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4. Core Teachings of the Mystical Qabalah

C. The Qabalistic Tree of Life


Small Face Virtually all books on the subject of the Qabalah feature one or more forms of the map of consciousness known as the "Tree of Life." The Tree of Life objectively represents the physio-spiritual entirety of both the individual soul, or Microcosm "created in the image of Elohim," and the Divine Soul, or Macrocosm as the "Body of Celestial Man (Adam Kadmon)." Thus, the Hebrew word adam (lit. man), like the word purusha in Sanskrit, denotes both the individual person and the Supreme Persona of the Divine Self.

"And upon the likeness of the throne was the appearance of Adam upon it from above." (Ezekiel 1:26)

As touched upon earlier, the Tree of Life is the qabalistic equivalent of the Tantric Chakras (see Diagram) and Sufi LatifasSee "Sufi Kundalini," Pir Vilayat Khan, The Message, May, 1978.. The Sefiroth of the Tree of Life, the Chakras, and the Latifas represent the same succession of centers or stations of consciousness that correspond to various nerve plexi along the spinal column and cerebrum. The Chakric and Sufi Trees have only one format, with all of their centers in a single vertical row. In contrast, there is a considerable variety of Trees of Life in the Qabalah. Some are flat and linear with one (see Diagram), two (see Diagram), or three vertical columns (see Diagram); some are flat and circular (see Diagram); and yet others are three-dimensional (see Diagram). Almost all books on the Qabalah contain only diagrams of flat Trees. Most of those flat Trees have a straight vertical trunk called the "Central Column," flanked by two parallel side branches called the "Side Columns," or the "Column of the Right" and the "Column of the Left."

Tree of Life, the Chakras A pattern of ten circles connected by lines is superimposed upon the three columns. The circles are known individually as "Sefirah" (sphere) and collectively as "Sefiroth" (spheres). There are two very different sets of names for the same Sefiroth. One rarely used set comes from the Sefer Yetzirah, and one widely known and used set comes from the Zohar. So that the reader will get familiar with the parlance of both books, the Sefiroth will be referred to by both sets of names. The Zoharic name of each Sefirah will be given first, followed by the one from the Sefer Yetzirah. The Yetzirathic names are each preceded by the qualifying phrase "Depth of" (Omehq), but for the sake of brevity this designation will usually be dropped when referring to them. The two names will be separated by a forward slash e.g. Sefirah Crown/Above, Sefirah Wisdom/East, and so forth. Also, for the sake of brevity, the Zoharic Sefirah Knowledge of the Ayn will be referred to simply as Sefirah Knowledge. The Sefiroth are said to be emanations from the unmanifest, undifferentiated Divine Source. They form a set of four self-consistent worlds or planes of existence within which creatures can exist due to the relative orderliness and smoothness of change. The Sefer YetzirahSefer Yetzirah 1:5 tells us that the Sefiroth emanate as pairs of opposites, such as East and West, Crown and Foundation, and Water and Fire.

The Sefiroth are linked among one another by "gates." Each of the interconnecting gates is associated with a specific Hebrew letter. The Sefer Yetzirah is the primary source for the teachings regarding the nature of the letters and their distribution among the Sefiroth on the Tree. The gates connecting the Sefiroth are doors that allow our consciousness to travel from one plane of existence to another. For example, all living beings pass through two gates connecting three Sefiroth every day and night. The physical plane, which is the waking state of dualistic consciousness in most human beings, is represented by the Sefirah at the very bottom of the Tree called "Kingdom" (there is no equivalent in the Sefer Yetzirah since it only yields Trees of Perfections). When we go to sleep at night, we first move through the Gate of the letter Beyt that links Sefirah Kingdom to Sefirah Foundation/Below, and into the Geviyah (astral shell) in the World of Formation. All people do this every night, and the vast majority experience it as an unconscious state of REM sleep. However, if the gate is crossed while maintaining awarenness, it will be experienced as a conscious dream state. Sefirah Foundation/Below is the point of departure from which we may enter the psychic states by passing through one of the gates into the side columns, or enter even higher levels of consciousness by moving further up the Central Column into Sefirah Beauty/Last.

When we pass through the next gate up the Central Column of the Tree, called the Gate of the Gimel, we move into the Sefirah Beauty/Last. Almost all people experience Sefirah Beauty/Last as deep sleep, and pass through the two gates and among the three lower centers unconsciously. Some individuals are able to transit to and from these three lower centers consciously, and there are those who can dual process information from the waking and astral states simultaneously as a matter of course.

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