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There is more than one version of the Tree of Life
Nine years ago with a group of friends I began exploring the Tree of Life as a meditation and chanting practice. We explored the Tree for about a year, testing different paths and symbols. Often the paths did not feel right, being the wrong colour, letters in the wrong body part, wrong tarot cards.
Eventually we settled on the Golden Dawn (GD) version of the Tree with the King and Queen sets of colours. These were as described by Aleister Crowley (1) and Dion Fortune (2). This version of the tree is the one most commonly studied.
This is a valuable meditation tool and great for learning the Hebrew letters and Tarot cards as there is a clear sequence to the paths.
This is the Tree that we explored, in ever increasing depth, until 2017.
The Gra Version
In 2017-18 I explored John Bonner’s book (3) and Sefer Yerzirah (SF, 4) and realized that there are many (probably hundreds) of versions of the Tree. Ted Andrews (5) said the same thing, while giving details of the GD paths. In other versions of the Tree, although the characteristics of the Sephirot are fairly constant, the paths between them vary greatly. There are many ways to get to the same destination. Each study group must to develop their own path work.
SF also discussed different glyphs for the Tree, including the Ari and Gra glyphs, with different numbering of the Sephirot and levels of being within the sephirot.
Most of the Trees that predate the Golden Dawn version followed a different pattern for horizontal and vertical paths. The Mother letters ( shin, fire: aleph, air: mem, water) are usually on the horizontal paths and the double letters (gimel/ghimel, resh/rhesh, tuv/thuv. peh/pheh, bet/beth, kuf/khuf, dalet/dhaleth) represent the planets and are on the vertical paths. Chanting these paths, for ascending we use the hard sound and descenting the soft sound. The diagonal paths then vibrate with the single letters, rainbow colours and the signs of the zodiac.
The colours for the paths and letters were described by Paracelsus (1493/4 – 24 September 1541), a Swiss physician, alchemist, and astrologer of the German Renaissance. I first saw these colours, described as Alchemist Queens colours, at Paracelsus Institute, Bendigo.
The Golden dawn tree uses the Hebrew alphabet running down the tree from top to bottom in alphabetical order (as on the left of the figure below). The Gra Tree system is shown in the figure above. In the first 2 workshops we’ll explore the Mother letters and horizontal paths.
The Gra tree fits the body well, with Malkuth at the feet and base of the spine, the Hod-Netzach connection through the hips, and Yesod as the Hara/Solar plexus site, more balanced in the lower centre of the body. The Air horizontal runs across the lungs, to the lower edge of the shoulders (Gevorah and Chesed), and the heart is above this, behind the breast bone (as it is anatomically) with Da’art at the throat. The fire/light horizontal runs between the ears, between Binah and Chokmah, and Kether is at the crown of the head. This gives a compact, balanced structure with its energy centre and heart in the right place!
The signs of the Zodiac in this version begin with Pisces at the vernal equinox, reflecting the precession of the equinoxes used in fixed star systems such as Ayurvedic and Vedic astrology, reflecting our time of transition (over the next 700 years!) from the age of Pisces to Aquarius.
To me this Gra tree represents a glyph of our present age with an emphasis on environmental change and I would like to explore this in meditation and chanting.
1. Aleister Crowley, 777 (1912).
2.Fortune, D., The Mystical Qabalah.
3. John Bonner, Qabalah. A magical primer
4.Kaplan, A., Sefer Yetzirah the Book of Creation.
5. Ted Andrews, Pathworking, A Qabala guide to empowerment and Initiation