When I first started researching the twenty two paths, I found that the correspondences of the 22 Hebrew letters and 22 major arcane tarot cards varied greatly, depending on the author. So the way in which I am presenting the material today is not about the Hebrew letter or Tarot card associations, it is about the changes in awareness that happen during each path. Still, I will state the tarot and Hebrew letter correspondences that seem to be most commonly accepted.
Technically I should say that this lesson is on the Qabala, not the Kabbalah, this spellings means that this teaching is not 100% Jewish authenticity (or anything near that) haha. :P
The tree of life is like a great world, with the ten sefirah being like ten great cities. Each city represents a different aspect of being. The self, the reflection of the all, inhabits each city, and also travels between them. Lessons are learned along each path, throughout the course of life, and cities are built up, improved, and refined. Likewise, certain paths become very well travelled, where other paths remain unaccessed and void.
All of the paths on the tree of life are travelled in both directions. Communications between spheres goes back and forth, paths are ascended and descended, and the spheres are accessed to and fro. Each path represents an evolution, or change, to the state of being, ie. from an intellectual state to an emotional state.
We will be starting at the bottom, in Malkuth, and moving up the tree of life, to Keter. For each path I will state the two spheres for which the path connects, the tarot card, the sepher yetzirah “intelligence”, and the Hebrew letter. I will then attempt to explain the change in being that happens on each path. Please Enjoy!
Malkuth to Yesod – the world – administrative intelligence – tav (the cross)
The sense-based realm of the physical Malkuth would have no meaning without awareness of a personal identity to receive it. Malkuth gains awareness in Yesod. We constantly experience the triplicity of our five senses, our thought and our emotion at the same time, yet, most often, one or the other is more prevalent, and so it seems that 'I am thinking now' , or 'I am furious’, or ‘I heard something’, etc. It is Yesod, the foundation, which represents the state of being which is caught between the experiences of sense, thought and emotion. Yesod is usually experienced as intuition, and is sometimes psychic or supernatural in nature. Some say Yesod is our subconscious. Some say it is the ego, others the id. Regardless, Yesod represents awareness of our very being. Thus, on this path, we begin to become self-aware, as the extremes of the thought and emotions find counterpoise in Yesod, and that is what becomes Malkuth. We are granted insight into the nature of our impartial and most receptive self, self as a product of the world.
Malkuth to Hod – judgement – perpetual intelligence – shin (the tooth)
The physical sense-based world is called to order. Objects and events are organized, categorized, and thought about. Everything in Malkuth is given a name and words are used to arrange the existence of all things in a logical fashion. On this path, we discover Reason, Communication, Science, Categorization and the Intellectual mind in general. Our world is given definition and form through the rational and analytical processes of Hod. The mental processes
Malkuth & Netzach – the moon – corporeal intelligence – quof (the back of the head)
The material world of Malkuth turns passionate. The animalistic natures of man are recognized as a great drama. The processes of Netzach bring forth joy, sorrow, anger, regret, love, lust, jealousy, bliss and many other feelings. Friendships and relationships are formed along this path. Life goals are also established here – desires for happiness, wealth, and love are emotional drives. The desires of Netzach are the spice of life - many people live exclusively for their desires alone. On this path, we discover Desire, Relationships, Art and the Emotional state in general. Our world suddenly becomes full of drama, of wants and apparent needs, and of feelings. On this path we become aware of our desires and of our happiness.
Hod to Yesod – the sun – collecting intelligence – resh (the head of the body)
The verbose world of Hod turns inward to connect to the collective receptor, Yesod. On this path, thought travels to the foundation of being. Our intellectual processes become less objective, and become more spiritual, intuitive, and open. Chit-chattering of the mind is greatly reduced to a state of meditation or pure receptivity. Our thoughts can sometimes run away on us, and it is in Yesod where we find our center again. We are liable to over-think things sometimes, and it is on this path to Yesod where we access our intuitive self and make the realization that we are being a bit too brainy. Yesod, our foundation, the psychic aspect of being, is the sum of our spirutal, mental, emotional and physical aspects, and so it represents the ultimate point of integration for the self. Thus, Hod becomes aligned with our material, emotional, and spiritual resonances.
