This information provided by: Robert L. Johnson, Ph.D., M.Div., L.M.H.C. (FL lic # MHC 0001426), Specializing in Jungian Process (Holistic Approaches to Personal Development & Psychotherapy) Telephone: 850-948-7926

Return to: Library Articles

Kabbalah - Tree of Life Branches

Tallahassee Center for Jungian Studies
(Holistic Approaches to Personal Development)
Robert L. Johnson, Ph.D., M.Div., N.C.C., M.H.C.
9687 Apalachee Parkway
Telephone: 850-948-7926

Kabbalah - The Ten Tree-of-Life Branches Unfold

(Kabbalah - Your Inner Path to Freedom, Ann Williams-Heller)

THE NUMBER ONE: Crown: (Kether in Hebrew)

"The first path is called the Admirable Intelligence, The Supreme Crown. It is the light which imparts understanding of the beginning which is without beginning, and this also is the First Splendour. No created being can attain to its essence."

Kether, the creator in all great religions, symbolizes the never-changing beginning and a selfness without otherness. Pure and luminous light is creative essence pulsating in boundless, undivided space. While this undivided spaceness is without form, it will always be inherent in all manifest form. The power of its actionless existence may be considered static rather than dynamic; yet it permeates and maintains all things dynamically.

To you, this "divine presence" may reveal itself as infinite mind or limitless love. To me, it may be the "One in the many," and a personal experience of the very highest impersonal power and measure.

By analogy the sephirah Number One expresses itself in Eastern thought by the Vedantic syllable Om.


THE NUMBER TWO: Wisdom (Chokmah in Hebrew)

"The second path is called the Illuminating Intelligence. It is the Crown of Creation and the splendor of the Supreme Unity, to which it is most near in proximity. It is exalted above every head, and is distinguished by Kabbalists as the Second Splendor." Division is the initial impulse to creative action, and the beginning of all things.

This second Tree branch is the Number Two. Its name is Wisdom. Since the Crown's indivisible godhead cannot split, it reflects solitary wisdom-light. With the appearance of this mirror image, a separation occurs in the Number Two. Polarity comes into being. Duality marks the beginning of creation.

In the first Tree branch, the supreme One is an undivided unity--all differences are excluded. The separation in the second Tree branch affirms that, to start the chain of creation in divine wisdom, differences must, and therefore do, exist. These "differences" will manifest continuously as polarity, duality and often opposition.

The Tree branch Wisdom illustrates the first actively directing cause of potential creation. Like a primal spark, it is a Vision of God, face to face, and the generating powerhouse of life.

The nature of Chokmah is threefold... By analogy, this Tree branch finds many attributes...

THE NUMBER THREE: Understanding (Binah in Hebrew)

"The third path is called the Sanctifying Intelligence, and it is the foundation of Primordial Wisdom, termed the Creation of Faith. It is the mother of Faith, which indeed emanates therefrom."

Let form limit force and make space for the new: the universal trinity. The third branch of the Tree of Life aims at the three-dimensional universe, and embodies the dynamic qualities which by attraction and resistance, connect and challenge, move and transmit, harmonize and mobilize creative forces into being.

It is the Number Three, and its name is Understanding. It is parallel to and a co-equal of the second Tree branch. Its nature is in opposition to the latter's vibrations. For while Number Two portrays an all-begetting cosmic maleness, Number Three signifies universal womb-manness and its generating power. It personifies the passive, yet always receptive and

directing "God the Mother," the preserving and reproducing giver of life and form. For within the

space of Number Two, Number Three is the universal cup (with the sacred Grail chalice as its symbol), ready to receive and hold the cosmic sperm and transform its force into new life. It is thereby the female archetype principle as gender, though not as yet sex: the mythical womb-man of wife, mother, daughter and sister. This primary Womb of Life lives--like the second branch of the Tree of Life--in the here and now, and stimulates all humankind, male and female alike.

Another quality of the Tree of Life's third branch tells of the three aspects of passing time. It illustrates: (1) the virgin, (2) the fertile maiden, and (3) the already sterile, aging matron.

There is a uniquely significant relationship between the second and third branches of the Tree of Life, between Chokmah and Binah, which is often called "the extreme polarity." They illustrate the mutual dependence between force and form. Their dynamic interaction evolves .as wisdom's masculine force opposes Understanding's feminine form. As the dynamic cosmic spark plug penetrates its opposite, their interdependent qualities complement one another, and the marriage of opposites takes place. Extreme polarities are links in the chain of life, and, more importantly, the movement into actual creation. The following visual comparison of the opposites in the Two Archetypes of Creation will prove a useful tool for study and meditation.

