Kabbalah Definition Meaning a comprehensive guide for beginners. From the structure
of the atom to the vast mechanics and rhythms of the galaxy.
Kabbalah definition means ‘from mouth to ear’ and has traditionally been passed on in an oral tradition because it is an experiential, inner knowledge that we seek. It is a Jewish word meaning’ to receive’. There are three categories of Qaballah, the theoretical, the meditative and the magical. The latter two consist of various methods used to induce higher states of consciousness.
Since the re-emergence of ancient philosophies, Kabbalah has expanded to embrace a plethora of spiritual practices, incorporating a lot of new correspondences which are more relevant to our time and culture. Its eclecticism can be largely attributed to the work of those such as Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, MacGregor Mathers, Eliphas Levi, Madam Blavatsky and Dion Fortune, to name a few. Ultimately, to learn these arts, and for them to remain pure, one must find a reputable teacher.
It is possible to assume that this system was once common knowledge around the world. Quite often we come across spiritual and healing techniques, which have continued through tradition without theoretical support, even though the deeper wisdom may well have been lost.
Staying with the above quote from the Emerald Tablet, the word ‘above’ can be taken to mean cause in this instance and ‘below, effect. Since the cause cannot exist without effect, the effect cannot exist without a cause as the two are interdependent on each other, making the beginning and end inseparable.
The fundamental pattern of the Tree of Life can be seen repeated from the structure of the atom to the vast mechanics and rhythms of the galaxy. As mentioned earlier, this map is the blueprint of creation and it describes the universal order of things manifest and non-manifest.
By truly understanding the concepts that this map portrays, we can recognize the patterns held within our psyche and the worldviews which influence our cognitive behaviour. The purpose is to obtain knowledge of your Divine Self and to be at one with nature.
I see this map everywhere I look, from the traffic lights on the street corners to children playing hopscotch on the school ground. There is evidence all over the world that this sacred practice and fundamental design was once common knowledge throughout ancient times.
The Ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life represents the qualities of our divine nature, the pattern of soul, embodied in the body of man-made in “His” image. Paradoxically, we all journey through the Tree as a natural progression in life. We are each a part of it as it is us, whether we know it or not and we are all living in it and with it every day of our lives. It is an archetypal map of consciousness, which we follow as unique expressions of it from birth to death.
From heart-beat to heart-beat. From the beginnings of our creation to our ultimate extinction, in our mass evolutionary process. In contemporary Witchcraft, the changing seasons or the continuous cycles of life, death and renewal are celebrated at various Rites of Passage and the sabbats scattered around the Wheel of the Year.
Looking at our map we see that there are ten spheres or numerical emanations which are called Sephiroth, (Sephira = singular) The spheres are inseparable. They merge, divide, reflect and act as catalysts for each other. The metaphor is, that creation takes place in ten steps, which is further defined through the four worlds or realms of consciousness depicting our levels of awareness. These spheres represent levels of spiritual reality both in the cosmos and in Man as the archetypal being, so superbly represented by Leonardo Da Vince.
Kabbalah meaning involves the study and assimilation of the quality and or meaning of these spheres. The 22 lines or pathways that connect them are numbered 11 to 32, The Sephiroth are subjective and make up the various attributes of our nature. The things we are. The paths are experiential or objective. Specific meditations are designed for each pathway to help experience the Tree. They use a combination of specific correspondences of colour, sound, myth, smell, plant, animal, planet and god-form to activate sub-conscious archetypal triggers.
The ancients believed that mystical manifestation resulted from the perfect union of three unequal parts. In the Tree, these are:-
Neshamah, related to Spirit; which flows directly from the infinite.
Ruach is the soul, corresponding to the intelligence of the world, and
Nephesh, the body or the material manifestation.
Spirit (Neshamah) is represented by the supernal triad of Kether,
Chockmah and Binah. The Holy Trinity or Celestial Triangle. It starts from a single point indicating the concept of union beyond duality. It is here that the original pattern is set. Within this point, the diversity of the physical world grew, by rational stages from the desire to an idea and to form in a way analogous to the growth of a living creäture in the womb. So it could be said that the universe was created from a single point within itself by an act of divine Will. From this, all else proceeded very much in the same way that Light may be broken up into the colours of the spectrum.
The next six spheres (Ruach, soul), consist of Chesed, Geburah, Tiffareth, Netzach, Hod and Yesod. It is here that we experience this original intention, through our awareness of the diversity that life offers. Every thought, every word, every action marks its indelible imprint on the whole, and we all continually contribute to the quality of our future experiences with the choices we make in each moment. The Hebrew word for Ruach is ‘direction’, so these six spheres represent the six spatial directions of east/west, north/south and up/down, which make up the magic cube of space. The Ruach is also the divine breath or Pranic energy, which connects Spirit with Matter.