Netzach to Yesod – the star – natural intelligence – tazaddi (the fish-hook)
The storm of desire in Netzach seeks to calm itself by travelling into the cool air of the integrating Yesod. On this path, our emotions are cross checked with the combination of both body and mind. Our instinctual desires become less carnal and savage, and become more in tune with our mental and material natures. Netzach suffers the same folly of Hod in that it can, at times, be too extreme. Our desires can be blinding, our emotions, overwhelming. Many times in history, the emotional nature of man has got the best of him, leading to infatuation, depression, and murder. When accessing Yesod, we find balance with our rational and physical selves, and we realize that our emotions may have ran away on us, and the flurry of emotions transforms into a cool breeze.
Accessing Yesod is a management of the extremes of both Hod and Netzach. As stated previously, paths are travelled in both directions. So, for instance, after a trip from Hod to Yesod is made, one can travel back to Hod for further analytical development, then travel back into that ‘intuitive center’ to rectify new thoughts with the statuses of the emotional and material aspects
Hod to Netzach - the tower – exciting intelligence – peh (the mouth)
There are only three horizontal paths on the tree of life which connect the two pillars, and this is one of them. Each of these horizontal paths represents a certain state of being. On this path, our thoughts and emotions meet. This is probably where the ego as we know it bounces back and forth the most. Our thoughts are checked against our feelings, our feelings against our thoughts, and sparks fly. These transactions of mental-emotional intelligence ultimately define who we are as a person, as a personality. Different people follow different thinking patterns and react to different emotional stimuli. Therefore, this path represents the full spectrum of the lower self, from our unique methods of rationalizations to our deepest desires, both extremes are met.
Now we are going up to the next level.
Hod to Gevurah – the hanged man – stable intelligence – mem (the sea)
“What should I do?” "What am I going to do with my life?" "How am I supposed to deal with this situation?" "How should I respond to this?" These are some of the questions we may ask our self on this path. Notice that these are thoughts posed to thought; mind is asking mind. Our lower self is seeking our higher self, in thought. In Gevurah, we decide "what is done" - it represents our will, our final Judgement. Our direction in life, our course of action, our justice to the world, is decided here. And so it is also said here that God brings justice to the world because the Soul is a product of the One Great Eternal Soul. Gevurah is final, therefore it is often referred to as Severity, as there is no turning back. Judgement occurs in the time of the eternal now because it is a process of Soul, whereas Hod uses reason to predict future events by accessing knowledge of past events. When Hod accesses Gevurah, our thought turns into a concrete form of action, and it is done (in Malkuth). This is where a man, or woman, becomes known by his or her actions. The thoughts of the lower self access the thoughts of the higher self, and on this path to the higher self we transform from 'what we think' to 'what we do'.
Netzach to Chesed – wheel of fortune – conciliating intelligence – kaph (the cup/palm)
On this path, we cross-check our fanciful desires of Netzach against the higher-quality loving-kindness of Chesed (Mercy). Chesed represents our ideal Love, our ideal Emotion; our highest and most ethical state of happiness. In Netzach, we may not care for the emotions of others, and may only seek to satisfy the desires of our personality. But in Chesed, we access a higher source of love, a love for all, a kindness for all beings, and so this sphere is aptly called Mercy. On this path, we gain insight into how we truly feel about something, and about others. We transform our selfish emotions into selfless emotions. Perhaps the source of all our emotion is an extension from our comparison to Chesed, the ideal Love. The emotions of the lower self access the emotions of the higher self. Like Gevurah, the love of Chesed is eternally flowing, and so it operates from the Now.
