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Tree of Life - Etz ha’ Hayim

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Tree of Life - details of Sefirot   Rabbi Tree


Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Ten and not nine; ten and not eleven.

Understand with Wisdom, and be wise with Understanding.

Examine with them and probe with them, make a thing stand on its essense, and make the Creator sit on His base

Sefer Yetzirah 1:4

The Tree of Life is one of the most important glyphs to have arisen not only within Jewish Kabalah, but in the occidental esoteric tradition generally. As can be seen from the above three depictions, the Tree has various representations (see my page 'representations of the Tree of Life').

One of its important aspects is that its roots are in the spiritual realms, and is hence at times depicted as an inverted or upside-down tree. Another is that it has precisely and only ten Sefirot (emanations): Daat, or Knowledge, is not a Sefirah.

There are many sources for studying these in further detail. Below I simply present a brief outline and the beginning of an exegesis based on the manner in which the words are written (in Hebrew). As I have used the letter-images I have elsewhere on this site, a note should be added that all single letters are shown green, doubles black (and dageshed), and mother letters displayed in red.

Further notes on the Hebrew letters are on the Alef-Beit page.

Four worlds

The Tree of Life reflects a four-fold creative process. Some have preferred to view that each of these worlds contains a whole Tree, others to see the Tree itself as manifesting the four worlds.

In one sense, a little like a holograph, each part contains within itself the whole. A tiny particle of Malkut thus contains within itself the whole Tree - a deep sense of the Hermetic maxim 'As it is above, so it is below'. If this is the case, then of course each world-division of the Tree 'contains' an image of the full Tree.

This holographic quality, however, does not mean that the clear image is not one. The Tree of Life is one.

The four 'divisions' of the World can visually be seen on the Interactive Tree page. Each division, or each world, is itself a creative living manifestation. Its titles are usually given as Atzilut, Beri'ah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah (variations occurs in Hebrew transliterations). A little about each of these worlds follows.

 

Atzilut: the World of Nearness or Emanation (Olam Ha'Atzilut)

world of the sefirot

Alef
Tzadi
Yod
Lamed
Vav
Tav

This is the highest world to which we have 'access'. It is at times described as the first world of emanation, as the world still able the grasp its connection to the ungraspable realm of Ain Sof. Some Rabbis place within this world only one Sefirah: Keter. Though there is a dynamism in placing in this elevated and transcendent world only the pinnacle of the Tree, there is something about both Hochmah and Binah that properly belongs here.

Looking at the written word (Atzilut), I note that it opens with a mother letter (Alef) and concludes with a double (Tav), within which are solely single letters. Furthermore, the beginning and end of the word reflects the beginning and end of the Alef-Beit: Alef → Tav.

It is 'as if' the pan of the alphabet is maintained at its endings, and the contents within allowed to be mixed and remixed in order for the creative act to later emerge from its hallowed womb.

 

Beri'ah: the World of Creation (Olam Ha'Beriah)

world of the throne

Bet
Resh
Yod
Ayin
Heh

From the throne of the Divine will emanate creation, beginning with the first two letters that also opens Genesis: Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'arets (In the beginning Elohim created heaven and earth).

 

Yetzirah: the World of Formation (Olam Ha'Yetzirah)

world of the angels

Yod
Tzadi
Yod
Resh
Heh

The realm of ideas descends upon human beings as gifts from the higher realms, to there be reflected within the receptable of the brain, heart and liver.

 

Assiyah: the World of Making or Action (Olam Ha'Assiyah)

world of the forms

Ayin
Shin
Yod
Heh

Within the tomb of the body of human beings resides the eternal essential nature. Here is the world of deeds, the kingdom of action, upon whose fields we may strive to allow that small breath within to find its independent and individual expression.

 

Meditation, Contemplation, Illumination

The following is consistent with instruction given in The Gate of Kavanah.

Meditating on and contemplating these, through placing oneself as light below the glorious light of Kavod of unspeakable beauty (Tifaret), grounded on a foundation (Yesod) that surrounds with life-light (Haim), between the higher glowing awesome (Pahad-Geburah) light of Nogah and the even higher covenantial (Gedulah-Hesed) good light of Tov. The words brought forth needs to be directed towards one or other of these higher lights. To your right will be the victorious (Netzah) brilliance of Bahir, to your left the splendorous (Hod) radiance of Zohar. Above it all the nearness of the crown (Keter) radiating the Or Ain Sof touching the Ain Sof.

