18011291 Hebrew Alphabet

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The Hebrew Alphabet
"Twenty-two foundation letters: He ordained them, He hewed them, He combined them,
He weighed them, He interchanged them. And He created with them the whole creation
and everything to be created in the future."

Sefer Yetsirah ("Book of Formation")

The Western Mystery Tradition combines many strands of thought and symbolism, but
the more esoteric aspects of the Judaic tradition are something of a cornerstone. Study of
the Kabbalah, even from a modern perspective, really requires some knowledge of the
Hebrew alphabet, and preferably of Hebrew itself. Those interested in Ceremonial Magic
need to be able to interpret, transcribe and pronounce simple Hebrew phrases. Students of
the Tarot will find their understanding of the Major Arcana and the symbolism of esoteric
decks enhanced by familiarity with the Hebrew letters. Of course, any exploration of the
Bible, in particular the Old Testament, is strengthened by an appreciation of Hebrew,
and, by virtue of Esoteric Correspondence, studies in other fields such as astrology
benefit as well.

When reading or writing Hebrew, it is important to remember that, unlike modern
European languages, Hebrew is written from right to left. Words are generally written
without vowels, though modern Hebrew does employ a system of diacritic marks to
specify vowel-sounds. However, the esoteric student is usually more concerned with
ancient Hebrew.

The following table shows the standard form of each of the 22 Hebrew letters in order,
along with a guide to their pronunciation, their basic meanings, and their English
transliterations. Each letter also has a numerical equivalent, which is shown in the table.
Certain letters have two values, depending on whether the letter is used within or at the
end of a word. See the footnote below for further discussion of this and the threefold
division of the alphabet.

                  PronunciationMeaning Value Transliteration
                                          Ox, primal
     Aleph        ahlehf                                   1           A
                    House or
Beth     beht                        2         B

Gimel    gheemehl   Camel or carrier3          G, J

Daleth   dahleht    Door or womb 4             D

Heh      heh        Window           5         H, E

Vav      vahv       Nail or hook     6         V, W, U

Zayin    zahyeen    Sword            7         Z

Cheth    h'eht      Field or fence   8         Ch

Teth     teht       Serpent          9         T

Yod      yohd       Open hand        10        Y, I

                    Closed or     20, 500 as
Kaph     kaf                                 K
                    grasping hand final

                    Ox-goad or
Lamed    lahmehd                     30        L

                                     40, 600 as
Mem      mem        Water                       M
                                                           50, 700 as
     Nun          noon                    Fish                        N

     Samekh       sahmehh                 Prop or support 60            S

     Ayin         a'hyeen                 Eye              70           O

                                                           80, 800 as
     Peh          peh                     Mouth                       P, F

                                                           90, 900 as
     Tzaddi       tsahdee                 Fishhook                    Tz, X

     Qoph         qoof                    Back of head     100          Q

     Resh         rehsh                   Face or head     200          R

     Shin         sheen                   Tooth            300          Sh

     Tav          tahv                    Cross or sign    400          Th

* Those letters that have two numerical values take different forms depending on whether
or not the letter appears as the final letter in a word. When one of these letters ends a
word, it is drawn slightly differently (these 'final' forms are not shown in the table), and
has sofit (pronounced sohfeet) added to its name. For example, mem has a value of 40 if
it is placed before the end of a word, but has a value of 600 and is called mem sofit if it is
the final letter of a word.

One final point of note is the division of the Hebrew alphabet into three groups. The three
Mother Letters are aleph, mem and shin. The seven Double Letters (so called because
they have both hard and soft pronunciations) are beth, gimel, daleth, kaph, peh, resh
and tav. The twelve Simple Letters are heh, vau, zayin, cheth, teth, yod, lamed, nun,
samekh, ayin, tzaddi and qoph.

An Introduction to the Kabbalah
Kabbalah can be translated from the Hebrew as "received tradition", and is a
term applied to a vast and seemingly disparate body of esoteric knowledge
and practice. It is used to describe Jewish mysticism in general, or more
specifically the tradition which found its impetus in the Sefer ha-Zohar ("The
Book of Splendor") of the thirteenth century. It is also applied to the Christian
or Western Kabbalah which grew from German and Lurianic Kabbalism and
found its expression and extension in western Mystery Orders, such as the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

In its most complete form the Kabbalah can be considered as the "Yoga of the West",
complementing the eastern chakra system and having counterparts to many of the forms
of yogic practice. Indeed, the three main nadis (energy channels) in eastern philosophy,
ida, sushumna and pingala; and the yin, Tao and yang of Taoist philosophy, find direct
expression in the Kabbalistic pillars of severity, equilibrium and mercy on the Tree of

The Kabbalah at its best is a system of esoteric philosophy, psychology and cosmology
that allows any aspect of existence to be assimilated and related to any other on many
levels, both rational and trans-rational. It may be used profitably by anyone, regardless of
creed; and, for those who wish it, it is a key to the control of subtle forces and the
attainment of true mystical union.

