Friday, September 27, 2013

The Tree of Life I - Qabalah is the New Black

'As early as the 10th century, Saadia Gaon, remarked
about the many variants of Sefer Yetzirah, saying, "It
is not a common book and many people have been
careless in changing or transposing the text." A
century later, Rabbi Yehudah Barceloni likewise notes
that, "there are many, some very confused." In 1562,
the printers of the first Mantua edition remarked how
they had to sift through many manuscripts to find a

dependable text.'
- Inroduction to Sefer Yetzirah in Theory and Practice, Aryeh Kaplan

  • The Tree of Life is a diagram that consists of 10 Sefirot and 22 paths which divide into 3 horizontal paths, 7 vertical paths and 12 diagonal paths.  These are collectively referred to as the 32 paths of wisdom.

  • The Hebrew Alefbeit contains 22 letters which represent elements, planets and zodiac signs and which also divides into 3 mothers, 7 doubles and 12 simples.

  • The letters are associated according to those groups, the 3 mother letters of Alef, Mem and Shin with the 3 horizontal paths, the 7 doubles with the 7 verticals, the 12 simples with the 12 diagonals.

  • The association of letter to astrological symbol is not controversial for the 3 mothers and the 12 simples.  The order of creation in the SY is Air, Water, Fire* and the association runs parallel to their appearance in the Alefbeit, i.e. Alef is first therefore Air, Mem is second therefore Water, Shin is third therefore Fire.  In exactly the same way the order of the simples in the Alefbeit, Heh to Qoph, is directly associated with the order of the zodiac Aries to Pisces.

  • The double letter to planet association is more controversial varying between rabbinical sources but the oldest commentary (Saadia Gaon) goes with the most logical order following the Chaldean order of the planets i.e. Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercury, Moon with Beit, Gimel, Dalet, Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tav.  This would agree with the way the other letters have been ordered i.e. the simplest and most logical way.

  • The Kircher Tree is a corruption of these basic fundamentals the planets are misaligned and the path system is completely off - this is not a malicious error, its an accident (possibly of translation or of conversation) but one which has been unresolved because of poor research and dogma within the institutions responsible.  Many people who encounter the esoteric sciences via the G.D. et al are inducted into the Kircher without even realising that there are other sources which are more accurate. Indeed the materials of the Western esoteric sciences present the Kircher Tree as *the* Tree as opposed to *a* Tree which ignores (or remains ignorant of) the rather obvious structure implied above.  I think this is actually rather embarrassing.

  • The Tree shown below is an array structured to show the principles outlined above.  This Tree of Life is known as the Saadia Tree.  Both the Ari Tree (Isaac Luria) and the Gra Tree have slightly different arrangements of exactly where the paths go (although the division remains 3, 7 and 12) and slightly different planetary associations (which are perhaps associated with planetary hour as opposed to Chaldean order) but they both adhere to the logical breakdown of 3, 7 and 12.




The Tree of Life is a diagram which represents a 5 dimensional hypercontinuum of space, time and observer.  In the Saadia Tree the attributions of the ''Depths'' (or axial endpoints) of these dimensions are as follows.

Kether - Depth of Future
Malkuth - Depth of Past

Chokmah - Depth of Good
Binah - Depth of Evil
Chesed - Depth of South (warmth/expand)
Gevurah - Depth of North (cold/contract)

Tifereth - Depth of East
Yesod - Depth of West
Netzach - Depth of Up (rise/out)
Hod - Depth of Down (fall/in)

The elemental attributions are the same Alef - Air, Mem - Water, Shin - Fire (the order of creation in the SY informs the placements on the Saadia Tree of Life as opposed to the Ari where the verse ''create the head with fire, etc determines them) and the zodiac attributions are also the same Heh - Qoph in their order in the Alefbeit leads to Aries - Pisces in zodiac this set of placements on the ToL creates the zodiacal man in the aura:

The planetary attributions as mentioned earlier are more controversial but I follow the Chaldean order.  When this is placed in the most logical way on the Saadia diagram highly interesting patterns emerge.