It is in this state that one may receive and transmit that which forms as dew from the influx that crowns the arked passion and being in the paths of wisdom, the spirit of understanding, and the power of knowledge, through word and symbol.

 

The Sefirot and Da'at

What follows are initial notes duplicating the information on the 'Interactive Tree of Life' page. More traditional notes will be forthcoming.

Keter - Crown

Kaf
Tav
Resh

4-world division:

Atzilut - Nearness (emanation)

Sefirah's meaning

Keter = Crown

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Seraphim (1st) 'Spirits of Love'

Anthroposophical aspect

Spirit [Hu]man/Atma

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Sahasrāra

Crown

Tarot trumps

XXI World/Fool (Mat)

  

Lotus flower work

Reverence

ref.: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Aristotelean Category: Substance

'An individual may be considered in its proper being as distinct from its surroundings insofar as it is able to exist in itself as a unified centre of characteristics, interactions, and relations, in which case we are speaking of what falls under the category of substance.'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Hockmah - Wisdom

Heth
Kaf
Mem
Heh

4-world division:

Atzilut - Nearness (emanation)

Sefirah's's meaning

Hockmah = Wisdom

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Cherubim (2nd) 'Spirits of Harmony'

Anthroposophical aspect

Life Spirit (Budhi)

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Ājñā

Brow ('3rd Eye')

Spiritual Imagination

Tarot trumps

VIIII Hermit/XVIIII Sun

  

Lotus flower work

Moral Discrimination (distinguishing truth from appearance)

ref.: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Aristotelean Category: Quantity

'An individual may be considered in itself according to the properties it has as a consequence of being a material substance, in which case we are speaking of what falls under the category of quantity'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Binah - Intelligence or Understanding

Bet
Yod
Nun
Heh

4-world division:

Atzilut - Nearness (emanation)

Sefirah's meaning

Binah = Intelligence, Understanding, Insight

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Thrones (3rd hierarchy) 'Spirits of Will'

Anthroposophical aspect

Spirit Self (Manas)

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Brow ('3rd Eye')
       projected through the Throat chakram

Spiritual Inspiration

Tarot trumps

VIII Justice/XVIII Moon

  

Lotus flower work

Moral Discrimination (distinguishing truth from appearance)

ref.: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Aristotelean Category: Relation

'[…] action and passion are not the relations of cause and effect but rather the foundations and terminations in subjectivity of those relations'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Da'at - Knowledge

Dalet
Ayin
Tav

4-world division (straddles both):

Atzilut - Emanation & Beri'ah - Creation

Title's meaning

Da'at = Knowledge

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

(future humanity) 'Spirits of Freedom'

Anthroposophical aspect

Ego (εγω) = 'I'

Here Consciousness Soul and Spirit Self interweave to give birth to the human 'I'

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Viśuddha

Throat (16 petals)

Tarot trumps

X Wheel of Fortune/XX Judgement

  

Lotus flower work - eight of 16 petals:

Right View

Right Intention

Right Speech

Right Action

Right Livelihood

Right Effort

Right Mindfulness

Right Concentration

ref.: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Aristotelean Category: not applicable

 

Hesed or Gedulah - Love or Covenant

Heth
Samek
Dalet

4-world division:

Beri'ah - Creation

Sefirah's meaning

Hesed = Love (Covenant) / Gedulah = Glorious

Hesed as a concept has evolved over time. In its early phase, it can be understood as closely related to the duty one has to him or her towards which their is responsibility or subordination. For example, the parent to child relationship; or master and servant. In that sense, the concept embodied both a care and covenant. In more recent times, its various manifestations are also reflected in the various Greek uses of 'Love' as Agape, Philos, and Eros, as well as that of a sacred covenant as found in the Old Testament between God and his people.

