(Revised, November 4, 2008 (Posted earlier in 2004)
Using the Kabbalistic "Tree of Life" as a Symbolic Diagram
How Creativity Operates in the Cosmos
Adam Blatner, M.D.
What's it all about? It has to do with the
idea that mind (in its most generously-understood sense) also is a
dimension that interpenetrates with all the other dimensions. Another
way to say this is that it is assumed that in
addition to the material universe, there is also an underlying
implicate order. This is a metaphysical theory that suggests that reality partakes of the realms associated with mind (or
consciousness in its broadest sense). It also expresses an innate tendency towards
increased complexity, and the essential impulse that gave rise to–and
continues to renew and influence–both mind and material existence. It
may be useful
to consider that this unfolding or descent of
implicate order has an underlying structure. This is the "Tree of Life"
diagram (below right), and it is "heuristic," meaning that it is
generative of practical implications and applications,
because it can help people create a personal myth in the service of
heightening their sense of meaning and purpose in life.
On the material
level, science has generated a story of the universe
arising out of a "Big Bang" around 13.7 billion years ago, then going
through several levels of particle formation, then atoms, then
clumpings of gas to form stars and galaxies, the evolution of more
stable stars and planets, the evolution of life, and so forth. (See papers on the web about "The Great Story"). However,
there may also be a process of moment-to-moment creation, a pulsing,
vibrating shifting between existence and nonexistence. Mystics have
intuited the process of Divine creativity and evolution as happening
all the time, and so on a non-material level, thinking perhaps in terms
of levels of ever more subtle dimensions of pre-existence, there may be
a flow of psycho-material "energy" that helps ideas, images, feelings,
and even events to "manifest" in our ordinary reality. (If this seems
too weird, don't bother reading this and instead, browse this website
and see if another paper appeals to your interest more. This is aimed
at those who share some resonance with this intuition about the depth
of reality and how it all works.)
the 20th Century, discoveries in quantum physics, new
ideas about metaphysics, and other trends have all converged to
reinforce a way of looking at "How the Universe Happens." I've been
particularly impressed with the "process philosophy" of Alfred North
Whitehead, developed in the later 1920s and elaborated by others since
then; the implied metaphysics of the psychiatrist J.L. Moreno, the
inventor of psychodrama; the writings of Ken Wilber, who I think is
possibly the most exciting contemporary philosopher, and a number of
other thinkers. Practitioners of "mindfulness meditation" and its
theorists also come to similar conclusions.
I use the
term "esoteric" to refer to a relationship to a subject that
goes beyond the obvious, that examines it in terms of basic principles.
Beyond simple arithmetic, the study of mathematics becomes increasingly
esoteric, with several levels, each of which requires the mastery of an
increasingly complex set of skills and understandings. This
multi-leveled learning applies to most of the sciences, and to many
other contexts. Behind the "exoteric" or more obvious relationship
with, say, a television set, there are two main categories of esoteric
studies: How television works at the level of electronics and its
component principles; and how television shows are produced and
broadcast, with its many associated role functions.
Esoteric in the
past has been associated with the idea of "secret," but
that was because anyone who wanted to really explore the nature of the
cosmos and mind beyond the traditional constraints of official church
dogma was in danger of his life–heresy was not a trivial accusation.
But in a politically free context, there are still many esoteric
activities, simply because the vast majority of people don't bother to
pursue their understandings beyond the relatively superficial levels.
So, I'm trying to de-mystify the idea of being esoteric.
with esoteric studies in most people's mind is the
field known as "the occult," which, as I generally define it, involves
the search for patterns and methods that are as yet unaccessible to
recognized scientific methods. Often these involve experiences or
phenomena commonly known as supernatural or uncanny, but then we must
remember that in the past, we used to feel that way about many events
that are relatively easily explainable in terms of modern science:
fire, electricity, fertilization and birth, etc.
many frontiers of knowledge, some of which can't easily be
subjected to scientific assessment, because they involve the more
elusive category of "mind." Categories such as "meaning," "beauty,"
"love," and the like come in here. Contemporary thought has
marginalized or trivialized such explorations. If science can't pin it
down, we treat it as if it doesn't "really" exist. In the past, though,
such concerns– those that science ended up being able to address and
those that science couldn't–were all mixed together.