A Brief History of the Kabbalah
Jewish mysticism has its origins in the Merkabah practices of the first centuries AD.
Through fasting, meditation, prayer and incantation, the Merkabah mystics sought
experience of the "Throne-Chariot of God" (Merkabah) described in Ezekiel 1.

The Kabbalah itself made its first known appearance in written form with the Sefer
Yetsirah ("Book of Formation"), though mythologically the oral tradition is said to date
back to Abraham or even earlier. The Sefer Yetsirah is a short work expounding the basic
structure of the Kabbalah, detailing the creation of the universe via thirty-two hidden
paths: the ten sefirot ("numbers", "emanations" or "spheres" - singular, sefira) and the
twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is attributed to Rabbi Akiba who was
martyred by the Romans, but its exact date of origin is unknown (possibly as early as the
third century, but no later than the tenth).
What was to become known as German Kabbalism or Early Hasidism began in Italy in
917 with Aaron ben Samuel. This had its roots in Merkabah mysticism, involving
magical rituals, meditation, prayer and ecstatic experience. Its emphasis on the magical
power of words fuelled the development of the Kabbalistic techniques of gematria (the
study of the numerical values of letters and words), notarikon (the study of the first and
last letters of words) and temurah (the study of the permutation and combination of

The pre-eminent form of Jewish mysticism, sometimes referred to as Classical Kabbalah,
began in Provence, France, in the thirteenth century, but flourished most readily in
mediaeval Spain. It contains elements of both Gnosticism and Neo-platonism, and is
more concerned with the nature and structure of all creation from the divine to the
material worlds, than with ecstatic experience.

The most important work of this period is the Zohar (Sefer ha-Zohar or "Book of
Splendor"), written between 1280 and 1286 by the Spanish Kabbalist Moses de Leon
(1250-1305), though attributed to a second century rabbi, Simeon bar Yohai. This deals
with the ten sefirot emanating from the ineffable infinite (en sof) through which the
universe is created and maintained. The mutual interaction of these sefirot and their
individual natures are seen both as expressing the nature of divinity and as archetypes for
all of creation. The Bahir ("Book of Illumination") is the third important Kabbalistic text,
appearing in France around the eleventh century.

The expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 served to spread the Spanish Kabbalah further
into Europe. The next major development occurred with the advent of Lurianic Kabbalah,
named after its originator, Isaac Luria Ashkenazi (1534-1572). In this, the en sof
contracts (tsimtsum) at the start of creation to allow "room" for cosmic expansion. This
also allows "room" for evil, the qelippot (literally "shells", singular qelippa) in which
sparks of the divine light become entrapped after a shattering of the divine receptacles
during emanation. Thus freedom of choice is born of the godhead's self-inflicted
suffering, and the redemption (tiqqun) of the broken world and the reunification of
divinity becomes the overriding goal of humanity. The exile of all human beings is
symbolized in the exile of Israel, and the tiqqun is paralleled in Israel's task to "gather
what has been scattered", symbolizing the redemption of the world, crowned with the
coming of the Messiah.

This move towards a messianic philosophy fostered the Hasidic movement which made
the Kabbalah more widely accessible. The most important figure here was Israel ben
Eleazar (1698-1760), known as the Baal Shem Tov, the "Master of the Holy Name".

Western or Christian Kabbalism grew from German and then Lurianic Kabbalism.
Mediaeval ceremonial magicians were fond of appropriating Kabbalistic words of power,
and in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, western Kabbalists augmented the
Kabbalah with aspects of Christian theology and alchemy. The Kabbalah was included in
Agrippa von Nettesheim's (1486-1535) key work, De Occulta Philosophia Libri Tres
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have seen further development of the Western
Kabbalah from occultists such as Eliphas Levi, Papus (1865-1916) and members of the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn such as Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune (1890-
1946). Links between the Kabbalah and many other philosophical, mythological and
religious systems have been postulated and detailed; the most important being the links
between the Kabbalah, astrology and the Tarot.

The Tree of Life

Read below, then click on a sphere to see its details

Central to modern Kabbalistic study is the diagram Otz Chiim, the Tree of Life. This is a
representation of the thirty-two "paths" comprised of the ten sefirot and the twenty-two
paths through which they interrelate (introduced in our Introduction to the Kabbalah).
Though the tree may be drawn with variations in the location of paths - particularly in
pure, Judaic Kabbalah - esoteric tradition is consistent in presenting the tree as above,
with the paths in the positions shown.
The Tree of Life describes the descent of the divine into the manifest world, and methods
by which divine union may be attained in this life. It can be viewed as a map of the
human psyche, and of the workings of creation, both manifest and unmanifest. Indeed,
any system can be more fully understood both in itself and relative to any other system by
viewing it in relation to the Tree. The Tree allows and requires a more holistic
understanding of any topic to which it is applied - reason, spiritual perception and
intuition are all needed, as is clear from the structure of the Tree itself.