Nephesh contains Malkuth and is the material world or Kingdom. The vessel through which this action manifests personally and/or collectively. It is the stage on which the drama of life unfolds and evolves in an ongoing cycle of birth, death and rebirth, from seed to fruition once again. So, the Tree relates to the power of the mind to create: to make manifest. It is an ongoing process of cause and effect.
If we consider Kether to be the cause and Malkuth to be the effect, then another concept comes into being; that of duality or opposites. These are represented by the three pairs on the left and right sides of the design. In psychological terminology, this is thesis and antithesis. Within the seed is contained the outcome. From inspiration to the idea to thought to action. From seed to stem to flower to fruit.
The Kabbalah Tree Of Life is also represented in three vertical divisions called ‘Pillars’ to portray the concept of synthesis or balance, which is the fundamental principle of the Qaballah meaning. As we view the pattern, the pillar to the left is black, representing the feminine receptive energy of formation. The pillar to the right is white, representing the masculine energy of dynamic force. The middle pillar balances or harmonised the opposing yet complementary polarities.
With the concept of opposites, we must also have similarities. The Feminine or receptive, negative principle is represented by the Pillar of Severity; It is crowned by Binah (Understanding), giving rise to Geburah (strength) and Hod (splendour). The Masculine Principle of positive, dynamic force is crowned by Chochmah (Wisdom), which gives rise to Chessed (Mercy) and finally Netzach (Glory). These three make up the Pillar of Mercy.
The Middle Pillar or Pillar of Harmony is the most primary relation possible; that which exists between Creator and creation. The three pairs of opposites formed by the onset of duality are each balanced by a third and harmonizing sephirot.
Binah and Chockmah channel their energy into the subjective, non-existent sephirot of Da’ath representing Knowledge. Knowledge, therefore, forms the basis for understanding and wisdom. Tiphereth (Beauty) gives rise to strength (Geburah) and mercy Chessed). Kether gives rise to (Beauty (Tiphareth) and Malkuth gives rise to Foundation (Yesod) in an act of co-creation.
The pathways, which connect the sephiroth are the means through which the light of the spheres flow continually in both directions, in numerical order from Kether to Malkuth and vice versa. In the Kabbalah Tree Of Life, these channels may best be thought of as hollow tubes, which connect transparent spheres that radiate various colours.
Through these channels it is possible for the devout mind to progress from one vessel to the next, experiencing the divine light with ever-increasing purity and, on a physical level, clearing the vessel to act in accordance with the divine principle after which s/he was fashioned.
Our body is viewed as a microcosm, with every part of it having a parallel in the forces of creation. The 32 paths (22 connecting paths, plus the 10 sephiroth), correspond to the 32 nerves which exit the spinal column between each vertebra to feed the organs and transmit messages via electrical impulses to every part of the body. There are also 32 major meridians in Chinese medicine around which the body builds itself.
The pathways of the Kabbalah Tree Of Life act as a two-way street, allowing the mind to gain control over creation. They provide us with a way to be able to actually reach the mind, which is the ultimate tool for transformation. The double function of the nervous system is that it allows the mind to control the body as well as transmitting messages to the brain via the senses.
You will notice that the tree is further divided into four “worlds” or “aspects”, each represented by one of the four elements, Fire (spirit), Water (emotion), Air (intellect), and Earth (physical). Indeed, each sphere is divided into four worlds or levels and has an entire tree within it. Worlds within worlds.
Divine Archetypes Of Kabbalah
Briah – Chockmah and Binah. The world of creation (Water)
The Throne. Chariot.
Yetzirah – Chesed, Geburah, Tiffereth, Hod, Netzach and Yesod
The world of formation (Air)
Highest ranking Angels of the Astral.
Assiah – Malkuth. The world of making. (Earth)
The final and necessary step, with all its worldly illusions and material distractions from the worlds above.
Atziluth – Kether. The world of emanation or nearness (Fire)
The following is a quick rundown of the mechanics of the Tree.
Paradoxically, the Kabbalah Tree Of Life is said to be upside-down because it has its roots in heaven as the ultimate beginnings of matter. The super-conscious or indefinable fullness of the Godhead. Everything originates from this Nothingness or Ain Soph Aur, which is a concept our mortal minds are unable to evaluate. The absolute, The infinite, The All and so forth. It is best to remain Nameless, to name something infers that you know what it is and puts the thing named in a box, which excludes other attributes of its nature.