Branch Number Two Branch Number Three
Wisdom (Force) ----------------------------Understanding (Form)
the essence; free-moving ------------------the substance; concreting
transmitting and fertilizing ------------------form-giving, reproducing, life-building (creating)
fast and stimulating ------------------------low and preserving
creative and generative --------------------receptive and generating
stirring things into action -------------------bringing things into being
masculine gender --------------------------feminine gender

THE NUMBER FOUR: Mercy/Abundance (Chesed and Gedulah in Hebrew)

"The fourth path is called the Arresting or Receiving Intelligence, because it arises like a boundary to receive the emanations of the higher intelligence which are sent down to it. Herefrom all spiritual virtues emanate by the way of subtlety, which itself emanates from the Supreme Crown."

Creation is always on the move. It carries within itself the cosmic memory of the established trinity, the next step toward manifestation. The fourth branch of the Tree of Life is thus the gateway to visible form. It is the Number Four, named Mercy and sometimes Abundance, Majesty and Greatness. The formation of matter begins with God's signature, by virtue of the divine power of true charity. There are no mistakes or accidents in God's entire creation.

This Tree branch illustrates that motivating force is a governing principle of loving-kindness which, like a metaphysical horn of plenty, gives indiscriminately with compassion and inspiration to one and all. It represents productive and life-giving power, an expansion of will in a complete combination of ideas and thoughts. The legendary being in the figure below represents a man standing firmly erect on his inherited earthly soil with the divine trinity on his head.

THE NUMBER FIVE: Severity/Justice (Geburah, Din and Pachad in Hebrew)

"The fifth path is called the Radical Intelligence, because it is more akin than any other to the Supreme Unity and emanates from the depths of the Primordial Wisdom." Justice defends and corrects. Struggle and strife purify. Exercised to the extreme, virtue turns into vice. To prevent and correct it, the fifth branch on the Tree of Life, the Number Five, is Severity. It is often named Justice, Fortitude, and sometimes Fear in the sense of awe.

"Fear in the sense of awe" means respectful acceptance of the governing principle of justice. For example, we benefit from using electricity extensively and constructively, and with a sense of awe. But if we disrespect electricity, then it can do much harm and even create destruction.

Geburah illustrates the correcting force, the purifying power of justice in action, the disposer of waste, the divine rigor and the cosmic broom of strength to do away with inequality and eliminate the superfluous.
Branch Number Four: Branch Number Five:

Mercy ---------------------------------------------- Severit
the idealist in blind obedience ------------------------ the realist and his defense mechanism
affirms the good ------------------------------------- negates the evil
love and compassion are free flowing------------------ immutable laws are patterned in awe
faith and truth for everybody w/o discrimination ------- justice and ethics by discrimination
the horn of plenty ----------------------------------------- the cosmic surgeon
the will to live --------------------------------------- the will not to live
the benevolent king on his throne shares     ---- Lord Krishna on the battlefield in his chariot directs
his wealth and love generously with all -----                his disciple's fierce fight against his own kin
security that is -------------------------------------- self-preservation that acts
always balancing ------------------------------------ always disturbing, confusing
the number of form ---------------------------------- the number of man

THE NUMBER SIX: Beauty "The King" (Tiphareth in Hebrew)

"The sixth path is called the Intelligence of Mediating Influence, because the flux of the emanations is multiplied therein. It communicates this affluence to those blessed men who are united with it."

Justice cannot endure without love. After Number Five has rightfully removed all that is unnecessary and wasteful, the sixth branch grows in the center of the Tree of Life. It is the Number Six. Named Beauty and often The King, it illustrates "the world of the heart" where light becomes radiating love and love becomes life. Uniquely and for very good reasons, it is in direct contact with every other Tree branch except the last: our Planet Earth (Figure 6). Here the divine will (of the first branch) is especially directed toward harmony and natural balance. It is that floating serenity which Beethoven so beautifully intoned in his Sixth Symphony, the Pastorale. This Tree branch functions as mediator between the creative and governing realms above, and the functioning world of action below. Figure 6. Links to the Heart of the Tree of Life

THE NUMBER SEVEN: Victory/Firmness (Netzach in Hebrew)

"The seventh path is called the Hidden Intelligence because it pours out a brilliant splendour on all intellectual virtues which are beheld with the eyes of the spirit and by the ecstasy of faith."

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways," wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The seventh branch of the Tree of Life, named Victory and sometimes Firmness, is the Number Seven. As we shall find throughout the pages of this book, the digit Seven occupies a special place in the numerical system and does so for many good reasons.

