An Introduction To Hebrew Kabbalah

In the spirit of Abulafia's 'Prophetic Kabbalah'... This site develops a system of metaphysics that's based on the esoteric meaning, structure, and mystical power of the Hebrew alphabet.

The original creative spark that spawned the Hebrew Kabbalah has evolved into many different forms of expression since the 13th century CE, and there is no singular 'authentic' brand of Kabbalah (as some peddlers in the religious market-place would have us believe).

The Hebrew Kabbalah is a spiritual pursuit (rather than a religious practice)—although some hard-liners of orthodox 'Rabbinic Judaism' insist that you must be Jewish to study and practice the Kabbalah. But the Hebrew Kabbalah is a universal system of spiritual initiation, and therefore transcends the gods of all religions. In other words, you don't have to be a devotee of the Jewish god to benefit from the study and practice of the Hebrew Kabbalah.

Tree of Yetzirah

For my latest research on the origins (and original blueprint) of the Tree of Life please read my books Formation of the Tree of Life and especially Sefer Yetzirah Magic.

The Basic Structure of the Tree of Life

My personal approach to the Tree of Life is quite different to other (ancient and modern) qabalists because of the powerful influence that the teachings of Master Djwhal Khul have had on my consciousness. Indeed, His work has added much light to my personal understanding of that very mysterious mandala that in the Hebrew language is called the Aytz Chiam—the 'Tree of Life'.

The Tree of Life diagram (pictured right) describes a universal or archetypal framework or matrix. It might also be said to resemble a flowchart that demonstrates certain significant relationships between ten (or eleven) distinct circles of influence called sephiroth (Hebrew plural of sephira). But what is the nature of these eleven circles or spheres, and what precisely do they represent? This is the question that most qabalists seek to answer.

It is my understanding that individually and collectively the ten spheres (or sephiroth) of the Tree of Life do not represent any one thing in particular, but they may be used to describe any of the various manifestations of 'unity' that exist within our infinite universe. The key-word here is UNITY which when stretched out upon the framework of the ten spheres becomes naturally divided into ten interrelated portions. The simple numerological equation that describes this procedure is 1 = 10.

The first and most primordial Unity that we know of is the Unity of the infinite universe. Some people might be tempted to call this supreme unity GOD which I believe is quite accurate in the sense that the universe, like anything, is a manifestation or reflection of the Divine.

Master Djwhal Khul (abbr. DK) defines our universe as consisting of seven levels or sub-planes of cosmic existence which He collectively calls the Cosmic Physical Plane. This immense seven-fold universe is the realm that most of His teachings describe. (For a concise summary of His esoteric classification of the structure of our universe see: A Treatise on Cosmic Fire, pp. 260-269.)

He lists the seven planes from highest to lowest like so:

  1. The plane of Adi
  2. The Monadic plane
  3. The Atmic plane
  4. The Buddhic or Intuitional plane
  5. The Manasic or Mental plane
  6. The plane of Kama or the Astral plane
  7. The Etheric-physical plane

The Seven Rays

Paralleling the seven planes are seven streams of force called 'rays' that originally issued from the Divine Creative Source.

"...the play of the divine will on the ocean of space, matter, or etheric substance produced the first differentiation into the major rays, and their mutual interplay produced the minor four rays. Thus the seven emanations, the seven potencies and the seven rays came into manifestation. They are the seven breaths of the one Life, the seven basic energies; they streamed forth from the center formed by the impact of the will of God on divine substance, and divided into seven streams of force. The radius of the influence of these seven streams determined the extent or scope of activity of a solar system and "outlined" the limits of the form of the incarnated cosmic Christ. Each of these seven streams or emanations of energy was colored by a divine quality, an aspect of love, and all of them were needed for the ultimate perfecting of the latent and unrevealed purpose." (Esoteric Psychology I: pg. 44.)

These energizing forces permeate and sustain the seven planes, and infuse them with seven basic universal qualities:

Ray Primary Qualities
Ray I Will
Ray II Love
Ray III Intelligence
Ray IV Will + Love
Ray V Will + Intelligence
Ray VI Love + Intelligence
Ray VII Will + Love + Intelligence

  1. Power, Will, or Purpose
  2. Love-Wisdom
  3. Active Intelligence
  4. Harmony, Beauty, and Art
  5. Concrete Knowledge and Science
  6. Devotion and Idealism
  7. Ceremonial Order or Magic

(See: Esoteric Psychology I, pp. 22-23)

The diagram above demonstrates the relationships that exist between the three major 'rays of aspect' (coloured red) and the four minor 'rays of attribute' (coloured blue). The red triangle represents the original trinity of rays whose subsequent commingling produced the four minor rays (of the blue triangle). Their admixture in terms of the three primary ray qualities is also tabulated above (right).