Colin Wilson, in
his book, The Occult (1969), called the kind of
knowledge that is gained through the cultivation of intuition,
extra-sensory perception, meditation, etc., "lunar knowledge," to
contrast with the ordinary "solar" knowledge, the Appollonian tradition
of Western knowledge, that thinks that what is is only what is directly
and consensually perceptible and preferably measurable. But the other
dimensions–relating to joy, meaning, love, etc., are not only as
"real," but often more relevant to everyday human concerns.
What I'm getting
at is that category known as metaphysics–why is
anything here rather than everything being nothing? What is the real
nature of reality? And thinkers over the millennia have addressed such
matters in contemplation, from Socrates and Plato onward.
less than a thousand years ago, in Spain and in other parts of
Europe, some Jewish thinkers pondered the way God works in the Cosmos.
Studying the scriptures in a more meticulous way, they sought to
understand deeper lessons, beyond the exoteric listing of stories and
laws. (Actually, there were probably earlier writers in this genre,
both Jewish and Neo-Platonic, from which this tradition came. The
sources, though, are uncertain.) From this arose a number of doctrines,
which could be represented in an intriguing diagram–a geometric figure
representing the relationships among different primordial aspects of
the Divine manifestation, the "Tree
This "Tree of
Life" diagram will be explained in more detail further on.
supported endeavors of a small minority to understand and
relate more deeply to the Divine–which is what mysticism is about, in a
sense. Interestingly, the mainstream of Judaic thought hardly knew
about this esoteric tradition, and such studies were not encouraged by
most rabbis. It was from this tradition, the Kabbala, that the diagram
to be discussed was derived.
root of this exploration was illuminated in our own time by the
pioneering work of the psychiatrist Carl G. Jung. He was an early
associate of Freud, but went beyond Freud in a number of ways, chief
among these in recognizing that the psyche could have not just one or
two basic motivational drives–For Freud these were Sex and
Aggression–but many of them, deep instincts that were associated with
trends in the imagination, that he called "archetypes."
Just as mammals in general elaborate much more
complex behavior patterns than, say, jellyfish, so too can humans
elaborate far more complex behavior than other mammals. There are
networks of meaning, symbolization, and imagination made possible by
the complex cortex of the brain in humans, and so for our species, the
equivalent of instinctive behavior in animals is similarly more
complex. (The nature of these archetypes is discussed in greater detail
in another paper on my website: The Relevance of the Concept of
At any rate, the
key elements in this Tree of Life diagram–both the ten
spheres and the twenty-two paths among them-- should be thought of also
as archetypal images, representing deeply experienced principles of
life. Each involves a great complex of soul-lessons to be learned.
with the element in the Jewish tradition that respects quite
clearly the essential un-knowability of the Ultimate, so whatever is
speculated here or elsewhere about metaphysics should be taken with an
awareness that our knowledge is intrinsically limited by what the human
mind can conceive of, imagine, and this, I believe, cannot begin to
approach anything near a grasp of the Whole. Humbly acknowledging these
limitations, the challenge, I like to paraphrase Alfred North Whitehead
(1958, p. 237): "If you like to phrase it so, philosophy is mystical.
For mysticism is direct insight into depths as yet unspoken. But the
purpose of philosophy is to rationalize mysticism: not by explaining it
away, but by the introduction of novel verbal characterizations,
It remains for
us to reach as far
as we can, and esoteric philosophers and theologians have done so,
speculating on the way God works in the world as an endeavor that was
more worthwhile than simply refraining from any speculative thought
whatsoever. (In some ways, philosophy is an aesthetic activity, like
poetry. For those who enjoy it, it remains an alluring challenge. That
no ultimate end is possible is no reason to not do philosophy, any more
than the recognition that there may not be–and perhaps should not be–a
final, perfect, musical or poetic composition, so that no one else need
engage in the endeavor ever again. (See my paper on the implications of
postmodernism for psychotherapy elsewhere on this website.)
