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by: Tracy Porter
The term Cabala was originally used to denote wisdom, inner knowledge or understanding of the hidden mysteries, and it wasn't until much later that the term was used to refer to Jewish mysticism. The Cabala was initially meant to be a system of thought which allowed people to unravel the mysteries and unknown concepts concerning God and his/her creations. Although this system of thought has historically been purported to have been communicated by God to Adam, scholars tend to look for its origins in the first century before Christ.
The first document considered to be the forerunner of Cabalism and the basis of the rest of it is the Sepher Yetzirah (Book of Formation), written by an anonymous author most probably around the third century before Christ. The Sepher Yetzirah deals with the creation of the universe by means of the ten sephiroth which are archetypal numbers one through ten, and the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
The Tree of Life, while not appearing until the middle ages, plays an important part in our philosophical system of thought because it helps us to identify where we are in the grand scheme of things. The Tree diagram is an important pictorial representation because it illustrates how the universe was created and is a map of the cosmos at all levels. A lightening flash is said to extend from the first sephirah to the tenth - the lightning flash of creative energy proceeding from eternal unity. Ascending the tree describes the way back to unity which instils us with knowledge and allows us to be reborn.
Several versions of Cabala have evolved throughout the ages. The ancient Hebrew Cabala contained seven sephiroth which is reflected by the seven pointed star (Star of David), the candelabra and the seven celestial bodies which were predominant influences prior to the discovery of the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. The ancient Iraqi Cabala had eight sephiroth which corresponds with the eight musical notes we use today. The modern Cabala, however, has ten primary sephiroth, which corresponds with the decimal number system which is the foundation of today’s economy. There are 10 sephiroth in the trestleboard which is used by most students of the Cabala today (an eleventh imaginary sephira, called Daath, is included in some versions of the Cabala which brings the total number to eleven, a master number).
Most astrologers cast and use a horoscope, which is translated as ‘a view of time’ to depict planetary placements which serve to influence our daily activities. For example, the square horoscope was used extensively until the middle ages when it was replaced by the circular version which was more clearly representative of the orbital paths of the celestial bodies that were observed. Cabalistic astrologers tend to take a slightly different approach because they wish to observe the planets as they relate to each sephira in the Tree of Life. Therefore, the sign and house placement is written on the associated node of the trestleboard.
Each sephira points to a specific character trait which helps us to identify exactly where we are in our evolutionary path to enlightenment. Each sephira in the testleboard corresponds with a specific planet and is therefore closely aligned with the celestial art of astrology. The meanings of the ten sephiroth, to include the eleventh imaginary one, are as follows:-
Malkuth is position 10 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Kingdom. It represents our roots, home, family and close relationships. The essence of this sephira is the physical world and shows that which is presently manifest in our lives. This position represents our conscious awareness and the outcomes or results which we are now experiencing. Physically this node represents our physical body, musically it represents the note ‘Do’, and angelically it depicts the archangel Sandalphon. In astrology, this position is ruled by the Ascendant, or Rising Sign, and reflects the personality that we show to others. We can use the energy of Malkuth to help us determine exactly what lifestyle we would like to achieve and then conduct ourselves accordingly. For example, a person whose Malkuth is placed in the sign of Virgo would tend to be very analytical and approach life in a rather modest manner as not to draw undue attention to himself.
Yesod is position 9 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Foundation. This sephira denotes the collective unconscious or the vital soul of humanity. It gives insight into our life patterns because it shows our unconscious thoughts, secrets, hopes, desires, fears and apprehensions. Yesod indicates what our karmic lessons brought over from previous incarnations are: whether beneficial, challenging, or debts we must repay. This focal point also indicates health matters, especially those which concern our overall well-being. Physically this node represents our ego and angelically it depicts the archangel Gabriel. In astrology this position corresponds with the Moon as it relates to our relationship with the world around us and how we interact with others. We can utilise the energy of Yesod best by determining how best to react to life’s events. Quite often we respond to stimulus without thinking of the consequences of our actions. It would be far wiser, however, to carefully contemplate any possible outcomes before pursuing any endeavours.
Hod is position 8 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Splendour. This sephira depicts worldly matters such as business, career, cultural and artistic endeavours, and how these areas in our lives are being approached. It represents our analytical thought processes, our style of communication, and how we perceive our environment around us. Physically this node represents the theoretical aspects of life, musically it represents ‘Ti’, and angelically it depicts the archangel Michael. In astrology the position corresponds with the planet Mercury and therefore influences our thought processes and how we communicate with others. We can utilise the energy of Hod by determining how it will best aid our thought processes and acting appropriately. For example, Hod is placed in any of the water signs of cancer, Scorpio or Pisces, we will think emotionally, and this sense of feeling will affect how we behave towards others. In instances like this, it is best to analyse our perceptions before reacting on them to minimise any misunderstandings which may otherwise arise.
Netzach is in position 7 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Victory. It represents our emotional attachments and feelings. This sephira tells us what we desire, what we are attracted to, and what type of people we form close relationships with. Physically this node represents the practical aspects of life, musically it represents ‘La’, and angelically it depicts the archangel Haniel. In astrology this position corresponds with the planet Venus and defines those things that we find to be attractive. We can utilise the energy of Netzach most effectively by analysing what gives us pleasure and focusing on achieving the most positive aspects of them For example, if Hod is placed in the sign of Pisces, then we will have a tendency to view our attachments unrealistically and must therefore work hard to pierce through the veil of confusion which will ultimately reveal our heart’s desire.
