THE FLAMING SWORD &
THE SERPENT OF WISDOM
Divine. The Sephiroth may be described as centers of energy or god-consciousness, while the paths connecting them are conduits or energy channels.
The Sephiroth are as follows:
KETHER is the First Sephirah which the Divine brought forth from the three negative veils that lie beyond human comprehension. Its name means "Crown" and its Divine Hebrew name is "Eheieh," "I am." Kether is the Sphere of pure spiritual being... of union with God. Some of Kether's other titles are Ancient of Days, The Most High, the Concealed of the Concealed, the Vast Countenance and the Primordial Point. It is the point of absolute Unity without division; ultimate peace and oneness. Kether is the dwelling place of the Divine White Brilliance, the God-head which is neither male nor female, the Source of All. It is the Highest Divine Essence of which we can conceive. Kether is the Primal Glory whose Magickal Image is that of an ancient bearded king seen in profile. (A Magickal Image is a symbol we can apply to something that cannot truly be symbolized, yet its image aids us to understand it.) It is the Primum Mobile ... the First Whirlings or stirrings of manifestation. All comes from Kether and all will ultimately return to Kether. To reach the First Sephirah is to attain complete peace and illumination—it is the completion of the Great Work.
CHOKMAH is the Second Sephirah, whose name means "Wisdom." Chokmah is almost an extension of Kether ... it is the overflowing of the Divine into a second point, a reflection of the first. From the Absolute Unity of the One now comes the Two, the first expression of polarity and the balance of opposites which lies beneath the manifested universe. The energy of Chokmah is dynamic and outpouring; it is the great Stimulator of the Universe. Within Chokmah lies the first male expression as opposed to the androgynous expression of Kether. While Kether is the calm center point of the Universe, Chokmah is complete action and movement. It is the archetypal Positive and the Supernal Father, Abba. Its Divine Hebrew name is "Yah" meaning "Lord" which is also borne out by its Magickal Image ... that of a bearded male figure. Other symbols of Chokmah include that of the rod, the straight line, the standing stone and the phallus. That is not to imply that Chokmah is nothing more than a purely sexual symbol, but is instead the root essence of masculine or dynamic Force. The Mundane Chakra or physical manifestation of Chokmah is the Mazloth or zodiac, the vital outpouring energy which fathered the astrological signs. The experience of Chokmah is that of the Vision of God face to face.
BIN AH, the Third Sephirah, whose name means "Understanding," is the feminine counterpart of Chokmah. Binah is the Supernal Mother, Aima, the Great Negative or Female Force. By negative, we mean receptive in a purely scientific way, like the positive and negative parts of an atom, not as a value judgement. Positive and negative are as inseparable as Yin and Yang. Receptivity is a feminine function and just as in the case of Chokmah-masculinity, we are referring to sexual functions in the most basic and unmanifested of concepts. Chokmah, the Sephirah of duality, by necessity overflows into a third sphere in order for a natural polarity to occur. Binah, the number Three, is a sphere of Form (another feminine function). Binah receives the overflow of the dynamic energy from Chokmah and organizes it for the first time under the concept of Form. Force and Form are male and female activities which re-occur throughout the Tree of Life, but this is where they start. Binah is the Mother of discipline, restricting the free-flowing energy in what will ultimately be borne into structured Form. The Divine Hebrew name of Binah is "Yod Heh Vav Heh Elohim" which means "The Lord God." In the name, the completion of the Trinity is implied, for the first three Sephiroth are set apart and above all others on the Tree. Another one of Binah's title's is Marah, the Great Sea, and it's Mundane Chakra is the planet Saturn. The Magickal Image is that of a mature woman, and associated symbols are the triangle and the cup.
Between Binah and the rest of the Sephiroth is a great chasm known as the Abyss. This marks a distinct separation from the lower part of the Tree; a difference in levels of being. Within this gulf is what is known as the Invisible Sephirah of Daath. This is not a true Sephirah, but can be likened to a passageway across the Abyss.
CHESED, the Fourth Sephirah, whose name means "Mercy" is the first sphere below the Abyss. It is therefore the first sphere of our physical universe. In Chesed can be found the structural support of all that is manifested. Chesed receives the current of energy which has been modified and disciplined by Binah and gives it another influx of male (positive) energy. This begins the process of materializing the abstract energies of the Supernals (the Sephiroth above the Abyss). Chesed is the matrix upon which the archetypal ideas will later be built into concrete form.
The patterns of the Tree of Life repeat themselves as the Path of the Haming Sword descends, therefore Chesed is the same energy as Chokmah, but on a lower (more manifested) level: The Divine Hebrew name of Chesed is "El" which means simply "God." Other titles include Gedulah, Love and Majesty. The Magickal Image of this sphere is that of a mighty crowned and throned king. The physical manifestation of Chesed is the planet Jupiter, which brings up images of a jovial, majestic god who rules with mercy and kindness. (In fact the spiritual experience of this Sephirah is that of the Vision of Love.) Other symbols associated with Chesed are the equal-armed cross, the Crook of Mercy, the four-sided pyramid, the orb, the square, and the scepter.