First we have the middle pillar as follows - Kether (Depth of Future/Death), Beit (Saturn), Tifereth (Depth of East), Kaph (Sol), Yesod (Depth of West), Tav (Luna), Malkuth (Depth of Past/Birth).  As you can see this largely temporal axis shows the passage of the individual from ''birth'' (ruled by Luna) to ''death''** (ruled by Saturn) in the grand axis of Kether and Malkuth, but contains within it the daily temporal axis of East and West, Tifereth and Yesod with the passage of the Sun (its ''birth'' and ''death'').

The right and left pillars now have planets associated with them that are in keeping with the notion of the right pillar being a pillar of ''mercy'' and the left a pillar of ''severity''. 

On the right we have - Chokmah (Depth of Good), Gimel (Jupiter), Chesed (Depth of South/Warm/Expand), Pe (Venus), Netzach (Depth of Up/Rise/Out) - which captures the essence of the fortuitous and expansive effects of Jupiter and the blissful, holistic, lovely, ''uplifting'' effects of Venus.

On the left we have - Binah (Depth of Evil), Dalet (Mars), Gevurah (Depth of North***/Cold/Contract), Resh (Mercury) and Hod (Depth of Down/In/Fall).  This describes both the malefic and contractive nature of Mars with the detail focused, description in parts, scientific nature of Mercury.

The Saadia attributions set up the following in the aura: the elements in their natural creation order from the SY, the planets in the Chaldean order, the zodiac attributions in the positions of the zodiac man.  This leads to an aura which is harmonious with the natural and traditional arrays that have operated for thousands of years, i.e. an aura where the microcosm mirrors the macrocosm.
*Clouds, rain, lightning.
**See Last Days of Socrates.
***''Evil comes out of the North.''


  1. What's your rationale for beit between Kether and tipheret?

  2. Hi Paul

    Beit is the first double and therefore should be on the ''first'' vertical path. Why is the first path Kether - Tifereth and not Chokmah to Chesed? Answer - the TzimTzum. Beit as House represents the concept of a division between outside and inside (macrocosm and microcosm) - and with its value of 2 also represents this duality. It also represents the relationship between Arikh Anpin and Zeir Anpin.

    Remember that Beit here is Saturn. Saturn is linked to the household as the 'Godfather' and also as representing the power and hierarchy that is naturally represented in the household. Saturn as Chronos, Zurvan etc also symbolises Future and ''Death''. The Depth of Future (Death is the Road to Awe) is Kether, as I understand, and The Depth of Past (Birth) is Malkuth. One of the twists that I have discovered along the path of initiation amongst many is that ancestral power actually comes from the future, i.e. Death...

  3. The tzimtzum portion doesn't bother you, being that it's a later idea coming from the Ari?

    I agree with the outside/inside idea, but are you saying that Arikh Ainpin is microcosm, or macrocosm here? And are you also subsequently associating the Future definitively with either the micro or macrocosm and the Past with the other?

  4. I don't discount everything that comes later. I am not convinced that the Lurianic attributions to the Tree of Life are the best but of course I respect his metaphysical genius. I *also* highly respect the metaphysics of Shabbatai Tzvi which may or may not surprise you.

    As I understand, Arikh Anpin is the macrocosm and Zeir Anpin is the microcosm and the path that leads between them is Beit/Saturn. Depth of Future/Death with Arikh Anpin, and Depth of East with Tifereth (centre of Zeir Anpin), Depth of West with Yesod. Depth of Past/Birth is with Malkuth/Nuqba/The Fallen Daughter. Future, East, West, Past forms btoh a time axis along the middle pillar with future and past being the end points, and east and west as both spatial and temporal.

  5. I wouldn't necessarily say I'm surprised that you appreciate the metaphysics of an insane person.

    I can see the Arikh Ainpin/macrocosm connection but only in a very unconventional way in which the World to Come is considered the real world into which we will some day enter, and this world is where we gestate internally. I guess it's not really all that unconventional after all, now that I write it out. I may be halfway to a conversion here.

  6. Fascinating... forgive me if this sounds like a silly question, but do you happen to have a diagram of the Saadia Tree with the Sephirot numbered? I'd like to ensure I understand exactly which is placed where. Thank you.