The diagram below illustrates other significant relationships that exist between the seven archetypal numbers (rays or planes) and are derived from the teachings of Master DK. The red lines connect the four odd numbers, the blue lines connect the three even numbers, and the dotted lines show certain other relationships between various of the numbers and planes.

To put it simply, the dotted lines emphasise a three-fold vertical relationship involving the three primary attributes known as Active Intelligence (3 & 5), Love-Wisdom (2 & 6), and Purpose-Will (occupying the central pillar of 1, 4 & 7).

The four odd numbers express the form principle infused with the energy of will, while the three even numbers demonstrate the consciousness principle reflecting the quality of love at varying levels of expression. The nature of this relationship is more clearly perceived when the figure is tipped over on its side (as per the diagram above right).

The lower (red) part of the figure resembles a vessel, and represents the dynamic form principle, while the upper triangle (blue) symbolises the consciousness that descends into and indwells the form.

You will notice above that I have described the vessel as representing the 'dynamic form principle'. I emphasized the word 'dynamic' to highlight a condition where the form principle has become infused with the spirit principle. This has the effect of imbuing the form principle with an active, spiritually motivated, evolutionary force described by Master DK in the Alice Bailey books as 'fire by friction'.

The challenge now facing us is how to translate the archetypal seven-fold system into a system that contains ten discrete components. Master DK Himself gives us the key we need to achieve this feat when He describes in more detail the nature of the seven planes of our universe. He goes on to explain that the Mental plane (numbered '5' in the list above) in relation to Humanity (the microcosm) actually consists of three major expressions (or divisions). These three expressions are:

  1. The Higher Mental, or Abstract Mental plane (consisting of the highest three sub-planes of the Mental plane)
  2. The Causal Body (located on one of the three Abstract levels of the Mental plane)
  3. The Lower Mental plane (consisting of the lowest four sub-planes of the Mental plane)

So now we can expand the original seven planes of our universe into nine components.

1) Adi (Divine Will)

2) Monadic plane (Divine Love)

3) Atma (Divine Intelligence)

4) Buddhi (or Intuitional plane)

5) Higher Manas (or Higher Mental plane)

6) Causal Body (Unifying Consciousness Centre)

7) Lower Manas (or Lower Mental plane)

(Mental Plane)

8) Kama (or Astral plane)

9) Etheric-physical plane

But, as you know, we need ten in order to fulfil the requirements of the Tree of Life with its ten sephiroth, and it is interesting (in this light) to note that in all the places Master DK mentions the sephiroth in the Alice Bailey books He almost always refers to 'the nine sephiroth'. (See: Cosmic Fire, pp. 4, 692-3, 941-2, 971, 1143. This is the only Alice Bailey/DK book where the sephiroth are mentioned.)

I think that when DK mentions the sephiroth as being nine in number He is recognizing the convention of combining the Etheric and Physical planes into one plane. What we call the Etheric plane consists in actuality of the highest four sub-planes of the Physical plane, where the 'bio-electro-magnetic body' of a human-being is located. The dense Physical plane, on the other hand, more correctly occupies the lowest three sub-planes of the Physical plane, where the solid, liquid, and gaseous elements of the human body are located. Therefore our ten principal divisions can now be identified as follows:

1) Adi (Divine Will)

2) Monadic plane (Divine Love)

3) Atma (Divine Intelligence)

4) Buddhi (or Intuitional plane)

5) Higher Manas (or Higher Mental plane)

6) Causal Body (Unifying Consciousness Centre)

7) Lower Manas (or Lower Mental plane)

(Mental Plane)

8) Kamas (or Astral plane)

9) Etheric plane

10) Dense Physical plane

(Physical Plane)

The diagram below demonstrates, (using the seven prismatic colors), the method of conversion from the original universal seven-fold model to the more intricate ten-fold model of the qabalistic Tree of Life. You can see how the Mental plane (i.e. the yellow circle numbered '5') in the seven-fold model becomes differentiated into its three major constituents in the ten-fold model (i.e. the three yellow circles numbered '5', '6', and '8'). You will also notice that the Physical plane (i.e. the red circle numbered '7') in the seven-fold model is divided into the Etheric levels (i.e. the red circle numbered '9') and the Dense Physical levels (i.e. the red circle numbered '10') in the ten-fold model.

