The Tree of Life

By means of thirty-two wonderful paths of wisdom, the Lord of Hosts, Elohim of Israel and Eternal King, merciful and gracious, high and uplifted, who inhabits Eternity, exalted and holy His Name engraved. And He created His universe …

Sepher Yetzirah, I, 1

The Sephirotic Tree

Italian version

Sephira, plural Sephiroth, is commonly translated as “numerical emanation”. It refers to the ten forms of the decimal scale, namely the numbers 1 through 10. In Kabbalah, these numbers are not merely seen as concrete figures but rather as abstract forms of Divinity. By contemplating the Sephiroth, one can understand God’s nature through the lens of mathematics.

The Sephiroth represent the development of the bodies and attributes of God, some of which are male and others female. Before the Deity’s conformation in this manner, the universe’s existence was impossible. This idea is reflected in the symbolic interpretation of the verse from Genesis, “The earth was formless and void.” [1]. The preceding words are considered symbolic of the “kings who reigned in Edom before a king reigned over Israel,” who are referred to in Kabbalah as the “Edomite kings” [2].

1. Kether

The initial Sephira, or Number One, the Monad of Pythagoreans, is the subject of our discussion. The other nine Sephiroth remain concealed within this subject. Number One is indivisible and not subject to multiplication. If one divides 1 by itself, the result is still 1. Similarly, if one multiplies 1 by itself, the result remains unchanged. This numerical unit represents the great and immutable universal Father. Although it is a unique number in its immutable state, it possesses a dual nature and serves as a link between the positive and the negative. The additive property of Number One makes it the first number in the numerical series. However, zero (0) is never subject to addition due to its negative existence. The question arises about how to obtain another 1 to add to it if 1 is indivisible and not subject to multiplication. The answer lies in self-reflection. Although 0 is undefinable, 1 is definable. A definition creates an eidolon, a duplicate, or an image of the thing defined. Thus, we obtain a dyad consisting of 1 and its reflection – the vibration between immutability and definition results in the beginning of a stabilised oscillation. Therefore, Number One is the father of all numbers and adequately represents the Father of all things.

The initial Sephira is known as Kether, the Crown. It is associated with the Divine Name of the Father, AHIH or Eheieh, as mentioned in Exodus 3:14 [3]. This name signifies Existence. Since it contains within itself the idea of negative existence from which it derives, various epithets have been employed to describe Kether:

  • Temira d’chol temirin, the Occult of the Occult.
  • Authiqa De-Authiqin,the Ancient of the Ancients.
  • Authiqa Qadisha, the Ancient of Saints.
  • Authiqa, the Ancient.
  • Authiq Iomin, the Ancient of Days.

It is also called:

  • Risha Havurah, the White Head.
  • Rom Meolah, the Inscrutable Highness.

In addition to the points above, another name associated with the Sephira represents it as the Father of all things. It is Arikh Anpin, the Long Face, or Macroprosopus. This Sephira is believed to be partially occult, in the sense of its connection with negative existence, and partially manifest – as a positive Sephira. Accordingly, the symbolism of the Long Face is that of a profile in which only one side of the face is visible or, as described in Kabbalah, “in Him, everything is right-sided.” [4]

This Sephira encompasses the angelic order of Chioth Ha-Qadesh, also known as the Sacred Living Creatures. These beings are well-known as the cherubim or sphinxes in Ezekiel’s vision and the Apocalypse of John. Within the Zodiac, they are represented by the four fixed signs, namely Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius (Man), with Scorpio being represented by an eagle in its benevolent aspect, a scorpion in its malefic aspect, and a snake in its composite nature.

2. Chokmah

The second Sephira, known as Chokmah, represents Wisdom and is an active male potency emanating from the first Sephira, Kether. It is considered to be the active and manifest Father, united with the Mother, which is represented by the number 3. Yah and Jehovah are the Divine Names associated with this Sephira, while the angelic courts referred to it are the Auphanim or the Wheels (Ez. 1) [5]. It is also known as Ab or the Father.

3. Binah

The third Sephira, known as Binah or the Understanding, is a passive and feminine power that exists on the same plane as Chokmah. Chokmah, represented by the number 2, is likened to two parallel lines that cannot enclose a space. Therefore, Chokmah remains powerless until the number 3 forms a triangle, completing and manifesting the supernal Trinity. Binah is also called Ama, or Mother, and Aima, the great fertile Mother, eternally conjoined with Ab, the Father, to maintain universal order. As such, she is the most evident form in which we can know the Father and deserves all honours. She is the supernal Mother, equal to Chokmah, and the great female form of God, Elohim, in whose image man and woman are created, according to Kabbalistic teachings. Aima is the woman described in Revelation 12 [6]. The third Sephira, also called the Great Sea, is associated with the Divine Names Elohim and Jehovah Elohim. The angelic order assigned to Binah is that of the Aralim, the Thrones. She is called the Supernal Mother to distinguish her from Malkuth, the inferior Mother, Bride, and Queen.