Tipareth is position 6 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Beauty. It represents our higher self or true soul. It discusses the more highly evolved meaning of our lives and helps to define our life purposes, ideals and objectives. This sephira depicts our achievements, successes and outer image we present to the world. This position is in the centre of the Trestleboard and represents the centre of our being. In the physical world this node represents the self and angelically it depicts the archangel Raphael. In astrology Tipareth corresponds with the Sun and therefore is a key to the vitality we seek throughout our sojourns. We can utilise the energy of Tiperath most effectively by trying to project the most positive aspects of our characters. For instance, if Tiperath is placed in the sign of Aquarius we would want to display the friendly, sociable and intelligent attitudes of this sign.
Geburah is position 5 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Severity. It represents the conflicts and challenges we must overcome and the lessons we must learn. These assignments are generally seen as oppositions we encounter, and unless appreciated for the strengthening qualities they impart will tend to be seen as trials, tribulations and limitations. This position also tells us the qualities we must hone in order to effectively deal with difficulties. Utilising the constructive influence of this position can help us to take greater responsibility for our lives and make assets out of those areas which were once considered to be liabilities. Physically this node represents discipline, musically it corresponds with ‘Sol’, and angelically it depicts the archangel Kamael. In astrology this position corresponds with the planet Mars and therefore possess a great driving force which helps to carry on even when weary. We can most effectively utilise the energy of Geborah by focusing our activities on those areas which will bring us the most satisfaction. For instance, if Geborah is placed in the maternal sign of Cancer then we would gain the highest achievement by engaging in family activities and looking after those who we care about.
Chesed is position 4 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Mercy. It represents our opportunities for growth and rewards for the challenges we master. It indicates the most positive results we can gain from our thoughts, emotions and actions, and shows us where we must exercise compassion. Chesed reflects the most positive aspects of all areas - even those that seem negative. This position provides us with a 'comfort zone' in our lives because it gives us a sense of security. It also denotes our finances, wealth and areas of abundance. Physically this node represents compassion, musically it represents ‘Fa’, and angelically it denotes the archangel Tzadqiel. In astrology Chesed corresponds with the planet Jupiter and as a consequence shows us those areas of our lives where we will be given many avenues that we can excel in. We can most effectively utilise the benefits of Chesed by determining what areas of our lives will bear the most fruit. For example, if Chesed is placed in the sign of Capricorn, then we would want to focus our attention on developing our organisational skills and maintaining a sense of responsibility even when we would prefer to remain carefree.
Binah is position 3 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Understanding. It is the feminine, right brain or left side of ourselves, and represents inner knowledge or the divine mother within us. Binah often depicts our intuitive processes and the areas we are receptive to. This position shows what experiences we have chosen to bring to experience through the process of manifestation and denotes those areas which tend to be limiting or containing, thus helping to give greater understanding and depth through dealing constructively with these difficulties. Physically this node represents reason, musically it represent the note ‘Mi’, and angelically it depicts the archangel Tzaphqiel. In astrology this position corresponds with the planet Saturn and presents stabilising forces to help us carry out our chosen obligations. We can most effectively use the energy inherent in Binah to determine what karmic influences we have entered into this incarnation with by analysing what sign and house our it is posited in. For instance, if Binah is in Capricorn in the sixth house, we can channel our life lessons through carrying out our duties in an honest and responsible manner to achieve the greatest fulfilment.
Chokmah is position 2 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Wisdom. It is associated with the masculine, right side of ourselves and is sometimes depicted as the cosmic father within us. Chokmah represents our learned behaviour, actions and shows were our responsibilities lie. It indicates our ability to use rationale and logic to make choices and decisions. Physically this node represents revelation, musically it depicts the note ‘Re’, and angelically it depicts the archangel Raziel. In astrology the position corresponds with Uranus which can quite often be best described as the more inspired aspects of ourselves. We can most effectively make use of the positive qualities of Chokmah by looking at those areas in our lives which require us to make a choice. For instance, if Chokmah is placed in the sign of Leo then we will quite often find that we must frequently make changes in those things that we love in order to continually grow and evolve as human beings.
Kether is position 1 of the Tree of Life and is associated with the keyword Crown. It represents our creative potentials and new beginnings. Kether depicts our spiritual world, religious attitudes, and general inner state of being. This sephira is considered the indivisible one and is therefore complete in itself. It shows what we have chosen to manifest and what we desire to accomplish through our life experiences. Musically this node represents the note ‘Do’ and angelically it depicts the archangel Metatron. This sephira is the last point we must encounter on our path to universal oneness and is therefore associated with the veiled planet, Neptune. We can most effectively use the energy inherent in Kether by understanding that whatever sign it is placed in will be the area of our selves that we have a propensity to view unrealistically. Therefore, we need to analyse our perceptions to make sure that they are realistic. For instance, if Kether is placed in the sign of Scorpio then we will have a great deal to learn about our intense feelings that at times seem insurmountable and can cause us disillusionment until we are able to transcend these emotions.
Daath is an invisible sephiroth between Tiferet and Keter. It is an interfacing node which gives the entire tree a sense of completion. It is considered to be a place where we must cross to pass through the abyss to achieve enlightenment and represents the powerful knowledge which we have within ourselves. Astrologically it is ruled by the planet Pluto and depicts the transformation which must take place in order for us to ascend to higher stages in our evolutionary path. In order to gain the most positive effect from Daath we must determine what areas of our lives must be transformed and be accepting of the changes that we must inevitably make. For example, if our Daath is placed in the sign of Virgo then we will likely change jobs frequently until we find the one that gives us the most satisfaction.