The Third Eye – The Qabala Part Two – Column

The Third Eye

The Qabala Part Two: The Tree of Life or, How I became An Agnostic

by Nicole Howard
Illustration by RAchelle

Is the beginning the same as the end? I’ve been handed a purported map of the universe, The Tree of Life, and I am not sure that I recognize it. The first month I had it I thought “This Is The Answer!,” the second month I was too busy to look at it, and now I am only slightly interested in the whole thing.

Trees have always seemed magical; ancient and wise they tower over everything, swaying with the wind. They grow roots deep into the earth even as they reach their branches toward the sky, as if they’re searching in two ways simultaneously. At one of the more exhausting and trying periods of my life I drew endless schizophrenic pictures of myself as a tree whose roots barely held me grounded and whose branches grew straight up and close, not reaching out to touch anything. You could look at this physically and call it Frustration and Constraint (because it was).

Or, you could look at it spiritually, as Beginning Growth (it was this too). Western psychologist C.G. Jung said, “an ancient tree represents symbolically the growth and development of psychic life.” He also said that man’s behavior is shaped by archetypes or basic categories, the collective unconscious that unifies all people. The Tree of Life applies this same principle on a convoluted macro-level, explaining existence as mankind’s travailing Oneness. Some say we kick around here on Earth for as long as it takes us to get rid of enough spiritual inadequacies to become near-perfect enough to join the One Supreme Being. The Tree identifies the possibility that we may not have been left here dumb and defenseless, but possibly with some logical answers at our fingertips, which we touch when we search within and outside of ourselves. The Tree of Life presents a picture of this growth. Ra Un Nefer’s TOLM defines it as; how the Supreme Being came into manifestation, the stages through which He created the world, the reason for the creation of the world, and of man, and the nature of man’s purpose and life in the world.

The Tree of Life is composed of three pillars, the middle representing mildness (“equilibrium”), and the outer femininity (“severity”) and masculinity (“mercy”). When the Supreme Being sent down the light of revelation creating this Tree, one sphere alone could not bear its full intensity. It is said that It did thus pour forth into ten Sefirot; at the top of the Tree, the first (Kether) being Heaven and the Supreme Being itself, moving as if water all the way down to the tenth (Malkuth) our physical plane of earth. The Sefirot are markings of spiritual progress, defined in terms of Experience. At first glance, they appear to go in a seemingly orderly progression from the tenth to the first. However, there are also 22 pathways of arduous travel between the Sefirot, so that it is possible to experience them in a different order. This is a tree where up is the same as down.

Picturing such a complex thing as creation in the form of a tree is, well, difficult. In case you’re getting encouraged and thinking that just because this is not stoic Chinese philosophy, you can move quickly through an old familiar ten step process, ending in some type of enlightenment, don’t be.

We begin at Sefirot ten, Malkuth (“The Kingdom”) our physical world of earth. It is also the first sphere of the “supernal triangle,” which represent the first three Sefirot that humans encounter in spiritual development and are unlikely to surpass in their lifetime. Once they escape from inertia, most humans will progress to Sefirot nine, Yesod (“Foundation”). This “Sphere of Illusion” involves dispelling thought forms and images that they have built while in Sefirot ten. Some people make it to the eighth Sefirot, Hod (“Glory/ Splendor”). This is characterized by a “Vision of Splendor,” where knowledge is sought for the sake of knowledge alone. Few people make it past this point, they just die.

A handful of elite move on to the seventh Sefirot, Netzach (“Victory”), which is love in all forms. Infinity is glimpsed in a “Vision of Beauty Triumphant.” Buddha, as well as other “Enlightened Ones” are speculated to have gone on to reach the sixth Sefirot, Tifareth (“Beauty/ Harmony”), which is marked by a “Vision of the Harmony of Things,” (the universe is unfolding as it should) and “Devotion to the Great Work” (deliberate evolution of the soul). The fifth, Geburah (“Might/Judgement/Fear”), involves a “Vision of Power,” where both individual power AND the results and responsibility for the use of that power are recognized. In other words, Karma.

The next three Sefirot are unlikely to be experienced while still in a physical body. The fourth, Chesed (“Greatness”), is also called the “Sphere of the Adepts,” because some ancient wise souls may chose to stop here and help others who are struggling toward growth. The third, Binah (“Understanding/Intelligence”), involves understanding that there must be struggle to grow and is termed the “Vision of Sorrow.” Chokmah (“Wisdom”), the second Sefirot, in the idea of spiritual force and therefore complete devotion through the “Vision of the Source we Seek.”

The aim is to complete the cycle in a totality of experience, from the looks of it, perhaps billions of lifetimes later. At the end, we get to join the Supreme Being who resides in Sefirot one, Kether (“The Is”) and not have to deal with life anymore, which is for all intents and purposes, a struggle.

This theory is interesting in its categorization of the unknowable, but we have to wonder at anything that gives us too much information. My main problem with this theory is that it is dualistic and places the Supreme Being above creation. Instead of residing in humankind, it is beyond us, in a shot of overblown Catholicism. This seems futile in terms of our own existence and purpose, I would rather picture us as Gods in our own right.

Plus, joining this Supreme Being could suck even harder. This philosophy strives to make it look beatific, in a “complete unionization of souls,” but there are plenty of people around here that I am not interested in being “One” with in the after-life. This theory does nothing to reconcile the average egotistical self-centered human with why he should even want to be a part of this Thing. Hey, the Qabalistic Tree of Life’s deepest roots come from none other than that childhood story, The Holy Bible, after all. Luckily, if I don’t believe in It, then It can’t come get me. I’ll be an agnostic today.

Note: Explanations of Sefirot have been severely shortened, mutilated & massacred from Ellen Cannon Reed’s The Goddess and the Tree.