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Dominions / Kyriotetes (4th) 'Spirits of Wisdom'

Anthroposophical aspect

Consciousness Soul

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Anāhata

Heart (12 petals)

Tarot trumps

VI l'Amoureux/XVI Maison Dieu

  

Lotus flower work - future development of new etheric organ

Distinguishing truth from non-truth

Rightly valuing the true over the inessential

Practicing the six virtues of the Heart

Love of inner Freedom

ref.: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Aristotelean Category: Quality

'An individual may be considered again in itself but according to the properties it has as a consequence of being a specific type of material substance, that is, as a consequence of its form rather than its matter, in which case we are speaking of what falls in the category of quality'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Geburah or Pahad - Strength or Awe

Gimel
Bet
Resh
Heh

4-world division:

Beri'ah - Creation

Sefirah's meaning

Geburah = Force / Pahad = Awe

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Virtues (Mights) / Dynamis (5th) 'Spirits of Motion'

Anthroposophical aspect

Intellectual Soul

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Anāhata

Heart (12 petals)

Spiritual Intuition

Tarot trumps

VII Chariot/XVII Star

  

Lotus flower work - six of 12 petals:

Control of Thoughts

Control of Action

Perseverence

Tolerance and Patience

Impartiality and Faith

Equanimity

ref.: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Aristotelean Category: Where

'An individual may be considered according to its relation to surrounding bodies in the environment, in which case we have the category of where or location'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Tifaret - Beauty

Tet
Peh
Alef
Resh
Tav

4-world division:

Beri'ah - Creation

Sefirah's meaning

Tifaret = Beauty

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Powers/Exusiai (6th) 'Spirits of Form'

Anthroposophical aspect

Sentient Soul

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Maṇipūra

Solar plexus (10 petals)

Tarot trumps

V Pope/XV Devil

  

Lotus flower work

Life lived in a state of attentiveness

ref.: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Aristotelean Category: When

'An individual may be considered in its relation to preceding events or individuals, in which case we are concerned with the category of when'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Netzach - Eternity

Nun
Tzadi
Heth

4-world division:

Yetzirah - Formation

Sefirah's meaning

Netzach = Victory (eternity)

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Archai (Principalities) (7th) 'Spirits of Personality & Time'

Anthroposophical aspect

Soul/Astral Body

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Sacral (6 petals)

Tarot trumps

III Empress/XIII Death

  

 

Aristotelean Category: Posture

'An individual may be considered according to the way it positions itself (crouched, upright, supine, etc.), in which case we have the category of posture'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Hod - Splendor

Heh
Vav
Dalet

4-world division:

Yetzirah - Formation

Sefirah's meaning

Hod = Splendor / reverberation

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Archangels (8th) 'Folk Spirits of Fire'

Anthroposophical aspect

Soul/Astral Body

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Svādhiṣṭhāna

Sacral (6 petals)

Tarot trumps

IIII Emperor/XIIII Temperance

  

 

Aristotelean Category: Vestition

'[…] an individual may be considered in terms of accountrements it assumes for protection, decoration, or whatever purpose, in which case we are speaking of what belongs to the category of vestition'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Yesod - Foundation

Yod
Samek
Vav
Dalet

4-world division:

Yetzirah - Formation

Sefirah's meaning

Yesod = Foundation

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Angels (9th hierarchy)

Anthroposophical aspect

Etheric body

Chakram/Lotus flower level

Mūlādhāra

Base (4 petals)

Tarot trumps

II Papess/XII Le Pendu

  

 

Aristotelean Category: Action

'An individual may be considered as the origin of some behaviour, in which case we are speaking of what falls in the category of action'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Malkut - Kingdom

Mem
Lamed
Kaf
Vav
Tav

4-world division:

Assiah - Action (manifestation)

Sefirah's meaning

Malkut = Kingdom
Matrix of physical world as spiritual substance.

 

Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy

Human (10th hierarchy)

Anthroposophical aspect

Physical body

Chakram/Lotus flower level

'Planta' (limb-ends: feet & hands)

Tarot trumps

I Bateleur/XI Fortitude

  

 

Aristotelean Category: Passion

'The individual may be considered as acted upon by some other agent, in which case we are in the category of passion'

J. Deely Four Ages of Understanding, p76

 

Resources for Tree of Life study

book recommendation on the Tree of Life

Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi The Way of Kabbalah

Tree of Life sites

Eliezer Segal's simple diagram

for other Kabalah pages on this site

> go to home page: philosophy & kabalah tab