Tree of Life
The Tree of Life, also known as the Etz Chaim (עץ חיים), is the principal map that makes up the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.
At first glance the tree of life looks very simple but there are multiple depths to the meanings of the tree, the sephiroth, and the path linking everything together describes the manifestations of the divine creation in the book of the formation, the Sefer Jetzirah (יצירה ספר).
The tree of life is sub-divided into several levels of the ten primal numbers which are represented by the Sephiroth that are then linked by the 22 paths. The paths correspond to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The sephiroth also organized into three categories known as the pillars; they are the pillar of mercy, the pillar of severity and the middle pillar or the pillar of balance.
To fully understand the Tree of Life, you need to start with the basics.
There are two leading theories as to how to read the Tree of Life. One school of thought is to follow the path of the sephiroth from the bottom to the top. The Golden Dawn is one such example that focuses on reading and working the path from the bottom up.
When you start from the bottom you begin with the foundation in the material world, focusing on the acts and consciousness of man and work your way up to the divine. The focus is based on the influence on man and the gradual path from the physical form which we are born into and transcending into a spiritual world of the human spirit and then to godliness.
The alternate school of thought to read the Tree of Life is to work from the top and then move down the tree. Traditional Kabalistic traditions refer to this work as the Work of Creation and it is represented with the first chapters of Genesis in the Bible.
The energy of the world is created from the divine and acts almost as a spiritual trickle-down theory starting with God and the knowledge and power dispersing down the tree to the material level of the world and man.
No matter which way you choose to work the Tree of Life, you ultimately are faced with working the energies of the divine and understanding the spiritual workings of man. It is often recommended to work the tree from both directions in order to have a full view and understanding of the manifested energy of the divine and your relationship in the physical and higher levels.
Knowing the Sephiroth:
Before you can understand the more complex structures and how each aspect of the Tree of Life relates to one another, you have to understand the points that make up the tree itself. We are going to work our way from the bottom and detail each aspect for you. The meanings do not change whether you work them up or down, it’s simply a matter of preference at this point.
Malkut: The Kingdom
The bottom sephiroth on the tree of life is the one that represents the presence of God on the earthly plane with man. This position is the farthest removed from God or the divine and is grounded and secure in the solidity of the physical realm. In many teachings Malkut is the base or foundation of the tree of life where all serious student of Kabbalah begin their studies. It can be easily remembered if you think of it as the foundation of a home or the roots of a tree.
Located just above Malkut on the middle pillar and also connect to Hod on the pillar of severity and Netzach the pillar of mercy, Yesod reflects the spark of spirituality reflected from man to the divine. It attaches from the middle pillar essentially connecting heaven and earth. It is the path leading up from the material world to the spiritual of the and can be thought of as the reflective moon casting light of the divine to the earth. Yesod represents cyclical pattern that life holds for example the four seasons, the rhythm of breathing.
Hod sits above Yesod, on the pillar of mercy and connects also to Gevurah, Tipheret, and Netzach. The reflection of the consciousness of the divine is revealed through Hod as this is the space in which the glory of God is realized. Understanding the glory of the diving requires submission in Kabalistic traditions and is often associated with prayer and meditation. It is akin to the good feeling you get when your world is quite and you can relax.
Netzach sits directly across from Hod on the right side or known as the pillar of severity and also connects with Chesed also on pillar this pillar. Tipheret and Yesod both on the middle pillar and connects with Netzach. Whereas the previous seperhoth Hod is about contemplating; Netzach is the place where action is considered or taken. It can teach the “long view” or the “big picture” of an issue. This is the throne of the will. Where we learn the reasons to act. It help us accept world as it is and make us consider what to do about and how to act.
Tipheret is set on the middle pillar centered between Keter above and Yesod at its feet. Hod, Gevurah and Binah on the pillar of severity to the left, and Chokmah, Chesed and Netzach on the pillar of mercy to the right. It is the hub of the wheel and the center of the spokes. Tipheret is where Divine light is projected in to the material world that is why it is equated to nature in its entire splendor. It is related to act of sacrifice that has aided human kind. It is beauty and harmony. A place of love.
Gevurah is set on the pillar of severity. Above it is Binah and below is Hod. Gevurah connects to Tipheret and Da'at on the middle pillar and Chesed. This is the sephiroth of justice. In Gevurah is the will to overcome resistance and obstetrical. It is the force of erosion like a rock is in the way of a river. It is Severer in its merciless judgment.