  7. Shabbatai Tzvi's thoughts on how the Tzim Tzum relates to the Klippot and the Messiah, which reach us via the less insane Nathan of Gaza, are genius.

    The Arikh Anpin macrocosm relationship is very traditional as I understand but yes the ''World to Come''', i.e. the Depth of Future (Keter, the tip of the Yod in the partzufim tetragrammaton relationship and Adam Kadmon) does exist and that's where we go when we die or are rather reborn into. Or as you say we gestate here. This is all very Christian. As you must know from your own research however ostenisbly Jewish later Kabbalah is it contains much Christian thinking, is deeply influenced by Christian thought and occassionally this breaks into pseudo Christian heresies such as Tzvi and Frank. I don't think it is so much of a matter of conversion as in understanding. To be Frank, :-), its the astrological bit I think you're missing in understanding the Yetziratic world I am fleshing out here.

  8. Paul, to elaborate on a point, although Adam Kadmon technically exists in the past (the blueprint of man) as one who has died and therefore passed through (and indeed the first of us to pass through) he actually ''exists'' in the future. The greatest ancestral power one accesses through the gate of Future is Adam.

  9. Rose, I'll post a description of the structure of the Saadia Tree for you as soon as I can. Thanks for your interest. Spread the word.

  10. Hi Rose, I have updated this post to include Saadia attributions as extension.

  11. Wow... That is really the first word which came to mind as I read your extension to this post. As with most others interested in the ToL, I've studied, and have been working with the Kircher Tree. However, something about it never sat quite right with me and I just couldn't put my finger on it. I've had a project in mind to draw up my own Tree with paths that "felt" more accurate to me, including the Tarot upon it as I also work with the Tarot as one system of divination, along with Astrology. I wanted to work the symbolism of the Tarot as I've experienced it onto the appropriate paths of the ToL in a manner which seemed more suitable, but the Kircher Tree wasn't sitting right in my mind for this project.

    I feel you may have provided me with, if not a more correct version of the ToL to work with, at least a much more valid Tree as a starting point to begin with. But in truth, what you have explained above... all the attributions as I understand them upon this initial reading, feel accurate to me. As you say, the Saadia Tree leads to an aura that is harmonious...

    I stumbled upon your site via a link from another site I frequent; can't recall which at the moment or I'd credit them. However, I haven't found the time to read everything you've posted thus far in a more studious manner. I'll now ensure I do... and you bet I'll spread the word.

    Thank you for taking the time to expand upon your initial posting. :)

  12. Logan, I'd like to explore the other attributions a bit further as well, if you're up for it. Preferably starting with the other verticals, specifically Dalet as connecting Evil with North. Why Dalet, 4, door, etc?

  13. Very well Paul, but remember the principle meaning is the astrological and I hope I don't have to justify Mars any more than I have in the extension. If one considers the available placements offered by the verticals I don't believe there is one that fits in better with the astrological meanings. I also want to point out that one of the beauties of the Saadia Tree is that the meaning is concise and elegant and that there is a flow and symmetry to the letters, they move as the chromosomes do. The endless exegesis and rhetoric supplied by Kircher-related books and arguably the Zohar is unnecessary in my opinion.

    Dalet is the poor man who recieves the charity from Ghimel, the rich man. He is said to be the servant/retainer/bondsman of Gimel. ''Ancient'' armies were not professional but made up of the vassals or bondsmen of the lord of the family. Dalet as door serves as 'Guard' linking to the above. The 4 is 2 to the power 2 and as such is a development of the duality established in Bet, the inner can be closed to the outer or it can be open.

  14. Thank you Rose and I am glad you have been saved from the wasteful time suck that is the Kircher Tree. I am particularly glad these attributions resonate with you but I urge you to purchase a copy of Sefer Yetzirah by Aryeh Kaplan and study it yourself so you can draw your own conclusions or at least see partially where I have drawn mine.

