Practical Magic(k)

A Primer on the Hermetic Qabalah Pt. II – The Tree of Life

The Ten Spheres

Recapping from A Primer on the Hermetic Qabalah Pt. I, the Ten Spheres, or Emanations, are what the Jewish mystics used to represent the highest and most abstract ideas of deity. Together, these Ten Spheres (Sephiroth in plural, and Sephira in singular) make up the Tree of Life.

These are:

 

  1. KThR – (Kether): The Crown
  2. ChKMH – (Chokmah): Wisdom
  3. BINH – (Binah): Understanding
  4. ChSD – (Chesed): Mercy
  5. GBVRH – (Geburah): Severity
  6. ThPARTh – (Tiphareth): Beauty
  7. NtzCh – (Netzach): Victory
  8. HVD – (Hod): Glory
  9. ISVD – (Yesod): The Foundation
  10. MLKVTh – (Malkuth): The Kingdom

 

What do these mean?

Kether is the source of all (and what continues) the creation of the rest of the spheres. It is inconceivable and beyond duality. The second sphere, Chokmah, then represents the idea of idea and the chaos of all potentiality. Binah, Understanding, refers to the form in which ideas manifest. Together, these three give birth to the rest of the spheres beginning with Chesed.

In Chesed lies the creation of matter, and in Geburah the laws which bind and recify the manifest world. Tiphareth represents the balance of all the spheres above and below, right and left. Netzach symbolizes love, passion, and aspiration; Hod compliments Netzach by symbolizing reason, intellect, and receptivity. Yesod, The Foundation, refers to the rhythmic cycles of all of the above, and Malkuth, The Kingdom, is the Tree of Life in its entirety.

In this understanding, the first and last spheres are essentially the same; they merely differ in degrees of manifestation. The Hermetic Qabalah utilizes the structure provided by the Tree of Life as a filing cabinet for numerous attributions such as the zodiac, planets, elements, and colors; as well as material correspondences like animals, plants, precious stones, perfumes, drugs, the human body, and metals.

Because the concept of the Tree of Life/Knowledge/Immortality serves to unite all forms of creation, it has been an important archetype in various pantheons and eras.

 

Which Tree of Life?

The Hindus have the Eternal Banyan Tree, otherwise known as Akshaya Vata, which is said to remain unaffected after the cyclic creation and destruction of the world by water. Lord Krishna rested on the leaves of this tree in the form of a baby when there was no land in sight. Complimenting this myth is the Buddhist’s Bodhi Tree, said to be a manifestation of the Akshaya Vata where Buddha meditates eternally.

In Persian Mythology, the Gaokerena World Tree is the bearer of all seeds. Ahriman attempted to destroy the tree by creating a frog to invade it, but Ahura Mazda created two fish to guard it. The Egyptians had the Tree of Iusaaset, and in Ancient Mesopotamia was the Assyrian Tree.

Among these many doctrines, possibly the most well-known is the Yggsrasil in Norse religion. It connects the nine worlds in Norse cosmology and is supported by three roots that extend beyond the cosmos. In the Codex Regius, Odin is described as being bound to the Tree, having sacrificed himself  and hangs eternally.

The Abrahamic religions, of course, have the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) that remains in Eden after the banishment of Adam and Eve. From this arose the interpretation of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life from Jewish Mystics to be used today in the Hermetic/Occult Qabalah.  

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