It is important to realize that the pure nature of divinity is unity, and that the seemingly
separate aspects or emanations exist only in view of the emanated, living in a state of
illusory separation. This is expressed in the Zohar: "in creating this world below, the
world above lost nothing. It is the same for each sefira: if one is illuminated, the next
loses none of its brilliance". The absolute divine light can be said to be refracted through
the prism of the sefirot into the apparently multifarious world of creation.

The Tree may be viewed in many different ways by grouping the sefirot together
depending on circumstance. The most important views are the three pillars of severity
(sefirot 3, 5 and 8), equilibrium (sefirot 1, 6, 9 and 10) and mercy (sefirot 2, 4 and 7); and
the three major triangles: the supernal triangle (sefirot 1, 2 and 3), the ethical triangle
(sefirot 4, 5 and 6) and the astral triangle (sefirot 7, 8 and 9). Also worthy of note are the
seven planes of the tree and the correspondence between the sefirot and the chakras of
eastern mysticism.

The Structure of the Tree
The names and numbers of the ten sefirot are given in order below. The most usual name
for each sefira is given first, followed by some alternatives.

1 Kether (Crown) or Kether Elyon (Supreme Crown)

2 Chokmah (Wisdom)

3 Binah (Understanding or Intelligence)

4 Chesed (Mercy or Grace) or Gedullah (Greatness)

5 Geburah (Severity or Power), Din (Judgement) or Pahad (Fear)

6 Tifereth (Beauty) or Rahamim (Mercy)

7 Netsach (Victory or Constancy)

8 Hod (Glory or Majesty)

9 Yesod (Foundation) or Tsedek (Justice)
10 Malkuth (Kingdom) or Shekhinah (Divine Immanence)

In viewing the Tree as comprised of the three pillars of severity, equilibrium (or
mildness) and mercy, each sefira can be classed as either negative (restrictive, passive
and destructive), balancing, or positive (expansive, active and constructive) depending
upon whether it lies on the pillar of severity, equilibrium or mercy respectively. It is
important to realize that no value judgement is implied in the terms 'positive or
masculine' and 'negative or feminine'; each is neither better nor worse than the other.
Indeed, it can be said that evil is a synonym for imbalance, highlighting the vital,
complementary natures of the pillars.

Each sefira in itself has a dual aspect of negative and positive: namely, it is negative or
receptive in relation to the preceding sefira and positive or transmissive in relation to the
succeeding sefira. So, for example, Tifereth is negative to Geburah and positive to
Netsach. This has the consequence that, taking the Tree in isolation, Kether may be
considered as entirely positive (masculine) and Malkuth entirely negative (feminine), in
that they have no preceding or succeeding sefira respectively. However, as will be seen
from the discussion of the Four Worlds below, "Malkuth in one world is Kether of the
next": even these sefirot can be viewed in their dual aspect.

Other positive-negative relationships of the sefirot may be considered too. For example,
sefirot in the same pillar can be viewed in relation to each other. Thus Chesed may be
seen as negative to Chokmah and positive to Netsach. Sefirot on the middle pillar also
have a strong sense of balance, each being a balance or resolving point of one or more of
the three dualities (Chokmah-Binah, Chesed-Geburah, and Netsach-Hod) found between
the outer pillars.

Before leaving the pillars, let us reiterate their use as a means to synthesize the Kabbalah
with threefold systems. Examples of analogies between the pillars of severity,
equilibrium and mercy and other trinities include Taoist concepts (yin, Tao and yang);
tantric energy channels (ida, sushumna and pingala); Hindu (Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu)
and Christian (Holy Spirit, Father and Son) trinities; alchemical concepts (Sulfur,
Mercury and Salt); aspects of the Goddess (Crone, Mother and Maiden); phases of the
moon (waning, full and waxing); and the Hebrew "Mother" letters (Mem, Aleph and
Shin). Knowledge of any of these can help enrich your knowledge of the Kabbalah
through association with the Tree, and vice versa. This method of analogy can be applied
to each sefira individually, to the pillars or triangles of the Tree, to the planes, the Worlds
or any other way the Tree can be conceived. The balance of structure and flexibility in
the Tree gives it its great strength as a means of assimilation, understanding and

One final attribution of the pillars that is well worth reflecting upon is that of the three
precepts to Enlightenment, which can correspond to the pillars of severity, mercy and
mildness respectively: Self-control, Self-knowledge and Self-realization.

In addition to the ten sefirot, the diagram of the Tree of Life above shows the dark and
unlabeled "sefira which is not a sefira", Da'ath. This "sefira" has no number and no
position on the Tree in relation to the other sefirot, though when it is shown it is located
centrally in the Abyss (between the planes of Binah-Chokmah and Geburah-Chesed) with
no explicit connection to any other sefira. Da'ath is Knowledge, and is sometimes
considered as being an expression of Binah and Chokmah combined. It is a place of
balanced power.

