Tag: Kabbalah

Chapter 2: Sephirothic Correspondences

By Colin Low | April 14, 2002 | Leave a comment

The correspondences are a set of symbols, associations and qualities which provide a handle on the elusive something a sephira represents. Some of the correspondences are hundreds of years old, many were concocted this century, and some are my own; some fit very well, and some are obscure – oddly enough it is often the most obscure and ill-fitting correspondence which is most productive; like a Zen riddle it perplexes and annoys the mind until it arrives at the right place more in spite of the correspondence than because of it.

There are few canonical correspondences; some of the sephiroth have alternative names, some of the names have alternative translations, the mapping from Hebrew spellings to the English alphabet varies from one author to the next, and inaccuracies and accretions are handed down like the family silver. I keep my Hebrew dictionary to hand but guarantee none of the English spellings.

The correspondences I have given are as follows:

  1. The Meaning is a translation of the Hebrew name of the sephira.
  2. The Planet in most cases is the planet associated with the sephira. In some cases it is not a planet at all (e.g. the fixed stars). The planets are ordered by decreasing apparent motion – this is one correspondence which appears to pre-date Copernicus!
  3. The Element is the physical element (earth, water, air, fire, aethyr) which has most in common with the nature of the Sephira. The Golden Dawn applied an excess of logic to these attributions and made a mess of them, to the confusion of many. Only the five Lower Face sephiroth have been attributed an element.
  4. Briatic colour. This is the colour of the sephira as seen in the world of Creation, Briah. There are colour scales for the other three worlds but I haven’t found them to be useful in practical work.
  5. Magical Image. Useful in meditations; some are astute.
  6. The Briatic Correspondence is an abstract quality which says something about the essence of the way the sephira expresses itself.
  7. The Illusion characterizes the way in which the energy of the sephira clouds one’s judgement; it is something which is *obviously* true. Most people suffer from one or more of these according to their temperament.
  8. The Obligation is a personal quality which is demanded of an initiate at this level.
  9. The Virtue and Vice are the energy of the sephiroth as it manifests in a positive and negative sense in the personality.
  10. Qlippoth is a word which means “shell”. In medieval Kabbalah each sephira was “seen” to be adding form to the sephira which preceded it in the Lightning Flash (see Chapter 3.). Form was seen to an accretion, a shell around the pure divine energy of the Godhead, and each layer or shell hid the divine radiance a little bit more, until God was buried in form and exiled in matter, the end-point of the process. At the time attitudes to matter were tainted with the Manichean notion that matter was evil, a snare for the spirit, and consequently the Qlippoth or shells were “demonized” and actually turned into demons. The correspondence I have given here restores the original notion of a shell of form *without* the corresponding force to activate it; it is the lifeless, empty husk of a sephira devoid of force, and while it isn’t a literal demon, it is hardly a bundle of laughs when you come across it.
  11. The Command refers to the Four Powers of the Sphinx, with an extra one added for good measure.
  12. The Spiritual Experience is just that.
  13. The Titles are a collection of alternative names for the sephira; most are very old.
  14. The God Name is a key to invoking the power of the sephira in the world of emanation, Atziluth.
  15. The Archangel mediates the energy of the sephira in the world of creation, Briah.
  16. The Angel Order administers the energy of the sephira in the world of formation, Yetzirah.
  17. The Keywords are a collection of phrases which summarise key aspects of the sephira.
=================================================================
Sephira: Malkuth                   Meaning: Kingdom
-------                            -------
Planet: Cholem Yesodeth            Element: earth
--------(the Breaker of            -------
         the Foundations, sphere of the elements, the Earth)

Briatic Colour: brown              Number: 10
------------- (citrine, russet-red,------
               olive green, black)

Magical Image: a young woman crowned and throned
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: stability
----------------------
Illusion: materialism              Obligation: discipline
--------                           ----------
Virtue: discrimination             Vice: avarice & inertia
------                             ----
Qlippoth: stasis                   Command: keep silent
--------                           -------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel
------
Titles:  The Gate; Gate of Death; Gate of Tears; Gate of Justice;
------   The Inferior Mother;  Malkah,  the  Queen;  Kallah,  the
         Bride; the Virgin.
------
God Name: Adonai ha Aretz          Archangel: Sandalphon
--------  Adonai Malekh            ---------
Angel Order: Ishim
-----------
Keywords:the  real world,  physical  matter,  the  Earth,  Mother
         Earth,  the physical elements, the natural world, sticks
         & stones,  possessions,  faeces, practicality, solidity,
         stability, inertia, heaviness, bodily death, incarnation.

=================================================================
Sephira: Yesod                     Meaning: Foundation
-------                            -------
Planet: Levanah (the Moon)         Element: Aethyr
--------------                     -------
Briatic Colour: purple             Number: 9
-------------                      ------ 

Magical Image: a beautiful man, very strong (e.g. Atlas)
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: receptivity, perception
----------------------
Illusion: security                 Obligation: trust
--------                           ----------
Virtue: independence               Vice: idleness
------                             ----
Qlippoth: zombieism, robotism      Command: go!
--------                           -------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of the Machinery of the Universe
--------------------
Titles: The Treasure House of Images
------
God Name: Shaddai el Chai          Archangel: Gabriel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Cherubim
----------
Keywords: perception, interface, imagination, image, appearance,
          glamour, the Moon, the unconscious, instinct, tides,
          illusion, hidden infrastructure, dreams, divination,
          anything as it seems to be and not as it is, mirrors
          and crystals, the "Astral Plane", Aethyr, glue,
          tunnels, sex & reproduction, the genitals, cosmetics,
          instinctive magic (psychism), secret doors, shamanic
          tunnel.

