8.3 THE TREE OF LIFE

The kabalistic "Tree of Life" conveys the creativity of consciousness and the dynamics of its expression in a diagrammatic format. This symbolic diagram outlines conscious expression from its most abstract to its most concrete. This grand symbol consists of two sets of elements. These are the ten sephiroth, which symbolize dynamic states of consciousness, and twenty two interconnecting pathways, (the autiot) which symbolize the various types of interactions between the sephiroth.

For our purposes here a lengthy discussion of the tree would prove unnecessary. But a brief description of the sephiroth will help to clarify the significance of this kabalistic symbol.

Taken in conjunction with their twenty two interconnecting pathways, the sephiroth describe the panorama of human consciousness and its many transformations of state. The full intricacy of these transformations can be imagined from the opening words of Genesis.

The first code word is Bereshyt. This has been erroneously translated as "In the beginning..." Bereshyt is composed of the letter signs bayt, raysh, aleph, sheen, yod and tav. Each of these is the name of energy acting in specific ways. Each of these energies is complex. The name bayt, for instance, includes both yod and tav. The name yod includes the names vav and dallet. In dallet is lammed and tav. In lammed is mem and dallet... etc.148

The ten sephiroth are: malkuth, yesod, hod, netsach, tiphereth, geburah, chesed, binah, chokma and kether. The twenty two pathways correspond to the twenty two letter signs (autiot) of the Hebrew alphabet and there is no need to enumerate them here. The sephiroth and autiot represent with mathematical precision the energy states and transformations that describe conscious activities.

Taken together, these profuse and rich elements symbolically form the grand tapestry of consciousness/life. This ever changing multiple event continuously weaves itself from the matrix of itself. It brings into conscious manifestation the many and diverse forms that give it actuality. It dissolves them repeatedly back into itself in a never beginning and never ending dance of recognition and realization. It is the play (lila) of consciousness/life with its ephemeral projection into time and space.

Malkuth, the "kingdom," symbolizes the drive of the psyche for survival both physically and psychologically. This kabalistic "kingdom" represents the meeting point of the tangible and intangible within the confines of the human experience of life.

Malkuth is the very same "kingdom within" of which we must each become consciously aware. For even though it occupies the schematic "bottom" of the tree it symbolically duplicates the "top." Just as the root system of an oak duplicates its above ground trunk and branches, so does malkuth represent the whole.

Yesod, "foundation," symbolizes the creative energy of consciousness in its most tangible or concretized manifestation. This energy expresses itself both physically and erotically in the generation of offspring and psychologically and amorously in the maturation of self realization.

Hod, the "glory," signifies the power of mental discrimination. Hod is the two edged sword that severs and binds. It renders the experience of human life fragmentary while at the same time bestowing upon it the power of self awareness. Netsach, the "victory," signifies the action of feeling. This power enables us to arrive at accurate and meaningful judgments based on emotion and value. It guides us to what we find truly valuable and important in our lives. Hod and netsach operate in intimate relation to one another. Our powers of discrimination and feeling are often brought to bear simultaneously upon whatever matter requires our consideration and subsequent action.

Tiphereth, or "beauty," symbolizes the balance of rational thinking and intuitive insight. Its position in the center of the tree indicates its great potency for establishing and maintaining equilibrium throughout all the states of consciousness that are represented by the sephiroth. Tiphereth is that quiet and still point within that enables us to unite the various and often disparate parts of our human nature into harmonious concert.

Geburah, or "justice," signifies the cause and effect relationships of events and actions. Every phenomenon has its cause or causes and in turn becomes the cause of still other phenomena. No phenomenon stands by itself.

This interconnectedness of cause and effect is termed in the Sanskrit karma. An acausal interrelatedness of events and phenomena operates as well. This Jung postulated long ago and particle physicists demonstrate daily in their laboratories. This acausal effect is contained within geburah as a sort of counterpoint to its causal force.

Chesed, or "mercy," known also as Gedulah, "love," signifies the lavish creative outpouring of the dynamic activity of consciousness. Chesed and geburah are directly connected since the creative energy and activity of consciousness produces the cause and effect and interrelatedness of all phenomena and events of life.

Binah, "understanding," symbolizes intuitive insight and not simply an intellectual understanding. Insight produces an intimate involvement that mere intellectualism lacks.

Binah represents the state or the condition of giving form to the many expressions of consciousness. Chokma, or "wisdom," symbolizes the eternal archetypes or patterns of thought of consciousness. These archetypes are the unformed patterns to which binah gives form in the real world of life and experience.

Kether, the "crown," symbolizes the actualizing of the full creative potential of consciousness. Kether is the actual as well as the symbolic "crowning point" of self expression and its actualized powers.

Kether is frequently misunderstood to represent a supposedly "spiritual" state of human existence, removed in kind from the other aspects of human experience. But this line of thought follows the erroneous metaphysical notion that the different states of consciousness exhibit a hierarchy of value. They do not.

The as yet unformed and unrealized potential of consciousness is termed ain soph.149 Ain soph corresponds to what I have been referring to in this essay as the hyperstate.

We can correlate the sephiroth to the chakras thus:

malkuth root
yesod genitals
hod/netsach navel
tiphereth heart
geburah/chesed throat
binah/chokma brow
kether crown



In later kabala much emphasis has been placed on the idea of climbing the tree and "progressing" through the connecting pathways. This idea of a progression parallels the yogic notion of conquering the chakras that James Pryse advocates in his level of interpretation of the Apocalypse.