'Daath', the eleventh sephira of the Tree of Life, represents (I believe) the lowest four sub-planes of the Atmic plane and consequently symbolises an extension of the third sephira, known as Binah. This correspondence is hinted at by Master DK when he says, "Just as the three planes of the Ego on [1224] the mental plane dominate the remaining planes in the three worlds, so in the five worlds of the Hierarchy the three higher subplanes of the atmic plane hold an analogous place." [Cosmic Fire, pp 1223-4.] In other words, the relationship between the sefiroth Binah and Daath is analogous (on a higher plane) to the relationship between the sefiroth Pachad and Hod.

Master DK in His teachings describes an esoteric process on 'the Path of Return' whereby the four numbers from 4 to 7 (or the 'Four Rays of Attribute') are eventually assimilated into the orb of number 3 (or the '3rd Ray of Aspect'). (See for example: Cosmic Fire, pg. 361.) In a similar abstraction process the lowest four planes of our universe eventually become reabsorbed back into the third plane - the Great Mother 'Atma-Binah' Who originally gave them birth.

My understanding is that the eleventh sephira (Daath) oversees the preliminary stages of the major 'abstraction' process before facilitating the final shift of all the lower sephiroth (or planes) across the Abyss to be reintegrated into Binah, the third sephira.

There is an interesting parallel here (that will become more obvious as we proceed) between this concept of a Great Abstraction, and the similar process that occurs in the microcosmic consciousness of Humanity. Within the psyche of a human-being there occurs eventually a shift from the lowest four sub-planes of the Mental plane towards the higher three sub-planes called the Abstract levels of the Mental plane. This shift is realised with the building of the 'bridge of the Antahkarana'.

Thus also, during the 'Great Abstraction of All That Is' that occurs at the 'End of Time' the four lowest sub-planes of the Atmic plane (as symbolised by Daath of the Tree of Life) are raised up into the higher three sub-planes (as represented by the sephira Binah) and carry with them the abstracted essence of the four lower planes of our universe.

The final result therefore, of our translation of the basic septenary system of universal order into the decimal system of the qabalistic Tree of Life is the following map of the universe:

Please Note: The prismatic color-scale (i.e. ROYGBIV) used above is not the one generally ascribed to the Tree of Life. It has been employed by me simply to reveal more clearly the changes that occur when we convert the seven-fold model into the decimal.

It appears then, that there is a very important reason why the sages of old-time developed these two different, but interrelated and interdependent, numerical systems - the septenary and the decimal. It is because the seven-fold system is primarily a map of the basic structure of the macrocosm, while the ten-fold system expresses the special relationship that exists between the microcosm (i.e. a human being) and the macrocosm (i.e. the greater universe). That is why the Tree of Life is such a worthy mandala for contemplation and meditation. And it is this special relationship between the Human and the Divine that we will delve more deeply into on other pages of this website. We will do so using the Tree of Life diagram as our basic metaphysical tool.

Because the Tree of Life model includes in its ten-fold structure the esoteric anatomy of the microcosm, it therefore allows us to isolate and highlight the microcosm, which as Master DK explains is also seven-fold in its essential nature. The microcosm is basically seven-fold because, like the all-encompassing macrocosm, it is a universe unto itself - albeit a little one.

When we examine closely the Tree of Life we can see that the microcosm (i.e. a human-being) is built upon an identical septenary model as that of the greater universe, except for the understandable fact that our existence is positioned lower down on the original seven-fold scale of universal planes. Observe the descending red line in the following diagram.

image324

As you can see the numbering system of the Tree of Life does not quite reflect the normal descending sequence of the planes. The discrepancy exists in the traditional jump from the sixth sephira (i.e. the Causal body) to the seventh (i.e. the Astral Plane) because we would expect to see instead a natural movement from the Causal body to the Lower Mental Plane (numbered eight on the Tree of Life diagram).