=============================================================
Sephira: Hod                       Meaning: Glory, Splendour
-------                            -------
Planet: Kokab (Mercury)            Element: air
------                             -------
Briatic Colour: orange             Number: 8
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: an hermaphrodite
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: abstraction
----------------------
Illusion: order                    Obligation: learn
--------                           ----------
Virtue: honesty, truthfulness      Vice: dishonesty
------                             ----
Qlippoth: rigidity                 Command: will
--------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Splendour
------
Titles: -
------
God Name: Elohim Tzabaoth          Archangel: Raphael
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Beni Elohim

Keywords: reason, abstraction, communication, conceptualisation,
          logic, the sciences, language, speech, money (as a
          concept), mathematics, medicine & healing, trickery,
          writing, media (as communication), pedantry,
          philosophy, Kabbalah (as an abstract system), protocol,
          the Law, ownership, territory, theft, "Rights", ritual
          magic.

===============================================================
Sephira: Netzach                   Meaning: Victory, Firmness
-------                            -------
Planet: Nogah (Venus)              Element: water
--------------                     -------
Briatic Colour: green              Number: 7
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a beautiful naked woman
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: nurture
----------------------
Illusion: projection               Obligation: responsibility
--------                           ----------
Virtue: unselfishness              Vice: selfishness
------                             ----
Qlippoth: habit, routine           Command: know
--------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Beauty Triumphant
------
Titles: -
------
God Name: Jehovah Tzabaoth         Archangel: Haniel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Elohim
----------
Keywords: passion, pleasure, luxury, sensual beauty, feelings,
          drives, emotions - love, hate, anger, joy, depression,
          misery, excitement, desire, lust; nurture, libido,
          empathy, sympathy, ecstatic magic.

================================================================
Sephira: Tipheret                  Meaning: Beauty
-------                            -------
Planet: Shemesh (the Sun)          Element: fire
--------------                     -------
Briatic Colour: yellow             Number: 6
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a king, a child, a sacrificed god
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: centrality, wholeness
----------------------
Illusion: identification           Obligation: integrity
--------                           ----------
Virtue: devotion to the Great Work Vice: pride, self-importance
------                             ----
Qlippoth: hollowness               Command: dare
--------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Harmony
--------------------  

Titles: Melekh, the King; Zoar Anpin, the lesser countenance, the
------  Microprosopus; the Son; Rachamin, charity.

God Name: Aloah va Daath           Archangel: Michael
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Malachim
-----------
Keywords: harmony, integrity, balance, wholeness, the Self, self-
          importance, self-sacrifice, the Son of God, centrality,
          the Philospher's Stone, identity, the solar plexus,
          a King, the Great Work.

================================================================
Sephira: Gevurah                   Meaning: Strength
-------                            -------
Planet: Madim (Mars)
--------------
Briatic Colour: red                Number: 5
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a mighty warrior
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: power
----------------------
Illusion: invincibility            Obligation: courage & loyalty
--------                           ----------
Virtue: courage & energy           Vice: cruelty
------                             ----
Qlippoth: bureaucracy
--------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Power
--------------------
Titles: Pachad, fear; Din, justice.
------
God Name: Elohim Gevor             Archangel: Kamael
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Seraphim
-----------
Keywords: power, justice, retribution (eaten cold), the Law (in
          execution), cruelty, oppression, domination & the Power
          Myth, severity, necessary destruction, catabolism,
          martial arts.  

===============================================================
Sephira: Chesed                    Meaning: Mercy
-------                            -------
Planet: Tzadekh (Jupiter)
--------------
Briatic Colour: blue               Number: 4
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a mighty king
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: authority
----------------------
Illusion: being right              Obligation: humility
--------  (self-righteousness)     ----------

Virtue: humility & obedience       Vice: tyranny, hypocrisy,
------                             ----  bigotry, gluttony
Qlippoth: ideology
--------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Love
--------------------
Titles: Gedulah, magnificence, love, majesty
------
God Name: El                       Archangel: Tzadkiel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Chasmalim
-----------
Keywords: authority, creativity, inspiration, vision, leadership,
          excess, waste, secular and spiritual power, submission
          and the Annihilation Myth, the atom bomb, obliteration,
          birth, service.

================================================================
Non-Sephira: Daath                 Meaning: Knowledge
-----------                        -------
Daath has no manifest qualities and cannot be invoked directly.

Keywords: hole, tunnel, gateway, doorway, black hole, vortex.

================================================================
Sephira: Binah                     Meaning: Understanding,
-------                            -------
Planet: Shabbathai (Saturn)
------
Briatic Colour: black              Number: 3
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: an old woman on a throne
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: comprehension
----------------------
Illusion: death
--------
Virtue: silence                    Vice: inertia
------                             ----
Qlippoth: fatalism
--------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of Sorrow
--------------------
Titles:   Aima, the Mother; Ama, the Crone; Marah, the bitter
          sea; Khorsia, the Throne; the Fifty Gates of
          Understanding; Intelligence; the Mother of Form; the
          Superior Mother.

God Name: Elohim                   Archangel: Cassiel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Aralim
-----------
Keywords: limitation, form, constraint, heaviness, slowness, old-
          age, infertility, incarnation, karma, fate, time,
          space, natural law, the womb and gestation, darkness,
          boundedness, enclosure, containment, fertility, mother,
          weaving and spinning, death (annihilation).

==================================================================
Sephira: Chokhmah                  Meaning: Wisdom
-------                            -------
Planet: Mazlot (the Zodiac, the fixed stars)
--------------
Briatic Colour: silver/white       Number: 2
-------------   grey               ------ 

Magical Image: a bearded man
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: revolution
----------------------
Illusion: independence
--------
Virtue: good                       Vice: evil
------                             ----
Qlippoth: arbitrariness
--------
Spiritual Experience: Vision of God face-to-face
------
Titles: Abba, the Father. The Supernal Father.
------
God Name: Jah                      Archangel: Ratziel
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Auphanim
-----------
Keywords: pure creative energy, lifeforce, the wellspring.