Hod to Tiferet – the devil – renovating intelligence – ayin (the eye)
As previously mentioned, the spheres of Hod and Netzach represent the extremes of Thought and Emotion, and Yesod, the foundation, is the balance point between them. On this path we access the integration of the higher self, Tiferet, which oversees the thoughts of the mundane self. Realizations may occur which allows the higher self to observe the thought-patterns of the lower self. The mental-chit-chattering of Hod is quieted when the Self-awareness of Tiferet is activated. While Yesod moderates our Thought with our Body and Desires (the mundane aspects of self), Tiferet monitors and compares our Thought with the aspects of the Higher Self, that which we Will and that which is Love. This path represents our awareness of thought, a soul observation of our personal consciousness.
Netzach to Tiferet – death – imaginative intelligence – nun (the fish)
On this path, Tiferet, the seat of the higher self, oversees the desires of the lower self. The overzealous passions of Netzach are recognized by the Eye of Tiferet. Tiferet calms the passions of Netzach by bringing forth the ideals of the Higher Self, including the qualities of the soul-based Chesed. This path represents our awareness of desires, a soul observation of our emotional consciousness. The higher self oversees the thoughts of the lower self. We recognize the need to change our selfish passions into an impersonal love with emotional consideration for all beings.
Yesod to Tiferet – temperance – tentative intelligence – samech (tent peg)
In Yesod, the combination of our mundane thoughts, emotions, and physical aspects are collected together and represented as our personality, or ego. In Tiferet, the qualities of the indwelling god of our heart reside. On this path, we realize the positives and negatives of the lower aspects of being, and we are harmonized with the more lofty aspects of soul. The selfish qualities are rectified with the selfless qualities. Meditation on this path allows for communication between the lower and the higher aspects of self. We may realize we are sometimes too selfish, too proud, too unforgiving, too sexual, or too egocentric. Tiferet, the awareness of the indwelling soul, can easily pick out these faults of the selfish self.
Gevurah to Tiferet– justice – faithful intelligence – lamed (the whip)
The self is the source of life direction. This path is akin to the path of Hod to Yesod. The thoughts of the higher self are reconciled with the opposite aspect , the emotion of the higher self. The sphere of Severity is cross checked against the residing Self in Tiferet and the kindness of Chesed. What we Will to do is often based off what we think is best for our Self; we attempt to determine our best course of action. On this path we may think “How will this affect myself?” and “How does this relate to my morality?”. In these two questions we find Gevurah reflecting on the qualities of Tiferet and Chesed.
Chesed to Tiferet – the hermit – willful intelligence – yod (the hand)
The self is the source of love. This path is similar to the path of Netzach to Yesod. The emotions of the higher self are reconciled with the opposite aspect, the thoughts of the higher self. The sphere of Mercy is cross checked against the residing Self in Tiferet, and the judgement of Will. We love all things to a degree, and that degree of “how much we love something” is based upon our judgement of that Thing. We choose what we love, this is the process of Gevurah communicating through Tiferet, to Chesed. On this path we become aware of the things that we love and why.
Gevurah to Chesed – strength – spiritual intelligence – tet (the serpent)
This is the second of the three horizontal paths on the tree of life. The path between Gevurah (will) and Chesed (love) defines the life experience of the higher self. At this level of being, complete self-awareness and receptivity is attained. The thoughts of the higher self are focused, and the emotions are pure. The experience of this path is living in the eternal now, in the heart, whilst being open to all the forces and forms of life. This is how the soul finds harmony within the world and interacts with everything that surrounds us. All of creation is at our fingertips, and if we should be here, then why should we not create? The intent of the soul, combined with love, is creation. You are constantly creating what you are doing; you are deciding your reality, right Now. And it is Beautiful.
Of the three horizontal paths, the path of the lower self is at the bottom, the path of the higher self is in the middle, and the path of the universal self is at the top. The separation between the platforms of the higher self and the universal self forms an Abyss, in which is hidden the mysterious non-sephirah of Da’at (Knowledge).
The paths which crossover this so-called Abyss are experienced as transcendence, into the realization of the universal self, all is one. The passage is a paradigm shift.