carried the activity of intellectual humility to a
further degree, reaffirming the un-knowability of many of the major
categories of life. (Don't bother me with the "But this chair is really
here, isn't it?' level of argument–that is trivial. What isn't trivial
has to do with questions such as "Where can I feel like I belong?" and
"What should I do with my life?" And these, postmodernists affirm, are
not only social constructions, products of mind, but also vulnerable to
an unending flux of shifts in perspective. In other words, no
authoritative "answer" can be found, but that's not necessarily a
reason to stop the activity of exploring what tentative and temporary
"answers" can be constructed in order to live our lives more
Applied to this
paper, what we're saying is that the following
suppositions are to be recognized explicitly as constructions,
speculations, and frames of thinking. They are metaphors, allegories,
stories–and the criteria for truth is largely how useful are they in
helping people in today's world discover and use meaningful frameworks.
A framework or theory can be meaningful without it having to be in some
objective sense, ultimately true. What's relatively true for now may
not be so next year or even ten minutes from now; and what's true for
me may not be true for you. So the point is to explore these new ideas
as if they were tools in a hardware store, and find out if they can be
used to make the jobs of constructing and eternally re-constructing
your life a little easier.
idea is that spirit enters the world in stages or levels, in
a graded series of discernable steps, from the more subtle, abstract,
profound, and elusive, to the more obvious, concrete, superficial, and
tangible. On one hand, this process of manifestation may be viewed as
seamless, on the other hand, there is some usefulness in identifying
some of those component processes or stages that make up the process of
nothing becoming something.
Humans tend to
work with imagery based on their own sense experience,
and this tends to require our ordinary positional relationships– from
in to out, from out to in, from top to bottom, from bottom to top.
Outside, inside, what in grammar are called "prepositions." What will
be used here is the Kabbalistic diagram of the archetypal components of
the Divine, the different aspects of manifestation, and in the diagram,
those principles are laid out sort of from the top to the bottom, a
kind of hierarchy of principles.
On the other
hand, recognize also that this series of stages may also
be viewed as if it were a cosmic microscope, starting from the most
minute sub-atomic particle and gradually coming into form and
existence, from the inside to the outside. Equally valid, though, is to
work it as a telescope: Imagine that the ultimate reality of the cosmos
is vast, bigger than the known universe, and then in steps, the matter
of the universe, and the living events in it are, so to speak,
"condensed" out of this vast field of possibilities, from the outside
towards a focus on the individual moment and person in time.
up-down, in-out, out-in, has its own subtle
associations, some of which are useful, and others can be misleading.
The challenge is to recognize these visions as allegorical and to
choose the useful meanings and ignore those that don't apply.
the problems in thinking about the world is that we tend to
think of it as stuff, as physically stable "things" that to varying
degrees move around–or not. Modern chemistry and physics has challenged
that viewpoint, suggesting instead that if you can get up close enough
with a microscope, you begin to discover more and more space between
fibers of wood, and at the molecular and atomic level, what you find is
energy forces moving around and cores that vibrate in awkward ways,
both particle and wave, mass and energy. What I'm getting at is
the idea that if you really study and contemplate stuff, and people,
you find only changing stuff and people. You can never really pin
anything down (See my papers on process philosophy elsewhere on this
shifted his view and approached his metaphysical analysis
in terms of events instead of things. And then he analyzed the nature
of events, whether they be at the level of the atom, the cell, or the
person. Whitehead used as the common category of these events the term,
"actual occasion," a moment of happening.
process philosophy, I discovered a rough correspondence
between the components of the actual occasion and the processes of
manifestation as described in the mystical kabbala, and these will be
theoretical physics ideas of the late David Bohm also are
suggestive for this worldview of manifestation as happening every
moment. It's not just a matter of creation as it originated some
thirteen-or-so billion years ago in the "Big Bang." There's also the
phenomena of why and how seeming "spontaneous" events happen
innumerable times each day, each moment. Norman Friedman (1990)
explicated his view of these affairs, connecting Bohm's work with that
of a "discarnate entity" named Seth, "channeled by psychic Jane Roberts
in the early 1970s, and with the ideas of the aforementioned
contemporary philosopher, Ken Wilber. A Kabbalistic view would
suggest, along with Bohm's ideas, that manifestation is happening every
moment, in every (seemingly" inanimate being, and in every soul.