==================================================================
Sephira: Kether                    Meaning: Crown
-------                            -------
Planet: Rashith ha Gilgalim (first swirlings, the Big Bang)
--------------
Briatic Colour: pure white         Number: 1
-------------                      ------
Magical Image: a bearded man seen in profile
-------------
Briatic Correspondence: unity
----------------------
Illusion: attainment
--------
Virtue: attainment                 Vice: ---
------                             ----
Qlippoth: futility
--------
Spiritual Experience: Union with God
--------------------
Titles:   Ancient of Days, the Greater Countenance
          (Macroprosopus), the White Head, Concealed of the
          Concealed, Existence of Existences, the Smooth Point,
          Rum Maalah, the Highest Point.

God Name: Eheieh                   Archangel: Metatron
--------                           ---------
Angel Order: Chaioth ha Qadesh
-----------
Keywords: unity, union, all, pure consciousness, God, the
          Godhead, manifestation, beginning, source, emanation.

Notes on Kabbalah

The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes.


Chapter 1: The Tree of Life

By Colin Low | April 14, 2002 | Leave a comment

At the root of the Kabbalistic view of the world are three fundamental concepts and they provide a natural place to begin. The three concepts are force, form and consciousness and these words are used in an abstract way, as the following examples illustrate:

  • high pressure steam in the cylinder of a steam engine provides a force. The engine is a form which constrains the force.
  • a river runs downhill under the force of gravity. The river channel is a form which constrains the water to run in a well defined path.
  • someone wants to get to the centre of a garden maze. The hedges are a form which constrain that person’s ability to walk as they please.
  • a diesel engine provides the force which drives a boat forwards. A rudder constrains its course to a given direction.
  • a politician wants to change the law. The legislative framework of the country is a form which he or she must follow if the change is to be made legally.
  • water sits in a bowl. The force of gravity pulls the water down. The bowl is a form which gives its shape to the water.
  • a stone falls to the ground under the force of gravity. Its acceleration is constrained to be equal to the force divided by the mass of the stone.
  • I want to win at chess. The force of my desire to win is constrained within the rules of chess.
  • I see something in a shop window and have to have it. I am constrained by the conditions of sale (do I have enough money, is it in stock).
  • cordite explodes in a gun barrel and provides an explosive force on a bullet. The gas and the bullet are constrained by the form of the gun barrel.
  • I want to get a passport. The government won’t give me one unless I fill in lots of forms in precisely the right way.
  • I want a university degree. The university won’t give me a degree unless I attend certain courses and pass various assessments.

In all these examples there is something which is causing change to take place (“a force”) and there is something which causes change to take place in a defined way (“a form”). Without being too pedantic it is possible to identify two very different types of example here:

  1. examples of natural physical processes (e.g. a falling stone) where the force is one of the natural forces known to physics (e.g. gravity) and the form is is some combination of physical laws which constrain the force to act in a well defined way.
  2. examples of people wanting something, where the force is some ill-defined concept of “desire”, “will”, or “drives”, and the form is one of the forms we impose upon ourselves (the rules of chess, the Law, polite behaviour etc.).

Despite the fact that the two different types of example are “only metaphorically similar”, Kabbalists see no fundamental distinction between them. To the Kabbalist there are forces which cause change in the natural world, and there are corresponding psychological forces which drive us to change both the world and ourselves, and whether these forces are natural or psychological they are rooted in the same place: consciousness. Similarly, there are forms which the component parts of the physical world seem to obey (natural laws) and there are completely arbitrary forms we create as part of the process of living (the rules of a game, the shape of a mug, the design of an engine, the syntax of a language) and these forms are also rooted in the same place: consciousness. It is a Kabbalistic axiom that there is a prime cause which underpins all the manifestations of force and form in both the natural and psychological world and that prime cause I have called consciousness for lack of a better word.

Consciousness is undefinable. We know that we are conscious in different ways at different times – sometimes we feel free and happy, at other times trapped and confused, sometimes angry and passionate, sometimes cold and restrained – but these words describe manifestations of consciousness. We can define the manifestations of consciousness in terms of manifestations of consciousness, which is about as useful as defining an ocean in terms of waves and foam. Anyone who attempts to define consciousness itself tends to come out of the same door as they went in. We have lots of words for the phenomena of consciousness – thoughts, feelings, beliefs, desires, emotions, motives and so on – but few words for the states of consciousness which give rise to these phenomena, just as we have many words to describe the surface of a sea, but few words to describe its depths. Kabbalah provides a vocabulary for states of consciousness underlying the phenomena, and one of the purposes of these notes is to explain this vocabulary, not by definition, but mostly by metaphor and analogy. The only genuine method of understanding what the vocabulary means is by attaining various states of consciousness in a predictable and reasonably objective way, and Kabbalah provides practical methods for doing this.

A fundamental premise of the Kabbalistic model of reality is that there is a pure, primal, and undefinable state of consciousness which manifests as an interaction between force and form. This is virtually the entire guts of the Kabbalistic view of things, and almost everything I have to say from now on is based on this trinity of consciousness, force, and form. Consciousness comes first, but hidden within it is an inherent duality; there is an energy associated with consciousness which causes change (force), and there is a capacity within consciousness to constrain that energy and cause it to manifest in a well-defined way (form).

                       First Principle
                             of
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /                    \
                   /                      \
               Capacity                   Raw
               to take  ________________ Energy
                Form
                          Figure 1.

What do we get out of raw energy and an inbuilt capacity for form and structure? Is there yet another hidden potential within this trinity waiting to manifest? There is. If modern physics is to be believed we get matter and the physical world. The cosmological Big Bang model of raw energy surging out from an infintesimal point and condensing into basic forms of matter as it cools, then into stars and galaxies, then planets, and ultimately living creatures, has many points of similarity with the Kabbalistic model. In the Big Bang model a soup of energy condenses according to some yet-to-be-formulated Grand-Universal-Theory into our physical world. What Kabbalah does suggest (and modern physics most certainly does not!) is that matter and consciousness are the same stuff, and differ only in the degree of structure imposed – matter is consciousness so heavily structured and constrained that its behaviour becomes describable using the regular and simple laws of physics. This is shown in Fig. 2. The primal, first principle of consciousness is synonymous with the idea of “God”.

