THE KABBALAH DEFINED http://www.byzant.com/kabbalah/ 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. Hebrew PronunciationMeaning Value Transliteration Letter Ox, primal Aleph ahlehf 1 A energy House or Beth beht 2 B enclosure 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 whip 40, 600 as Mem mem Water M final 50, 700 as Nun noon Fish N final Samekh sahmehh Prop or support 60 S Ayin a'hyeen Eye 70 O 80, 800 as Peh peh Mouth P, F final 90, 900 as Tzaddi tsahdee Fishhook Tz, X final 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 Life. 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 letters). 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 (1531). 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. http://www.byzant.com/kabbalah/introduction.asp 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 interconnectivity. 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. Da'ath 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 Knowledge") 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 God") 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 Tav Administrative Intelligence | The World | Saturn | Earth | Black Path joining Hod and Malkuth - 31 Shin Perpetual Intelligence | Judgement | Pluto | Fire | Vermillion Path joining Hod and Yesod - 30 Resh Collecting Intelligence | The Sun | Sun | Air / Fire | Golden yellow Path joining Netsach and Malkuth - 29 Qoph Corporeal Intelligence | The Moon | Moon | Water | Buff Path joining Netsach and Yesod - 28 Tzaddi Constituting Intelligence | The Star | Uranus / Saturn | Air | Red Path joining Netsach and Hod - 27 Peh Exciting Intelligence | The Tower | Mars | Fire | Bright red Path joining Tifereth and Hod - 26 Ayin Renovating Intelligence | The Devil | Saturn | Earth | Black Path joining Tifereth and Yesod - 25 Samekh Tentative Intelligence | Temperance | Jupiter | Fire | Yellow Path joining Tifereth and Netsach - 24 Nun Imaginative Intelligence | Death | Mars | Fire | Brown Path joining Geburah and Hod - 23 Mem Stable Intelligence | The Hanged Man | Neptune | Water | Sea green Path joining Geburah and Tifereth - 22 Lamed Faithful Intelligence | Justice | Venus | Air | Blue Path joining Chesed and Netsach - 21 Kaph Conciliating Intelligence | Fortune | Jupiter | Water | Dark blue Path joining Chesed and Tifereth - 20 Yod Willful Intelligence | The Hermit | Mercury | Air | Slate gray Path joining Chesed and Geburah - 19 Teth Spiritual Intelligence | Strength | Sun | Air | Deep purple Path joining Binah and Geburah - 18 Cheth Influencing Intelligence | The Chariot | Moon | Water | Maroon Path joining Binah and Tifereth - 17 Zayin Disposing Intelligence | The Lovers | Mercury | Air | Mauve Path joining Chokmah and Chesed - 16 Vav Triumphal Intelligence | The Hierophant | Venus | Earth | Indigo Path joining Chokmah and Tifereth - 15 Heh Natural Intelligence | The Emperor | Mars | Fire | Light blue Path joining Chokmah and Binah - 14 Daleth Illuminating Intelligence | The Empress | Venus | Earth | Mid blue Path joining Kether and Tifereth - 13 Gimel Uniting Intelligence | The High Priestess | Moon | Water | Silver Path joining Kether and Binah - 12 Beth Transparent Intelligence | The Magus | Mercury | Air | Purple Path joining Kether and Chokmah - 11 Aleph 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 selves. 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 respectively: 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."