The Four Worlds

The sefirot, introduced in our discussion of the Tree of Life, can usefully be considered
on their own, but Kabbalists further refine the system by viewing them as acting on or
through four different levels or worlds which form a hierarchy of their own. Just as from
Kether to Malkuth there is a successive movement from the abstract to the manifest, so
there is in the Kabbalistic worlds from Atziluth to Assiah:

Atziluth    Archetypal World (World of Emanations) or Divine World
Briah       Creative World or World of Thrones
Yetsirah    Formative World
Assiah      Manifest World

These four worlds can be considered as a linear hierarchy, each containing its own full
Tree, in which Malkuth in one world becomes Kether of the world below, and Kether of
one world becomes Malkuth of the world above. Malkuth is seen as the complementary
fulfillment of Kether: the first is Divine Immanence, the latter Divine Transcendence.

An alternative is to view the four worlds as being expressed through a single Tree.
Atziluth is expressed through the sefira Kether; Briah through Chokmah and Binah;
Yetsirah through the six sefirot Chesed to Yesod; and Assiah through Malkuth. (Some
prefer to view Atziluth as acting through both Kether and Chokmah, and Briah as acting
through Binah alone.)

Both systems of either one or four Trees are equally valid and are used according to
context, rather like the physicist viewing light as a wave of energy or a stream of particles
depending on circumstance. A further outlook is that each sefira can be viewed as a
whole Tree itself, giving ten Trees and one hundred sefirot. Kabbalistically these
numbers can be considered equivalent as, using techniques similar to numerology, 100,
10 and 1 are fundamentally one (1+0+0 = 1+0 = 1).

The fourfold aspect given to each sefira by its existence in each of the four worlds allows
application of the Kabbalah to fourfold systems such as the western elements (Fire, Air,
Water and Earth), the letters of the Tetragrammaton (Hebrew Name of God: Yod, He,
Vau, final He), the Jungian functions and the Minor Arcana of the Tarot. The latter is
very important in the Western Kabbalah: each of the four Tarot suits contains precisely
ten numbered cards (as do our modern playing cards which are derived from the Tarot),
and so a Tarot deck contains a representation of the Tree in each of four worlds. The four
court cards in each suit offer a further fourfold correspondence, and each of the twenty-
two Major Arcana cards corresponds to one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew
alphabet, and to one of the twenty-two paths joining the sefirot on the Tree of Life.

For use in prayer, meditation or magic, each sefira is assigned a Name of God to
represent its essence in Atziluth, an Archangel for Briah, an Angelic Host for Yetsirah,
and a Mundane Chakra (generally expressed through planetary forces) for Assiah.

Sefira    Divine Name               Archangel         Angelic Host        Mundane Chakra

Kether   Eheieh                     Metatron          Chioth Ha Qodesh Rashith ha-Gilgalim,
         ("I am")                                                      Primum Mobile
Chokmah Yah                         Ratziel           Auphanium        Mazloth,
         ("Lord")                                                      Zodiac
Binah    Yhvh Elohim                Tzaphkiel         Aralim           Shabbathai,
         ("Lord God")                                                  Saturn
Chesed El                           Tzadkiel          Chasmalim        Tzedek,
         ("God")                                                       Jupiter
Geburah Elohim Gibor                Khamael           Seraphim         Madim,
         ("Almighty God")                                              Mars
Tifereth Yhvh Eloah ve-Daath        Mikael            Malakim          Shemesh,
         ("Lord God of                                                 Sun
Netsach Yhvh Tzabaoth               Auriel            Elohim              Nogah,
         ("Lord of Hosts")                                                Venus
Hod      Elohim Tzaboath            Raphael           Beni Elohim         Kokab,
         ("God of Hosts")                                                 Mercury
Yesod    Shaddai El Chai            Gabriel           Ashim               Levanah,
         ("Almighty Living                                                Moon
Malkuth Adonai ha-Aretz             Sandalphon        Kerubim             Cholam Yesodoth,
         ("Lord of Earth")                                                Elements
The Qelippot
Each sefira, introduced in our discussion of the Tree of Life, has its unbalanced aspect;
and these are said to form the infernal tree of the qelippot ("harlots" or "shells" - singular,
qelippa). This tree may be viewed as growing down from Malkuth of Assiah (see the
discussion of the Four Worlds) in an inversion of the Divine Tree. Thus the unbalanced
qelippa corresponding to Malkuth stands above that which corresponds to Kether - matter
as master of spirit, an inversion of the natural order of Creation.

The qelippotic equivalent of the supernal triad, Kether, Chokmah and Binah, consists of
Tohu (the Formless), Bohu (the Void) and Chashek (the Darkness) respectively. The
remaining seven qelippot correspond to seven hells. On the plane of Atziluth, the qelippot
have no influence, and so there is no qelippotic equivalent of the Name of God. There is,
however, qelippotic influence in the three lower worlds. In Briah, the Archangel of each
sefira has a corresponding Devil of the qelippa; in Yetsirah each Angelic Host is matched
by a Cohort of Demons; and in Assiah each Mundane Chakra has a corresponding
Infernal Habitation.