                       First Principle
                             of
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
               Capacity       |           Raw
               to take  _____________ Energy/Force
                Form          |
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                            Matter
                          The World

                          Figure 2

The glyph in Fig. 2 is the basis for the Tree of Life. The first principle of consciousness is called Kether, which means Crown. The raw energy of consciousness is called Chokhmah or Wisdom, and the capacity to give form to the energy of consciousness is called Binah, which is sometimes translated as Understanding, and sometimes as Intelligence. The outcome of the interaction of force and form, the physical world, called Malkuth or Kingdom. This quaternery is a Kabbalistic representation of God-the-Knowable, in the sense that it the most primitive representation of God we are capable of comprehending; paradoxically, Kabbalah also contains a notion of God-the-Unknowable which transcends this glyph, and is called En Soph. There is not much I can say about En Soph, and what I can say I will postpone for later.

God-the-Knowable has four aspects, two male and two female: Kether and Chokhmah are both represented as male, and Binah and Malkuth are represented as female. One of the titles of Chokhmah is Abba, which means Father, and one of the titles of Binah is Aima, which means Mother, so you can think of Chokhmah as God-the-Father, and Binah as God-the-Mother. Malkuth is the daughter, the female spirit of God-as-Matter, and it would not be wildly wrong to think of her as Mother Earth. One of the more pleasant things about Kabbalah is that its symbolism gives equal place to both male and female.

And what of God-the-Son? Is there also a God-the-Son in Kabbalah? There is, and this is the point where Kabbalah tackles the interesting problem of thee and me. The glyph in Fig. 2 is a model of consciousness, but not of self-consciousness, and self-consciousness throws an interesting spanner in the works.

The Fall

Self-consciousness is like a mirror in which consciousness sees itself reflected. Self-consciousness is modelled in Kabbalah by making a copy of figure 2.

                        Consciousness
                             of
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
              Consciousness   |      Consciousness
                   of  ________________   of
                  Form        |       Energy/Force
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                        Consciousness
                            of the
                            World

                          Figure 3    

Figure 3. is Figure 2. reflected through self-consciousness. The overall effect of self-consciousness is to add an additional layer to Figure 2. as follows:

                       First Principle
                             of
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
               Capacity       |           Raw
               to take  _____________ Energy/Force
                Form          |
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                        Consciousness
                             of
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
              Consciousness   |      Consciousness
                   of  ________________   of
                  Form        |       Energy/Force
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                        Consciousness
                            of the
                            World
                              |
                              |
                              |
                            Matter
                          The World

                          Figure 4

Fig. 2 is sometimes called “the Garden of Eden” because it represents a primal state of consciousness. The effect of self-consciousness as shown in Fig. 4 is to drive a wedge between the First Principle of Consciousness (Kether) and that Consciousness realized as matter and the physical world (Malkuth). This is called “the Fall”, after the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. From a Kabbalistic point of view the story of Eden, with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the serpent and the temptation, and the casting out from the Garden has a great deal of meaning in terms of understanding the evolution of consciousness.
Self-consciousness introduces four new states of consciousness: the Consciousness of Consciousness is called Tipheret, which means Beauty; the Consciousness of Force/Energy is called Netzach, which means Victory or Firmness; the Consciousness of Form is called Hod, which means Splendour or Glory, and the Consciousness of Matter is called Yesod, which means Foundation. These four states have readily observable manifestations, as shown below in Fig. 5:

                           The Self
                        Self-Importance
                         Self-Sacrifice
                     /        |         \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
                Language      |         Emotions
              Abstraction_______________Drives
                 Reason       |         Feelings
                   \          |           /
                    \         |          /
                     \        |         /
                      \   Perception   /
                          Imagination
                           Instinct
                         Reproduction

                           Figure 5

Figure 4. is almost the complete Tree of Life, but not quite – there are still two states missing. The inherent capacity of consciousness to take on structure and objectify itself (Binah, God-the-Mother) is reflected through self-consciousness as a perception of the limitedness and boundedness of things. We are conscious of space and time, yesterday and today, here and there, you and me, in and out, life and death, whole and broken, together and apart. We see things as limited and bounded and we have a perception of form as something “created” and “destroyed”. My car was built a year ago, but it was smashed yesterday. I wrote an essay, but I lost it when my computer crashed. My granny is dead. The river changed its course. A law has been repealed. I broke my coffee mug. The world changes, and what was here yesterday is not here today. This perception acts like an “interface” between the quaternary of consciousness which represents “God”, and the quaternary which represents a living self-conscious being, and two new states are introduced to represent this interface. The state which represents the creation of new forms is called Chesed, which means Mercy, and the state which represents the destruction of forms is called Gevurah, which means Strength. This is shown in Fig. 6. The objectification of forms which takes place in a self-conscious being, and the consequent tendency to view the world in terms of limitations and dualities (time and space, here and there, you and me, in and out, God and Man, good and evil…) produces a barrier to perception which most people rarely overcome, and for this reason it has come to be called the Abyss. The Abyss is also marked on Figure 6.