GEBURAH is the Fifth Sephirah, and its name means "Severity." Other titles given to this sphere are Justice and Fear. Indeed, this is the least understood and most feared Sephirah on the Tree. However, the natural order of the universe depends upon concept of opposites in balance, thus the benevolence, mercy and form-building functions of Chesed are now equilibrated by the harsh, destructive actions of the 5th sphere. Geburah's duty is to break down the Form issued by Chesed and apply discipline in the Force of a purging Fire. Any energy that makes its way down the Tree of Life into the material world must be tested and tempered by the opposites of Mercy and Severity. It must be cleansed in the fires of Geburah, like the blade of a strong sword, free from impurities. Only in this way, can the energy be a sturdy vehicle for manifestation.
The Divine Hebrew name of Geburah is "Elohim Gibor," which means "Almighty God" as well as "God of Battles." The Magickal Image of the sphere is that of a mighty warrior in his chariot. The Mundane Chakra or physical manifestation of Geburah is the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war. Geburah's effects are often seen as being evil, but then again, an unruly child also considers his punishment unjust. Geburah is the strong arm of God, commanding respect and burning away all that is useless or outmoded. The harsh, destructive action of this sphere is absolutely vital to further evolution. Geburah can be likened to the lightning bolt which strikes an old, dried woodland, clearing away the dead trees so that new vegetation can grow. Or the surgeon, who must amputate a limb in order to spare a life. Geburah is a dynamic Power which is fully capable of implementing severe actions which may seem harsh to us, but are necessary in the greater scheme of things.
Just as Chesed is the same energy of Chokmah on a lower level, Geburah is a lower form of Binah (the sphere which restricts and disciplines). In the same manner Geburah, too, is considered to be a "feminine" or negative Sephirah (speaking in terms of polarity). Geburah seems much more harsh than Binah, simply because it is below the Abyss, and its effects are more easily seen by us in the manifested universe.
Other symbols of Geburah include the pentagon, the Rose of Five Petals, the Scourge of Severity, the spear, and the sword.
TIPHARETH is the Sixth Sephirah, whose name means "Beauty." Its Divine Name in Hebrew is "Yod Heh Vav Heh Eloah Va Daath" which means "Lord God of Knowledge." Other titles include Zoar Anpin, the Lesser Countenance, Melekh, the King, Adam, The Son, and The Man. Tiphareth lies at the very center of the Tree of Life (the center of Equilibrium) and receives the powers of all the other Sephiroth. This sphere strikes the balance between the Mercy of Chesed and the Severity of Geburah. Its Magickal Images are those of a King, a Child, and a sacrificed god. These images can only be understood by Tiphareth's relationship to the other Sephiroth on the Tree. From our standpoint in Malkuth, the Sixth Sphere seems a great king, but from the height of Kether, it appears as a small child. And from the standpoint of Tiphareth itself, the image is that of a sacrificed god.
Until this point, we have described each Sephirah in abstract terms of Force and Form, of Macrocosmic archetypes which are somewhat remote from us. But in Tiphareth, this changes because the Sixth Sphere lies within the range of human experience. The Sephiroth from Tiphareth down can be considered more by the effects they have on human consciousness, than by polarities alone.
The center of the Tree of Life is the place of the Reconciler or Redeemer. God-forms of this energy include Christ, Buddha and Osiris. This is because Tiphareth mediates between the God-head in Kether (the One Source) and the material universe. The Mundane Chakra assigned to this Sphere is the life-giving Sun ... also symbolically the Son ... born unto the Father (Kether) into the earthly plane to reconcile That Which is Above to That Which is Below. Tiphareth intercedes or mediates between the Divine and the Physical Universe.
Tiphareth is an especially mystical sphere. The spiritual experience that takes place in Tiphareth is the Vision of the Harmony of Things. This is due to the fact that the Higher Self, or Holy Guardian Angel, of every individual sits in Tiphareth. The goal of all spiritual experience is the search for the Light, and this is obtained by devotion to the Great Work. This is why the Christ-consciousness, as the Giver of Illumination (and the Healer) is placed in Tiphareth. This is the incarnation of the Child within us as seen from the view of Kether. The dying god myth (be it Christ, Osiris or another) comes into play here as the living god willingly sacrifices himself for the universal cycle of death and rebirth, and for union with the Divine. This sacrifice is not seen as a loss, but as a gain ... the exchange of one form for another.
Symbolically, Tiphareth is placed in the heart center of the human body. Other symbols include the Calvary Cross, the Rose Cross, the truncated pyramid and the cube.