It is important to make the distinction between true and apparent evil. Geburah may be
considered "evil" in its cruel, destructive aspects; but the true essence of Geburah is vital
as a balance to the otherwise wanton inclusiveness of Chesed. It is an error to view one
half of a dynamic duality as "good" and the other "evil": both are necessary for balance,
to prevent the true evil of imbalance. It is precisely the unbalanced aspects of each sefira
that are to be found in the qelippot. The qelippotic equivalent of Geburah really is pure
destructive cruelty, not as a balance to anything else, but solely for its own sake. Thus the
qelippot represent true, active evil, and it is part of the Great Work to neutralize such
forces, not by suppression or subjugation, but by bringing them into balance as aspects of
their corresponding sefirot.

One way of considering the formation of the qelippot is to see them as a direct
consequence of the "Lightning Flash of Creation" in which the sefirot were emanated in
order, one from the other, from Kether down to its fulfillment in Malkuth. At the
formation of one sefira, and before the subsequent emanation of its successor, that sefira
was in a sense unbalanced. For example, with Chokmah formed but not having yet
emanated its balancing successor Binah, this unbalanced state of Chokmah created a
pattern around which the qelippa Bohu could later crystallize.

Finally, it is worth noting briefly that the qelippot can also be viewed as being accessed
through the "sefira which is not a sefira", Da'ath. This "sefira" has no number and no
position on the Tree in relation to the other sefirot, though when it is shown it is located
centrally in the Abyss (between the planes of Binah-Chokmah and Geburah-Chesed) and
with no explicit connection to any other sefira. Da'ath is Knowledge, but consider the use
of Knowledge without Understanding (Binah).
Paths on the Tree of Life

Otz Chiim or the Tree of Life (shown above) is discussed in The Tree of Life. Though the
tree may be drawn with differing locations of paths - particularly in pure, Judaic
Kabbalah - esoteric tradition is consistent in presenting the tree as above, with 32 paths in
the positions shown.

The 22 paths numbered 32 to 11 (shown as lines but not numbered on the diagram)
correspond to the 22 cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot, and to the 22 letters of the
Hebrew alphabet. The 10 paths numbered 10 to 1 are the sefirot themselves (shown and
numbered above), corresponding to the Minor Arcana of the Tarot when the Tree is
considered in the Four Worlds. The Tarot and the Kabbalah discusses the relationship
between the 78 cards of the Tarot and the Tree of Life, and includes a diagram showing
the attributions of the paths.

The sefirot are discussed in The Tree of Life, so here we provide correspondences for the
paths (32 to 11). A reminder of the names of the sefirot is given below:

1 Kether (Crown)

2 Chokmah (Wisdom)
3 Binah (Understanding)

4 Chesed (Mercy)

5 Geburah (Severity)

6 Tifereth (Beauty)

7 Netsach (Victory)

8 Hod (Glory)

9 Yesod (Foundation)

10 Malkuth (Kingdom)

It is up to serious seekers to explore for themselves the values, characteristics, uses and
implications of the paths. A good understanding of the sefirot is required before any path
may be usefully meditated upon and followed. A path is understood through study,
visualization, empathy and guided meditation. A consideration of the sefirot linked by the
path and the correspondences given below are a vital part of this process. For each path,
the following information is given:

   •   The pair of sefirot joined by the path and its number
   •   The Hebrew letter associated with the path
   •   The Yetsiratic attribution of the path
   •   The Tarot trump corresponding to the path
   •   The astrological planet associated with the path
   •   The element corresponding to the path
   •   The color of the path (Queen Scale)

                Path joining Yesod and Malkuth - 32

             Administrative Intelligence | The World | Saturn | Earth | Black
     Path joining Hod and Malkuth - 31

   Perpetual Intelligence | Judgement | Pluto | Fire | Vermillion

       Path joining Hod and Yesod - 30

Collecting Intelligence | The Sun | Sun | Air / Fire | Golden yellow

  Path joining Netsach and Malkuth - 29

    Corporeal Intelligence | The Moon | Moon | Water | Buff

    Path joining Netsach and Yesod - 28

 Constituting Intelligence | The Star | Uranus / Saturn | Air | Red
  Path joining Netsach and Hod - 27

Exciting Intelligence | The Tower | Mars | Fire | Bright red

  Path joining Tifereth and Hod - 26

Renovating Intelligence | The Devil | Saturn | Earth | Black

Path joining Tifereth and Yesod - 25

Tentative Intelligence | Temperance | Jupiter | Fire | Yellow

Path joining Tifereth and Netsach - 24
      Imaginative Intelligence | Death | Mars | Fire | Brown