                       First Principle
                             of
                     /  Consciousness   \
                    /         |          \
                   /          |           \
               Capacity       |           Raw
               to take  _____________ Energy/Force
                Form          |            |
                  |\          |           /|
                  | \         |          / |
              --------------Abyss---------------
                  |   \       |        /   |
             Destruction      |        Creation
                 of_____\_____|_____ /____of
                Form     \    |     /    Form
                  | \     \   |    /    /  |
                  |  \     \  |   /    /   |
                  |   \ Consciousness /    |
                  |          of            |
                  |  /  Consciousness   \  |
                  | /         |          \ |
                  |/          |           \|
              Consciousness   |      Consciousness
                   of  ________________   of
                \ Form        |       Energy/Force
                 \ \          |           / /
                  \ \         |          / /
                  \  \        |         /  /
                   \    Consciousness     /
                   \         of           /
                    \     the World      /
                     \                  /
                      \       |        /
                       \      |       /
                        \     |      /
                            Matter
                          The World

                           Figure 6

The diagram in Fig. 6 is called the Tree of Life. The “constructionist” approach I have used to justify its structure is a little unusual, but the essence of my presentation can be found in the “Zohar” under the guise of the Macroprosopus and Microprosopus, although in this form it is not readily accessible to the average reader. My attempt to show how the Tree of Life can be derived out of pure consciousness through the interaction of an abstract notion of force and form was not intended to be a convincing exercise from an intellectual point of view – the Tree of Life is primarily a gnostic rather than a rational or intellectual explanation of consciousness and its interaction with the physical world.
The Tree is composed of 10 states or sephiroth (sephiroth plural, sephira singular) and 22 interconnecting paths. The age of this diagram is unknown: there is enough information in the 13th. century “Sepher ha Zohar” to construct this diagram, and the doctrine of the sephiroth has been attributed to Isaac the Blind in the 12th. century, but we have no certain knowledge of its origin. It probably originated sometime in the interval between the 6th. and 13th. centuries AD. The origin of the word “sephira” is unclear – it is almost certainly derived from the Hebrew word for “number” (SPhR), but it has also been attributed to the Greek word for “sphere” and even to the Hebrew word for a sapphire (SPhIR). With a characteristic aptitude for discovering hidden meanings everywhere, Kabbalists find all three derivations useful, so take your pick.
In the language of earlier Kabbalistic writers the sephiroth represented ten primeval emanations of God, ten focii through which the energy of a hidden, absolute and unknown Godhead (En Soph) propagated throughout the creation, like white light passing through a prism. The sephiroth can be interpreted as aspects of God, as states of consciousness, or as nodes akin to the Chakras in the occult anatomy of a human being .
I have left out one important detail from the structure of the Tree. There is an eleventh “something” which is definitely *not* a sephira, but is often shown on modern representations of the Tree. The Kabbalistic “explanation” runs as follows: when Malkuth “fell” out of the Garden of Eden (Fig. 2) it left behind a “hole” in the fabric of the Tree, and this “hole”, located in the centre of the Abyss, is called Daath, or Knowledge. Daath is *not* a sephira; it is a hole. This may sound like gobbledy-gook, and in the sense that it is only a metaphor, it is.
The completed Tree of Life with the Hebrew titles of the sephiroth is shown below in Fig. 7.

                           En Soph
                 /-------------------------\
                /                           \
               (            Kether           )
                       /   (Crown)    \
                      /       |        \
                     /        |         \
                    /         |          \
                Binah         |        Chokhmah
            (Understanding)__________  (Wisdom)
             (Intelligence)   |           |
                  |\          |          /|
                  | \       Daath       / |
                  |  \   (Knowledge)   /  |
                  |   \       |       /   |
               Gevurah \      |      /  Chesed
              (Strength)\_____|_____/__ (Mercy)
                  |      \    |    /    (Love)
                  | \     \   |   /     / |
                  |  \     \  |  /     /  |
                  |   \   Tipheret    /   |
                  |   /   (Beauty)    \   |
                  |  /        |        \  |
                  | /         |         \ |
                  |/          |          \|
                 Hod          |        Netzach
               (Glory) _______________(Victory)
              (Splendour)     |       (Firmness)
                 \ \          |           / /
                  \ \         |          / /
                  \  \        |         / /
                   \  \       |        /  /
                   \   \    Yesod     /  /
                    \    (Foundation)   /
                     \                 /
                      \       |       /
                       \      |      /
                        \     |     /
                           Malkuth
                          (Kingdom)

                           Figure 7

From an historical point of view the doctrine of emanations and the Tree of Life are only one small part of a huge body of Kabbalistic speculation about the nature of divinity and our part in creation, but it is the part which has survived. The Tree continues to be used in the Twentieth Century because it has proved to be a useful and productive symbol for practices of a magical, mystical and religious nature. Modern Kabbalah in the Western Mystery Tradition is largely concerned with the understanding and practical application of the Tree of Life, and the following set of notes will list some of the characteristics of each sephira in more detail so that you will have a “snapshot” of what each sephira represents before going on to examine the sephiroth and the “deep structure” of the Tree in more detail.

Notes on Kabbalah
The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes.


Introduction

By Colin Low | April 14, 2002 | Leave a comment

If a chemist from the twentieth century could step into a time-machine and go back two-hundred years he or she would probably feel a deep kinship with the chemists of that time, even though there might be considerable differences in terminology, underlying theory, equipment and so on. Despite this kinship, chemists have not been trapped in the past, and the subject as it is studied today bears little resemblance to the chemistry of two hundred years ago.

Kabbalah has existed for nearly two thousand years, and like any living discipline it has evolved through time, and it continues to evolve. One aspect of this evolution is that it is necessary for living Kabbalists to continually “re-present” what they understand by Kabbalah so that Kabbalah itself continues to live and continues to retain its usefulness to each new generation. If Kabbalists do not do this then it becomes a dead thing, an historical curiosity (as was virtually the case within Judaism by the nineteenth century). These notes were written with that intention: to present one view of Kabbalah as it is currently practised in 1992, so that people who are interested in Kabbalah and want to learn more about it are not limited purely to texts written hundreds or thousands of years ago (or for that matter, modern texts written about texts written hundreds or thousands of years ago). For this reason these notes acknowledge the past, but they do not defer to it. There are many adequate texts for those who wish to understand Kabbalah as it was practised in the past.