Nothingness could be associated with the number Zero, as perfectly balanced forces result in a net circular movement. The concept of a snake swallowing its own tail. Numerically, One is combined with Zero to form the number Ten in Malkuth. The divine representation of Spirit in physical form, symbolic of the Emerald Tablets ‘As above, so below’ and also representative of the kundalini which sits at the base of the spine.
Kether is the first emanation to be comprehended by the human mind. This is not understanding in the sense “I am” but rather in the sense of an “Empty-fullness”, for it is everything that might be. Ketheris the origin of Will.
It relates to the original inspiration from the Nothingness where the energy of the Divine is projected into the Tree at the Crown, containing them all. The Crown is sometimes referred to as the Rainbow Bridge, connecting the two, which are not really two at this point. When we can conceive this infinite light as concentrated upon a central point, we are able to associate the first positive Idea; A mathematical point without dimension or substance.
To emanate means to flow forth. From the base of Kythera beam of light or energy ignites in the sphere of Chochmah, sitting on the top of the masculine pillar, representing forces. Chochmah, the second emanation and the ultimate division of matter is the power of Kether in dynamic action, which represents the highest intelligence. Its meaning is Wisdom.
This is the sound at the beginning – of the Word of creation. The energy here is dynamic, stimulating, Divine power. The planet assigned to this sphere is Uranus. (Sometimes this sphere is allotted the twelve planets of our zodiac; the Knights of the Round Table etc.)
Light flows from here to the third sephiroth called Binah representing Understanding as the supreme feminine principle; that which knows. She is the highest intuition, which is capable of interpreting the Word correctly and of transmitting it to the lower spheres. She gives life and limitations and is oceanic in quality. The vice of this sphere is avarice and the virtue is silence. Saturn rules her and she is coloured black, absorbing all the colours of the spectrum, She is co-equal to her male counterpart Chockmah; The thing known.
Chockmah and Binah are force and form respectively. The analogy here with human sexuality is obvious; the force entering the form, giving and receiving the seed to create new life. This is the unconscious world of wisdom from whence ideas originate as that spark of inspiration. The cosmic womb.
These two preside as the mother and the father over the feminine and masculine pillars of Judgement and Mercy. The Empress in the Tarot occupies the pathway between Binah and Chockmah as the magnetic flux that binds the divine mind and the Holy Spirit into a creative partnership. The anima and the animus. At this stage, they are still only the idea of force and form.
Just below this supernal triad in the central pillar is the abyss known as Da’ath, an extra subjective sphere that acts as a bridge between the lower worlds and the absolute. Its English meaning is knowledge. It is symbolic of the veil or the void; the abyss which separates the manifest from the un-manifest. The finite from the infinite. The supernal triad from those reflected below it. Nothing but perfection can pass through this void to reach the upper triad of purity.
It is only through Self-knowledge that you can come to understand the wisdom of creation and vice versa. Da’ath represents the Great Work, which is to be undertaken by mankind. It is the abyss through which we must pass to achieve enlightenment and to reach the Mother/Father/God or the ultimate Godhead. This void can be described in a quantum manner by referring to it as the space between the atoms which allows movement and growth to occur. It acts as a mediator between Chesed and Binah.
Chesed stands for Grace, Mercy, Unconditional Spiritual Love and Compassion, and has to do with building up forces, which are then broken down again and balanced by the creative power of its partner Geburah. Chesed is the first sphere below the abyss and therefore the first expression of our physical universe.
It bestows abundance, expansion, joy and benevolence. Chesed is protective and jovial by nature and acts as a corrective stabiliser for Geburah-ic qualities. The Tarot connecting these two forces is Strength. The negative of Chesed is over-indulgence and spiritual competition. Its virtue is obedience. Chesed is ruled by the expansive planet Jupiter and is coloured blue.
The word ‘martial’ expresses the nature of Geburah. The colour attributed to this sphere is red and she is ruled by the planet Mars, with all of the warrior qualities relating to strength. Geberahis a feminine emanation in quality with a strong sense of being ‘a formative force of might.’
Mars is the cosmic warrior of the solar system, ruling with an iron fist and consuming her lover with burning and ruthless passion. It is here that the cosmic imagination is whirled into activity and manifestation and that the original idea forms. It is purging and purifying and burns away all that is obsolete and useless. The virtue of Geburah is courage and energy; its vice is cruelty and wanton destruction. This pair is balanced and forms a triangle in Tiphareth, the sphere below.
Tiphareth is the heart (centre) of the body or tree around which everything pivots in ultimate beauty. This sphere balances all the forces in perfect harmony and is ruled by the Sun. It is here that healing happens. The Sun has an innate capacity to nurture or destroy, depending on the conditions.
