The Tree of Life is a symbol representing all of Creation taken from the Kabbalah. Studying it can give you much insight and personal growth. Here I give you a simple walk through the Tree to get you started on your journey.
We begin here at a basic level, but do remember that this is a diagrammatic representation of all Creation and therefore it can be studied diligently for many years, or even a lifetime, opening deeper and deeper levels of understanding within the seeker.
The Tree of Life is a mandala made up of spheres, each called a sephira, which means ‘emanation’ or ‘vessel’. Each vessel contains a different sort of energy. Plurally the spheres are referred to as sephiroth. There are nine sephiroth plus one non-sephiroth called Da’at, which is not fully manifest.
The sephiroth are arranged along three vertical pillars. The left hand pillar is the pillar of constriction, the right hand pillar is the pillar of expansion and the central pillar is that of balance. We will look at the sephiroth in their groups of threes on the Tree, taking the opposite spheres from each pillar and the central balancing sephira of the triad.
If you don't have a diagram to consult try an image search for the Tree of Life and find a diagram you resonate with. There are many styles out there on the internet and you will find one that you are attracted to. Spellings are variable, so don't let that put you off. There are a couple of nice images in the sites linked to below.
We begin at the top of the Tree with the triad known collectively as the Supernals. These sephiroth are of such pure and refined energy that they are separated from the rest of the Tree by the Abyss below them which prevents anything lower or impure approaching them.
Right at the top the first sphere is Kether, Oneness. This is the first point of manifestation of the Creator. To perceive itself the Creator makes another sphere as a mirror to look into, this is Chokmah the sphere of Wisdom on the right hand pillar. Now it can see its reflection and know itself.
Chokmah carries the same desire to know itself and so creates its own mirror giving rise to Binah the sphere of Understanding on the left hand pillar. Chokmah is regarded as male, the All Father, and Binah as female, the All Mother. Here is formed the duality, yin/yang energy, at the root of all manifestation.
The Abyss can be crossed by working through Da’at, the non-sephira termed Knowledge. Most scholars do not count Da’at as a true sephira, instead it represents the energy of the Void.
The next three sephiroth are Chesed, Geburah and Tiphareth. Chesed on the right pillar is the sphere of Loving Kindness. It is an energy of endless generosity. This sounds wonderful and in moderation it is, however perpetual giving without restraint can be too much. Think of the damage an overindulgent parent can cause a child; with no rules and no restrictions the child is soon spoiled. Think too of the never ending chain of buckets and mops Mickey Mouse conjures up in Fantasia, or of the problems King Midas experienced. You really can have too much of a good thing!
Fortunately Chesed’s generosity is balanced out by Geburah, the sphere of absolute Justice. Many people are fearful of Geburah because its action can seem harsh, another name is Severity, however its intervention is necessary. It destroys that which has been poorly constructed to make way for more sound creations. It is corrective in its action, but often, like the unruly child, we don’t appreciate the correction at the time and it takes years to see why it was just and necessary.
At the balance point between these two extremes sits Tiphareth which is the sphere of Beauty. It is also the central sephira to the whole Tree of Life, the ultimate balance point and as such it equates with the heart chakra. It is the sphere of harmony and the sphere of the Christ and the Sun. Here is the sort of energy you would get if you got parenting absolutely spot on, neither too restrictive nor too indulgent.
Moving down the Tree to the final triad we have the energy of Nature, sensuality and instinct in Netzach on the right hand pillar. This sphere is termed Victory. The energies of Netzach motivate us in our lives and make life rich and enjoyable.
Opposite Netzach on the left hand pillar, is the pure intellectual power of Hod, termed Glory. This sphere is about the power of thought and communication. Here is the sphere of the messenger gods such as Mercury and Hermes.
Yesod in the centre is termed the Foundation and is the balance point for the instinctive energy of Netzach and the mind energy of Hod. This is the sphere which allows you to unite the messages of the body-mind.
Finally at the bottom of the Tree sits Malkuth, representing the Kingdom. This is the sphere of the manifested world and it is through Malkuth that we ground our inspirations and ideas into a reality.
Looking at the mandala of the Tree of Life does not bring enlightenment. To gain wisdom and understanding you have to engage personally with it and explore it.
Draw out your own Tree of Life on a large sheet of paper and start to add the many correspondences such as the Tarot cards, Angels, gods and goddesses, god names, chakras, body parts, powers and symbols. There is an abundance of information on the internet, do read it, but bear in mind that some of it is conflicting and spellings will vary. Use the information that resonates with you and be prepared to refine your understanding as you go on.
You can use each sphere for meditation and also work with the pathways between the spheres. I suggest you work steadily upwards, starting with the sphere of Malkuth. Take your time, this is not a race to reach Kether and ‘arrive’, it is a personal journey and you will notice and learn more along the way if you go slowly!
Some of the classic works on Kabbalah are quite impenetrable and very off putting in their complexity. Start with the more accessible authors. I have found Penny Cohen’s Personal Kabbalah a helpful, readable and practical guide.