    The Metabolism of Time is the main work present on Blogos at the moment, and details the links between genetics and consciousness (partially drawing on biopsychology). It is quite technical but there is no way around that; in my understanding it is better to understand deeply than to skim. The work detailed in Metabolism of Time has been harmonized with the Saadia Tree and there will be various essays added over the next few months which detail some of these links but I guess the important thing to understand is that the letters of the Alefbeit relate to the chromosomes (as the ''book of creation or formation'') quite clearly. Again it is highly technical but the the mother letters relate to the basic cellular structure of blood, cytoplasm and nucleus, the doubles to the organelles of the cell and the simples to the twelve basic genetic rhythms - this is why when ''building'' the ToL into the aura one should aim to get it right. Most people detect the problems with Kircher and not knowing about the rule of 3, 7 and 12 (although it is staring them in the face!!) leave work with the Tree and pursue some other esoteric art instead. The people who do carry through the work basically have a less effective or faulty or even malfunctioning Tree. One of my colleagues Mr Rufus Opus picking up this idea has used it to explain why the Golden Dawn heads are so divisive and petty, and that the orders are in such a deplorable state. Wiring oneself up in such a faulty way has lead to spiritual misfiring. I really hope at some point they embrace their error and correct this fundamental problem with the foundation.

    That said I believe in some flexibility. I believe movement (or permutation) within the rule of 3, 7 and 12 is potentially useful but breaking this rule espcially in ignorance of it, seems criminally insane.

  15. I really like the Beit attribution and the meaning behind the Death/Future - Birth/Past axis of Kether-Malkuth, but I've always gone back and forth about whether or not Kether/Malkuth should be Future/Path or Good/Evil.

    The 5th, "moral" dimension of Good and Evil described in SY, really describes a location as it regards proximity to the Infinite, in my understanding. This is in my mind most easily pictured as relating to Kether and Malkuth, as it's commonly taught and understood that the infinite is "above" Kether.

    It's possible that I just can't appreciate what it really means to have 5 dimensions and so can't mentally diagram the placement of Chokmah and Binah properly. But it's also possible that Chokmah represents the future in the sense of masculine potential for life, and Binah represents the past in a similar kind of birthing metaphor.

    What are your thoughts for justifying Chokmah as Good and Binah as Evil if not having to do with some kind of nearness to the Ain Soph?

  16. I agonised over the same choice for a long time too. Chokmah for instance is occassionally called Reshit (beginning) and Binah Teshuvah (return). The argument for Good and Evil is too compelling for me though.

    Chokmah and Binah sit atop the pillars of mercy (Good) and severity (Evil) respectively, they represent the pan of merit (Good) and liability (Evil) that Alef decides between (this is why Alef is the primary horizontal as opposed to Shin, more on that later I guess). There is an ''evil'' darkness in Binah but its a natural ''evil'' like Kali Ma for instance.

    The rationale also involves a view of the whole system.. With Evil at the top of the pillar of Severity we also have North (cold/contract) and Down (fall/in). With Good at the top of the pillar of Mercy we also have South (warm/expand) and Up (rise/out/lift). With East and West as both spatial and temporal (in that they describe the passage of the day), it makes much more logical sense to encapsulate that middle pillar axis in the concept of Time and therefore Future/Death and Past/Birth. These attributions then also agree with the astrology.

    A close reading of Kaplan's commentary will show you that the point at infinity can be reached by meditating on *any* of the polarities or indeed all of them (in the sense of the unification of the Sefirot). Remember also that it is the Depth of End and the Depth of Beginning that are referred to as being imbedded in each other and pointing the way towards the singular master.

  17. I do happen to have a copy of the Sefer Yetzirah, but I'm not sure of the author. I'll have to check, and also check if it is a complete copy. What I've read thus far is compelling to me.

    By the way, I'm enjoying your conversation with Paul immensely. Validates much of what I have already learned and sussed out on my own. I'll continue to watch this space and now delve more deeply into your site, now that some time has been freed up.

  18. Further note: As for 3, 7, and 12; I've always been a bit obsessed about those numbers... especially 3. Perhaps that's why I feel more drawn to the Saadia Tree? It feels more balanced... if that is the correct word to use in this case.