Chesed is on the pillar of mercy right across from Gevurah and under Chokmah. It also connects to Da'at. Chesed is mercy, the kind of mercy that allows humans to work together. Forgiving small mistakes and supporting social need. One example is being forgiven for your sins.
Da'at has no connections but usually depicted above Tipheret and below Keter. It is the realm of knowledge. It is only depicted sometime because all of the sephiroth is sharing of the knowledge or all sephoriah working as one. Either way it is irrelevant because it is not a path of light and not in all glyphs of the tree of life
Binah is on the pillar of severity over Gevurah and across from Chesed and Chokmah. It is the seperhoth of understanding meaning the passivity of absorbing information. This is the place were we accept things as they are not as we want them to be. This seperhoth finds a place where energy can go to manifest like battery holding electricity.
Chokmah is on the pillar of mercy above Chesed, across from Binah and Gevurah. This is the seperhoth of wisdom. It is primal energy that has yet to be manifested. It is like the will to love only for the sake of loving. Doing something for the joy of doing it. It is the pure push of Keter.
Keter is on top of the middle pillar. It stand over Tipheret with Chokmah on the right side and Binah on the left. This is pure divine Mind, the big bang, the number one. Keter is the one God that has no name and its existence is reality. It is the beginning of all thing and Ideas. It is the cause and Malkut is the effect.
They are to be found within the four worlds, which are:
- Assia: The world of action in which the material world is situated.
- Yezirah: The formative world where the lower angels and the souls of man are situated. This is also said to be where the Garden of Eden is located.
- Beriah: The creation world, where the separation from the divine happens. This is viewed as heaven where the throne of God and the archangels reside.
- Azilut: The emanation of everything. Essentially, this is the divine world that is eternal and infinite.
Working with the tree of life can be a lifelong endeavor. There are secret orders, kabbalah centers, and renowned leaders that teach the workings. Each group and person will have their own individual way that they work their path on the tree, but through the inner sephiroth of the tree and the four worlds, people find that the magic of the tree work for them.
Pathworking and the Tree of Life
Pathworking is a way of working through the tree and gaining knowledge from each aspects of the tree as presented. As you will notice, the tree works like a map. It has stations that you can meditate on together or separately, but the routes between the spheres are also equally important. Magical teachings such as the Golden Dawn do not place a student into true pathworking until later grades and it is not something that should be done prematurely. It is important to know the zones of the tree of life and to be able to work from the lower Sephirah through to the higher ones. There are simple pathworking exercises that one can do without delving into the tree itself while still focusing on the higher consciousness. The structure of the tree is a relative simple one to follow and for any pathworking exercises you should refer back to your charts to be sure that you are following the flows between the Sephirahs as intended to be. Before you begin any pathworking work you should be clear headed. This is not work that should be done when you are sleepy or easily distracted.
Before you can work with the tree of life, you do have to take the time to memorize all of the words. In Hebrew, the letters and the combined word made from the letter has a magic of its own. Next, you will want to study the tree of life and the paths. It can be quite confusing at first and it takes time to learn the directions and the flow of the tree. Aside from studying, one of the best ways that you can master the tree is through meditation. Take the time to paste copies of the tree in your book of shadows as well as in a prominent place where you will do magical work and meditations. It is understandable that as you begin your work on the tree that you will need visual aids to help you focus and increase your knowledge.
One simple meditation on the tree is as follows. Always remember to ground, center, and cleanse your area before you start any magical working.
- Begin by standing facing toward the East.
- Chant: Malkut in a loud deep vibration. Visualize yourself being surrounded by the earthy colored sphere beginning at your feet. Realize this is the ground beneath you, your foundation of the earth. This is a place of earthy manifestations and all material aspects of life.
- Chant: Taw and see the indigo lights that are coming up from the earthy sphere of Malkut to your midsection. Feel the material aspects fading into the background or into the ground as pure energy is siphoned into your groin.
- Chant: Yesod and see the sphere drenched in violet light surrounding your groin. Feel the rise of heat in your body and acknowledge sexual activities and pleasure associated with this region. This is often a place where people lose concentration as they feel uncomfortable but breathe in the power that comes from your loins and avoid disassociation because of your own issues with sex.
- Chant: Shi and see a red beam raising from an angle from Malkut to your right hip level. This is a path of understanding to which you can reason and pulls your manifested power upward.
