Simplifying the Tree of Life
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2005
I personally do not hold that studying the Kaballistic Tree of Life is essential for understanding, using or working with the Tarot. This is a connection that came about in the 1800's due to the popularity in studying Kaballistic teachings and the numerical coincidence of 22 consonants in the Hebrew alphabet and 22 cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot. The Egyptian influence on Tarot developed in much the same way and for the same reason- it was in vogue with the European avante garde at the same time, the 1800's.
I have seen a great many people far too frustrated with this subject matter and an extreme amount of pseudo-intellectual pomposity and windbaggery associated with the subject. The New Age has created the sacrifice of a lot of real trees in its' over-rated, over-analysis of The Tree of Life. The paradox in this is that the names of the ten Sephiroth on The Tree of Life were created to be like a children's alphabet song by the ancient Hebrews in order to describe, simply and gracefully, the 10 characteristics and forces at work that make up a human being and create personality. It is the equivalent of us learning our ABC's and on the same level.
The Sephiroth represent the emanations by which the infinite (the Divine or Heaven) is in touch with the finite (the Earth or the World). The tree forms a link between heaven and earth and has manifestion in the Four Worlds of emanation, creation, formation and actualization. Ein Sof is the sap which runs through the Tree of Life.
The Zohar (written by the Spanish mystic Moses of Leon) teaches us that the Sephiroth is the process by which the Ein Sof becomes a personality. The first three Sephiroth represent the Ein Sof deciding to "be" - this is how the Ein Sof becomes a "he". In the next three Sephiroth that "he" becomes "you" and at the point when God becomes present in the world - by this I mean when He exists in us, as us - then the "he" becomes "I".
From the Kabbalah we learn that the first thing that was created was the desire to give. The desire to give created a vessel that could only receive. The light of the Ein Sof could only be born by Kether since it was the purest of the vessels. The next two sephiroth, Chokhmah and Binah, could not bear the light and they fell from their positions. The light continued to descend creating six points of light or six fragments of what had been a single point of light - these are the other 6 sephiroth. This is called the shattering of the vessels.
Most of the light from Ein Sof re-ascended and the shattered vessels, with a few sparks of light adhering to them, fell into the world of creation. When the light began to emanate again it only extended to the edge of the world of emanation. The fragments of the shattered vessels descended to the world of actualization and were transformed into the elements of earth, air, fire and water. It is our purpose, as human beings, to gather these points of light and fragments of the vessels. Everything we do to help or hinder the gathering, delays or hastens the return of the Messiah. The Messiah will come on the day after his arrival, when he is no longer needed. Hopefully that is because the Messiah's message will be alive in everyone's hearts.
You will note from the diagram that the sephiroth line up on Three Pillars. The pillar on the left is the Pillar of Severity, the Middle Pillar is also called the Pillar of Harmony and the pillar on the right is the Pillar of Mercy. The Pillar of Severity contains Binah, Geburah (Din) and Yod (Hod). The Pillar of Harmony is made up of Kether (Keter), Tiphareth (Rakhamin), Jesod (Yesod) and Malkuth (Malkut). The Pillar of Mercy contains Chokmah (Hokmah), Chesed (Hesed) and Netzach (Netzah).
Three of the characteristics or forces that work on us are associated around our head. They are called Kether (Keter), Chokmah (Hokmah) and Binah. Respectively, they refer to the crown (sometimes referred to as the Godhead); wisdom and purpose; and intelligence or frame of reference.
The next three Sephiroth are associated around our chest and heart area. These also influence the way our blood flows. They are called Chesed (Hesed), Geburah (Din) and Tiphareth (Rakhamim). These three represent freedom and mercy; the power of life and its challenges; and beauty, harmony and compassion, respectively.
The next three are the forces which act upon our body and its' ability to move - it is focused on our limbs and joints. These are called Netzach (Netsah), Yod (Hod) and Jesod (Yesod). They represent overcoming, inspiration and achievement; sympathy and logical outlook; and the foundation of our life and the storehouse of its' images, respectively.
The last Sephiroth is called Malkuth (Malkut) is the force coming up from the Earth. Will is in the feet which is what connects us to the Earth. It is also called the field force and it represents our entire physical world.
There is also another Sephiroth that floats around the throat area between the head and the heart. It has no number but is called Daath or Da'at. It represents hidden knowledge, hidden awareness and hidden information.
Each of the sephira has a colour associated with it: Kether - White; Binah - Black; Chesed - Blue; Chokmah - Grey; Geburah - Red; Tiphareth - Yellow; Netzach - Green; Hod - Orange; Yesod - Violet; Malkuth - Citrine, Olive, Russet, Black.
So now you know your Kaballistic ABC's. Get comfortable with this knowledge and it will help you when you are exploring the subject at a higher level. I highly recommend "Tarot of the Sephiroth" book and deck set as a great tool in learning this.