Tree of life (Kabbalah)

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The tree of life is a diagram used in various mystical traditions. [1] It usually consists of 10 nodes symbolizing different archetypes and 22 lines connecting the nodes. [2] The nodes are often arranged into three columns to represent that they belong to a common category. [2]

Contents

The nodes are usually represented as spheres and the lines are usually represented as paths. [2] The nodes usually represent encompassing aspects of existence, God, or the human psyche. [2] [3] [4] The lines usually represent the relationship between the concepts ascribed to the spheres or a symbolic description of the requirements to go from one sphere to another. [2] [4] The nodes are also associated to deities, angels, celestial bodies, values, single colors or combinations of them, and specific numbers. [3] [5] The columns are usually symbolized as pillars. [2] These pillars usually represent different kinds of values, electric charges, or types of ceremonial magic. [2] [5] It is usually referred to as the Kabbalistic tree of life in order to distinguish it from other concepts with the same name. [1] [6] In the Jewish Kabbalah, the nodes are called sephiroth. [2] The diagram is also used by Christian Cabbala, Hermetic Qabalah and Theosophy. [5] [6] [7] The diagram is believed to be derivable from the flower of life. [3]

Scholars believe that the concept of a tree of life with different spheres encompassing aspects of reality traces its origins back to Assyria in the 9th century BC. [1] [6] The Assyrians also assigned values and specific numbers to their deities similar to those used by the later Jewish Kabbalah. [1] [6] The beginnings of the Jewish Kabbalah are traced back by scholars to the Medieval Age, originating in the Book of Bahir and the Book of Zohar. [5] [6] However, the first historical instance of the modern diagram appeared centuries later in the cover of the Latin translation of Gates of Light in the year 1516. [5] Scholars have traced the origin of the art in the Porta Lucis cover to Johann Reuchlin. [8]

Evolution

The first historical instance of the modern tree of life was designed by Johann Reuchlin. [8] Paolo Riccio's son, Hyeronomius, had actively exchanged letters and shared his father's work with Reuchlin before publication. [9] Thus, in the year 1516, Reuchlin's diagram came to appear on the cover of the Paolo Riccio's Latin translation of Joseph Gikatilla's Gates of Light. The diagram only had 17 paths and, at the time, the concepts of 10 spheres and 22 letters were still distinct in the literature. [10] In 1573, a version sketched by Franciscus Zillettus appeared in Cesare Evoli, De divinis attributis. [11] This version introduced several innovations that would reappear in later versions: all the spheres were of the same size, the lines became wide paths, the spheres were aligned into 3 distinct columns, Malkuth was connected to three spheres, and astrological symbols for the known celestial bodies were used in conjunction with the Hebrew names to label the spheres. However, it also had only 17 paths, albeit distributed differently. Reuchlin's version was reprinted in Johann Pistorius' compilation of 1587. Finally, several versions from unknown artists introducing 21 and 22 paths appeared in the posthumous print editions of Moses Cordovero's Pardes Rimonim between 1592 and 1609. [12] However, the diagrams with 22 paths lacked consistency with each other and none of them had the 22 letters. [13] Between 1652 and 1654, Athanasius Kircher published his own version of the tree in Oedipus Aegyptiacus. Kircher might have designed his diagram in a syncretic attempt to reconcile several distinct ideas. This heavily annotated version, self-termed Sephirotic System, introduced more innovations: abstract concepts, divine names, the 22 Hebrew letters for each path, and new astrological symbols. [14] Between 1677 and 1684, Christian Knorr von Rosenroth published Kabbala Denudat. He designed several new versions of the tree of life, introduced the first version with 11 spheres, placed Daath between Kether and Tiphareth, and attempted to derive the tree of life from elemental geometry. [15] [16] [17]

Consequently, to modern day, two versions are widely circulated: one where Malkuth has 1 path, owing to Reuchlin's original; and another where Malkuth has three paths, owing to several later versions; both having 22 paths in total, corresponding each to a Hebrew letter, owing to Kircher's syncretism. [18] With the resurgence of occultism in the 19th century, many new versions appeared, but without major innovations. [19] In the 20th century, Aleister Crowley might have resurfaced the idea of Daath as an 11th hidden sphere between Kether and Tiphareth in his book Liber 777, syncretizing the concept with Kircher's symbols and von Rosenroth's diagrams. [20] [21] With the discovery of new planets, people might have tried to introduce more astrological symbols to their own versions of the diagram. As a result, there is no general agreement about the position of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. [22] [23] However, in particular, it has been noted that Pluto bears resemblance with Daath: Pluto is a former planet, the last traditional celestial body to be discovered, and Daath is a hidden sphere, the last to be introduced. [24] In the 21st century, enthusiasts might have rushed to attribute these collaborative works spanning centuries and involving several people through complex interactions to single authors. Thus, sometimes, the version where Malkuth has 3 paths is termed the Tree of Emanation, and the version where Malkuth has 1 path is termed the Tree of Return. [5]