NETZACH is the Seventh Sephirah, whose name means "Victory." As we said earlier in the section dealing with Tiphareth, the lower realms of the Tree of Life can be better described in terms of human consciousness and experience. This is especially true of the four remaining Sephiroth which begin with Netzach. The sphere of Netzach is the dwelling place of human instincts, emotions and desires. It is the "feeling" side of the personality that can be likened to the right side of the human brain. This is where human creativity is born. Once again the idea of polarity comes into play, because Netzach is considered a feminine or negative sphere which has an opposite sephirah to balance it. But at this level on the Tree, we are truly discussing negative and positive sides of the human mind.
The Divine Hebrew name of Netzach is "Yod Heh Vav Heh Tzabaoth" which means "The Lord of Hosts or Armies." The order of angels assigned to the sphere is the Elohim, which simply means the "Gods," and the physical manifestation is the planet Venus, named for the goddess of love. This is because the "gods" as thought of by humans are born in the Netzach part of the human mind. God is perceived by the feelings and instincts (sometimes called faith) of Netzach, more so than in the intellectual mind. This is why humans have always defined the reality of the Divine in terms of art, music, dance and poetry ... all expressions of Netzach energy. In this manner the divine is brought closer to those who seek it. In the Seventh Sphere, we also find the seat of what is called the "Group
Mind" the storehouse of symbols and images in all of us, which inspires the artist, dancer, or poet to create works that speak to us on a deep level of consciousness.
Netzach is a dynamic Force which inspires and drives us. This sphere is a reflection of the Fiery Geburah, but at the level of the human personality, mediated by Tiphareth, the fire becomes desire and emotion. The Magickal Image of Netzach is that of a beautiful naked woman. Other symbols include the rose, the lamp, and the girdle. In this sphere we find all expressions of beauty and love, but also less understood emotions of anger and hate, because all emotions dwell here. It is for this reason that the energies of Netzach must be balanced by its opposite, intellect.
HOD is the Eighth Sephirah, whose name means "Splendor" or "Glory." Just as Netzach symbolized the raw animal instincts, Hod represents the intellectual part of the mind to which the "left brain" can be assigned. It is the rational Mind which organizes and categorizes. The Mundane Chakra attributed here is the planet Mercury, named after the messenger god ... the god of knowledge. All expressions of writing, language, communication, science and magick are assigned to Hod. All words and Names of Power have their origins in this Sphere. We also find the idea of the "Individual Mind" here, as opposed to the Group Mind which is in Netzach. It is the Individual Mind of Hod which makes one aware of one's personal relationship to the Divine.
Hod is a lower form of the energy found in Chesed, but mediated through Tiphareth. The energy is described as watery or fluidic. The Divine Hebrew name given to this Sephirah is "Elohim Tzabaoth," "God of Hosts." The Magickal Image of Hod is a Hermaphrodite, the neutral representation of a visual image. This image is indeterminate until given form by Hod.
Hod and Netzach truly cannot function properly one without the other. Intellect needs the balance of emotion to drive it, otherwise the words and science of Hod become mere rational labelings, dead and uninspired. Likewise, Emotions need the discipline of intellect to stabilize and ground, to keep the dynamic energy from being squandered. The relationship between Hod and Netzach is symbiotic. In terms of the individual, the two spheres must be in harmony and balance in order to maintain a healthy personality.
YESOD is the Ninth Sephirah, whose name means "Founda tion." The spiritual experience of Yesod is the Vision of the Machinery of the Universe. What this implies is that Yesod is the sphere of the Astral Light, also known as the Akasha. This is the etheric substance which underlies all dense matter. It is the astral matrix upon which the physical universe is built. Yesod is the receptacle of influences from all of the other Sephiroth ... which then are combined into a type of blueprint made from the Astral Light. This blueprint is the "Foundation" or Etheric Double upon which the earthly plane is constructed. All events, whether natural or man-made, occur in the aethers of Yesod before they occur in the physical world. The Ninth Sephirah is the Force which activates the final manifestation of Form. In the same manner, all the planets were borne out of the mind of God, and all man-made inventions appear first as an idea in the Yesodic part of the mind of the inventor. All magickal operations as well take place by working in the sphere of Yesod, because the Magician seeks to affect changes in the physical world by manipulating the subtle currents of the Astral.
The physical manifestation of Yesod is the Moon, in all its phases of flux and reflux. The Bright and Dark Moon is said to represent the upper and lower parts of the astral plane, which contains many images that are both fantastic and frightening. This is because the Astral Plane retains the Akashic Record, which is a storehouse of images created by humans since their earliest days on earth. Because of this, the lower realms of the Astral are full of fear, dreams and illusions.
