THE FORMATION OF THE TREE OF LIFE
BEING “A QABALISTIC CONCEPTION OF
THE CREATIVE PROCESS.”
It may be well to warn the casual reader of this treatise that its Title “THE BRIDE'S RECEPTION” is not intended to imply that the contents will read exactly like a French Novel. I shall make no attempt to explain my choice of this title, but rather rely upon it attracting those who have already made at least a superficial study of the Holy Qabalah, sufficient to enable them to get a glimpse of its meaning.
On the other hand, let not those who are serious in their search for more Light rashly turn aside on account of the initial difficulty of what may seem to them a New System, or a different presentation of an Old One.
It is essential to my present purpose that some outline be given of the Formation of the Tree of Life and this not alone in graphic form, although the graphic presentation is very important, forming a clear-cut conception of our “Filing Cabinet” which must be strongly impressed upon our minds in order that we may mentally refer to it at a moment's notice. The development of the ideas involved naturally comes first, however, so that I must ask my readers to lay aside previous conceptions and give me their complete and careful attention, to which should be added repeated study if necessary, until they are in a position to grasp what undoubtedly is an abstruse subject for the beginner.
The word “QABALAH” is derived from the Hebrew Root QBL, meaning “TO RECEIVE”, and from this source we may indeed RECEIVE of the Fruit of the “Tree of Life”. We must first, however, learn to transcend the “KNOWLEDGE of GOOD and EVIL” and, in fact, all the so-called “Pairs of Opposites,” for it is written “EQUILIBRIUM IS THE BASIS OF THE WORK.”
The study of the Holy Qabalah will help us to attain this Equilibrium, but we should give heed to the hidden warning implied by TAROT in the very Root (QBL) itself, “ The Illusion of the Juggler with the Balance”.1
In the Beginning, the Qabalists tell us, there was NOTHING - AIN. I must refer my readers to the Essay entitled BERASHITH2 should they wish to enquire further in regard to the Absoluteness of the Qabalistic Zero, and I may add their study will be well repaid.
This AIN is a conception entirely beyond the possibilities of human thought, it being, so to speak, the absence of all known qualities including the idea of “zero” itself.
There is another “veil of the negative” which the Qabalists call AIN SUPH - W1THOUT LIMIT. This is referred to Infinite Space, the Infinitely Great3 as AIN may be considered the Infinitely Small,3 yet SPACE bereft of any known qualities and therefore impossible of conception by the finite mind.
Once again they added a “veil” to the Primal Nothingness of the Beginning, AUR - LIGHT, thus obtaining AIN SUPH AUR, the Limitless Light of Chaos.
Even here the mind falls back unable to grasp what is still a negative conception until we consider this Boundless Light of Infinity as CONCENTRATING in upon ITSELF to a CENTRE, or POINT of Focus, and this we may apprehend only insofar as we too have succeeded in focusing our Light in the Centre of our own Being, thus obtaining, when all else disappears, a Consciousness of the Great Unity of All Things, the SELF-EXISTENT CROWN of BEING.
This CROWN the Qabalists designate KETHER and symbolize by the POINT within the CIRCLE, attributing to It the NUMBER ONE, the basis of all Numbers, indivisible, capable by multiplication of producing nothing but Itself, incapable of addition to Itself save by REFLEXION in the Nothingness from whence it arose.
We can none of us doubt the fact of our own EXISTENCE, or at least of the Existence of SOMETHING, call it CONSCIOUSNESS or what we will. The WHY of this existence we know not and indeed the fact that It is UNKNOWN insures It as BEING beyond the possibility of DOUBT. The Realization of this Existence is not obtained by inference or deduction or by any Known process; It is beyond and above Knowledge and to doubt It but implies the Existence of One who doubts or denies.
Should such a One be capable of blotting out from consciousness every known quality of the Universe, and of Self, including the Wisdom which makes the manifestation of these Qualities possible, yet that One could only say “There remains SOMETHING which EXISTS and which COMPREHENDS NOTHING.” Should He again seek to comprehend that SOMETHING, he must turn back again upon Himself, creating thereby a certain SEEMING DUALITY in order that the Self may thus comprehend Itself. Thus also the ONE by focusing Itself Within, first comprehendeth ITS essential Qualities, which may then be said to become Manifest.