(Whitehead's philosophy, and Wilber's and others, would challenge the
tendency of materialistic philosophy to deny any soul, experience,
feeling, or "interiority" to seemingly inert matter. Our horizons about
the complexities of life and mind have never ceased to expand. (Why,
we've even begun to recognize that women are capable of reason and
should have the vote, and that maybe it's not okay to beat children and
be cruel to animals. As human consciousness evolves, who knows what we
may begin to respect in time?)
--A Personal Interpretation
kabbala, also spelled qabala, cabbalah, and similar phonetic
soundings, is really a rather extensive body of esoteric tradition
within the greater Jewish tradition. As such, there is no single
official dogma or interpretation. The "Tree of Life" diagram became an
aid to meditative contemplation, an abstract image rather than a sacred
icon, a mental device way to reach into more subtle aspects of
non-Jewish, ostensibly Christian esoteric thinkers and
students in Europe in the Sixteenth through the Twentieth Centuries,
adopted this diagram as a useful aid to elaborating their own
discernment of ultimate principles. So, while my first introduction to
Kabbalah was in a book by a Jewish writer (Wiener, 1969), my second was
through a book
I found in the Theosophical Book Store across from the British Museum
in London, in 1970 (Knight, 1969). Here I discovered
that especially in
the early 20th Century, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life became the
foundation for the classical modern designs of sets of Tarot Cards and
associated correspondences with astrological symbols! (Since the
1970s, though, the idea of archetypal images on cards has spawned
scores of other Tarot card decks, some with loose association with the
classical tradition, others breaking away completely, basing their
images on totem animals, Celtic Runes, the Hexagrams of the I
the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, etc.) (Interestingly, the
neo-pagan, occult tradition, reaching forward into
the Wiccan tradition, tends to use the "Q" spelling, Qabala. Beginning
in the 1980s, though, increasing numbers of books on the subject were
published by Jews, and spelled with a K.)
both the Jewish and the Western Esoteric interpretations,
and my own contemplations, based on my background in psychology and
other fields, I've come up with my own interpretations of the ten key
archetypal positions or aspects in the Tree of Life diagram. These
roughly correlate with others' ideas, but I confess that I've made up
these interpretations because they seem most fitting and also most
useful in trying to apply these insights to help people in contemporary
proceeding further, let's look again at the diagram. I showed a
picture of it earlier on, and here the different spheres of action,
("Sefirot" in Hebrew), are given general names–my interpretations of
their meanings, not their original Hebrew names.
three-ness, reconciliation |
#5 *--- -- ----- -- -
| / |
#8 *-- --------- -- -
\ \ |
\ | /
applications in "reality"
interestingly, these different "levels" of being in some ways
correspond also to the ancient Hindu system of Kundalini Yoga, with its
associated idea that the human body is energized by seven centers of
consciousness which roughly correspond to or connect to different
locations along the spine, known in Sanskrit as the "chakras." Again,
the point here is that people are to varying degrees informed by all
the sources and types of consciousness; that some folks have been able
to expand their awareness and utilization of the "higher" chakras,
while others seem to be somewhat more fixated on concerns or conflicts
involving their "lower" chakras. These different centers or types of
consciousness also roughly correspond to less and more mature modes of
thinking and feeling, with child development, and with a widening scope
of perception of the relationships with the cosmos.
of the Tree of Life as a diagram is that it suggests some
ultimate abstract principles, almost in the sense of Plato's "ideal
forms," and then goes on to show how they may be related to each other.
