent of Scorpio.

If indeed Scorpio rises in the chart for Manchester United, then its ruler, Mars (the warrior) is very strong in the sign of Aries and closely connected to the planet Mercury which signifies all forms of  games.

This pair, though, are in a difficult relationship with Saturn which tends to restrict all progress and whose function is to test the hero on his journey. The theme of overcoming adversity in order to achieve success is emphasised again.

From this brief description of the chart we can start to build a picture of the characteristics of this particular club which helps the observer to understand its nature and to rectify problems as and when the arise. Further analysis might show when times were likely to be particularly favourable or difficult or which countries might provide players who would do well at the club.

Astrology is just one aspect  of Kabbalah and can be used to shed much light on complex situations both in football and in business generally and the use of these and similar systems of wisdom has increased considerably in recent years.




© Jonathon Clark 2020

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