Firstly cometh the idea of WISDOM, which the Qabalists call CHOKMAH, and with it the Great Illusion of Maya, “I am I,” or SELF-RECOGNITION. But with this conception is brought to birth its eternal mate UNDERSTANDING - BINAH and through this doth the ONE Understand that “This that is perceived” is “NOT-I,” thus denying the Existence of the Phenomenal Self as being other than the REFLEXION of Truth, and herein lieth the Root of Sorrow, even as in Chokmah lieth the Root of Change.
In order to make this most difficult conception clearer to the Student we may further consider the matter as follows: In Kether is begun the Whirling Motion of the Universe, for it is known as the SPHERE of the PRIMUM MOBILE. This whirling combines within Itself the ideas of SELF and NOTSELF, even as the Holy Word AL (God or All) when read in reverse is LA (Not or Ain). Yet both are but different conceptions of the ONE WORD when looked at from WITHIN OUT or from WITHOUT IN. Let us consider KETHER as the constant Whirling of these ideas (“Self and Not-self” or “God and Not”), one following the other so rapidly that neither can be affirmed or denied, we then see how KETHER becometh that Sphere in which SELFLESSNESS IS SELF.
In CHOKMAH, corresponding to the Number TWO, cometh the realization of this DUALITY, how by His Wisdom made He the Worlds from the Nothingness of His Own Being and how in the very CONSTANCY of this CHANGE lieth the STABILITY of the Universe. As it is written, “In Chokmah CHANGE IS STABILITY.” Also in Chokmah is the reflexion of the SELF of KETHER, even as in BINAH - the Third Sephira - is the reflexion of Its SELFLESSNESS. Therefore it is that the dweller in the City of the Pyramids, or BINAH, is called NEMO - No-man.
Now these THREE are ONE, KETHER - CHOKMAH - BINAH, and they form the first Triad of the Tree of Life, which is called the SUPERNAL TRIAD.
The SECOND TRIAD was derived from this by REFLEXION, for as these Three are One, so this “One-in-Three” again reflected Itself, reversing as in a mirror.
Thus we obtain two further Sephiroth harmonized in a third.
The SEPHIRA CHESED, or MERCY, corresponding to the NUMBER FOUR is the reflexion of the Divine Wisdom and shows forth the Paternal and Authoritative aspect of the One as the summary of the Triple Forces of Life - the Three underlying Principles with their Central Point of Equilibrium.
The FIFTH SEPHIRA, GEBURAH or STRENGTH is the reflexion of the Enduring Quality of the Great Mother-Substance of BINAH showing forth the STRENGTH to Establish the Authority of Chesed and forming a true Balance therewith, as it is written “His Mercy endureth forever.”
These Balanced Ideas are truly Harmonized in the SIXTH SEPHIRA, which is called TIPHERETH or Beauty. For whereas it is written “Unbalanced Severity is but Cruelty and Oppression” and that “Unbalanced Mercy but aids and abets evil,” so in Beauty and Harmony is Eternal Truth Revealed - or Re-veiled, for Kether is Re-veiled in Tiphereth as the Father is in the Son.
Thus is the SECOND TRIAD completed and is in itself a Trinity in Unity. We thus have two TRIUNITIES of which the Second is but the reflexion of the First. But as no two ideas are complete in themselves until harmonized in a Third, so a THIRD TRIAD is essential to the previous Two in order to produce a TRINITY of TRINITIES or TRIADS. This then is shown as the complement of the Second or a Second Reflexion of the First Triad.
The SEVENTH SEPHIRA - Netzach, or VICTORY, shows forth more clearly the Forces of Attraction and Repulsion which were seen to be inherent in Chesed, also it symbolizes the Victory over, or Equilibrium of these forces through the Wisdom and Will which descendeth from Chokmah.
The EIGHTH SEPHIRA is called HOD, or SPLENDOUR, and produces the idea of VACILLATION which is secretly inherent in the Strength of Geburah through the Influence of the Selflessness of Binah. Yet this very vacillation produces a certain glittering Splendour in the fluidity of Mind and Thought.
Both these again are harmonized and Established in YESOD which is the name of the NINTH SEPHIRA and means The FOUNDATION. This is the Sphere of STABILITY in CHANGE even as, in the Supernal Triad, we find Chokmah is called the Sphere wherein Change is Stability.