     Path joining Geburah and Hod - 23

Stable Intelligence | The Hanged Man | Neptune | Water | Sea green

  Path joining Geburah and Tifereth - 22

         Faithful Intelligence | Justice | Venus | Air | Blue

   Path joining Chesed and Netsach - 21

  Conciliating Intelligence | Fortune | Jupiter | Water | Dark blue

   Path joining Chesed and Tifereth - 20

 Willful Intelligence | The Hermit | Mercury | Air | Slate gray

Path joining Chesed and Geburah - 19

   Spiritual Intelligence | Strength | Sun | Air | Deep purple

 Path joining Binah and Geburah - 18

Influencing Intelligence | The Chariot | Moon | Water | Maroon

  Path joining Binah and Tifereth - 17

 Disposing Intelligence | The Lovers | Mercury | Air | Mauve
 Path joining Chokmah and Chesed - 16

Triumphal Intelligence | The Hierophant | Venus | Earth | Indigo

Path joining Chokmah and Tifereth - 15

   Natural Intelligence | The Emperor | Mars | Fire | Light blue

  Path joining Chokmah and Binah - 14

Illuminating Intelligence | The Empress | Venus | Earth | Mid blue

   Path joining Kether and Tifereth - 13

Uniting Intelligence | The High Priestess | Moon | Water | Silver
                  Path joining Kether and Binah - 12

               Transparent Intelligence | The Magus | Mercury | Air | Purple

              Path joining Kether and Chokmah - 11

                Scintillating Intelligence | The Fool | Uranus | Air | Sky blue

It should be noted that some occultists change some of the attributions. In particular,
Aleister Crowley transposes the Emperor and the Star, so that the Emperor corresponds to
tzaddi, and the Star to heh. This in keeping with the Thelemic teaching of Crowley's
Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law), where it is written "All these old letters of my
Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star" (chapter 1:57).

Sefirotic Meditation
Meditation on the sefirot of the Tree of Life is an important way of deepening your
understanding of the Kabbalah. Each sefira should be considered not only in terms of its
own characteristics, but also in its relation to the other sefirot, both through the paths it is
on and through its place in the natural sequence of the sefirot.

For those already familiar with the sefirotic attributions, we offer a way to aid meditation
on the sefirotic sequence, in either the immanent (Kether to Malkuth) or transcendent
(Malkuth to Kether) directions.
Meditating on the immanent sequence of the sefirot is characteristic of Western
Esotericism, allowing higher energies to be brought down into the material realm, and is
also used to increase comprehension of the sefirot through consideration of the 'Lightning
Flash of Creation'.

Meditating on the transcendent sequence is analogous to the Eastern yogic tradition of
raising kundalini (Sanskrit for 'Serpent Power') from the base to the crown chakra.
Consciousness is raised and expanded by the exploration of successively higher sefirot
with the aim of eventual Divine Union - the "Great Work" of the Western tradition.

The Byzant aid to sefirotic meditation works by displaying the Tree of Life with a
particular sefira highlighted for your consideration. After a time specified by you, the
sequence will move to the next sefira automatically. You can choose whether you want
the sequence to run from Kether to Malkuth, or vice versa. You also decide whether you
want the sequence played once only, repeatedly, or changing direction at each repeat (i.e.
when Malkuth is reached the sequence changes direction to work back up the Tree, and
when Kether is reached the sequence begins to move back down the Tree).

The delay can be anything from a single second to as long as you choose. So if you want
to spend half and hour meditating on the sefirot, set the display time to 180 seconds (3
minutes) per sefira. If the delay you choose isn't long enough for each page to download
on your connection then simply return here and increase the delay.

The meditation will work with most browsers, but if yours is not able to advance
automatically to the next sefira then you can do this manually by clicking 'Next' beneath
the Tree. You can stop the sequence at any time by clicking a link or a sefira, and
clicking 'Meditation' will bring you back to this page to make any adjustments you like to
the parameters.

May your journey be fruitful.

The Menorah and the Tree of Life
Read below, then click on a sphere to see its details

One of the most ancient symbols of Judaism is the seven-branched candlestick known as
the menorah. While it is an important symbol of the exoteric Jewish faith, the menorah
has esoteric associations linking it to Otz Chiim, the Tree of Life. The form of the
menorah was reputedly given to Moses by God, as related in Exodus 25:31-37:

Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft; its flower-like cups,
buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it. Six branches are to extend from the sides
of the lampstand - three on one side and three on the other. Three cups shaped like
almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next
branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. And on the
lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms.
One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second
bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair - six branches in all. The
buds and branches shall be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.
Then make its seven lamps and set them upon it so that they light the space in front of it.