4. Chesed

The synthesis of the second and third Sephira engenders Chesed, also known as Grace or Love. This emanation is symbolised by the Divine Name El, the Mighty, and by the angelic name Chashmalim, which translates to Glittering Flames (Ezekiel 1:4) [7]. Chesed is considered a male power and is often called Gedulah, meaning Greatness or Magnificence.


The numeric value 5 is associated with the feminine and passive power of Geburah, which represents Strength and Justice. This is in accordance with the Divine Name Eloh and the angelic name Seraphim, as described in Isaiah 6:6 [8]. Additionally, this Sephira is also known as Pachad or Fear.

6. Tipheret

The two preceding emanations culminate in Tiphereth, the Sephira of Beauty or Kindness, which is symbolised by the Divine Name Eloah Va-Daath and angelic names Shinanim, The Thousands (Psalm 68:17) [9] or Melakim, kings. The union of justice and grace yields beauty or mercy, thus completing the second trinity of the Sephirot. Along with the fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, and ninth Sephirot, Tiphereth is known as Zauir Anpin, or the Lesser Face or Microprosopus, in contrast to the Macroprosopus, or Large Face, which refers to Kether, the first Sephira. The six Sephirot that makeup Zauir Anpin are called its six limbs, also known as Melekh, the King.


The seventh Sephira is Netzach, which represents Fortitude and Victory. This Sephira corresponds to the Divine Name Jehovah Tzabaoth, also known as the Lord of Hosts. The angelic names associated with Netzach are Elohim, meaning gods, and Tharshisim, which translates to Shining One (as mentioned in Dan. 10:6) [10].


The subsequent aspect of the passive feminine power is Hod, which corresponds to the Divine Name Elohim Tzabaoth, The Gods of Hosts, and among the angels to the Beni Elohim, the sons of God (as stated in Genesis 6:4) [11]


The number 9, Yesod, is the foundation or base of the third Trinity of the ten Sephiroth. This Sephirah is associated with El Chai, the Great Living One, and Shaddai, God Almighty, as well as with the Aishim, the Flames, as referenced in Psalms 104:4 [12]


The tenth and final Sephira, Malkuth, marks the completion of the decade of numbers. Malkuth is known as the Kingdom, the Queen, the Matron, the Mother Minor, the Spouse of Microprosopus and Shekinah, the immanent presence of God in the world. Adonai is the divine name that represents Malkuth; among the angelic orders, it is represented by the Cherubim.

Each Sephiroth in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life possesses a degree of androgyny, as it assumes a feminine or receptive role in relation to the Sephirah immediately preceding it and a masculine or transmitting role concerning the Sephira that follows it. However, Kether lacks a preceding Sephira, while Malkuth lacks a succeeding one. Consequently, Chokmah, despite representing a male Sephira, bears a female name.

Within the Sephirot, three trinities or triads exist, each consisting of a dyad of opposing polarities and a unitary intelligence that is the culmination. In this context, the masculine and feminine potencies are viewed as the two pans of the scales (Metheqela), and the central Sephira serves as the rod that unites them. Thus, it is apt to declare that the scales symbolise the Triune, the Trinity in Unity, and the Unity represented by the central point of the rod. However, the Sephirot comprises a triple Trinity: the supernal, the median, and the inferior. These three are thus represented: the supernal, the highest, from the Crown, Kether; the middle, from the King; and the lower, from the Queen, which are the great trinities. Their earthly counterparts are the primum mobile (the first movable), the Sun and the Moon. Here, we instantly find an alchemical symbolism.

On a mundane level, the Sephiroth are represented by:

  • Rashith Ha-Galgalim, the beginning of the whirling motions, the primum mobile.
  • Masloth, the sphere of the Zodiac.
  • Shabbathai, rest, Saturn.
  • Tzedeq, justice, Jupiter.
  • Madim, impetuous force, Mars.
  • Shemesh, sunlight, the Sun.
  • Nogah, glittering splendour, Venus.
  • Kokab, the starlight, Mercury.
  • Levanah, the lunar flame, the Moon.
  • Cholom Yesodoth, the one who interrupts the foundation, the Elements.