Netzach releases floods of powerful, formless and uninhibited emotions, which manifest four ways as instinct, intuition, desire, and a tempting, romantic, and at times even sensuous quality of love.

Instinct, a natural, instantaneous and reactive impulse, is unconscious knowledge. It knows but knows not why. It acts below the level of discrimination and responds more or less automatically within individual patterns.

THE NUMBER EIGHT: Glory in Splendor (Hod in Hebrew)

"The eighth path is called the Perfect and Absolute Intelligence. The preparation of principles emanates therefrom. The roots to which it adheres are in the depths of the Sphere Magnificence, from the very substance of which it emanates."

Be the master of your mind; it is yours not you! The eighth branch of the Tree of Life is the Number Eight. Its name is Glory in Splendor. As the denser arc of severe judgment in Number Five, and by growing side by side with strong emotions in Number Seven, this sephirah has much opposition to over-come. To prevent unbridled feelings from making life become its own fool, fast and lively mind power emanates. And in manifold guise it carries mountains of dispassionate thoughts and intelligent ideas. With the ability to compare and conclude logically, the discriminating intellect leads to clear analytical thinking and practical constructive conclusions.

Branch Number Seven: Branch Number Eight:
Victory/Firmness -------------------------------------- Glory in Splendor
flood of feelings --------------------------------------- mountains of thought
creative and formless ---------------------------------- formative force
victory of emotions ------------------------------------ glory of the mind
feelings look out for thoughts --------------------------- thoughts look out for feelings the urge to create ------------------------------------------------ the urge to express
involuntary desires may blur instincts ------------------- conscious thoughts may clear the mind
creative imagination, intuition and inspiration ------------ discrimination and pragmatic rationality
artists and dreamers ----------------------------------- scientists and thinkers
the Lady of Love -------------------------------------- The Lord of Books and Learningthe Hermaphrodite ----------------------------------------- the Androgyne

THE NUMBER NINE: The Foundation (Yesod in Hebrew)

"The ninth path is called the Purified Intelligence. It purifies the numerations, prevents and stays the fracture of their images, for it establishes their unity to preserve them from destruction and divisions by their union with itself." Running around in circles and looking for stability.

Now the cosmic Lightning Flash turns vertical on its downward course, and with density rapidly increasing, the Number Nine emanates. Named The Foundation, it is that Tree branch which finishes the solid framework for the world of matter-to-be. Here everything is constantly turning and churning as if in a great hurry to assemble all generating powers into a uniform style to be ready in the tenth and last sephitab to "materialize."

This branch on the Tree of Life has many contradictory qualities, and its complex attributions are therefore more difficult to understand, particularly if this is your first encounter. According to numerous descriptive titles, the sephirah Foundation is at once the machinery of the universe, the vehicle of life, the purifier of emanations, the foundation of churches, the visible drapery around an invisible framework, the vision of independence, and the treasure house of images. It is also the seat of psychic life, the sphere of Maya, the abode of Hecate, and of the "Lady of Black and White Witchcraft," who can and often does lead humankind either to uncertain psychism or true intuition. Moreover, Yesod is the seat of automatic consciousness, and the home of the subconscious and the superconscious minds. It is likewise the abode of the goddess Diana, whose reproductive powers preside over childbirth. It provides the residence of the Aether of the Wise, that mysterious invisible fifth element (known as Akasha to the Hindus) which keeps the Four Elements of Life in balance.

THE NUMBER TEN: "The Kingdom" (Malkuth in Hebrew)

"The tenth path is called Resplendent Intelligence, because it is exalted above every head and has its seat In Binah; it enlightens the fire of all lights and emanates the power of the principle of forms."

Let there be Life . . . in The Kingdom! It is the Number Ten and the last Tree branch, the planet Earth. While in Number Nine everything had seemed to be spinning around in circles, in Number Ten everything is where it belongs. Finally, the primal cause has reached its last effect in the totality of life, nature and humanity. With an inherent urge for stability, unity and harmony, the countless forms of finite matter are as one. The unfolding universe of matter is perpetually changing amidst stars we call planets, roaming around in the turning wheel of space we call the zodiac. Time measures the beginning and ending of all physical form, and points its finger at the union of differences.

Here in the phenomenal world of opposites and contradictions, the reality of absolute truth seems relative. Women and men are responsible for nature, its upkeep and its healthful growth. They are the workers of change in this temporal world of cause and effect where matter and form cannot exist without balance. Their actions and sensory expression

create ever new beginnings and endings in procreation and reproduction.

Previous Article · Next Article
Return to: Library Articles