The stress that this passage places on the menorah being constructed from a single piece
of pure gold brings home the essential purity and unity underlying creation: the menorah
arises from and is an expression of pure unity, just as the Tree of Life arises from and is
an expression of the en sof or. The seven candle holders and three joints where the
branches meet the central column represent the ten sefirot of the Tree of Life. The central
column corresponds to the central Pillar of Equilibrium (sefirot 1, 6, 9 and 10), the
holders to its left correspond to the Pillar of Severity (sefirot 3, 5 and 8) and the holders
on its right to the Pillar of Mercy (sefirot 2, 4 and 7).
The names and numbers of the ten sefirot are given in order below. The most usual name
for each sefira is given first, followed by some alternatives.

1 Kether (Crown) or Kether Elyon (Supreme Crown)

2 Chokmah (Wisdom)

3 Binah (Understanding or Intelligence)

4 Chesed (Mercy or Grace) or Gedullah (Greatness)

5 Geburah (Severity or Power), Din (Judgement) or Pahad (Fear)

6 Tifereth (Beauty) or Rahamim (Mercy)

7 Netsach (Victory or Constancy)

8 Hod (Glory or Majesty)

9 Yesod (Foundation) or Tsedek (Justice)

10 Malkuth (Kingdom) or Shekhinah (Divine Immanence)

The Tarot and the Kabbalah
Adherents of the Mysteries have long held the idea
that the Tarot has its origins in the arcane system of
the Kabbalah, though there is no firm historical
evidence for this. The work of the 19th century French
occultist, Eliphas Levi, was the catalyst for the study
of the esoteric link between the Tarot and the
Kabbalah, which became the main model for the
development and interpretation of the Tarot. The most
influential decks of the 20th century were founded on
Kabbalistic principles, in terms of their structure, their
symbology and their explication.

Central to the Western Kabbalah is the glyph Otz
Chiim or the Tree of Life. This consists of ten spheres
or sefirot connected by 22 paths, and is shown here.
Though the tree may be drawn with variations in the
location of paths - particularly in pure, Judaic
Kabbalah - esoteric tradition is consistent in
presenting the tree as above, with the paths in the
positions shown. The sefirot themselves are also
considered to be paths, giving a total of 32 paths in all; but in discussing the associations
between the Tarot and the Kabbalah, it is simpler to consider the Tree as 10 sefirot and 22
paths, as these groupings correspond respectively to the Minor Arcana and Major Arcana
that make up the structure of the Tarot.

The Major Arcana and the 22 Paths
As can be seen on the diagram above, there are 22 paths on the Tree of Life, one for each
letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There are also 22 cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot,
and each of these corresponds to a Hebrew letter and a path on the Tree of Life. The
usual attributions of the Trumps to the paths is shown above, but some occultists offer
slightly different attributions. Aleister Crowley, for example, transposes the Star and the
Emperor, so that the Emperor corresponds to the Hebrew letter tzaddi, and the Star to
heh. This is in keeping with the Thelemic teaching of Crowley's Liber AL vel Legis (The
Book of the Law), where it is written "All these old letters of my Book are aright; but
Tzaddi is not the Star" (chapter 1:57).

Each path expresses the interaction between the pair of sefirot it connects. As a quick,
much simplified example, Trump XXI, the World, concerns the successful completion of
one phase and the start of another, as well as ideas of synthesis and crystallization. The
interactions of sefirot nine, Yesod (Foundation), and ten, Malkuth (Kingdom) mirror these
ideas, with the generative aspects of Yesod finding their fulfillment in Malkuth. The
process of Creation ends in Malkuth, and the return begins through Yesod. The path and
the World both correspond to the Hebrew letter tav, and again this is highly appropriate
as it is the final letter of the alphabet and means 'cross', a symbol associated with the
manifest world.

The above example is, of course, a greatly simplified distillation. The meanings of the
paths can only be approached through much study and meditation, and the symbolism of
a suitably designed Tarot deck can help in this process. Conversely, an understanding of
the Kabbalah facilitates a much deeper understanding of the Tarot.

The Minor Arcana and the Sefirot
There are ten sefirot on the Tree of Life, and ten numbered cards in each suit of the
Minor Arcana. This gives a simple and compelling correspondence, with all the sixes
belonging to the sixth sefira (Tifereth), for example. Just as the sefirot follow a sequence
from the new beginning or creative impulse in the first sefira (Kether) through to
completion in the tenth (Malkuth), so the numbered cards in each suit follow this pattern
from the Ace through to the Ten.