For esoteric thinkers, these principles had grand names that weren't
directly translatable into modern terms. (Respectively, from 1 to 10,
the general translation from the Hebrew words: 1, The Crown; 2, Wisdom;
3, Understanding; 4, Mercy; 5, Severity; 6, Beauty; 7, Victory; 8,
Glory; 9, Foundation ; 10, Kingdom.)
is that you contemplate these and if, at some point, you
think that there might be better principles or deeper understandings,
feel free to email me and we'll talk about it. I may revise my thinking
on these matters.
principles are subtle and complex. I mean, what really is
the fullest and deepest meaning of "unity"? This is indeed the ultimate
truth of Advaita Vedanta, the metaphysical doctrine in the more
sophisticated philosophy of Hindu India that suggests that there is
actually no basic separation between anything and anybody–from this
more essential reality, the seeming differences between things and
people are all somewhat illusory and needing to be transcended.
Thus, each of
the principles on the Tree of Life can be studied and
discussed, and there may be no final understanding possible, at least
on the rational level, subject to the confines of language. Many truths
transcend language, seem paradoxical, and must be apprehended with
practiced intuition, after years of study.
However, as it
is with learning science, it is possible for even
children to learn some basic anatomy and principles of physiology, and
to learn the same for the way the cosmos unfolds. With continued study,
more complex and subtle meanings and further details can be appreciated.
Here, then, is a
beginning explication of the aforementioned ten
principles on the Tree of Life (as of the mid 1990s)--I have another
interpretation that I'll be publishing soon.
1. Unity. At the top of the TL, there is the
Divine principle of unity, the great insight that all is really at some
level one. Finding the one-ness in problems, activities, politics,
relationships with other, ecological studies, etc., isn't always easy,
it's disguised by the many. The key is to realize that reality exists
at many different levels simultaneously, and that one can be incredibly
individualized and part of a host of others, all different in so many
ways, and still there are threads of one-ness– no, not threads, but a
deep underlying truth of oneness, as if God were to say, "I am."
2. Creativity. The second principle emerges out of
the one-ness, the slightest move, or most powerful explosion, of "I
will!" This is the unfolding of the universe out of the point of primal
energy and being. What is creativity? As you contemplate this mystery,
note that in a sense, you create yourself with every thought, with
every breath. Every interaction with others co-creates the world you
live in, and those interactions are influenced in ways yet unimaginable
by the kinds of thoughts you create. You don't just think, you create
thoughts, images, feelings. As much as you may create the illusion that
you're not creating, that life's just happening to you, do not be
fooled– you are creating.
Otherness, the Matrix. A great mystery, hard to appreciate,
is the way that even as one point creates, so are there an almost
infinite number of other points creating. To open to the reality of
others is to engender respect, to make love possible, and to appreciate
the great mother-matrix within which all operate in an ecological
balance–which reminds the tension between Creativity and Otherness that
they are nevertheless manifestations of the One. Creativity and
Otherness are another way of talking about what the great Chinese sages
contemplated in the Yang and Yin principles, from which all other
possible combinations derive. There are rough correlations between male
and female, light and dark, and similar ultimate syzygies in other
Direction, purpose, giving, this principle takes the
primordial dynamic and gives it somewhat more specific direction,
intention. If 1 is the empty page, and 2 is the desire to write, 3 is
the idea that writing something is possible; 4, then, would be a sense
of perhaps the theme, perhaps the form.
Limitation, restraint. Any action needs to happen within some
defined limit. An effective gesture accepts these. Any theme implies
other themes not selected. In the metaphor of writing, it would be the
general length, the constraints of the form chosen, etc.
Harmonization, balance. The aesthetic of beauty isn't static,
but rather a dynamic interplay of flows within the tensions between
order and disorder, intensity and mildness, complexity and simplicity,
etc. This principle naturally works to balance 4 and 5.
Individuality. At a level somewhat more specific,
closer to manifestation, there is the opportunity for individual
variations. Even at the atomic level, the sheer complexity made
available by the laws of probability and speed make for infinite
variations of the electron patterns. On the human level, we need to
celebrate the mystery of uniqueness in the face of our essential unity
(see 1), and this, too, is part of art and life.
