The Tree of Life

The principles of the sefirotic Tree can be seen in the design of the Menorah which was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Made from a single piece of gold it represents the unity of the Divine World. The central axis holds the equilibrium between the right and left side wings. The lights and nodal points represent the ten sefirot, while the twenty-two decorations refer to the paths that connect them.

The Tree of Life diagram as we know it came into the public domain in medieval Spain. Here the Menorah is arranged into a metaphysical scheme which is the archetypal model of the Laws of Existence. Any complete entity corresponds to the framework of the Tree from the most sublime to the mundane and anything in between from cosmology to psychology. When you study the theory and practise by observation, the Tree becomes alive and a helpful guide for contemplation and meditation.

Video

Principles of the Tree of Life
The 3 Columns

Suggested Reading

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life sets out to introduce the principles of the Tree in metaphysical, symbolic and practical terms to illustrate the essence of this key diagram of Kabbalah. Originally, this was the first book by Halevi in the series of Kabbalah. It has now been updated to include a wider scheme of the kabbalistic Tradition in ancient, medieval and modern ways, with added insights given by new illustrations making it relevant to the present time.

Meditations

Gardens of Life

London 3 August 2015
Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi

Based on the framework of the Tree of Life diagram, this meditation explores the cultivation of the natural world from the primitive wilderness of the early humanity to the most sophisticated medical and botanical gardens. The model for all gardens on Earth is the Garden of Eden where every plant and tree are seen in their essential beauty.

Tree within us: Remembering Issy Benjamin

London 26 October 2015
Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi

When the London group was grieving the passing of Issy Benjamin, this meditation was designed to remind us how life unfolds from birth to death through various stages from infancy to maturity. We then consider how the soul and the spirit develop over many lives and historical epochs, leading to insights into our cosmic purpose in Existence.

Astrology 

Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
Recorded in New York in 1990

This meditation is a journey through your horoscope from the Malkhut/Ascendent to the Keter/Neptune of the kabbalistic Tree of Life. Please memorise your chart, particularly the planets in signs and houses, and follow the instructions.

You will see how the sefirot are coloured by astrological influences in the anatomy of your psyche. While the pattern for this life was set at the moment of birth, the celestial configuration is always changing, giving rise to new situations and opportunities. This meditation invites you to review how your Fate is unfolding, what your Destiny might be and how you can be in service of the Divine.

Diagram

Three Pillars and Lightning Flash

The Tree of Life: Questions and Answers

A large part of Halevi’s oral teaching came in responding to students’ questions. Such group discussions sometimes covered topics that were not written down in books. These questions and answers articles are compiled from group and workshop recordings over the years to give insights into Kabbalah as a living tradition.

Q: What is the Tree of Knowledge?

A: According to the Bible, in the midst of the Garden of Eden there were both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. The Garden of Eden is the symbol of Yezirah, the World of Forms, and the Tree of Knowledge represents Beriah, the World of Creation, while the Tree of Life stands for the Divine World of Azilut. Adam and Eve were in a state of innocence until they broke the commandment not to eat of the Tree of
Knowledge. As a consequence, they were sent down to the physical World before they could
eat of the Tree of Life also.

There are many layers to this biblical story. A legend tells us that the archangel Raziel took pity on Adam and Eve and gave them a Book of Secrets that would guide them back to Paradise. This is the destiny of humanity starting from innocence, through experience in the physical world, seeking to acquire knowledge for the return journey. No other creature is interested in knowledge in the same way.


Q: What is the meaning of the paths?

A: The paths signify relationships and interaction between the sefirot. When looking at the
psychological Tree, we see how the paths leading to and from Tiferet indicate the place of the
Self as the coordinator and the watcher. The paths around Yesod facilitate everyday
awareness. Interior work begins with the lower psyche. For example, the path Yesod-Malkhut
takes on a new significance. Your view of the external world begins to change and how you
act out your interior impulses becomes important.

The path rising up from Yesod to Tiferet is called the Path of Integrity. The ego learns to
submit to the guidance of the Self, whose qualities are truth, goodness and beauty. The Path
of Awe between Tiferet and Keter opens to the experience of the living cosmos and may give
a glimpse of the Divine realm above. Such moments are unforgettable and become more
frequent in the long run. As one rabbi said, “When I was young I saw angels everywhere.
Now I don’t take any notice of them.”


Q: What is the function of the triads?

A: The triads attached to the left pillar are concerned with the structure and those on the right with the dynamic of the Tree, while the ones centred on the middle column maintain the balance between the two sides. Various processes around each sefirah take place in the attached triads, which in turn have an influence on the other sefirot and triads. The Tree is an integrated unit where no part works in isolation.

A useful exercise is to compare the triads of the Trees of the body and the psyche, becausethey resonate with each other. The nerves correspond to the thinking triad, muscles to the action triad and organs to the feeling triad. For example, we speak of a ‘gut feeling’. The body’s Tiferet or the central nervous system above the triad of tissue resonates with the Tiferet of the psyche above the awakening triad. The triad of body chemistry resonates with the soul triad where impressions are metabolised in the psyche. The electro-magnetic field of
the body corresponds to the great triad of the spirit in the psyche. Indeed, if this triad is disturbed in the body, it can obscure spiritual or intellectual processes. The topmost triad of the body, the vital soul Id-Nefesh, embodies the will of Nature resonating with the supernal triad of the psyche which connects an individual life with its cosmic purpose.


Q: What are the different levels of the Tree?

A: First consider the horizontal paths that outline the practical, emotional and intellectual levels with Keter above. These resonate with the four Worlds within the Tree and the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Within this scheme is also the division into seven levels on the central pillar. This applies to the seven levels of consciousness in the psyche as well as the macrocosm of the physical universe or the seven Heavens.

