Introduction – the Tree of Life (Etz Chaim)
When a child is shown the inside of a nuclear reactor he will use his imagination to make sense of what he sees. The nuclear reactor is very different to what he is used to, so he will describe it in the terminology and imagery of what he knows.
In the same way the tree of life with its 10 spheres or S’phirot (סְפִירָה singular S’phirah, Hebrew for sphere or counting) is a representation of the universal energy all around us. Each sphere represents a range of energies of the universal energy, a diagram of a Reality that would otherwise be too abstract for us to understand. It is thus a model for the anatomy of the psyche.
“Energy” in the sense it is used here is no different from its scientific use for frequencies or vibration of physical matter, from solids to liquids to gases to super heated gases (plasma). In esoteric lore these states of matter are defined as earth, water, air and fire respectively. Each of these states only differ in their frequency of vibration.
The tree of life is a complete representation of the universe as it includes the range of energy of the First Matter (in Western Alchemy) or the Ain Soph Aur (in Hebrew). Ayin = void, Soph = Limitless, Aur = Light. Thus Ayn Soph Aur = Limitless Light.
Traditionally the universe of the S’phiroth came into existence through a process of expansion and contraction (Tzimtzum) of the Universal Energy. Each S’phirah contains the whole of the Universal Energy, but with that particular aspect of the universal energy emphasised. Thus each S’phirah is a hologram.
The 4 Worlds
Each Sphirah has 4 levels or worlds: Olam Azilut (World of Emanation), Olam B’riah (World of Creation), Olam Yezirah (World of Formation) and Olam Assiah (World of Action).
Olam Azilut is closest to the divine and thus the purest, most sublime level of existence that we know. Fire. We use Divine Names and formless colours to activate the spiritual qualities at this level.
Olam B’riah is the world of divine ideas or archetypes. It is a state of force and is the level of Archangels. These beings are one of the ways the unconscious mind represents this state of existence to us. Air and the Causal plane of existence.
Olam Yezirah is the fluidic, Astral planes and the world of Energy. This is the place of Angelic Beings, use of Angelic imagery connects us powerfully to this level of existence. Water.
Olam Assiah is the world of physical action and the planetary world. Earth.
The elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth of not used in the usual sense of the word. This is alchemical symbolism for solid, liquid, gas and super-heated gases or plasma in Olam Assiah.
In the same way a radio station can be found by tuning into different frequencies that are harmonics of one another (eg. Lower C, middle C and upper C are harmonic notes on the piano), so aach S’phirah can be categorized into one of the 4 elemenets. Each s’phirah, that is, except Malchut which contains all 4 elements or states of matter. The rest of the s’phirahs are harmonics of one of these 4 states (alchemy = 4th harmonics).
The alchemical term for raising a lower frequency energy to its higher harmonic is transmutation. The old alchemists metaphorically spoke about transmuting lead into gold, a comparison to raising lower, coarser and less aware states of mind to a greater level of awareness.
Tantra (In the west = Alchemy)
When we drive a car, the indicator switch turns on the flickers, we can make the car go faster by using the accelerator, the steering wheel gives control of the cars front wheels. All these mechanical devices give us access to the workings of our car.
Within the unconscious mind, there are specific symbols that have a powerful effect on the unconscious mind, they throw switches to the qualities, abilities and resources that constitute the Eits Hachayim. Through them we gain access to the workings of the psyche. And because they have been used by generations of meditators over the eons, they have been powerfully charged-up in Olam Yezirah or the Astral world.
Biblical tradition states that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This is the Blue-Print (Adam Kadmon) of our Being that exists in the level of Briah.
Tantra is the use of specific symbols in Olam Yezirah to activate the level of the divine blue-print within us. The effect of visualizing (Building) a temple within a chakra unblocks and activates the energy field affording us greater awareness and enjoyment of our true nature – which is Joy!
Male and female Tantric Deities represent the forces and energies that constitute that chakra respectively.
Ain Soph Aur
The Ain Soph Aur is Hebrew for the Limitless Light. Ayin = void, Ain Soph = The Limitless or primal force for all Creation, Ain Soph Aur = The limitless Light or total energy of all creation.
The Limitless is considered to be masculine, God, Devas with attributes (He can be described or named) and the Limitless Light is feminine, Devis, Shekinah or Shakti.
In meditation and using methods such as visualisation on the Etz Chaim, we can experience that what we are is far more that the physical vessel in which we live. Our evolved bodies are the tip of the iceberg and meditation on the Tree of Life takes us on a journey to the depths. The journey starts with our concrete physical body ranging to the most abstract level we can experience of ourselves. I imagine that the discoveries we make are similar to the discoveries made by early explorers of sea and land. When they returned home with tales of what he found, few people believed them. They “knew” if you travel so far you’ll fall off the edge of the flat-earth or be eaten by a dragon.
There are a variety of meditation techniques in the Kabbalah and I have sampled many of them. However, I enjoy the simplicity of what is called building the Tree of Life in one’s imagination and aura and toning the Holy Names associated with each S’phirah or Sphere. This method takes your awareness to and activates the qualities, abilities and resources of your inner-being. It is as if you are investigating a house. You open the front door into the living room with its furniture and pictures, entering each room until you discover the generator room that lights the entire house. There is an old Kabbalistic work called the Sha’are Orah, the Gates of Lights. Read Door instead of Gate for this metaphor.
With practice this techniques gets easier and you will gain the ability to connect with the Light and Energy that is in the core of your being. You will also be able to circulate this Light through your aura and physical body at will. This has a cleansing and emotionally uplifting effect and makes one creative. Yet this meditation also comes with a warning. We are connecting with a highly creative energy (the creative energy of the universe!) and drawing it into your psyche. Because this energy is creative, you need to express it in your every day life: write, draw, tell jokes, make up jokes, sing, do a sport, exercise. If this creative energy is left to pool in your aura, it can cause depression and other symptoms.
As your experience of the technique deepens the light we contact we reveal things to you, your sense of self will broaden. These revelations are what the Greek philosophers called Gnosis and in the Kabbalah is called Da’ad, it is a word that expresses Knowing or intuitive perceptions of the worlds beyond what the physical senses show us. If the concrete mind is the logical, rational part of ourselves that we need to use pen and paper to work things out with, in Da’ad is the Light that shines into the abyss of Being. In Da’ad is revealed what is already there in the Infinite and Timeless.
Please contact me if you would like to explore the Tree along with me and others.