Context. The individual is part of an organism, a
culture, an ecosystem, and variations of individuality, if they are not
to be incomprehensibly surreal, need some relationship to the culture.
Word-play needs to have limits (see 5) if it is to be the type of
nonsense that is humorous, rather than a nonsense that is merely
gibberish. Art, music, speculative philosophy, all require some
linkages to a familiar cultural context.
Imagination. Again, as a balance for the syzygy and the
tension between 7 and 8, there is the intriguing synthetic and
balancing potential of imagination, which can design fascinating
syntheses among the seemingly incompatible demands of the situation.
This may apply to business and personal development as well as art.
Manifestation. Full presence in the material world, this is
also the hidden message to "do it" rather than just "dream" or talk
about it. This principle is associated with the joy of materiality, the
potentiality for actual experiment, for interaction in a more concrete
The Tree of
Life as "Meta-Symbol"
the aforementioned key principles– called "sefira" in
Hebrew–representing phases of manifestation, are symbols. The Tree of
Life as a whole then functions as a symbol on the next higher level, a
"meta-symbol," suggesting the relationships among these various
symbols. Working from our ordinary
everyday consciousness, we can contemplate each of these in turn,
working from 10 back to 1, from fully manifested everyday seeming
"thing-ness" to more subtle background pre-thing-ness.
thinkers suggest that ordinary dense reality is a sort of
thicker, condensed illusion of a more dream-like reality, which is
sometimes associated with the "aura" psychics perceive around people.
And this "9-Imagination"-sefirotic level is in turn an expression or
one-step-closer-to-actuality compared to the yet more elusive,
essential, or primordial, invisible, patterns of the higher levels.
Sheldrake's concept of "morphogenetic fields" fits for the 7-8
levels of the tree, and Bohm's "implicate order" might really involve
several or perhaps all of these non-manifest levels–but not, I suspect,
really be just one indivisible level.
It's useful to
contemplate these principles, to realize that the words
themselves are symbolic. That is, they cannot fully indicate the
complexity and many-faceted nature of the processes and aspects that
they suggest. The tree can be discerned in the patternings of
social systems, in the nature of the individual mind, in the nature of
any creative or constructive endeavor, and even in the course of the
seemingly most spontaneous and even random event.
The tree as a
meta-symbol means that it reveals the relationships among
these great principles, these subtle and pervasive life lessons, and
thus suggests the grandeur of the Greater Wholeness–i.e., God. God
transcends and includes each and every one of these. God is more than
love, more than faith, more than will. And these and other principles
cannot be learned intellectually, nor mastered in a single lifetime.
They can be "mined" as inspirational source for poetry and music,
serious academic study and playful semi-conscious out-of-control-ness.
dared to image God, in a poetic sense, with complete awareness that
this lovely effort was merely an exercise in sweet contemplation--as I
believe that humans have an innate, archetypal inclination to image and
personify, so, instead of repressing it, I play with it, in full
humility and awareness that it falls infinitely short of the glory, and
that the effort cannot begin to touch the reality. Still, it's better,
in my opinion, that many of the other currently available images that
fail to satisfy me. The Tree of Life is a component of this image. See
the paper on my website, "Imaging
endeavor, the Tree of life helps me in my spiritual practice. (I define
spirituality as the activity of developing the relationship with or
deepening the sense of connectedness with the Greater Wholeness of
Being–i.e., God (or any other name that fits this general
idea). A friend helped me understand the concept of
worship: Situating oneself within the big picture. I liked that. (I
resist obfuscation–clouding my mind with explanations that it seems
that I should understand but in fact I don't.)