The Sephirot are further categorised into three distinct pillars, each with its emanations. The Pillar of Grace, situated on the right, comprises the second, fourth, and seventh emanations. The Pillar of Judgment, located on the left, includes the third, fifth, and eighth emanations. The Pillar of Meekness, situated in the middle, encompasses the first, sixth, ninth, and tenth emanations.

When viewed in their totality and unity, the ten Sephirot represent the archetypal man, Adam Kadmon, the Protogonus [13]. The first triad of Sephiroth, which comprises the Sephiroth of Kether, Chokmah, and Binah, represents the intellect. As such, this triad is called the Intellectual World or Olahm Mevshekal. The second triad, which includes the Sephiroth of Chesed, Geburah, and Tiphereth, corresponds to the Ethical World, or Olahm Morgash. The third triad, represented by the Sephiroth of Netzach, Hod, and Yesod, denotes power and stability and is referred to as the Material World, or Olahm Ha-Mevetbau. These three aspects are collectively known as the faces or Anpin. Thus, the Tree of Life, or Otz Chaiim, takes shape, with the first triad placed above and the second and third below, so that the three male Sephiroth occupy the right, the three female Sephiroth are on the left, and the four unitary Sephiroth reside in the centre. This kabbalistic “Tree of Life” is the foundation upon which everything depends. Interestingly, a significant analogy exists between this concept and Yggdrasill, the sacred ash tree of Scandinavian mythology [14].

It has been previously observed that a trinity exists within the Sephiroth, comprised of the Crown, the King, and the Queen. In a certain sense, this Trinity is analogous to the Christian Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who in their divine nature are symbolised by the first three Sephirot, Kether, Chokmah and Binah. It is through the union of the crowned king and the queen that the Trinity created the universe. The Kabbalah suggests that primordial worlds were formed before the celestial man, or the ten Sephiroth, were fully realised. However, these worlds were not sufficiently developed due to an imperfect balance of opposites and were ultimately destroyed by unbalanced forces. These worlds are referred to as “the kings of ancient times” and “the kings of Edom who reigned before the monarchs of Israel” (Gen. 36:31) [15]. The Zohar emphasises on several occasions that such worlds were created and destroyed before the present creation.

[1] A noteworthy comparison can be observed in the Tao Te Ching (Tao Te Ching, edited by JJL Duyvendak, Milan 1973, chapter IV): “The Way is empty… generated by I don’t know who, it is the image of what was before the emperors.” The symbolic role of the Chinese emperor is to regulate the existence of his subjects according to celestial ordinances. However, before the imposition of the necessity for mediation between Heaven and Earth, a potential state persisted, incomprehensible and undefinable, referred to as the Tao (refer to the section on the three veils of negative existence).

[2] The Edomites, a Semitic people of nomadic origin, established themselves near the Sinai peninsula circa 1300 BC. According to both biblical and kabbalistic literature, the kings of Edom, who predated the Israelite kingdom, are believed to have caused chaos due to their lack of enlightenment from the vision of Israel’s god. The national deity of Edom was Qos, who was considered a rival of Jehovah.

[3] “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM; then he said: Thus, shall you say to the children of Israel: He who is called I AM has sent me to you.” Verse 14 answers Moses’ question to God about how he should present Him to the Jews.

[4] The symbolic representation of the “Long Face” adheres closely to the figurative parameters established in Egyptian culture by the “law of frontality”. This means that the pharaoh’s face is depicted in profile, as it is believed that both human and divine aspects are present within him, with the latter being invisible.

[5] This is the chapter on Ezekiel’s first vision of the Cherubim, one of the most variously interpreted (1:15–21): “As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around. When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.”

[6] This chapter is also susceptible to numerous interpretations, where the woman is seen as Mary or as Mother Church and also as Israel, the bride of God (1-5): “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.”

[7] “I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.” In modern Hebrew chasmal means ‘electricity’.

[8] “Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.”

[9] “The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.”

[10] An Angel appears to Daniel to announce the events of the end times: “His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.”

[11] Sons of God and daughters of men: “The Nephilim [giants] were on the earth in those days – and also afterwards – when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

[12] The glory of God manifested in the creation and preservation of all things: “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.”

[13] From Greek “protos”, first, and “gonos”, seed.

[14] According to Norse mythology, Yggdrasill is the world tree, symbolising the divine spirit that permeates creation through its branches and roots.

[15] “These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned.”

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