Using the Kabbalistic "Tree of Life" as a Symbolic Diagram
for How Creativity Operates in the Cosmos
Adam Blatner, M.D.

(Revised, November 4, 2008 (Posted earlier in 2004)

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.)

Increasingly, in 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.

Esoteric Thought

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.

 Associated 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.

There remain 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.

Kabbalah: Mystical Judaism

A little 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 of Life."   This "Tree of Life" diagram will be explained in more detail further on.

These studies 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.

Jung's "Analytical Psychology"

Another 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 Archetype.)

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.

A Postmodernist Disclaimer

I hold 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, rationally coordinated."

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.)

Postmodernism 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 effectively.

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.

The Basic Idea

The basic 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.

Each metaphor, 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.

Process Philosophy

One of 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 website.).

So Whitehead 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.

In studying 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 illustrated later.

The Implicate Order

The 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?)

Kabbalah --A Personal Interpretation

The 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 holiness.

Interestingly, 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 their 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 Ching, 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.)

From studying 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 life.

Before 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.

1. Unity                                         * #1
2. Duality, creativity                 /        |        \
3. receptivity,                  #3    *---------------*  #2
  three-ness, reconciliation       |          |            |
                                             |          |            |
4. Purpose, giving                   |          |            |
5. Restraint                    #5    *--- -- ----- -- - ---* #4
                                             |   \      |      /     |
6. Balance, harmony               |         *           |    #6
7. Individuality, personal          |    /     |      \     |
8 Social context,           #8      *-- ---------  -- - --*    #7
       matrix                               \    \   |    /      /
9 Imagery, dream                       \     *       /    #9
10 Action, lessons, practical          \   |    /
    applications in "reality"                  *   #10

The Tantric Yogic "Chakras"

Now, 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.

The Principles

The value 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.)

The suggestion 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.

Also, these 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.

  3. 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 philosophies.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

 10. 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 fashion.

The Tree of Life as "Meta-Symbol"

Each of 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.

Some esoteric 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.

Rupert 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.

Contemplating God

I have 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 God."

In this 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 others.

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.)

Another 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 mentioned previously:
 (1) the "process philosophy" of Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, and others;
 (2) the Analytical Psychology" of Carl G. Jung, which is unique in its consideration of the interface of human imagination, spirituality, and metaphysical intuitions
 (3) 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)
 (4) the Chakra system of Tantric Yoga    

 (5) the 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 website.)

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 even imagine.

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 understanding.

Unity. 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."


The point 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.


Blatner, 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.

Friedman, 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. (1958). Modes of thought. (First published in 1938). New York: Capricorn Books.

Wilson, Colin. (1971). The Occult. 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 created.)

Achad, F. (1969). The anatomy of the body of God.  New York: Samuel Weiser.

Biale, D. (1979). Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and counter-history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Blair, L. (1975). Rhythms of vision: The changing patterns of belief. New York: Schocken.

Busick, A. (1972). Pages from a tree. San Francisco: Unity Press.

Case, P.F. (1947). The tarot: A key to the wisdom of the ages. Richmond, VA: Macoy.

Cook, R. (1974). The tree of life: Image for the cosmos. New York: Avon.

Cooper, David A. (1994). The mystical Kabbalah. (A five-audio-cassette program.) Boulder, CO: Sounds True Audio. (735 Walnut St, Boulder 80302).

Crowley, A. (?) 777: A prolegomena... San Francisco: Level Press.

Eisen, Wm. (1984). The 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.

Epstein, P. (1978). Kabbalah: The way of the Jewish mystic. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.

Gonzalez-Wippler, M. (1974). A kabbalah for the modern world. New York: Bantam.

Halevi, Z. (1975). An introduction to the cabala. New York: Samuel Weiser.

Halevi, Z'ev ben Shimon. (1979). Kabbalah: Tradition of hidden knowledge. London: Thames & Hudson. (part of the Art & Imagination series).

Hall, Manly P. (1972). The secret teachings of all ages. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society.

Hardy, Jean. (1987). A psychology with a soul: Psychosynthesis in evolutionary context. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. (pp 135-142)

Hoffman, E. (1981). The way of splendor: Jewish mysticism and modern psychology. Boulder, CO: Shambhala.

Knight, G. (1969). A practical guide to qabalistic symbolism, (Vols. I & II). Toddington, Glos., Great Britain: Helios.

Kushner, Lawrence. (1977). Honey from the rock: Ten gates of Jewish mysticism. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Lama Foundation. Seed. 107-119.

Love, J. (1976). The quantum gods: The origin and nature of matter and consciousness. Wiltshire, England: Compton Russell.

Metzner, Ralph. (1971). Maps of Consciousness. New York: MacMillan.

Parfitt, W. (1995). The new living quablalah. Rockport, MA: Element Books.

Poncé, C. (1973). Kabbalah. San Francisco, CA: Straight Arrow Books.

Poncé, Charles. (1975). The game of wizards: Psyche, science, and symbol in the occult. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Reed, E.C. (1993). The Goddess and the Tree: The Witches Qabala. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn.

Richardson, A. (1974). An introduction to the mystical qabalah. New York: Samuel Weiser.

Schachter, Zalman. (1975). Fragments of a future scroll: Hassidism for the Aquarian age. Germantown, PA: Leaves of Grass Press.

Schaya, Leo. (1973). The universal meaning of the kabbalah. Baltimore, MD: Penguin.

Sturzaker, J. (1971). Kabbalistic aphorisms. London: Theosophical Publishing House.

Weiner, H. (1969). 9½ Mystics: The kabbala today. New York: Collier.

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