I also have a
problem with God: The Word. It's too big for me. On one
hand, I can't accept the tendency to anthropomorphize God, whether it
be as the Old Man with the Long White Beard, or as more Ethereal
Goddess, or as Jesus, etc. But the wordy explanations of much of
theology also just don't focus my mind enough. (I am reminded of the
insight of Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist-turned-philosopher of
mind and communications: "Information is a difference that makes a
difference.") Terms like "Ground of Being" are too general for me. Now
I must confess that this is also a problem of personal taste, cognitive
style, different strokes for different folks. And I here acknowledge
that what works for me may be again too abstract or too specific for
For me, the
Kabbalistic Tree of Life acts as a particularly useful
symbol, because it portrays ten facets of existence, ten metaphysical
principles, and as a diagram, it shows in spatial relations a vision of
how these might be related to each other. I'm vividly aware that this
is only a model, a human attempt to reach beyond its ordinary level of
understanding. (I was going to say "grasp," but that's too grandiose. I
don't think the human mind can begin to fully understand–but it can
find a means to connect, to open, to experience yet another stretching
of our capacity for wisdom and understanding.)
advantage of the Tree of Life is that it has enough tradition
behind it to serve as a continuing source of alternative explanation
and interpretation. This allows me to test and re-evaluate my present
levels of understanding, to consider that the archetypal principles and
relations might yet have even more richness, and indeed, as I age and
experience, contemplate and discuss with others, new lessons of life
become illuminated by the Tree and in turn lead to further
illuminations in my understanding of the Tree.
In addition, the
Kabbalistic Tree of Life can be interpreted in terms
of other major systems of thought that I find helpful, as I've
"process philosophy" of Alfred North Whitehead, Charles
Hartshorne, and others;
Analytical Psychology" of Carl G. Jung, which is unique
in its consideration of the interface of human imagination,
spirituality, and metaphysical intuitions
certain aspects of more refined Jewish philosophy, some of
which I find attractive and also at a deeper level feeling some links
to my bio-cultural tradition (i.e. raised in a Jewish family, although
I couldn't continue with my belief in most of its basic tenets)
Chakra system of Tantric Yoga
evocative correspondences and projective-test-power of
the Tarot cards, astrology, numerology, and other intellectual
complexes that evoke the imaginal using different sets of symbols. (See
the paper on my Tarot of Creativity, also on this
But for me,
after over 30 years of study, I've come to a sense that the
ten "s'firot" or essential divine aspects that make up the Tree of Life
represent themes that continue to invite me into a contemplation of
their action in the Cosmos– a term that for me means both the material
Universe and the dimensions also accessible to Mind –which also opens
to include the category of that which exists but ordinary mind cannot
The function of
an effective theological symbol (in my mind) is that it
evokes a further stretching of our minds and hearts, and that it
touches us in this fashion. It should be inexhaustible, continuing to
be capable of yielding new insights when subjected to contemplation.
The ten s'firot or archetypal facets of the Divine that make up the
basic structure of the Tree of Life fulfill these criteria. They could
be called "soul lessons," categories of learning that we could spend
innumerable lifetimes engaging at ever-increasing depths of
Creativity. Appreciating Otherness. Purpose.
Limitation. Harmony. Originality. Context. Imagination. Manifestation.
And these in turn evoke other general principles: Three of my favorite
include Love, which I link to Appreciating Otherness, though it also
can overflow onto all the others, or be intuited as radiating out as
different forms of love from all the others; Faith, which I link to
Creativity, the sense that there are Divine and massive forces and
currents moving the world towards greater value–and again, this can be
sensed as a resonance with all the other s'firot; and Responsibility,
which I link with Manifestation, a call to us to respond as
co-creators, balancing the many aspects of What is Given, reaching
towards our heroic role as Magus, coordinating our magical tools of
wand, sword, cup, and coin (symbolizing, respectively, imagination,
intellectual discrimination, compassion, and practicality).
So I can't
imagine God, as I said. Too Big! But I can picture the Tree
of Life, and through that blueprint, imagine the greatness of the sense
of interconnectedness and continuing Cosmic activity at all levels,
from the atomic to the galactic, in my body as cells and as whole
organism, and from this, enjoy and worship–situate myself within this
wondrous unfolding, or what process philosophers call (and I like this
term), "the Creative Advance." God is this, is us, is everything,
and is more than everything–that's what's meant by the process
theological term, "pan-en-theism."
of this essay is to remind those who are
contemplating not only the nature of existence, but also the growing
intellectual convergence of creative ideas from many fields, that there
are integrative traditions that can aid in the formulation of new
possibilities. The traditional meta-symbol and diagram of the Tree of
Life is, in my mind, what Hermann Hesse alluded to, perhaps only
subconsciously, as the "glass bead game" in his book, Magister Luidi.