Underlying the intention of rising to supposedly higher or more exalted states of consciousness is the common misconception that a hierarchy of value prevails throughout the chakra and sephiroth systems. Thus, those states of consciousness symbolized by the chakras and sephiroth at the "lower" (for which read physical) end of this hypothetical scale of value somehow hinder and impede progress towards psychic integration (or, if you will, "enlightenment").

As a consequence of this manner of thinking, physical activities, and especially sexual activities, become the bad guys. Thus arises all the misguided emphasis on asceticism and celibacy in the quest for spiritual attainment. But as I noted before and more than once, for it merits repetition, sex and the physical are not the bad guys. According to the metaphysic of ecstasy they are really the good guys!

From the deeper perspective of the metaphysic of ecstasy, sexuality and its physical manifestations are the keys to integrating all of the psyche and realizing the supreme identity. To think of them otherwise is to fall right into the patriarchal trap of bogus spirituality.

It is precisely from this bogus spirituality that the human race must extricate itself if it is to advance further on its evolutionary journey. Only the metaphysic of ecstasy, with its holistic vision of human life offers the alternative of real and effective spirituality. That is just the total integration of the psyche and the mutual discovery by woman and man of the supreme identity within each other.

The author of the Apocalypse uses the kabalistic symbol of the tree of life unaltered. He even calls it by the same name!150 And as if this were not sufficient to get his message across plainly, in addition, he also calls it the "fountain of the water of life."151 Having emphasized the nature of the real meaning of this symbol by thus utilizing it twice over, to disguise it somewhat from the literalists he simply changed the names of the ten sephiroth. Precisely which name corresponds to each one of the sephiroth remains in some doubt.

The exact correlation, however, is unnecessary for the overall meaning of the text to present itself clearly and comprehensively. The following list is somewhat tentative. But as well as I can deduce to date, the author of the Apocalypse substituted the various terms for the sephiroth in the manner indicated here:

SEPHIROTH APOCALYPTIC TERMS
malkuth kingdom authority
yesod foundation strength
hod glory praise
netsach victory ruling
tiphereth beauty force
geburah justice honor
chesed mercy deliverance
binah understanding wealth
chokma wisdom dominion
kether crown glory


When diagrammed in the symbolic form of the kabalistic tree of life, the ten sephiroth are arranged in three vertical columns. The columns symbolize the right, left and center of human expression. They correspond to the cerebrospinal and the left and right sympathetic nervous systems of the body.

The four sephiroth of malkuth, yesod, tiphereth and kether signify the central column. The remaining six sephiroth arranged in three pairs make up the left and right columns. The six paired sephiroth are hod and netsach, geburah and chesed, binah and chokma.

Faculties and Correspondances

The central column corresponds to the sushumna nadi of the Upanishads. The right and left columns correspond respectively to the pingala and ida nadis. The accompanying diagram makes these various relationships clear.

The apocalyptic tree yields twelve fruits.152 These twelve correspond to the five faculties of memory, action, reason, apprehension, inspiration and the seven complementary abilities of loving, thinking, willing, knowing, inspiring, expressing and forming. Together, these twelve fruits make up the psychic activity symbolized by ida, pingala and sushumna and the ten sephiroth.

The Gospel allegories personify the fruits as the twelve apostles of Jesus. Regarding the true nature of the word Jesus and its relation to the faculties and abilities, we may examine here briefly two passages from Mark.

"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?"153

"And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John."154

Just who were all these brothers and sisters of Jesus? The orthodox and literalist interpreters admit that Jesus had at least four brothers and several sisters. The Gospels refer directly to siblings in wording that could easily be interpreted to mean even more. But accounting for all these siblings of Jesus proves rather difficult.

After all, Mary was a virgin. She is still revered by most of Christian orthodoxy as the Virgin Mary. We may credit her with one miraculous birth, but surely not several more! Would not the virgin births of several more children in addition and subsequent to the birth of Jesus warrant some comment in the Gospels? Yet there is not a word.

Those who insist that all these brothers and sisters were born to Mary and Joseph by natural means after the birth of Jesus flounder on the virginity issue. Those who claim the reference is in the general sense of the brotherhood of humanity rather than in a familial sense beg the question. Both viewpoints have been thoroughly dissected by the orthodox literalists without resolution.

The problem is readily resolved as soon as we free ourselves from the literal interpretation. The brothers total five in number and are each named specifically in the two quoted passages. The five are Simon, James, John, Judas and Andrew. The name "Joses" is simply a substitute for John. We may reasonably conclude that they personify the five faculties.

The sisters are never named, nor referred to by any specific number. However, from Matthew 13,56 we can surmise that their number was three or more. If we suppose that these sisters of Jesus personify the seven abilities and thereby complement the five faculties, we may confidently conclude that they total seven.

No women are named in the Gospels specifically as the sisters of Jesus. But we may conjecture that all of the Marys, Miriams and Marthas (with the exception of Mary, the mother) are the seven sisters. All of these names derive ultimately from the name Mary.

The Mary who is the mother of Jesus, by the way, personifies the matrix. She is the "mother" of all phenomenal expression. From earlier discussion we already know that ida was referred to as the "world mother" since the seven chakras generate the world of experience for ego conscious humanity.

Hence, we may conclude that the sisters of Jesus represent the many differentiations of ida. These are the seven chakras and the activities they symbolize. The similarity of the several names suggests strongly their derivative status.

Jesus the Christ symbolizes self realization of the human personality whose faculties and abilities enable it to express and experience fully. This condition of awareness becomes the ultimate state of human being. It is totally appropriate to refer to these experiential elements as the "brothers" and "sisters" of human integrity.

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