    I'm still contemplating this, as this is a move from the Kircher for me, but yes... balanced and logical. I also like the way the paths flow as well. I may have questions later when I digest, chart, and compare. Thanks again!

  19. What about Peh? :) The Ari places Peh between Gevurah and Hod, and the chassidim say it's because of the secret of the "mouth." That is, by learning to not speak unless necessary, it brings the discipline of Gevurah into the mental arena of Hod, and composes one's "splendor" or appearance to that end (discipline).

  20. Lets remember again that primarily the ToL is a 5d diagram representing the polarities and how the astrological influences are positioned or mediate between these polarities. The terms Kether, Chokmah etc come much later in Kabbalah - I really use them for ease of communication. There is something to be found in such contemplation but I favour the 'Depths' as the Sefirot.

    Peh therefore is positioned as Venus (due to the reasoning in the post) between the depths of South (Warm/Expand) and Up (Rise/Out). The connotations of these depths are bliss, ecstasy, aesthetic enjoyment (in the sense of being ''transported''). This is contrasted with Resh (as Mercury) between the depths North (Cold/Contract) and Down (Fall/In) which has the connotations of science performing an experiment on something. We see the classic realms of emotions/art vs logic/science.

  21. Wonder why no one seems to see the significance of the Ari Tree? The horizontals are the descending elements: Fire, Air, Water. The base, and reference point is the Earth. The planets are arranged in two circles, clockwise and anti-clockwise, inner and outer. The zodiac is in the double helix of DNA. The 'missing X' in the upper part is Daath, tohu v'bohu, the void that destroys the separation from the supernals, and will drive fools to madness. It is a glyph of Creation seen from the viewpoint of man. Further, it accords with Sefer Yetizirah, the Saida version. Fire above, Water below and Air is the breath that decides between them. The left pillar is restriction, the right expansion, the center integration. Look!

    1. Hey Paul I have looked a lot at these images. I am not sure if you've read the post or the series in its entirety or indeed the comments but we need to put the planetary associations on the paths and the depths used to get the meaning. Do you have those and can you argue the arrangements from that PoV?

      As a biochemist I hear a lot about the potential links between DNA and the ToL in the WMT but none of the details. I have the exact details of association between the 12 basic genetic rhythms and the zodiac, the 7 sacred planets and the cellular organelles, and the 3 mothers and the tripartite division of the organism into blood, cytoplasm and nucleus.

      I am not sure how well-versed you are in the science but the links *are* there for sure and its worth pressing on with research. I feel that the arrangement I have outlined is most agreeable with both the cellular and the astrological knowledge we have.

      In terms of descending elements the SY clearly indicates that Air is first, followed by Water, followed by Fire and this is the information that informs my ordering of the paths. I appreciate that later in the text, it says make fire ''the head'', and water ''the belly'' with lungs as air that decide between them and I don't discount that argument. However in the cellular correspondences air is associated with the blood, as outermost, water is associated with the cytoplasm as intermediary and fire with the nucleus as innermost.

      A close reading of the text here:

      Indicates that the ''head of the Gaviyah'' relates to the sexual organ. i.e. the head refered to by Shin is actually the phallus. This also connects with Shin as nucleus/DNA as the site of replication within the cell.

      I am not discounting the Ari by any means and I think there is lots of room for productive argument within the rule of 3, 7 and 12 and I am glad you are not involved in the appalling error that is the Kircher Tree.

      I don't know to what extent you are a practical Kabbalist but the arrangement I have laid out works better with cellular correspondences. You may want to try experimenting then by overlapping the cell to the body and do not imagine the ''brain'' as the ''nucleus'' of the cell (a metaphorical error perpetuated by high school education). The ''brain'' is in ''the blood'' in the sense that the hormonal orders that enact the brains commands are there. The nervous system can also be seen as a kind of electrical blood, a ''nervous circulation''. Again AIR for topmost horizontal (the beginning of the gaviyah ''whole body'') as the text indicates, WATER for the belly (remember how high up in your body your stomach actually is, do not mistake the intestines for the ''belly'') and FIRE for ''head of the gaviyah'' i.e. sexual organ.

      Please keep the dialogue going if you are interested! But thanks for the comments!