Finally, this TRINITY of TRIADS being in itself a UNITY is Symbolized by the TENTH SEPHIRA called MALKUTH, The KINGDOM, a SINGLE SPHERE pendant to the above and summing up in itself all the foregoing qualities which it MANIFESTS according to the Creative Plan. All these qualities may be said to be Potentially inherent in KETHER - The Crown - with which MALKUTH is, in a certain Mystical sense, ONE, as it is written: “Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether but after another manner.” The NUMBER TEN attributed to Malkuth is Symbolical of the Unity returning to Zero, for even as Kether is One from Naught, so is Malkuth Naught from One-the Material Universe being, in a certain sense, the result of the Illusion of Maya, though, in another it is the Perfection of the Creative Plan, The Crowned and Conquering Child, the Pearl of Great Price, The Bride and Pride of God in His Creation.
Thus far we have mapped out very briefly the plan of the Sephiroth or NUMERICAL EMANATIONS as they are sometimes termed. It is important to note this name for the Qabalistic Plan is based on conceptions of Pure Number. All the Correspondences which may afterwards be mentioned and attributed to these TEN SEPHIROTH will have their roots in the NUMBER OF THE SEPHIRA corresponding, thus we may collect a hundred ideas in regard to Tiphereth, but they will all be referred to the number SIX, so that in time SIX will come to mean to us the Key of a vast storehouse of ideas. This applies to each of the other numbers of the decimal scale.
Let us now formulate more clearly the result of Our researches by means of a diagram.
This shows clearly the TRINITY of TRIADS with MALKUTH pendant to them, manifesting their Influence in the Material Universe.
Now there is another manner in which the formulation of the Ten Sephiroth emanating from the One Light may be expressed, and this, without unduly confusing the reader, I desire to show, since it illustrates in an able way the DUAL NATURE of each Sephira. This is called by the Qabalists “THE LIGHTNING FLASH” and it connects the Ten Sephiroth as shown in the following diagram.
It is also known as THE FLAMING SWORD, which is united with the idea of THE SERPENT of WISDOM as will be more fully explained later on.
This idea is useful as showing how each Sephira receives a certain Influence from the preceding one and in turn transmits its nature to the one following. Thus, CHOKMAH (2) may be considered as RECEPTIVE or Feminine in its relation to KETHER from which it receives a Divine Breath which becomes formulated (in Chokmah) as THE WORD or Logos, but as POSITIVE or Masculine in regard to Binah to which it transmits the WORD or WISDOM. This is in turn UNDERSTOOD, or received, by Binah from whence it is projected into Chesed, and so on, - the process apparently becoming completed in Malkuth. This is only apparent, however, since there is a certain “Method of Return” whereby the seemingly “fallen” Kingdom is once more “Raised” to the Supernal and absorbed into The Crown.
The Plan of what we have termed our “ Filing Cabinet” is not, however, as yet complete. In the same way that we found a triple aspect in UNITY and that every DUALITY found its completion in a Third idea which represents its True Being, so each Sephira partakes of the nature of a TRINITY; for while we have said that each receives the influence from its predecessor in the scale of Numbers and transmits its influence to its successor, yet each is Unique in Itself and retains a certain Individuality of its own.
“MEZLA” is the name given by the Qabalists to this Influence which links together the Sephiroth and it operates not only along the course of “The Flaming Sword” but in other directions.
The following diagram will make this matter clear. It represents, as far as its structure is concerned, the COMPLETE PLAN of the TREE of LIFE, the details of which we shall enlarge upon as we proceed. It is sometimes called THE MINUTUM MUNDUM or “Little Universe of Colour” and I shall next tell you something of the way in which its COLOURS are derived, as by this means you will obtain a clearer conception of the interplay of “Mezla” between the Sephiroth.
Firstly, KETHER being the Concentration of the Pure Brilliance of the Divine Light of AIN-SUPH-AUR is portrayed as WHITE.
Secondly, CHOKMAH, as the Middle Number of the first Trinity is called GREY, which is a mixture of White & Black representing all colours.
Thirdly, BINAH the last of this primary scale is BLACK or that which absorbs all colours.
The Supernal Triad is then represented as WHITE - GREY - BLACK and these form the Roots of the Colours which follow.