Kabbalists view the Tree as acting on or through four worlds: Atziluth, Briah, Yetsirah
and Assiah. So the system can be further refined, as each of the suits of the Minor Arcana
corresponds to one of the four worlds. For example, Assiah is the manifest world,
corresponding to the element Earth and the Tarot suit Pentacles. So the Six of Pentacles
corresponds to Tifereth in Assiah. Tifereth is the sefira of balance and beauty, and Assiah
the manifest, material world; hence the Six of Pentacles in the Tarot deck has meanings
associated with putting money to good use, generosity, nobility and deserved success.
The correspondences between the Kabbalistic worlds and the Tarot suits are as follows:

Tarot Suit               Element                Kabbalistic World
Pentacles                Earth                  Assiah (Manifest World)
Swords                   Air                    Yetsirah (Formative World)
Cups                     Water                  Briah (Creative World)
Wands                    Fire                   Atziluth (Archetypal World)

The court cards of the Minor Arcana are also placed at important positions on the Tree:

Court Card                       Sefira
Pages                            Malkuth (Kingdom)
Knights                          Tifereth (Beauty)
Queens                           Binah (Understanding)
Kings                            Chokmah (Wisdom)

Also, entire suits may be allocated a position, just as the four worlds are sometimes
expressed on a single Tree:

Tarot Suit                       Sefira
Pentacles                        Malkuth (Kingdom)
Swords                           Tifereth (Beauty)
Cups                             Binah (Understanding)
Wands                            Chokmah (Wisdom)

That the final two tables above are nearly identical is no surprise, as each type of court
card corresponds to a particular element, as does each suit. The discussion on the Minor
Arcana goes into this in more detail.

             The Negative Veils
             The major problem that Mystics of all eras have come up against in trying to
             express their transcendental experiences to others is that these experiences lie
             beyond the bounds of the rational (and even intuitional) mind on which human
             written and verbal communication is based. Many methods have been tried,
             including allegory, antinomy, poetry and mundane approximation; but all
             founder on the fact that transcendental experience cannot be adequately
             conveyed through sub-transcendental means of communication.
In Kabbalism, this problem occurs especially in discussions of the higher sefirot on the
Tree of Life, and becomes insurmountable in discussing that which lies beyond or above
the Tree. The manifest Tree expressed through the sefirot in the four worlds is as much as
can usefully be conveyed to the human mind through language; and beyond this, beyond
Kether of Atziluth, are drawn the Three Veils of Negative Existence: en (Nothing), en sof
(Limitless Nothing), and en sof or (Limitless Light). (Atziluth itself, and even Briah, are
really beyond human conception, their "structure" being hinted at through the tangible
expressions of the sefirot in the lower worlds.)

The very epithets "veil" and "negative existence" serve to remind us that what the Veils
represent cannot be conceived of by the human mind, let alone expressed in words. The
Veils thus serve as a backdrop in front of which we can see more clearly that which it is
possible for our minds to apprehend, and as a goal for us to reach for and beyond at a
later stage in our personal or collective evolution.

The Veils contain and conceal the unmanifest aspects of the sefirot, i.e. precisely those
aspects which the human mind cannot comprehend. They are considered as depending
back from Kether, or as aspects of Kether itself, which is brought into being by the
concentration of the en sof or. Thus we can see the meaning of the important aphorism:
"Kether is the Malkuth of the Unmanifest". So while Kether is "the First Cause" in the
sense of being the first comprehensible point of manifestation, its cause is unknowable
within the confines of the human mind (though this does not mean that it is absolutely
unknowable) and this is expressed through the Veils. Though their appellations are
meaningless, they are nonetheless carefully chosen to be redolent of that which they
represent. Thus, the statement that Kether is manifested through the focusing of the en sof
or is meaningless in itself, but can convey a shadow of its mystery to our transcendental

Further Notes on the Veils
The first sefira, Kether, is the uncreated and all-encompassing "point" of actionless unity
which is both transcendent and immanent in its evanescent reflection: the Creation. The
immanence of Kether is experienced in progressively more diluted forms in the
remainder of the sefirot; its transcendence is found in the three Veils of Negative
Existence which are generally considered as lying back from unity rather than being
separate from it. Thus the same terms are often applied to either the Unity or the Veils:
"The Concealed of the Concealed", etc.

Negative Existence is, by its very essence, beyond definition; and the fact that there is
considered to be a triad of Negative Veils should not detract from their essential unity:
the three-fold process is a fundamental precept of so many occult systems. The triadic
unity of the Negative Veils foreshadows the triadic unity of the Supernals. The three
Veils may also be named as below, and are sometimes numbered 0, 00 and 000

AIN (Ain) Nothingness 0
AIN SVP (Ain Soph) The Limitless 00

AIN SVP AVR (Ain Soph Aur) The Limitless Light 000

These Veils can be considered to hold the transcendent aspects of the manifest sefirot,
and as the Veils are focused on Kether, the first sefira can be thought of as the Malkuth of
the transcendent tree.

The word AIN consists of three letters, and the corresponding first veil foreshadows the
first three sefirot in their hidden ideas. In the same way, the second and third veils
foreshadow the first six and the first nine sefirot respectively. Now nine is considered to
be a number of completion, beyond which progression is only possible by a return to
unity, but on a different level. This is easily seen in the number ten's usual representation
in Arabic numerals, where the circle 0 represents the Negative from which the Unity 1 is
newly derived. Thus the Limitless Light of Negativity, while not having an origin in a
point, does have a focus in the number one of the sefirot: Kether; which may thus be
considered the number 10 or Malkuth of the veiled sefirot.

"Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether."

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