It is difficult to understand why the ancient Hebrew Masters numbered the sephiroth in this manner, but its roots appear (to me) to lie in chapter four of the ancient qabalistic book the Sefer Yetzirah (see Kaplan, pp. 174-184).

Of course it may also have been a deliberate veil to hide the sacred mysteries from the profane.

The usual order of the sephiroth is called the 'Lightning Flash' sequence which suggests that there may indeed be other sequences that are meaningful. I have named this slightly different (plane-based) ordering of the sephiroth the 'Prismatic Ray' sequence because it follows the natural order of the septenary colour scale (as presented in the diagram above) and of the seven sequential planes of our universe. But note that I have not changed the actual traditional numbering of the sephiroth as there is really no need to take that drastic step, and I strongly feel that such things should be left alone until the purposes of the original ancient designers of the Tree of Life diagram are more clearly understood.

In the table below I have compared the macrocosm (i.e. the greater universe) with the microcosm (i.e. Humanity) specifically in relation to the planes of their habitation, with the purpose of showing the septenary nature of both entities, and to reveal their intimate interrelationship, and also to emphasise their interdependence.

# Life of Macrocosm Life of Microcosm
1. Plane of Adi Plane of Atma
2. Monadic Plane Buddhic Plane
3. Plane of Atma Abstract Mental Plane
4. Buddhic Plane Causal Body
5. Mental Plane Lower Mental Plane
6. Astral Plane Astral Plane
7. Etheric-Physical Plane Etheric-Physical Plane


Qabalistic Method

In order to understand some of the deeper qabalistic aspects of this website you will need to have some basic knowledge of the metaphysical nature of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and also a knowledge of one of the important hermeneutic techniques much used in the Kabbalah that is called 'gematria'.

One of the fundamental premises of the Kabbalah is the idea that the 22 Hebrew letters are sacred. It is generally understood by qabalists that they were given to Humanity by a divine power. Usually Moses is given credit for receiving the sacred alephbet (or the esoteric meanings of such) from Jehovah on Mount Sinai - along with the Ten Commandments. (See: The Book of Exodus, 34:28-29.) Incidentally, the word 'Kabbalah' comes from the root 'qbl' meaning 'to receive' in Hebrew, and it is by its study and use in meditation that we are all potentially able to receive divine inspiration, or sacred knowledge from higher levels of intelligence.

The Hebrew alephbet divides numerically into three main groups comprised of units, tens, and hundreds. Within this tripartite scheme the units (i.e. 1 - 9) are the foundational archetypes upon which our creative universe is built. The tens (i.e. 10 - 90) represent the expression of the original archetypes (the units) in microcosmic consciousness (because the appended 0 indicates consciousness). The hundreds (i.e. 100 - 900) symbolise the archetypal units expressed at the level of universal, or collective consciousness (because two 0s appended indicates collective consciousness).

Archetypes Microcosm Macrocosm
(Unconscious)
Macrocosm
(Conscious)
Aleph - 1 Yod - 10 Qoph - 100
Beth - 2 Caph - 20 Resh - 200
Gimel - 3 Lamed - 30 Shin - 300
Daleth - 4 Mem - 40 Tav - 400
Ha - 5 Nun - 50 Caph-final - 500
Vav - 6 Sameck - 60 Mem-final - 600
Zain - 7 Ayin - 70 Nun-final - 700
Heth - 8 Peh - 80 Peh-final - 800
Teth - 9 Tzaddie - 90 Tzaddie-final - 900

The nine archetypal units represent the basic tools of the divine omnipresent creative Spirit. They establish a basic working environment within which consciousness (the tens) can flourish. As consciousness evolves, the Creation (or Universe) slowly awakens and becomes conscious of itself in the collective sense (i.e. the hundreds become fully manifested, or realised - see below). The whole creative-evolutionary process culminates in the birth of a 'god'.

In the beginning only the first four macrocosmic signs (hundreds) are fully manifest. They are: Qoph-100, Resh-200, Shin-300, and Tav-400. These four glyphs symbolise the 'elemental', primordial (or primitive) consciousness of the universe. They represent the 'autonomic' consciousness of the natural, or physical world. They describe a condition that is the cosmic equivalent to the animal level of awareness on planet Earth.


