- Tree of life (Kabbalah)
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- See also Tree of life (disambiguation) for other meanings of the term.
The Tree of Life, or Etz haChayim (עץ החיים) in Hebrew, is a mystical symbol used in the Kabbalah of esoteric Judaism to describe the path to God (usually referred to as HaShem, or "The Name", in Kabbalistic texts) and the manner in which he created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing). The Kabbalists developed this concept into a full model of reality, using the tree to depict a map of Creation. Some[who?] believe the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah corresponds to the Tree of Life mentioned in Genesis 2:9. This mystical concept was later adopted by some esoterically inclined Christians as well as some Hermeticists. Among the Christian Kabbalists[which?], the Sephiroth were called Dignities, and were referred to by their Latin names, instead of Hebrew Names of the ten Sephirot. Christian Kabbalah also places emphasis on Christ, as Sustainer and Preserver of the Universe, and the Malkuth of Jewish Kabbalah is absent, as it is considered of a different order-of-being . Ramon Llull, beatified by the Catholic Church, is well known among Christian Kabbalah lore for his writings on the subject.
The Sefirot in Jewish Kabbalah Category:Sephirot
Kabbalists believe the Tree of Life to be a diagrammatic representation of the process by which the Universe came into being. On the Tree of Life, the beginning of the Universe is placed at a space above the first Sephirah, named Kether ("crown" in English). It is not always pictured in reproductions of the Tree of Life, but is referred to universally as Ain Soph Aur (Ain - Without, Soph - End, Aur - Light). To the Kabbalists, it symbolises that point beyond which our comprehension of the origins of Being cannot go; it is considered to be an infinite nothingness out of which the first 'thing' (thought of in science and the Kabbalah to be energy) exploded to create a Universe of multiple things. Kabbalists also do not envision time and space as pre-existing, and place them at the next three stages on the Tree of Life. First is Kether, or the Crown in English, which is thought of as the product of the contraction of Ain Soph Aur into a singularity of infinite energy or limitless light. In the Kabbalah, it is the primordial energy out of which all things are created. The next stage is Chokmah, or Wisdom, which is considered to be a stage at which the infinitely hot and contracted singularity expanded forth into space and time. It is often thought of as pure dynamic energy of an infinite intensity forever propelled forth at a speed faster than light. Next comes Binah, or Understanding, which is thought of as the primordial feminine energy, the Supernal Mother of the Universe which receives the energy of Chokmah, cooling and nourishing it into the multitudinous forms present throughout the whole cosmos. It is also seen as the beginning of Time itself.
Numbers are very important to Kabbalists, and the Hebrew letters of the alphabet also have a numerical value for the Kabbalists. Each stage of the emanation of the Universe on the Tree of Life is numbered meaningfully from one, or the Sephirah of Kether to ten, or the Sephirah of Malkuth. The nature of each number is thought to express the nature of its Sephirah.
The first three Sephiroth, called the Supernal Sephiroth, are considered to be the primordial energies of the Universe. The next stages of evolution on the Tree of Life are considered to exist beyond a space on the tree, called the Abyss, between the Supernals and the other Sephiroth, because their levels of being are so distinct from each other that they appear to exist in two totally different realities. The Supernal Sephiroth exist on a plane of divine energy. This is why another correspondence for Binah is the idea of suffering, because the Supernal Maternal energy gives birth to a world that is inherently excluded from that Divine Union. After Binah, the Universe gets down to the business of building the materials it will need to fulfill its evolution, and creating new combinations of those materials until it is so dense that, by the stage of Malkuth, the initial pure limitless energy has 'solidified' into the physical Universe. Since its energies are the basis of all Creation, the Tree of Life can potentially be applied to any area of life, especially the inner world of Man, from the subconscious all the way to what Kabbalists call the higher self.
But the Tree of Life does not only speak of the origins of the physical Universe out of the unimaginable, but also of Man's place in the Universe. Since Man is invested with Mind, consciousness in the Kabbalah is thought of as the fruit of the physical world, through whom the original infinite energy can experience and express itself as a finite entity. After the energy of Creation has condensed into matter, it is thought to reverse its course back up the Tree until it is once again united with its true nature. Thus, the kabbalist seeks to know himself and the Universe as an expression of God, and to make the journey of Return by stages charted by the Sephiroth, until he has come to the realisation he sought.
The Tree of Life bears many similarities to the Christian Gnostic conception of the Pleroma, emanations from the ineffable and self-originating Divine Parent that offer the best possible means of describing God. Each emanation in the Pleroma is born from a more complex emanation before it. Most notably between these two allegories is the final Sephirah on the Tree, Malkuth, and the last emanation in the Pleroma, Sophia, whose fall resulted in the physical world.
In the Bhagavad Gita there is a mention of Asvattha, tree of Life and Being, whose destruction alone leads to immortality, is said in the Bhagavad Gita to grow with its roots above and its branches below. The roots represent the Supreme Being, or First Cause, the LOGOS; but one has to go beyond those roots to unite oneself with Krishna... The Vedas are its leaves. He only who goes beyond the roots shall never return, i.e., shall reincarnate no more during this "age" of Brahma.
- ^ Falcon, T. & Blatner, D. (2001). Judaism for Dummies. New York, NY: Wiley, John & Sons,, Inc. p 78
- ^ Fortune, Dion. The Mystical Qabalah. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc. (2000) p. 30-33 ISBN 1-57863-150-5
- ^ Malachi, Tau. Gnosis of the Cosmic Christ. A Gnostic Christian Kabbalah. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. (2005) pp. 19-20. ISBN 0-7387-0591-8
- ^ Regardie, Israel. The Tree of Life: An Illustrated Study in Magic. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. (2000) pp. 49-54. ISBN 1-56718-132-5
- ^ Encausse, Gerard (Papus). The Qabalah: Secret Tradition of the West. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc. (2000) pp. 83-4. ISBN 0-87728-936-0
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