Tree of Life Symbolism

Posted by Yevgeni Kuritski on 26th Oct 2014

The Tree of Life is an incredibly meaningful Kabbalah symbol. Although it is a Judaic symbol, its origins are a combination of Christian and esoteric elements. The representation is in the form of a diagram with three columns/pillars and has multiple meanings: that of God’s emanations during the Creation, the nature of the divinity which is revealed to the one embracing the Kabbalah, the path taken by man in its development and the human soul. All these meanings have been corroborated in order for the symbol to be an accurate image of the Creation and the place of Man within this Universe, as shall be seen further on.

The symbol is known to have evolved throughout time and space of manifestation. In the Jewish Kabbalah, it is also known as “10 Sephirot”, whereas in the Christian and Hermetic Kabbalah it is called the “Cabalistic Tree of Life”. The name goes back to the Jewish Kabbalah views where the Sephirot was represented by both trees of the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life.

The Renaissance brought a widening of the concept, as it was no longer a monopoly of the Jewish Kabbalah and became a part also of the Christian Kabbalah as well as of the Hermetic one. The latter still uses the Tree of Life significance, combining it with Christian esoteric and occultist influences.

Within the Kabbalah, the overall significance of the Tree of Life is that of a representation of the Creation of the Universe. Thus, the disposition of the columns and pillars on the diagram is in agreement with the main steps of the Creation. For instance, the beginning is marked above the first sephira (pillar). Although this element is not always represented, it is widely known by Kabbalah practitioners as Ain Soph Aur (meaning “without light”) and is perceived as that point beyond which one’s comprehension cannot reach. In a more colloquial manner, it can be understood as the void where part/energy (in the Kabbalah it is considered to be energy) of the Creation was generated and started multiplying resulting into the ample process by which the Universe was produced.

The Tree of Life is also used by Kabbalists in order to refer to the three stages of time and space. The first stage is known as “Keter” and represents the void (Ain Soph Aur) which contracted and generated the energy which started the Creation. The following stage is the “Chokmah” (Wisdom) when the energy was created and propagated faster than light. Finally, there is the “Binah” (Understanding), which is considered to be a form of feminine energy which received the energy from the second stage and together they embarked on the Creation.

The name of “10 Sephirot” comes from the importance attached by Kabbalists to the significance of numbers. Thus, each stage of the Creation of the Universe, each emanated energy is given a number and a position on the Tree of Life. Since every number has a particular significance in Judaism, each number placed on the Tree of Life is not randomly placed, but contains the story of the nature of that particular part.