Qabalah 101: An Introduction to the Tree of Life
The Qabalah has become a critical topic recently in spiritual communities as more and more are waking up to the depth of truth within it, of its power. This is an ancient esoteric system used to describe the structure of the universe and the way in which reality manifests from the top down, and the bottom up. This system correlates heavily with the Chakra system, as well as Tarot, among many other ancient and modern esoteric practices.
And while the Tree of Life looks simple, really understanding the depth of the insight it contains can still be a bit of a challenge; and so the purpose of this article is to provide some basic information for anyone who is just getting started with the Qabalah, and wants to kick-start their studies with some rudimentary information! We will preface that if you haven’t seen our introductory video on it first, please check that out here! The information written below will come as supplementary to this initial video explaining it.
Part 1: The Origins of Qabalah
Let us begin our exploration of the Qabalah at the beginning; what is it, and where did it come from? As discussed in our introductory video about it, the Qabalah itself is an ancient teaching which is said to describe the structure of the universe in great detail. It falls directly across the Flower of Life, but limits itself in its formation to 10 principle spheres, and 22 pathways connecting them; thereby building and describing the divine emanation of pure energy from source consciousness, which descends in density until at last it materializes into the physical constructs that we call reality.
In this we also are given a pathway back up the tree, as we find ourselves existing at the bottom of the tree looking upwards at the great columns which created the cosmos, we find ourselves striving to reconnect with this divine presence. The Tree of Life shows us a way to get there by correlating various aspects of our lives ideas which we can pray and meditate upon, and recognize in the world around us, giving us clues and hints on how to connect with our higher selves, and walk a spiritual path.
While it’s fair to say there is only One Qabalah, there are countless teachings and interpretations of it; for this Tree of Life pattern spans deep into history with a great number of ancient and esoteric schools of thought behind it.
The original teachings stem from ancient Jewish mysticism. which appeared across two significant manuscripts, the Sepher Yetzirah, and the Sepher ha-Bahir. The Sepher Yetzirah principally described the creation of the universe through the 22 letters of the hebrew alphabet; and the concept of the ten Sephiroth. The Sepher ha-Bahir then appeared hundreds of years later, and referred these prior concepts upon a tree composed from the Sephiroth.
Normally, the Hebrew name translated to English is spelled “Kabbalah”, and this word actually translates to “received teachings”, speaking towards the sacred and cosmic information that Moses received on mount sinai in the bible. The Kabbalah then refers to the body of mystical teachings found in the Hebrew Torah. All of the various spellings, such as Qabalah, Kabala, Cabala, and so on, are all simply variants of the same word which mean the same thing.
We have chosen to use Qabalah mainly due to its relationship with Hermeticism, established by MacGregor Mathers to distinguish the Hermetic correlations from the traditional Hebrew path. Hermeticism was only rediscovered in italy during the period we know today as the Renaissance, and during which many incredible correlations between ancient mysticism were made known, including the links between Astrology, Tarot, and the Qabalah.
The Qabalah was then radically developed by a very interesting mystery lodge established in 1888, called ‘The Order of the Golden Dawn’, of whose work has inspired countless esoteric practices since their time. The works of Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley, A.E. Waite, and the rest had a tremendous impact on Hermetic Qabalah and its esoteric relationship with the cosmic order.
The principle difference between the traditional Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah is the use of symbols; in Qabalah, symbolism plays a powerful role in allowing the mind to comprehend the various levels of creation within and without, such as by the correlation to the Tarot, but in traditional Jewish Kabbalah, they seek to explore consciousness undisturbed by symbolism. With this in mind, we believe that regardless of how the Tree is interpreted, there is still only one tree; how you use the information is up to you.
Part 2: The Qabalah is an Experience
The journey into understanding the Qabalah is one that lasts for lifetimes, because it is not simply something you learn once and then “pretty much get it”, such as how to use a stapler or some mundane task. Rather, the Qabalah will give out as much as you put into it, and ultimately you are free to use it however you so choose. For many, even understanding the basics can yield great benefits in one’s life, such as how to support the individual in manifesting their dreams – by understanding the natural flows of energy in the cosmos and ultimately – learning to grow.
However, manifesting your dreams come true is even still but a fraction of that which is contained within the Qabalah, it even invites you to ask the question “What are your dreams made of?”, both in the literal sense (what do the neural pathways happening in your brain look like?), as well as metaphorically (where do your dreams come from, and how high do you wish to fly?). Upon receiving answers to those questions you may find yourself delving even deeper, seeking the untapped spiritual callings within yourself and a great compulsion to act upon them, living in a new way, reprogramming your ego to best suit the calling of your spirit, and a rise in love and light.
With this all said, we must express that ultimately the Qabalah is an experience. Let us re-iterate that for those who might have glazed over that last line: THE QABALAH IS AN EXPERIENCE! Here’s what we mean.
It ultimately does not matter how much you understand this analytically – if this is your only avenue of exploration, but without any actual experiential practices – you will only receive more of the same – analytical comprehension, but with no real-world practice. Let us give you an example. Let’s say that you read a book on how to fly a helicopter, which includes how the helicopter was built, what machinery is involved, and how the parts fit together. After this research, would you feel comfortable taking a helicopter into the air all by yourself?
Now, unless you’re a bit smug or already trained in flying helicopters, you might say yes, but for most of us the answer will be no; and this is perfectly acceptable, we shouldn’t expect to know how to do complicated tasks without any hands on training! Fortunately in the realm of Qabalah, you can begin your training without needing someone there to guide you – because in Qabalah, everyone and everything is your guide. The only thing you have to do, is be willing to continue in your studies; when sources that you read suggest meditative practices, we highly suggest you do them, for these are the experiences required in order to advance ones consciousness.
It is here that we must express the importance of commitment to the path. Let us reference something written by one of the great minds of modern esoteric Qabalah: Dion Fortune, as she writes about this very concept from her book “Mystical Qabalah”:
No student will ever make any progress in spiritual development who flits from system to system; first using some New Thought affirmations, then some Yoga breathing exercises and meditation-postures, and following these by an attempt at the mystical methods of prayer. Each of these systems has its value, but that value can only be realized if the system is carried out in its entirety. They are the calisthenics of consciousness, and aim at gradually developing the powers of the mind. The value does not lie in the prescribed exercises as ends in themselves, but in the powers that will be developed if they are persevered with. If we intend to take our occult studies seriously and make of them anything more than desultory light reading, we must choose our system and carry it out faithfully until we arrive, if not at its ultimate goal, at any rate at definite practical results and a permanent enhancement of consciousness. After this has been achieved we may, not without advantage, experiment with the methods that have been developed upon other Paths, and build up an eclectic technique and philosophy therefrom; but the student who sets out to be an eclectic before he has made himself an expert will never be anything more than a dabbler.
Dion Fortune – Mystical Qabalah – Chapter 2 “The Choice of a Path”
Of course, Ms. Fortune’s words here apply to all practices, you might even compare it with exercise; if you exercise one time and then never again, you’ll experience minimal results. If you exercise daily, just watch where that road takes you. We encourage you to pay careful mind to those words above as you move forward; whatever path you end up choosing, commit to it and see where it takes you.
For those who are interested in learning more, you can jump into Qabalah Part 2 right here.
The Mystical Qabalah – Dion Fortune
The Golden Dawn – Israel Regardie