Kabbalah and Tarot: The Tree of Life
Kabbalah is a form of mystical Judaism, and like the Tarot, it has a very strong visual aspect — summed up in a diagram known as the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The structure is organized around a set of numbered circles known as sefiroth (“glowing sapphires”), each of which represents an aspect of God.
There are several discrete substructures within the Tree.
- The righthand column is called the Pillar of Mercy, and it is the male/active/positive side
- The lefthand column is called the Pillar of Judgment, and it is the feminine/passive/negative side
- These “opposites” are reconciled in the Middle Pillar or Pillar of Mildness
Nine of the ten sephiroth are arranged on the tree to form three triangles, and in each triangle, two opposing factors are balanced by a third.
At the base of the Tree is a single sphere, Malkuth, which represents the material world. The meaning of the entire Tree pours through Yesod, the “spout,” into Malkuth, where it is made manifest.
Lines running between the sephiroth represent twenty-two paths. They form a kind of spiral staircase of spiritual ascent, leading from the Kingdom, or world of man, at the bottom, to the Crown of God at the top. Each path is assigned a Hebrew letter.
The paths are numbered from the top down, beginning with Path 1 (from Kesser to Hokmah), and ending with Path 22, (from Yesod to Malkuth).
Because there are twenty-two trumps in a traditional Tarot deck, twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and twenty-two paths on the Tree of Life, many esotericists have sought to discover or define connections among these three structures.
The paths connecting the sephiroth have been assigned variously by different authors to the Tarot trumps. Here’s a list of common attributions:
The idea of an ancient esoteric connection between Kabbalah (as a tradition of Jewish mysticism) and Tarot (as a structured collection of images) goes back only as far as…