Interpretations

Chassidist

A pattern inspired by the tree of life in a window in the Joods Historisch Museum in Amsterdam WLANL - MicheleLovesArt - Joods Historisch Museum - Levensboom glas in lood - Eli Content (Midden).jpg
A pattern inspired by the tree of life in a window in the Joods Historisch Museum in Amsterdam
The tree of life based on the depiction by Robert Fludd in the Deutsche Fotothek Tree of Life Fludd.jpg
The tree of life based on the depiction by Robert Fludd in the Deutsche Fotothek

According to Chassidist Kabbalist scholars, the tree of life is to be interpreted in the following way: [25]

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 Parpola, Simo (1993). "The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 52 (3): 161–208. doi:10.1086/373622. JSTOR   545436.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Mills, Robert. "Kabbalah - The Tree of Life". www.byzant.com. Byzant Mystical.
  3. 1 2 3 "Tree of Life - A Thorough Explanation". Token Rock.
  4. 1 2 "Kabbalah: An Archetypal Interpretation". www.newkabbalah.com.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Hermetic Kabbalah". www.digital-brilliance.com.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Welch, John Woodland; Parry, Donald W. (2011). The Tree of Life: From Eden to Eternity. Deseret Book.
  7. "The Kabbalah: A Universal Symbol--the Tree of Life". www.wisdomworld.org.
  8. 1 2 Heertum, Cis van; Netherlands, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Amsterdam (2005). Philosophia Symbolica: Johann Reuchlin and the Kabbalah: Catalogue of an Exhibition in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica Commemmorating Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522). Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica. The Inventory of Reuchlin's Hebrew works [...] lists Porta lucis under no. 35 [...] This is the first representation of the sefirotic tree in print
  9. Heertum, Cis van; Netherlands, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Amsterdam (2005). Philosophia Symbolica: Johann Reuchlin and the Kabbalah: Catalogue of an Exhibition in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica Commemmorating Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522). Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica. Reuchlin was sent Paulus Ricius' partial Latin translation of Sha'arei Orah by the latter's son, Hieronymus [...]
  10. Heertum, Cis van; Netherlands, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Amsterdam (2005). Philosophia Symbolica: Johann Reuchlin and the Kabbalah: Catalogue of an Exhibition in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica Commemmorating Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522). Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica. [T]he distinction between 'the knowledge of God by the path of the twenty-two letters' [...] and 'the knowledge of God by the path of the ten sefirot' [...] a distinction also referred to by [...] Reuchlin
  11. Heertum, Cis van; Netherlands, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Amsterdam (2005). Philosophia Symbolica: Johann Reuchlin and the Kabbalah: Catalogue of an Exhibition in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica Commemmorating Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522). Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica. lllus. 2: Sefirotic tree in Cesare Evoli, De divinis attributis, Venice, Franciscus Zillettus, 1573
  12. "Religious Change and Print, 1450-1700: "Kissur Pardes rimonim"". Religious Change and Print, 1450-1700.
  13. "Kabbalistic Abridgments to the Pardes Rimonim: The Evolution of a Text | Penn Libraries". www.library.upenn.edu.
  14. Crowley, Aleister (1986). 777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley. Weiser Books. ISBN   9780877286707. The Jesuit Kircher gives [...] The order of the Planets is that of their apparent rate of motion. By writing them in their order round a heptagon [...]
  15. "Rosenroth's Kabbala Denudata, scanned from the Latin".
  16. Kabbala Denudata Tom IA, scanned from the Latin. p. 588.
  17. "End plates". Kabbala Denudata Tom IB, scanned from the Latin.
  18. Crowley, Aleister (1986). 777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley. Weiser Books. ISBN   9780877286707. [I]n his Oedipus Ægypticus. It is this book (late 17th century) [that] contains the earliest known appearance of the version of the Tree of Life used by used by the [Golden Dawn] and Crowley, and in fact most modern Western occultists.
  19. Crowley, Aleister (1986). "777". 777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley. Weiser Books. ISBN   9780877286707.
  20. Crowley, Aleister (1986). 777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley. Weiser Books. ISBN   9780877286707. CXXIV. The Heavenly Hexagram [...] Daath
  21. Crowley, Aleister (1986). 777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley. Weiser Books. ISBN   9780877286707. In the Golden Dawn diagram (in turn derived from von Rosenroth) from which Col. CVI. was derived [...]
  22. "An Astrological View of the Chakras". Kabbalah Society -.
  23. "Thelemapedia: The Encyclopedia of Thelema & Magick | Tree of Life:Heavens of Assiah". www.thelemapedia.org.
  24. "Pluto and the Kabbalah". www.electricalspirituality.com.
  25. DovBer, Shalom. "The Tree of Life - A classic chassidic treatise on the mystic core of spiritual vitality". www.chabad.org.