The Divine Hebrew name of Yesod is "Shaddai El Chai," which means "Almighty Living God" and the Magickal Image is that of a beautiful naked young man. This alludes to the beauty that can be found if the illusions of Yesod are met with courage and strength. In fact Yesod, as a representation of the Moon, reflects back the Solar Light of Tiphareth to the earth below. True understanding of the Astral Light which dwells in Yesod, is power indeed.
The Force given here is also sexual, because in Yesod the sexes are for the first time given the form that they will take in the Earthly plane. Additional symbols of Yesod are perfumes and sandals. Perfumes and incenses allude to Air, the element to which this sphere is attributed. Both incense and sandals (as ritual garb) are important elements in magickal ceremonies, which are carried out in the Astral realms.
MALKUTH is the Tenth Sephirah, whose name means "The Kingdom." This is the Sphere of Form and of manifestation; the material universe as we know it. The physical manifestation of Malkuth is the planet Earth, our own terra firma. Yet Malkuth is more than just the ground beneath our feet, it is also the Sephirah in which all four elements are based. Therefore when discussing Malkuth, we are really talking about the physical manifestations of fire, water, air, and earth. Malkuth is the ultimate receptacle for all of the combined currents of energy of the entire Tree of Life. While the other Sephiroth are basically kinetic and mobile, Malkuth is the only sphere that has achieved stability and inertia (a period of rest). The Tenth and final sphere receives the etheric framework of manifestation from Yesod and completes the building process by grounding the energy in matter.
The Divine Hebrew name of Malkuth is "Adonai Ha Aretz" which means "Lord of Earth." This again refers to the function of this sphere as bringing the Will of the Divine into concrete, tangible form. It also alludes to the fact that although Malkuth is identified with the world of matter, it is not seen as unspiritual. The Tenth Sephirah is seen as the completion of the Tree of Life in one sense, and the beginning of a new Tree in another, because Malkuth is a lower reflection of Kether, and in fact is the Kether of another Tree.
As the ultimate Sphere of Form and passivity, the fertile Malkuth is also known as the Inferior Mother (as opposed to the Great Mother, Binah) Malkah, the Queen, Kallah, and the Bride. The Magickal Image is that of a young woman, crowned and throned. Another title given is the Gate—the Gate of Tears, the Gate of Death, the Gate of Justice, and the Gate of the Garden of Eden, just to name a few. This implies that we as physical beings live out our lives in the realm of Malkuth, only to pass through the Gate upon leaving our bodies behind. Additional symbols of Malkuth include the Altar of the Double Cube, the equal-armed cross, the Magick Circle, and the Triangle of Art.
As you can see, the Qabalistic Tree of Life is a richly complex system of esoteric thought. What has been presented thus far in this book is only the briefest outline of the Tree which is necessary for a student to grasp Qabalah basics. But in addition to a description of the Ten Sephiroth, relationships between the different groups of spheres must also be examined. There are many ways of exploring the diversified patterns that occur on the Tree of Life, because these various combinations shed light on different aspects of each Sephirah by disclosing their system of balances and alliances.
THE PILLARS. The first important configuration that occurs on the Tree is that of the three Pillars. The natural succession of the Sephiroth shows this formation clearly. The spheres of Binah, Geburah and Hod form what is called the Left-hand Pillar, or Pillar of Severity. Chokmah, Chesed and Netzach create what is known as the Right-hand Pillar, or Pillar of Mercy. And the Sephiroth in the center form the Middle Pillar, or Pillar of Mildness.
The Right-hand or White Pillar is described as masculine, positive and active... it is the Pillar of Force. The Left-hand or Black Pillar is feminine, negative and passive—the Pillar of Form. These columns represent the two great contending Forces in Nature, and their descriptions are not meant to imply that one is good and the other evil, for the harmony of the universe depends upon their balanced opposition.
The Middle Pillar is the Pillar of Equilibrium; the way of balance between the other two. It is the Devotion Path of the Mystic, and the Path of the Arrow, which leads in a straight line from the completion of the Tree in Malkuth, to its One Source in Kether. The three Pillars can easily be described like parts of an atom; the Right and Left Pillars function not unlike protons and electrons, while the Middle Pillar acts as a neutron, neither positively nor negatively charged.
THE TRIADS. The next important pattern of the Tree of Life is that of the three Triangles or Triads. The first Triangle consists of Kether, Chokmah and Binah. This is called the Supernal Triad or the Divine Self. Next is Chesed, Geburah and Tiphareth which form the Ethical Triad or Higher Self. Finally we have the Astral Triad which contains Netzach, Hod, and Yesod, which is the realm of the Personality. With this series of Triangles, the Qabalah defines the three parts of the individual Self from the Supreme Spiritual Essence to the human ego. The Supernal or Celestial Triad is the only one whose apex points upward to the One Source, the Crown of Kether; the point to which the student of Qabalah eternally strives. The
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