It is a tool that invites a furtherance of the game of philosophy: What
does it all mean and how does it all work, in its deepest essence? I
will build on your ideas and you will build on mine. Our competition is
not win-lose, but only how we can surpass each other and ourselves as
we reach for a better explanation, knowing with full humility that we
can only reach and reach, and all our work is a delight in the
enjoyment of God.
A. & Blatner, A. (1988). The metaphysics of creativity as
reflected in Moreno's "metapraxie" and the mystical tradition. Journal
of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama & Sociometry, 40(4), 155-163.
Norman. (1990). Bridging
science and spirit: Common elements
in David Bohm's physics, the Perennial Philosphy, and Seth. St. Louis,
MO: Living Lake Books.
Whitehead, A. N.
(First published in 1938). New York: Capricorn Books.
New York: Random House. (pp 204-9).
There have been
scores of books published on the subject of Kabbalah in
the last two decades! The following
are some of the earlier texts, mostly written before 1985:
(A recent visit to one of the New
Age, East-West or metaphysical book stores struck me with the continued
proliferation of books on Qabalah, Qabbala, Kabala, etc., some more
associated with the Jewish tradition, others more associated with the
Western Esoteric "Golden Dawn" approach. Here are some of the books I
used in the earlier years of my study–I can't expect to capture all the
current references. In addition, a goodly number of websites have been
anatomy of the body of God. New York:
Scholem: Kabbalah and counter-history.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
of vision: The changing patterns of belief.
New York: Schocken.
from a tree.
San Francisco: Unity Press.
tarot: A key to the wisdom of the ages.
Richmond, VA: Macoy.
Cook, R. (1974).
tree of life: Image for the cosmos. New York: Avon.
Cooper, David A.
mystical Kabbalah. (A
program.) Boulder, CO: Sounds True Audio. (735 Walnut St, Boulder
Crowley, A. (?)
prolegomena... San Francisco:
essence of the cabalah: Tarot, Hebrew, English.
Marina del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. (An embarrassing example of how
much the mind can use Kabbalistic games to really quite a far-fetched
extreme, with some strange conclusions indeed. Also involves geometry
and a variety of other correspondences.
The way of the Jewish mystic. Garden
City, NY: Doubleday & Co.
M. (1974). A
kabbalah for the modern world. New York:
introduction to the cabala. New York: Samuel
Halevi, Z'ev ben
Shimon. (1979). Kabbalah:
Tradition of hidden
London: Thames & Hudson. (part of the Art &
Hall, Manly P.
(1972). The secret teachings of all ages. Los Angeles:
Philosophical Research Society.
psychology with a soul: Psychosynthesis in
evolutionary context. London: Routledge
& Kegan Paul. (pp 135-142)
way of splendor: Jewish mysticism and modern
Boulder, CO: Shambhala.
practical guide to qabalistic symbolism, (Vols. I
& II). Toddington, Glos., Great Britain: Helios.
Honey from the rock: Ten gates of Jewish
San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Love, J. (1976).
quantum gods: The origin and nature of matter and
consciousness. Wiltshire, England:
of Consciousness. New York: MacMillan.
new living quablalah. Rockport, MA:
(1973). Kabbalah. San Francisco, CA:
Charles. (1975). The
game of wizards: Psyche, science,
and symbol in the occult. Harmondsworth,
Goddess and the Tree: The Witches Qabala. St.
Paul, MN: Llewellyn.
introduction to the mystical qabalah. New
York: Samuel Weiser.
Zalman. (1975). Fragments
of a future scroll: Hassidism for
the Aquarian age. Germantown, PA:
Leaves of Grass Press.
universal meaning of the kabbalah. Baltimore,
Mystics: The kabbala today. New York:
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