The Tree of Humanity can also be divided into mineral, vegetable, animal and human levels.
Those at the mineral level of Malkhut can be just in survival mode or preoccupied with
possessions. The driving force of the vegetable level centred at Yesod is to produce the next
generation, while animal level people in touch with their Tiferet strive for status and power
within their society. The soul triad Tiferet-Gevurah-Hesed defines the truly human level
concerned with ethics and the purpose of life. Those who develop to the transpersonal level
Binah-Hokhmah become the sages and saints of humanity, while true mystics may embody
the radiance of Keter.


Q: What is the purpose of Daat?

A: Daat is described as a non-sefirah. Although not included in the scheme of the ten sefirot, it occupies a crucial place on the central pillar below the three supernals Keter, Hokhmah and Binah. As such it is a veil that separates the radiance of the topmost triad of emanation from the lower sefirot which are concerned with construction and manifestation.

When the three lower Worlds emerged, Daat was to overlay the Yesod of a higher World. Called Knowledge, it is a direct access point of the flow between two Worlds. Take for example the composition of a human being. The Yesod of the psyche can have access to processes going on in the subconscious through the Daat of the body. In the astrological Tree of the psyche the place of Daat is associated with Pluto, the planet which lies between the solar system and outer space. The psychological Daat is the access point to the transpersonal
World of Creation. Some mystics describe the experience of this level as the void. Others may hear it as the still small voice within.


Q: Are there other forms of the Tree of Life?

A: The Tree appears in many forms in different traditions. One common feature is the central
axis that connects the various levels of Existence. The esoteric view includes the invisible
Worlds of the psyche and the spirit, with a symbol of Divinity above. The motif of the Tree is
very ancient. It is found in various shamanistic traditions and in more structured versions
such as for example the Assyrian Tree which no doubt has an esoteric origin.

We can perceive the principles of the Tree in the Hindu chakra system. The three main nadis represent the three pillars; Ida is the passive left pillar, Pingala the active right pillar and Sushumna the central pillar. The seven major chakras correspond with the seven levels of consciousness on the central axis. The Tree is indeed archetypal and universal. It appears in various art forms as a cosmic tree that symbolises the unity and diversity of Existence.


Q: What is the extended Tree?

A: The extended Tree is also called Jacob’s Ladder which is a metaphysical diagram of the
four Worlds. The divine, spiritual, psychological and physical Worlds each contain a
complete Tree in its own right. The extended Tree illustrates how the different Worlds are
integrated and interact. The Keter of each lower World emanates from the Tiferet of a higher
World and so on. The upper face of a lower World overlaps the lower face of the higher
World, which means that they operate at the same level but in different realities.

The extended Tree is locked together by what is called the great fifth Tree. This is the Kav
where the sefirot are arranged into a vertical line on the central pillar with Daat as the veil
before the highest Keter of the Godhead. The Kav is the link of Divine grace and presence
throughout Existence. This enables the Holy One to observe and intervene, if needed, at any
level.


Q: What happens in the Lightning Flash?

A: The Lightning Flash is the discharge of the potential held in Keter of the Divine World of Azilut. This process organises the sefirot into a pattern of three pillars and various levels. The same sequence from Keter to Malkhut is repeated in each of the lower Worlds as the Lightning Flash zigzags downwards setting the limits for expansion and contraction of the right and left side sefirot and the balancing factor of the central sefirot. The last sefirah of Malkhut is the container of the creative impulse that went on before.

The descending Lightning Flash also sets out the other paths between the sefirot bringing the triads into being. This generates an ascending Lightning Flash between what is below and above. Evolution follows this zigzag path upwards in the spiral of growth. Terrestrial thunderstorms are known to produce not only downward lightning but also cloud to cloud flashes as well as sprites rising high above the storm clouds.


Q: What is the Tree horoscope?

A horoscope is usually drawn in a circular mode with planets and houses within the zodiacal wheel. As the planets correspond to the sefirotic principles of the Tree of Life, it is possible to draw the horoscope in a vertical mode. This gives a deeper insight into the psyche, also called the astral body. First we observe the element and zodiacal sign of the Ascendant, Moon, Mercury and Venus which indicate how the lower psyche operates. The Tiferet position of the Sun describes the essential nature of the Self, while Mars and Jupiter relate to
the emotional soul level of Gevurah and Hesed. Deeper still is the transpersonal dimension of Binah/Saturn and Hokhmah/Uranus, while Neptune at Keter symbolises a person’s highest ideals. We can see how every individual is unique and the loading of the Tree horoscope reveals their particular strengths and weaknesses indicating where conscious work is needed.

The elements of Earth and Water or Air and Fire are harmonious together, while combinations of Earth or Water with Air or Fire can create friction and misunderstandings. This can be observed both in an individual horoscope and in a relationship by comparing two Tree charts. Every relationship is a workshop where subtle alchemy and transformation can take place.


Q: How can we work with the Tree?

Because you are the Tree, you can work with it by working on yourself. People are inclined to be either thinkers, doers or feelers. Recognise your type and balance it, cultivating the other triads around Yesod by practising contemplation, action and meditation. Try to wake up as often as possible in the midst of everyday activities. Once you have established your Tiferet and soul connection, interior guidance about how to proceed becomes available.

You can also work with the Tree by using it as a diagnostic tool for analysing external
situations. Is the situation too loaded on the left or the right pillar? Is it grounded in Malkhut
or unconnected and too high up? Is a particular path of communication between sefirot
blocked? In reality most Trees are not quite as straight and balanced as the diagram. You are
the gardener of your own Tree which is a living entity. Your Tree may need pruning and
generally looking after and nourishing with earth, water, air and light in order to make it grow
and flourish.