The SECOND TRIAD manifests the THREE PRIMARY COLOURS Blue, Red and Yellow which are attributed to CHESED, GEBURAH and TIPHERETH in that order. These, as it were, draw their nature from the “King Scale” concealed in those above, as will be explained later on, viz.: Chesed blue from Chokmah, Geburah red from Binah and Tiphereth gold from Kether.
The Second Triad transmits its colour to the THIRD, its complement, by means of a mixture or blending of its rays. Thus the BLUE of CHESED combined with the YELLOW of TIPHERETH produces EMERALD GREEN in NETZACH.
The RED of GEBURAH combining with the YELLOW of TIPHERETH produces the ORANGE of HOD.
Finally the BLUE and RED of CHESED and GEBURAH produce the PURPLE of YESOD.
The Third triad in turn transmits its colours to MALKUTH in a certain Fourfold manner.
HOD and NETZACH reflect into the upper portion of Malkuth and the mixture of their colours produces a CITRINE tinge. NETZACH and YESOD produce the OLIVE GREEN portion of the Sphere. HOD and YESOD produce the RUSSET BROWN while the SYNTHESIS of all colours forms the BLACK of the lower quarter.
Thus we perceive the whole Tree vibrates between the Light and the Darkness and is composed of the Colours which naturally arise between these extremes.
It should further be noticed that the INFLUENCE or MEZLA operates so as to connect all the Sephiroth by means of TWENTY-TWO “Paths,” which added to our original TEN gives in all a Thirty-Two fold classification. The SEPHER YETZIRAH, an early Qabalistic Treatise, calls the whole scheme the THIRTY-TWO PATHS of WISDOM, and when SO considered the Sephiroth are numbered from 1 to 10 as in our plan and the other connecting links follow from 11 to 32 as shown in the diagram. Should one read, for instance, of “The Thirty-first Path” it would mean that which connects Hod with Malkuth. This is important as it will prevent confusion later on.
It will also be apparent that the Sephiroth, in addition to receiving Influence from their immediate predecessors, as explained in diagram of the Lightning Flash, derive to some extent from each other. Thus Binah, in addition to receiving a Ray from Chokmah, receives a direct Ray from Kether, and so on. (See diagram at end of chapter.) This difference is only apparent, however, for the influence is really inherent in the Ray received from Chokmah. On first consideration this may not be clear and the distinction is of minor importance, except as in establishing that all the qualities were inherent in the Sephiroth if considered as the result of the Lightning flash instead of under the form of the Triad. It will be seen also-for example-in the case of TIPHERETH that it receives a direct Ray from the Five preceding Sephiroth and itself HARMONIZES all of them. The same is true of Malkuth as manifesting the whole Tree.
These “Paths” or Influences, operative between the Sephiroth, are very important as a development of our Plan or “Filing Cabinet” and will be dealt with fully in the following chapters. Before completing the present section, however, it is necessary to speak of the Nature of the Ten Spheres from another aspect.
It will be remembered in regard to KETHER, The Crown that we called it The SPHERE of the PRIMUM MOBILE for therein began the Whirling Forces which became, in turn, the cause of the System of Revolving Orbs, or Star Universe.
CHOKMAH is therefore known as THE SPHERE OF THE ZODIAC or Home of the Fixed Stars.
We next arrive at the outermost of the (then known) PLANETS, SATURN, this is attributed to BINAH which is called THE SPHERE OF SATURN.
Next we find JUPITER corresponding to CHESED, while MARS is attributed to GEBURAH.
In the centre of the System is TIPHERETH which is called the SPHERE of SOL, the Sun.
NETZACH and HOD correspond to VENUS and MERCURY and LUNA the Moon is attributed to YESOD.
Finally MALKUTH is called THE SPHERE of THE ELEMENTS (Fire, Water, Air and Earth), playing upon which are the influences of all the foregoing Celestial Orbs.
The results of our study so far may be summarized as follows:
These Correspondences should be memorized with care by all students, and they should familiarize themselves with the Plan of The Tree of Life so that their minds are quite clearly impressed with its formation and parts, before proceeding with the further study of this work.
Q = XVIII = The Moon = lllusion.
B = I = The Magician =Juggler.
L = XI = Justice = Libra = The Balance.
2 To be found in the Collected Works of Aleister Crowley.
3. In a certain sense Nuit and Hadit.