These notes have another purpose. The majority of people who are drawn towards Kabbalah are not historians; they are people who want to know enough about it to decide whether they should use it as part of their own personal mystical or magical adventure. There is enough information not only to make that decision, but also to move from theory into practice. I should emphasize that this is only one variation of Kabbalah out of many, and I leave it to others to present their own variants – I make no apology if the material is biased towards a particular point of view.

The word “Kabbalah” means “tradition”. There are many alternative spellings, the two most popular being Kabbalah and Qabalah, but Cabala, Qaballah, Qabala, Kaballa (and so on) are also seen. I made my choice as a result of a poll of the books on my bookcase, not as a result of deep linguistic understanding.

If Kabbalah means “tradition”, then the core of the tradition was the attempt to penetrate the inner meaning of the Bible, which was taken to be the literal (but heavily veiled) word of God. Because the Word was veiled, special techniques were developed to elucidate the true meaning….Kabbalistic theosophy has been deeply influenced by these attempts to find a deep meaning in the Bible.

The earliest documents (~100 – ~1000 A.D.) associated with Kabbalah describe the attempts of “Merkabah” mystics to penetrate the seven halls (Hekaloth) of creation and reach the Merkabah (throne-chariot) of God. These mystics used the familiar methods of shamanism (fasting, repetitious chanting, prayer, posture) to induce trance states in which they literally fought their way past terrible seals and guards to reach an ecstatic state in which they “saw God”. An early and highly influential document (Sepher Yetzirah) appears to have originated during the earlier part of this period.

By the early middle ages further, more theosophical developments had taken place, chiefly a description of “processes” within God, and a highly esoteric view of creation as a process in which God manifests in a series of emanations. This doctrine of the “sephiroth” can be found in a rudimentary form in the “Yetzirah”, but by the time of the publication of the book “Bahir” (12th. century) it had reached a form not too different from the form it takes today. One of most interesting characters from this period was Abraham Abulafia, who believed that God cannot be described or conceptualised using everyday symbols, and used the Hebrew alphabet in intense meditations lasting many hours to reach ecstatic states. Because his abstract letter combinations were used as keys or entry points to altered states of consciousness, failure to carry through the manipulations correctly could have a drastic effect on the Kabbalist. In “Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism” Scholem includes a long extract of one such experiment made by one of Abulafia’s students – it has a deep ring of truth about it.

Probably the most influential Kabbalistic document, the “Sepher ha Zohar”, was published by Moses de Leon, a Spanish Jew, in the latter half of the thirteenth century. The “Zohar” is a series of separate documents covering a wide range of subjects, from a verse-by-verse esoteric commentary on the Pentateuch, to highly theosophical descriptions of processes within God. The “Zohar” has been widely read and was highly influential within mainstream Judaism.

A later development in Kabbalah was the Safed school of mystics headed by Moses Cordovero and Isaac Luria. Luria was a highly charismatic leader who exercised almost total control over the life of the school, and has passed into history as something of a saint. Emphasis was placed on living in the world and bringing the consciousness of God through *into* the world in a practical way. Practices were largely devotional.

Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Judaism as a whole was heavily influenced by Kabbalah, but by the beginning of this century a Jewish writer was able to dismiss it as an historical curiosity. Jewish Kabbalah has vast literature which is almost entirely untranslated into English.

A development which took place almost synchronously with Jewish Kabbalah was its adoption by many Christian mystics, magicians and philosophers. Renaissance philosophers such as Pico della Mirandola were familiar with Kabbalah and mixed it with gnosticism, pythagoreanism, neo-platonism and hermeticism to form a snowball which continued to pick up traditions as it rolled down the centuries. It is probably accurate to say that from the Renaissance on, virtually all European occult philosophers and magicians of note had a working knowledge of Kabbalah.

It is not clear how Kabbalah was involved in the propagation of ritual magical techniques, or whether it *was* involved, or whether the ritual techniques were preserved in parallel within Judaism, but it is an undeniable fact that the most influential documents appear to have a Jewish origin. The most important medieval magical text is the “Key of Solomon”, and it contains the elements of classic ritual magic – names of power, the magic circle, ritual implements, consecration, evocation of spirits etc. No-one knows how old it is, but there is a reasonable suspicion that its contents preserve techniques which might well date back to Solomon.

The combination of non-Jewish Kabbalah and ritual magic has been kept alive outside Judaism until the present day, although it has been heavily adulterated at times by hermeticism, gnosticism, neo-platonism, pythagoreanism, rosicrucianism, christianity, tantra and so on. The most important “modern” influences are the French magician Eliphas Levi, and the English “Order of the Golden Dawn”. At least two members of the G.D. (S.L. Mathers and A.E. Waite) were knowledgeable Kabbalists, and three G. D. members have popularized Kabbalah – Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, and Dion Fortune. Dion Fortune’s “Inner Light” has also produced a number of authors: Gareth Knight, William Butler, and William Gray.

An unfortunate side effect of the G.D is that while Kabbalah was an important part of its “Knowledge Lectures”, surviving G.D. rituals are a syncretist hodge-podge of symbolism in which Kabbalah plays a minor or nominal role, and this has led to Kabbalah being seen by many modern occultists as more of a theoretical and intellectual discipline, rather than a potent and self-contained mystical and magical system in its own right.

Some of the originators of modern witchcraft drew heavily on medieval ritual and Kabbalah for inspiration, and it is not unusual to find witches teaching some form of Kabbalah, although it is generally even less well integrated into practical technique than in the case of the G.D.

The Kabbalistic tradition described in the notes derives principally from Dion Fortune, but has been substantially developed over the past 30 years. I would like to thank M.S. and the T.S.H.U. for all the fun.

Notes on Kabbalah

The author grants the right to copy and distribute these Notes provided they remain unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend these Notes.

