Tree of life
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The Tree of Life is a diagrammatic representation of the principles of the kabbalah, an originally Jewish system of mysticism and magic. The kabbalah itself was only an oral tradition until the 13th century when it was published in The Zohar, commonly credited to Rabbi Moses de Leon (although he claims to have merely found the manuscript). Soon after, the Tree as it is now commonly known appeared on the cover of Portae Lucis (Gates of Light), a manuscrpt written by Rabbi Joseph Gikatalia containing a Latin translation of the original hebraic Shaare Orah. This diagram was likely the outcome of both Judaic and Western scholars working in the kabbalistic tradition, and presented the principles of the Zohar, the Talmud, as well as those of the Sefer Yetzirah - the three texts commonly held to represent the core of what became the kabbalah.
The Tree of Life has since come to symbolize, at least to the secular mind, the kabbalah itself, representing a roadmap towards enlightenment and direct experience of the Divine. However, it must be noted that what the kabbalah is to the common western mystic is often somewhat different to how it is apprehended by traditional Jewish kabbalists.
The version of the tree of life presented here is the version used and popularized by the Golden Dawn. It can be traced back to Gikatalia and the Christian renaissance scholar Athanasius Kircher. This is the version used by christian kabbalists and magicians. Among jewish mystics and scholars several other versions of the tree are used. This is no argument against the validity of this tree. Hermetic kabbalah had at least 300 years of development independent of Jewish kabbalah, and is a valid system in itself.
The Sephiroth (spheres), in order of emanation:
- Kether (Crown)
- Chokmah (Wisdom)
- Binah (Intelligence/Understanding/Awareness)
- Chesed (Righteousness/Preservation)
- Geburah (Valor/Heroism/Fortitude)
- Tiphareth (Beauty/Perfection)
- Netzach (Eternity/Infinity)
- Hod (Greatness/Majesty)
- Yesod (Principle/Foundation)
- Malkuth (Kingship)
The 11th "hidden" sephira is Daat - a tricky combination of hebrew דע (know) and דת (faithful religion) - דעת - or knowledge.
The 32 paths
- Between Kether and Chokmah - Aleph
- Between Kether and Binah - Bet
- Between Kether and Tiphareth - Gimel
- Between Binah and Chokmah - Dalet
- Between Chokmah and Tiphareth - Hei
- Between Chokmah and Chesed - Vav
- Between Binah and Tiphareth - Zayin
- Between Binah and Geburah - Het
- Between Geburah and Chesed - Tet (Lamed)
- Between Chesed and Tiphareth - Yodh
- Between Chesed and Netzach - Kaf
- Between Geburah and Tiphareth - Lamed (Tet)
- Between Geburah and Hod - Mem
- Between Tiphareth and Netzach - Nun
- Between Tiphareth and Yesod - Samech
- Between Tiphareth and Hod - Ayin
- Between Hod and Netzach - Pei
- Between Netzach and Yesod - Tsadi
- Between Netzach and Malkuth - Qoph
- Between Hod and Yesod - Resh
- Between Hod and Malkuth - Shin
- Between Yesod and Malkuth - Tav
The Four Worlds
- Yod Atziluth - The world of Archetypes, likened to Fire
- Heh Briah - The Creative world, Water
- Vau Yetzirah - The Formative world of Air
- Heh Assiah - The Active world of Earth
The four of these worlds thus specify the 4 levels of the Tree, the 4 elements of creation, and the 4-fold name of god, Yod He Vau He. Each sphere manifests in each of the 4 worlds, thus Binah has an Archetypal aspect, a Creative aspect, a Formative one, and an Active one.
The Three-Fold Light of the Soul
The Soul is a veiled light and that light takes three forms within the Self.
- Neschamah - The higher spirit, macroposopus
- Ruach - The lesser spirit, soul & mind, microposopus
- Nephesech - The base of instinct and animal urges
Nephesech is the veil of Ruach, as Ruach is the veil of Neschamah, and Neschamah is the veil of pure light.
In some cases it has been suggested that there are multiple divisions within this tripartite model as well, such as a five-part model.
- Yechidah - singularity, oneness, union with the macrocosm (Kether)
- Chaya - living force, quintessential nature (Chokmah)
- Neshamah - higher self, form of the divine within the mind (Binah)
- Technical terms for the three parts of the Ruach don't seem to have been written about. However, the discussion of the YHV rotations at the end of chapter one of the Sepher Yetzirah may be equivalent.
- Nefesh - animal soul, autonomic functions
- Tzelem, Tzulma - astral/ethereal bodies
- Guph - physical body
Daath, the Hidden Sphere
Daath, commonly referred to as the Abyss or the Hidden Sphere, resides below the Supernal Triad of Kether, Chokma, and Binah. It marks the passage between the Supernals and the lower Sephiroth of the Tree and, hence, the fall from unity into duality. Ascending the Tree, as in the quest for the Philosopher's Stone, Daath represents the ultimate challenge to the aspirant. Thus it is regarded as the Abyss for it is here that the ego is stripped bare and the self absolutely challenged and shattered. Those seeking power may find themselves trapped here, and for this it is referred to as the False Crown. Those unfit or incapable of bearing the confrontation with the Abyss can be left physically and emotionally injured, terminally or even fatally. Only the pure of heart are allowed to pass through the City of the Pyramids and gain entrance to the Supernals.
- Crowley, Aleister. Magick: Liber ABA: Book 4. Red Wheel/Weiser; (January 1998)
- Crowley, Aleister. Book of Thoth. Red Wheel/Weiser; (August 1986)
- Kaplan, Areyah. Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation. Red Wheel/Weiser; (May 1997)
- Telushkin, rabbi Joseph. Jewish Literacy. William Morrow and Company, New York. 1991
- Trepp, Leo. A History of the Jewish Experience. Behrman House, New Jersey. 1973
-  introduction to a jewish view of the tree