The Five 'Finals'

The five 'missing' macrocosmic signs (hundreds) emerge, or evolve out of five of the microcosmic signs (i.e. the tens). (See the table above). Thus, full universal consciousness is only achieved through the development of the microcosmic units of consciousness that constitute and inhabit its body of manifestation.

In the universal scale the four primary macrocosmic signs parallel the four primordial elements and can be associated with the geometric square shape:

Qoph-100 = Water
Resh-200 = Air
Shin-300 = Fire
Tav-400 = Earth

They represent the primordial unconscious expression of the undeveloped universe.

The five secondary macrocosmic signs (called 'finals') correspond with the pentagram of universal consciousness (including collective Human consciousness) that grows out of, and sits atop the square foundation of the elemental universe. They are named and numerically assigned as follows:

Caph-final-500
Mem-final-600
Nun-final-700
Peh-final-800
Tzaddie-final-900

These signs represent the growth and development of universal consciousness that proceeds with the parallel evolution of the collective consciousness of Humanity (and all intelligent races in the universe).

In Hebrew writing these five signs are only formed when their microcosmic equivalents are written at the end of a word. Therefore they symbolise the end result of certain microcosmic processes, and they rely for their manifestation upon the signs that precede them, and as such, they cannot exist independently from the other Hebrew letters.

Most of Humanity exists within the confines of the 'Square of Universal Unconsciousness' because there are not many who have achieved a state of universal consciousness in the true esoteric sense of the word. The first three Initiations open doors for us to enter into that divine state of being.

Here follows a list of the 22 Hebrew letters and (IMO) their basic esoteric meanings.

Hebrew Astrology Basic Esoteric Meaning Tarot Card
Aleph Air (Uranus) The aspect of source/synthesis. FOOL
Beth Saturn The attribute of division/separation. WORLD
Gimel Jupiter The attribute of motion/expansion. WHEEL
Daleth Mars The attribute of friction/resistance. TOWER
Ha* Aries The expression of mental will. EMPEROR
Vav* Taurus The expression of values/desires. TEMPERANCE**
Zain Gemini The expression of lower mind. LOVERS
Heth Cancer The expression of foundation. CHARIOT
Teth Leo The expression of creative will. STRENGTH
Yod* Virgo The expression of natural law. HERMIT
Caph Sun The attribute of creative radiation. SUN
Lamed Libra The expression of balance. JUSTICE
Mem Water (Neptune) The aspect of emergence. HANGED MAN
Nun Scorpio The expression of transformation. DEATH
Sameck Sagittarius The expression of higher mind. HIEROPHANT**
Ayin Capricorn The expression of structure. DEVIL
Peh Venus The attribute of attraction/absorption. EMPRESS
Tzaddie Aquarius The expression of community. STAR
Qoph Pisces The expression of unseen forces. PRIESTESS***
Resh Mercury The attribute of variation/diversity. MAGICIAN
Shin Fire (Pluto) The aspect of evolution. JUDGMENT
Tav Moon The attribute of attachment. MOON***

* The Hebrew letters Yod, Ha, and Vav also have special meanings attached to them that pertain to the sacred Tetragrammaton YHVH.
** There is a case for swapping the astrological attributions of the HIEROPHANT and TEMPERANCE. Normally, the astrological sign Taurus is assigned to the HIEROPHANT, which doesn't seem right. It makes more sense to have the HIEROPHANT expressing the Sagittarius (i.e. 'religious teacher') archetype. Taurus fits TEMPERANCE because of the Taurean need to moderate excessive behavior.
*** Unfortunately, it's common practice to assign Pisces to the MOON tarot card and the Moon to the PRIESTESS tarot card. But just as the astrological Sun is attributed to the SUN tarot card, so is the astrological Moon associated with the MOON tarot card. Similarly, it is logical to assign the astrological Pisces to the PRIESTESS tarot card. These simple common-sense correspondences have been ignored by modern developers of the Tarot (for some reason).

Thus it is that every Hebrew word can also be described as a metaphysical formula comprised of multiple terms each expressive of an esoteric concept. And when a Hebrew word/formula is read qabalistically the meaning of each term is considered separately and then also collectively as a process.

The so-called 'divine names' (of God) are especially venerated in the Kabbalah and that is because they are actually very important metaphysical formulae that describe universal laws.

Patrick Mulcahy
[Updated: July, 2013]