Copyright Colin Low 1992 (cal@hplb.hpl.hp.com)


Cabala

By Phil Hansford | July 25, 2001 | Leave a comment

Western magick is based upon the Cabala, a Jewish mystical tradition first written down in 12th and 13th century southern France and Spain. It was oral before that; and it contains the “lost” knowledge of the ancients, possibly going back to Egypt and before. The most important Cabalistic books are SEPHIR YETZIRAH (The Book of Creation), and the ZOHAR (Book of Splendour). Through Cabalistic philosophy we are able to classify and “pigeon-hole” all of existence.

The four worlds are recognized in the Cabala, but they are given Hebrew names. Thus — Assiah, physical; Yetzirah, astral; Briah, mental; and Atziluth, spiritual; as shown in the chart.

WORLD        NAME        MEANING             ATTRIBUTE
=====        ====        =======             =========
spiritual    Atziluth    Archetypal World    pure deity
mental       Briah       Creative World      archangels
astral       Yetzirah    Formative World     angels
physical     Assiah      Material World      action

The divine name of God is TETRAGRAMMATON (or name of four letters) made from the Hebrew letters YOD HE VAU HE (English YHVH). Of the four letters, YOD corresponds with Atziluth and the element of fire; the first HE corresponds with Briah and water. These first two letters make up a yang-yin pair (respectively). The other two letters also form a yang-yin pair (respectively), with the VAU corresponding with Yetzirah and air; while the second HE corresponds with Assiah and the element of earth.

The Cabalistic parts of the soul use new names for the three highest vehicles of consciousness. NESHAMAH (Divine Soul) is the Spiritual body; RUAH (Moral Soul) is the Mental body; and NEFESH (Animal Soul) is the Astral body.

An important attribute of the Cabala is the SEFIROTIC TREE (or “Tree of Life”, Otz Chieem). The Sefirotic Tree is a diagram of the universe made up of the ten SEFIROTH (primal numbers or orders of creation) drawn as circles upon the Tree in a descending pattern from the highest aspect of God at the top to the most physical aspect of our world at the bottom. As can be seen in the accompanying diagram, the sefiroth are connected together with numbered lines, called paths.

                 / (1)\
              /     |    \
           /        |       \
     (3) /----------|---------\ (2)
      |             |            |
      |             |            |
      |             |            |
     (5)\-----------|---------/ (4)
      |    \        |      /     |
      |       \     |    /       |
      |          \ (6)/          |
      |          /  |  \         |
      |       /     |    \       |
      |    /        |      \     |
     (8)/-----------|--------\ (7)
          \         |        /
            \       |      /
               \    |    /
                  \(9)/
                    |
                    |
                  (10)

This is my attempt to draw a Sefirotic Tree using ASCII characters. Several paths are omitted (15, 17, 29, 31). Please refer to a printed diagram (in most any book on Cabala) for a better illustration.

Above the Tree is the infinite void — the unknowable, unmanifest God as Divine Light — the three veils of negative existence: Ain, Ain Sof, and Ain Sof Aur. The Divine Light (Ain Sof Aur) is made manifest by the first sefira where it is transformed into positive existence. Emanations of energy (magical current) flow from the first sefira (Source) along the paths into other sefiroth which transform and emanate to lower and lower sefiroth. In Adam Kadman (primal or ideal man) the sefiroth fit upon the physical body; note the similarity to the chakras. The process of creation is one of emanation from the spiritual at the top of the Tree to the physical world (Sink) at the bottom. All current which is Sourced into the Tree must also be Sinked (earthed). That is, magical energy set in motion by ritual shoud be used up in the physical world whether or not the ritual was a success.

Sefiroth 1, 2, and 3 on the Tree form the Supernal Triangle which is beyond normal human experience in the world of Atziluth. The first sefira, KETHER, is the supreme *crown* of God; it signifies pure Being, and is the Source. Kether is androgynous. Immediately arising from Kether are two further emanations. The second sefira is HOKMAH, the *wisdom* of God and the masculine force of the universe. Third is BINAH, the *understanding* or intelligence of God; this is the supernal mother.

Between the Supernals and the other seven sefiroth is the Abyss — a great gulf which forever separates ideal from actual. Within the Abyss an 11th sefira, DAATH, the *knowledge* of God is sometimes placed.

The second triangle, comprised of the 4th, 5th, and 6th sefiroth in the world of Briah, is sometimes called the Mental Triangle. Sefira 4, HESED, the *love* or mercy of God, is male and positive. The 5th sefira, GEVURAH, the power or *strength* of God complements Hesed as justice. Sixth is TIFARETH, as the compassion or *beauty* of God; the heart of the universe.

The third or Astral Triangle contains sefiroth 7, 8, and 9 in Yetzirah. Sefira 7, NETSAH, is the lasting endurance or *victory* of God. Complementing Netsah is 8, HOD, the majesty or *splendor* of God. The 9th sefira, YESOD, the *foundation* of the world, is linked with the moon, hence the tides and the libido. Yesod is experienced as dream consciousness, and is very important in magick and astral projection.

Finally, at the physical world of Assiah is the 10th sefira, MALKUTH, the *kindgom* of God, and the basis of all material creation. We experience Malkuth as sense consciousness.

The Sefirotic Tree has three vertical columns or *pillars*. As you face the tree, the pillar on the right, headed by Hokmah and ending with Netsah, is called the Pillar of Mercy and has light/masculine (yang) qualities. The pillar on the left, headed by Binah and ending with Hod, is the Pillar of Severity with dark/feminine (yin) qualities. The Middle Pillar between them equilibriates the two opposites, and is the *Shekhinah*, or feminine counterpart of God. The *klippoth*, or evil demons, generally in Assiah, represent unbalanced forces or excesses.

