Segmenting the Tree of Life


By isolating certain aspects of the Tree of Life for in-depth study, we’re better able to not only understand the parts that make up ourselves but also how they interact to influence the whole.

Horizontal Planes

  • Starting at the top, sephirots 1, 2, and 3 form the Supernal Triangle.
    • This can be seen as “The Head.” Our subconscious and unconscious minds (and the Ultimate Source beyond ourselves) are the spigot from which all else arises.
    • The dealings within the Supernal Triangle are all ways we may receive this Inspiration and Seed of All.
  • Sephirots 4, 5, and 6 make up the Ethical Triangle.
    • This can be seen as “The Hands.” The Ethical Triangle deals with all the ways we may choose to interact with others: either by way of cooperation and community, or by exploitation and selfishness.
  • Sephirots 7, 8, and 9 form the Astral Triangle (where all practical magick is achieved).
    • This can be seen as “The Feet.” This is the Triangle of Action. Here, we take what has come before and we either expound energy into it, to mold things to our liking and withstand or overcome obstacles… Or we withdraw our energy and wait and observe, forced to submit under that which is greater than ourselves and simply strive to gain a better understanding of that which we face.
  • We also find important horizontal planes at the Great Abyss and the Veil of Paroketh:
    • The Abyss marks the point at which subconscious interactions with the Source crosses into Intent — how we decide to use this knowledge in regard to our dealings with others. 
    • The Veil marks the point between Force and Form — below the Veil is Reality and the Physical Outcome of all that came from the upper portions of the Tree. 

Vertical Planes

  • The Tree is divided into three pillars:
    • The center is known as the Pillar of Mildness
    • On the right is the Pillar of Mercy
    • On the left is the Pillar of Severity

These three pillars, in conjunction with the Triangles, grant a greater sense of the flow of energies within a spread and/or within either a single card of, or series of, Major Arcana.

The Lovers (VI)


The Lovers Major Arcanum presents a fine example of how knowledge of its placement in the Tree’s branches can grant further illumination into the card’s meaning.

The Lovers branch from sephirot 3 to sephirot 6.

  • 3 is both within the Supernal Triangle (“the Head”) and at the top of the Pillar of Severity.
  • 6 is both within the Ethical Triangle (“the Hands”) and in the center of the Pillar of Mildness

From this we gather several points of interest:

  • The Lovers begin at: the point where we have “taken apart” the elements of the Source we received in order to better understand it. (davar mitoch davar — understanding one idea from another idea; deductive reasoning)
  • The card ends at: a point of total balance in regard to our intentions and interactions with others.
    • So, where there are two people in our imagery at the start of this branch, there winds up being a united couple at the end; a balanced whole emerging from the separate parts. Each person starts alone to try to understand the elements given to them, but they find balance in uniting together as one — a balance that further influences their interactions with others around them.
  • We get a sense of the move of energy on the vertical plane: moving from a sense of Severity (or, disciplined intellect) to Mildness (balance and emotional/conscious harmony) — this certainly creates a sense of release. 
  • We also see that The Lovers cross the Great Abyss: horizontally, they have moved from the realm of the Head (or subconscious) to the realm of what we might call the Heart — the Hands (the outer pillars of the Ethical Triangle which the 6th sephirot balances) do the work of our intentions created in this Triangle, but the Heart creates a harmony of consciousness.

Within this harmony we are at ease enough to make balanced decisions with regard to how we intend to interact with others in our lives — “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy”… and cast judgement on those I judge. From a place of disciplined intellect we move into a place where we are at home with the intentions we mete out to others. And in so doing, we feel like The Lovers; we move from isolated parts of ourselves into a united and balanced whole of consciousness. 

Mental and Emotional Binah

IMG_2279It’s always been curious to me, that “Sorrow” (the 3 of Swords) occurs in the realm of Thought, rather than Emotion (Cups). Instead, the 3 of Cups represents “Abundance.”

The concept of the third sephirot of Binah  can be expressed as “davar mitoch davar” — understanding one idea from another idea. Binah multiplies the original seed of an Element to the point that a framework of Understanding of that element is built.

Whereas the 2 of Swords is Peace, adding one more Thought to that creates Sorrow…

What is emotion without the physical biofeedback and mental interpretation of meaning attached to it?

Emotion straight from the Source is not the way we feel ABOUT something. Rather, we simply experience a feeling, and the mind asks, “What is happening around me, to me, that I can attach to this feeling with meaning?”

So, the Ace of Cups is not the Meaning itself, which we ascribe to it based on our biofeedback. Rather, it is the sensation that comes which we then try to ascribe meaning to, based on our surrounding circumstance. When Abundant Emotion floods the background and we add increasing Thoughts of Sorrow to it, our mind interprets our feelings as feelings of sorrow.

It’s often helpful to separate the Elements working together in our minds to better understand that which drives us.

Featured Arcana: The Wheel

On the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the Wheel of Fortune forms a bridge between the 4th and 7th sephirots, forming the bottom half of the Pillar of Mercy.