Gevurah to Binah –the chariot – influencing intelligence – heth (the fence/wall)
The highest crown on the pillar of thought is approached. It is extremely abstract but yet also completely rational. Binah, the black sphere, represents the infinite deepness of forms, symbols, concepts, and ideas. The focused thought of the higher self, the determination of will, looks deeper, into the universal will of all things. The working tools of the mind on this path are the archetypes. Duality is often experienced here, as symbols can become inverted and the world looks upside down. On this path, we gain insight into the thoughts of the universal self. Thought is the product of concepts, and the logic of life, the ultimate ‘reason’, is brought to light.
Chesed to Chokmah – the hierophant – triumphant intelligence – vav (the nail)
The highest crown on the pillar of emotion is envisioned. We stand before the most complete and wisest creation, the ultimate satisfaction of the universal self. Chokmah, the white sphere, represents infinite light, love, and life. The pure love of the higher self becomes absolutely selfless, and all things are loved as equal. There is no thought that can occur here; this is a purely emotional state. The purpose of creation is attained here; the force of life is recognized as universal love. On this path, we gain insight into the emotions of the universal self. The bright light of Chokmah shines down on Chesed as the merciful love found in all creation.
Binah to Tiferet – the lovers – disposing intelligence – zayin (the sword)
The conceptual realm of the universal self is integrated into the higher self. The intellectual symbology of the universal self is recognized as part of the higher self. When symbolic thought-forms are combined, logic is the creation. Logic relies on the logos, the concepts, the things. On this path, the logos reflect our higher self. Our higher self resonates with the concepts, forms, and ideas which are most prevalent in our life, and so through transcendence, we live through those concepts, and self becomes the knowledge of thought.
Chokmah to Tiferet – the emperor – natural intelligence – heh (the window)
The creative realm of the universal self is integrated into the higher self. The emotional forces of the universal self are recognized as part of the higher self. Passionately, life endures. The bigger fish eats the smaller fish, the dog chases its tail, and the birds in the jungle display their most impressive mating calls. Moments of natural beauty are seen through the eyes of the universal self, and the higher self sees the infinite emotional exchanges as a process of the soul.
Binah to Chokmah – the empress – illuminating intelligence – dalet (the door)
This is the highest horizontal path. This path represents knowledge in a spiritual sense, the thoughts and emotions of the universal self. The black sphere and the white sphere connect here. Knowledge gives us the definition and meaning of reality. The knowledge of Binah is based in the roots of thought, the pure symbols of abstraction. The knowledge of Chokmah is based in the roots of emotion, of satisfaction and love. On this path, these two types knowledge come together beautifully and imaginatively. Feelings of bliss, enlightenment, nirvana, and other feelings of this type are encountered here.
Keter to Tiferet – the high priestess – uniting intelligence – gimel (the camel)
This is the longest vertical path. The universal self becomes one with the higher self. The eternal “I AM” meets with the integral point of the higher self. The abyss is reflected upon, and the face of the all becomes the face of the one. The universe spins inside the heart of the one, and the universe is the container for the one. All experiences are reflected within the one, and the one is reflected into all experiences. Know thyself; know all. Notice that this path travels over Daat, knowledge. The collective unconscious of the all makes itself conscious when it becomes knowable.
Keter to Binah – the magician – transparent intelligence – beth (the house)
How to describe the indescribable? With paradox and half-truth. The ability to turn ideas into reality is manifested on this path. The creation of the logos, the archetypes, happens here. These formations are manifested as thought-reality, in Binah. This is the light of consciousness that gives birth to all of the intellects. Contemplation of order leads to a rationalization of the cause.
Keter to Chockmah – the fool – scintillating intelligence – aleph (the ox)
This is the final path, and the first path on the tree of life. Nature rejoins to its natural Source; the creation meets with its creator. The emotions of the universal self are dissolved into the one being. A man takes a walk on a mountain and observes the vital life forces animating every creature, every plant, every breath of wind. The experiences of the man on the mountain are not thoughts; they are emotional reactions to the beautiful life force which is present in everything around him. All potentials are realized. Beyond this, is nothing.