- Chant: Resh while seeing an orange beam coming up from the sphere that is about your ground and feel the power of the fantasy or dream consciousness from your sexual organs.
- Chant: Hod and see the sphere of orange colored light illuminate your hip on the right side.
- Chant: Qof (Quoph) while seeing a reddish violet light coming from the earthy sphere at your feet of Malkut and raising to your left hip. As this happens feel your body begin to detach from the physical world and open your being to the spirit world.
- Chant: Tzaddi and visualize a beam of light that is violet in color that comes up from an angle from your violet sphere and joins the beam at your left hip. You are opening up to the communications with the higher worlds and leaving no longer limited to the physical world manifestations.
- Chant: Peh and follow the beam of light of red that travels across from the orange of your left hip to bring the beams together at your right.
- Chant: Netzach as you see the sphere over your left hip colored green light up. With this sphere allow your inner emotional turmoil to fade away. You can pour any additional emotional feelings into the green sphere of cooling and healing light.
- Chant: Ayin while feeling the presence of all of the lights and beams about your body. With this you will bring a blue light up from and the orange at your right hip to the area over your heart and you will feel the rational collective mind lose hold on you. Your rational mind is calm and cool and you will feel the spirit realm but not quite reach it. Thoughts are lifting, breathing slows, and you disconnect as you gain access to higher levels.
- Chant: Samekh as you see the blue pillar connect from your groin to your heart and further distance yourself from unreal material wants, base sexual fantasies, and mundane wants. They are replaced by true fantasies and a realization that your sexual desires are whole and complete for your being. You are strengthened through your inner carnal connection as a way to connect with others and not to be used in a defilement or unclean ways.
- Chant: Nun while seeing a sea foam green light coming up from the green sphere and connecting to your heart. Feel your consciousnesses of healing and the physical realm is elevated.
- Chant: Tipheret and see the golden sphere with a yellow light coming from it around the center of your body and heart areas. Feel the love and understanding from the physical world where you see and recognize yourself as perfect, whole, and complete.
- Chant: Mem and focus your energy on a blue beam of light that connects vertically, rising from the orang sphere on your hip to your shoulder on the right. It will go straight up and will pull with it the path of morality from the physical world to your higher consciousness.
- Chant: Lamed while seeing a green beam from the golden sphere of your heart and connecting to your right shoulder.
- Chant: Geburah while seeing the red sphere that is around your shoulder and realize the moral changes and understanding of the world. Moral beliefs of the higher realms and the physical realms are not the same.
- Chant: Koph and see a light raising from the green sphere and extending to the left shoulder. It is vertical and shines a light purple color. Your emotions will open with this chant and you may feel a rush of a hidden emotion. It is okay to wait and process any emotions at this time and to truly reflect on the meanings of the sephiroth so far.
- Chant: Yod and feel the emotional perfection that comes with the yellow pale color that comes from your heart level to your shoulder on the left.
- Chant: Tet and connect the yellow beam and the sphere of gold at your heart to your left shoulder.
- Chant: Chesed and complete the shoulder region by seeing a blue sphere at your left shoulder. Feel your emotions level out as you reach a point of understanding and perfection. Your emotions are elevated beyond normal physical understanding.
- Visualize the higher paths connection Binah, Chokmah, and Keter. They are connected by beans of light without color as of yet. While your charts will attribute specific colors your goal is to bask in the light of the higher consciousness. Rest in this light of the higher self and spend some time focusing on your own inner peace. This is the true you beyond physical manifestations.
- When you feel free, light, and without a care chant: Ain Soph Aur and see the darkness beyond that is an abyss which is boundless. This is complete darkness as all of the light is absorbed. It is full and empty at the same time. This, the place beyond the many, is dark but full of everything that is and ever was.
- Allow your mind to wander beyond Ain and see nothing. Say or visualize nothing. Experience true nothing where there is nothing but what is to be created.
- Close your eyes and continue to meditate on the vastness and beyond.
- When you are ready slowly allow yourself to come back into your physical body. Feel your body again and give yourself time to readjust. Focus on the feeling of movement as you stretch your fingers, arms, toes. Feel Malkut beneath you as you come back to your foundation. Open your eyes when you are ready.
While this is a long meditation indeed, you can also ease yourself into it doing only a part each day. You can also spend time meditating on each sephiroth separately. Do not catch yourself on mispronunciations as you get used to the language and speech. It will come. Be gentle with yourself, love yourself, free yourself. Learn.
By Flo Saul
Feb 5, 2017