Chesed (4) is within the triangle of Intention (with regard to how we intend to deal with others). Netzach (7) falls within the triangle of Action. The 4th sephirot represents the spirit of (or Intent to create) community with others, to draw others into our personal circle. The 7th sephirot represents the Action of endurance against an obstacle.

Connected directly above the Wheel on the Pillar of Mercy is the Hierophant. They share the 4th sephirot of Intent to Draw Others into Community.

The Hierophant takes the pureness of the Source above and distills and disseminates that divine Source to the community below. The Wheel then is situated within this community and takes Action in courage to endure against obstacles.

But what is the deeper interpretation?

Naturally, a lot depends on where the Wheel falls in any specific tarot spread. But we can ascertain a basic understanding of this card’s implications based upon its placement on the Tree.

We can learn from the Wheel, then, that we come from the passed-down purity of the Divine Source, to a unifying of community and drawing others unto us — only to learn that our Action of Enduring (though we may feel empowered by the divine knowledge passed down to us and the community that surrounds us), is not solely in our hands.

The Universe has a “will” of its own (in a sense) and is not always lined up with our own personal will — because, we are only one cog in the giant machinery of the Universe….

In fact, the wills and actions of others that are brought into our Circle (4), have a correlation with the results around us– no matter what our Action to Endure is.

Whatever Action we take to Endure or Resist will affect the Community from which we stem; as well, the Community has an affect on our Actions.

We are all interconnected. Thus the Wheel of the Universe turns seemingly of its own accord at times. In these moments it may be best to step back from our own little corner of understanding to embrace a fuller view of the Community around us.

Fire: In Relationship with Others and Ourselves

Fire, or the Wands suit of the tarot, represents energy and ambition. The raw force to get things done and make change happen. It is visceral, powerful, and forms often an uneasy and delicate balancing act with the other elements of our personalities.

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5 (Gevurah)  is “the essence of judgment…and limitation, and corresponds to awe and the element of fire“. In the Tree of Life it is found on the left Pillar of Severity in the Triangle of Intention–how we determine we will act toward others, and how this determination colors our actions to come next.

So, the 5 of Wands is known as “Strife.”

Here’s the thing about your fire in relation to others and the way you direct your fire toward them: They will respond in kind.

You send fire their way and they will defend themselves with fire. This is why 6 of Fire, or the balance of intentions toward others, is called VICTORY– it is Victory over others.

It’s the way to achieve a Balance of Intention with the Wands.

By contrast, the 6 of Earth (Pentacles) is known as SUCCESS– it is a celebration of the fruit of your own work; the personal victories over FullSizeRender 2.jpgyour own self.

And, in every situation, we find a need to embrace one or the other. The Tree of Life is a picture of us all in entirety, at all times.

But it helps to be aware of the effects of our Fire upon others, so we are prepared to stand and continue to flame if we must.

Embrace the Happy Child

These past couple of days I received two very meaningful readings. Both focused on the Page (or Princess) of Disks.

I love my deck’s depiction of her; she just seems so happy and in her element… 🙂

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Our featured Earth-Princess is card #1 in the top spread, card #3 in the bottom spread.

Both readings focus on embracing and responding to the Completion and Success found in my life at this moment in time. In other words, let this be a time of rest, not of struggle or turmoil.

The top reading includes advice to understand and embrace the knowledge that Change is the Universal Constant. Things will change and grow, and my circumstances will not always remain as they are. And that’s a good thing. 🙂

The second reading anticipated the struggle I’d have today with my Emotions and my Thoughts: that emotions will have a tendency to throw my thoughts into imbalance, and vice-versa.

But, in spite of that struggle, my subconscious encourages me to remain in my childlike security and joy, resting in the stability of the Earth and my Successes this far.

Featured Arcana: Strength

The tarSTRENGTHot card, Strength (8), holds great significance and meaning.

In the beginning, I had understood it in its most basic form as Inner Strength. But, being the eternal seeker that I am, I wanted to know more. What, exactly, does Inner Strength mean? How can it be applied in our day-to-day lives?

The Lion is symbolic of our own animal instincts, our desires, our passions, our jealousy, our rage, our lust…The woman controls the beast through the power of reason and through love via the heart. She may be secretly terrified of what she is doing but she is prepared to face her fears, to take the risk, to feel the fear and do it anyway. (from, Truly Teach Me Tarot)

Another way to think of Strength is by its alternative name in some tarot decks, Fortitude.

…it meant moderation in attitudes toward pain and danger, with neither being avoided at all costs, nor actively wanted…the woman looking calm and gentle, yet dominant over the lion. (from, Wikipedia)

In other words, we can also apply the Buddhist notion of “…the purity of mindfulness owing to equanimity… [to] study and observe your mind, at all of its various points of grasping — whether for attachment or for aversion…

Inner Strength, or Fortitude, comes down to a calm, logical acceptance of our instinctual, animalistic, Shadow Self — an acknowledgment of its presence and influence in our lives, and a decision to control and embrace it via reason and love, in spite of our feelings of fear or confusion.