All the attributes of the universe fit like pieces of a puzzle upon the Sefirotic Tree. Each numbered part is a numeric key to the various correspondence tables, such as Crowley’s ’777′. The sefirotic tree has its parts variously coloured and each sefira has a colour; in fact the paths which run between the sefiroth have their own colours too. There are four major colour scales for the sefirotic tree and each colour scale corresponds with one of the four worlds. That means we are dealing with not just one sefirotic tree, but actually with a separate tree for each of the four worlds; although it is easier to think of it as the same tree with a different color scale. The Queen (Briah) and King (Atziluth) scales are the most important. There is also the Empress scale (Assiah), and the Emperor scale (Yetzirah).

The Queen and King scales for the sefiroth are shown below. (Note that when 4 colours are listed together, the sefira is divided into quarters and the first colour is assigned to the upper quarter, the 2nd colour to the right quarter, the 3rd colour to the left quarter, and the last colour to the lower quarter.)

KEY     QUEEN SCALE                     KING SCALE
===     ===========                     ==========
1       pure white brilliance           brilliance
2       gray                            pure soft blue
3       black                           crimson
4       blue                            deep violet
5       scarlet red                     orange
6       yellow (gold)                   clear pink rose
7       emerald green                   amber
8       orange                          violet purple
9       violet                          indigo
10      citrine, olive, russet, black   yellow

The 22 paths connect the sefiroth together. These paths correspond with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, as based upon the SEFIR YETZIRAH. Due to the nature of the Hebrew alphabet (some letters can take two forms) SEFIR YETZIRAH divides each of two of the letters into two (dual) parts. For this reason, it is necessary to divide each of the two related paths into two (dual) parts. These are numbered 31, 31b (bisected); 32, 32b. Yet when these paths are drawn on the sefirotic tree they are usually shown undivided (and numbered simply 31, and 32). The following table shows the colours and location of the paths in relation to the sefiroth. You will want to add the path numbers to the illustration of the sefirotic tree, or draw a new tree. Some writers may refer to “32 paths”, by calling the sefiroth “paths” 1-10.

KEY  JOINS SEFIROTH  QUEEN SCALE          KING SCALE
===  ==============  ===========          ==========
11   1 - 2           sky blue             brt. pale yellow
12   1 - 3           purple               yellow
13   1 - 6           silver               blue
14   2 - 3           sky blue             emerald green
15   2 - 6           red                  scarlet
16   2 - 4           deep indigo          red orange
17   3 - 6           pale mauve           orange
18   3 - 5           maroon               amber
19   4 - 5           deep purple          greenish yellow
20   4 - 6           slate gray           yellowish green
21   4 - 7           blue                 violet
22   5 - 6           blue                 emerald green
23   5 - 8           sea green            deep blue
24   6 - 7           dull brown           green blue
25   6 - 9           yellow               blue
26   6 - 8           black                indigo
27   7 - 8           red                  scarlet
28   7 - 9           sky blue             violet
29   7 - 10          buff, silver-white   crimson (ultraviolet)
30   8 - 9           gold yellow          orange
31   8 - 10          vermilion            glowing orange-scarlet
32   9 - 10          black                indigo
31b                  deep purple          white merging into gray
32b                  amber                citrine, olive, russet, black

The queen and king scales are complementary. Also complementary are the paths and the sefiroth. Traditional use of the queen scale sefiroth will find the king scale as paths and vice versa. The use of complementary scales is based upon the idea of balance. A tree composed of sefiroth in the queen scale and paths in the king scale is all you need for most magick. Although correspondences are what work for you, there is said to be an ancient tradition surrounding the conventional color scales and it may be helpful to lock into the energy associated with them.

From the magical point of view, the Tree of Life is a map of consciousness which is useful for understanding and attaining various states of consciousness. In cabalistic magick we are concerned with the linking of higher energy to lower levels on the tree. That very thing takes place naturally as well, in nature and in life. A subject in itself is cabalistic meditation (pathwork, or the way of return), in which we attempt to climb up the tree (ladder of lights) to attain union with divinity.

Review Questions

  1. What is the sefirotic tree?
  2. How is the queen scale used in magick?
  3. What is a path? How many are there?

Book List

  • J. Abelson, Jewish Mysticism
  • Edward Albertson, Understanding the Kabbalah
  • Bernard J. Babmerger, Fallen Angels
  • Richard Cavendish, The Black Arts
  • ______, editorial comments to “Cabala”, Man Myth and Magic
  • Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth
  • ______, 777 Revised
  • Denning and Phillips, The Magical Philosophy
  • ______, Magical States of Consciousness (on pathworking)
  • A.D. Duncan, The Christ, Psychotherapy and Magic
  • Dion Fortune, The Mystical Qabalah
  • Adolphe Frank, The Kabbalah: The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews
  • Perle Epstein, Kabbalah, the Way of the Jewish Mystic
  • William Gray, The Talking Tree
  • Stephan A. Hoeller, The Royal Road
  • Isidor Kalish, Sepher Yezirah: A Book on Creation
  • Alta J. LaDage, Occult Psychology
  • Bernhard Pick, The Cabala: Its Influence on Judaism and Christianity
  • Charles Ponce, Kabbalah: An Introduction and Illumination for the World Today
  • Henry B. Pullen-Burry, Qabalism
  • Israel Regardie, A Garden of Pomegranets
  • ______, The Golden Dawn
  • ______, The Middle Pillar
  • Leo Schaya, The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah
  • Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah
  • ______, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
  • ______, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism
  • ______, Zohar: The Book of Splendor
  • Arthur Edward Waite, The Holy Kabbalah
  • R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, “Cabala”, Man, Myth and Magic
  • William Wynn Wescott, An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah
  • ______, Sepher Yetzirah

========
Phil Hansford, 4/88 Mysteria (818) 353-8891 (modem)
P.O. Box 83 Tujunga, CA 91042

Copyright (c) 1988 by Phil Hansford. This article is licenced for free non-commercial distribution only.


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