It also relates to higher mental consciousness as opposed to ordinary psychism. Its mystical symbolism is sacrifice and crucifixion. Nourishment and destruction. This is where we experience a spiritual rebirth. The higher self or the “Holy Guardian Angel” of every individual sits in Tiphareth. Tiphereth means Beauty and Harmony and is coloured yellow, (gold). The vice is the false price and its virtue is devotion to the Great Work.
If you look at the pattern, every glyph radiates out from this central sphere. Solar energy at the centre of our galaxy. Central to the Kabbalah belief is that “the One Sun can shine through many windows”.We are all One at the source of our existence.
Through contemplation, the macrocosm joins with the microcosm via our nervous system which relays the messages to your heart at Tiphereth The circuitry of the human body comprises the autonomic and central nervous systems, which conglomerate behind and just below the heart organ and behaves in the same manner. Although the mind may be said to be the all-creative force, present in every cell and organism of the body, the heart ultimately drives it.
Moving down the central pillar we find a further passage and a transition of ideas into actuality. The remaining pair of this middle expression of creation is Netzach and Hod. The meanings delegated here are ‘Victory’ and ‘Glory’, perceptively and the pathway between this pair is occupied by the tarot trump The Tower which breaks down all the illusions you held of the past to allow a clear perspective of body, mind and spirit; of intellect and sensuality. The higher or loftier the Tower (or mind) the harder it falls.
Netzach is ruled by Venus and coloured green, which is also associated with Aphrodite and harvest or growth. This sphere has to do with creativity, subjectivity and emotions. Its nature is one of love and the force of attraction, sensuality, and acting on an instinctual level in the creature world.
Love is the lure that entices the pilgrim on his journey to surrender to this passion and eroticism. Pure love is the eventual prize but first must come purification. Venus is nurturing and seductive; the irresistible enchantress with otherworldly qualities. This is contrasted and harmonized with the influence of Hod (ruled by Mercury and the intellect), the reasoning mind and Hermes, the ultimate magician; The Winged Messenger. She is coloured orange.
Netzach contains all the Venusian sensory qualities of passion and instinctual pleasures and the love of nature, which is also our own divine nature. It is associated with interpersonal relationships and social consciousness. The negative of this sphere is lust and impurity and the virtue is unselfishness.
Hod, on the other hand, is the reasoning mind of cold, hard intellect, which is incapable of emotion unless it is balanced with unselfish love. Here we learn and communicate with others. Hod governs writing, trade, magic, travel, thought processes, the accumulation of knowledge and the exchange of ideas. Its virtue is honesty and vice is dishonesty. Hod and Netzach must be in balance to maintain a healthy personality.
Yesod balances these two in the lower triad, just as Tiphereth balances Chesed and Geburah. Yesod means “foundation” and relates not only to the subconscious mind but our basic personality and independence. This is the Astral, ruled by the Moon, and paradoxically; you must first know your way around the astral before you venture there. It is the sphere of procreation, biology, intuition, imagination and rhythms, tides and fluctuations. The colour attributed to this sphere is purple.
It is where all manifested forms in the physical universe are based and built on. It is here that we realise that it is by doing the work on ourselves, we are able to take responsibility for our personal evolution by harnessing our emotional, mental and spiritual states. It is the foundation on which our nature develops. It’s the Holy Grail representing the receptacle that stores impressions of power. The hub around which the spokes of the wheel spin in the lower triad.
This is also the seat of our sexual instinct and has the function of channelling the energies of the higher levels down to the earth below in the final Sephiroth called Malkuth or the “Kingdom”. Yesod’s job is to purify and correct the emanations. The vision here is the machinery of the universe. Its vice is idleness and its virtue is independence.
Malkuth is sometimes called the Daughter of the Bride, in a celebrated manifestation of matter, where all the above are ideally incorporated. Here union occurs and results in grounding the life force in the Kingdom of Earth and all that is. She is clothed in olive green, citrine, russet, and black embracing all the worlds so necessary for her existence where the qualities of the previous spheres culminate in physical form. The reflected image of the Godhead containing all the elements of existence within. Malkuth stands alone as a world unto itself. It is here, in the world of Assiah that things are made manifest.
The first nine spheres could be related to the gestation of human life; without the integration of all that is, you are stillborn. In Malkuth form becomes ‘real’ and behaves in a predictable way within the dance of energy, time, space and matter. This is the Earth upon which things are built and the result of the ‘Godhead wanting to become conscious of itself.’The innate desire to unite all aspects of the One, forming a ladder between the boundless and the manifest or material universe.
And then it starts all over again. Each time you visit one of the sephira or travel the connecting paths you have a new experience. Each moment is fresh and inspirational. There is unlimited knowledge to be gained and growth to be had and it just deepens. Jyoti Eagles © Druid Priestess