This is the concluding article from a series of three delivered by a student on the Kabbalah at a U.L.T. meeting. The footnotes added were drawn from the writings of H.P.B. to provide keys for those who wish to pursue this study further.
A UNIVERSAL SYMBOL--THE TREE OF LIFE
A symbol is ever, to him who has eyes for it, some dimmer or clearer revelation of the God-like. Through all there glimmers something of a divine idea...
THE KABBALISTIC Tree of Life is a picture or diagram of Creation cast in the image of a tree. As this is a visual rendering, an abstraction, let us continually remember the idea of analogy and correspondence. Hence, if the rendering be taken literally it will be meaningless. After all how does one explain the inexplicable?
Whenever we endeavor to understand the "inexplicable" we find our only vehicle is through the use of symbolism.(1) Symbols are the outermost face of archetypal forces, which emerge into our world as recognizable forms. A symbol, like a map, relates to the living ideas which animate them. They are not definitions or periods at the end of a sentence. We have a tendency, in our time and culture, to reduce symbols into signs. A sign serves as a code, a unit of information or data, which reduces ideas into a clearly recognizable something. We need only drive down the street to see the myriad of signs we confront daily. A symbol, on the other hand, is a starting point for the imagination.
When speaking of the imagination, it is important to distinguish it from fantasies which are the production of the brain and based upon what we already know. Imagination, however, is the bridge between our self-awareness and our connection to archetypal energies. Through these energies we have the capacity to support, maintain and create our sense of self, our sense of time, along with an understanding of the universe in which we interact.
Thinkers during the Renaissance, such as Robert Fludd and Johann Reichlin, etc. understood the value of the intellect when translating subjective experiences into objective communication. They viewed the intellect as a navigator and decision maker, but recognized the imagination as the true key for unlocking wisdom -- A wisdom which could only emerge as a living force without being reduced into a familiar code of laws. When reading H. P. Blavatsky's translation of The Stanzas of Dzyan,(2) we can sense the vitality and power of this force. These Stanzas stimulate our imaginative faculties. They are poetry of a divine order, and are able to unlock knowledge from a deeper level in ourselves. These unaccustomed regions in our nature, when stirred, allow us to become aware of the Universal Design in an intimate way. In other words, knowledge becomes less of an abstraction and more of a reality. In order to appreciate what the Kabbalah means to convey, we must begin with a receptivity at this level. Thus we are enabled to move away from the logical or rational mind and into the very soul of our poetic nature. Kabbalah asks that we move beyond our own thinking and enter into a dialog between thought, reason and imagination -- to listen, to remember, to reawaken -- to let the wisdom that supports, maintains and informs our very cells and atoms to function in a way that is beyond everyday comprehension. We are the living product of an ancientness of Being and if we become open to listen, even momentarily, to this wisdom we may find that it is truly closer to us than the nose on our face.
Moving into the symbolism and language employed by the Kabbalah, we will begin with the unknowable, the unutterable and unspeakable. This is known as the Absolute, the No-Thing which is symbolized by the outermost radiation above the Tree.(3) The name given this radiation is Ain -- God the Transcendent. Ain is beyond existence, Ain is Absolute No Thing. Ain is not above or below, neither still nor in motion. There is no where Ain is, for Ain is not. Out of Ain emanates En Sof or the endless absolute ALL. God the transcendent becomes God the immanent.(4)
The last curve or radiation is Ain Sof Aur, the endless light of Will. The Kabbalists say that God willed to see God which caused the first contraction in the Absolute All or En Sof, making a place for the mirror of Existence.(5)
In this way The Endless light of Will or Ain Sof Aur radiated like a beam of light into the Void of unmanifested existence. It was the dimensionless point created after the contraction of the Absolute All. (Or the Point in the Center of the Circle.)
This brought into focus three factors that made the Void:
1st was the Will of the Absolute
2nd Allowing it to occur
3rd Restriction to limit and contain it.(6)
These are known as the Three Hidden Splendors and the first of several sets of Major Laws which govern existence. These generated expansion and contraction and are called the Prime Crown or I AM, allowing existence to be.
The Primal Crown or Sephira is the seed or one light from which all others emanate. Thus God willed the world into Being. The seed took root, grew downward into a trunk with branches and fruit Divine.(7)
The structure of The Tree of Life, then, is based on the emanations flowing down from the Crown into what is known as the lightning flash. So it is through emanation, creation, formation and action that our world is produced.(8)
Although the Kabbalistic Tree is portrayed as emanating up and down, in reality, it is meant to be thought of, or perhaps experienced, as moving from within to without. In other words, emanation comes from within as, from the nothingness at the heart of an atom outward into this world of seemingly stable objects, beings and forms.
The following, from Stanza I of the Book of Dzyan, illustrate a means through which this "divine formula" may be transmitted:
1. THE ETERNAL PARENT WRAPPED IN HER EVER INVISIBLE ROBES HAD SLUMBERED ONCE AGAIN FOR SEVEN ETERNITIES.
2. TIME WAS NOT, FOR IT LAY ASLEEP IN THE INFINITE BOSOM OF DURATION.
3. UNIVERSAL MIND WAS NOT, FOR THERE WERE NO AH-HI TO CONTAIN IT.
4. THE SEVEN WAYS TO BLISS WERE NOT. THE GREAT CAUSES OF MISERY WERE NOT, FOR THERE WAS NO ONE TO PRODUCE AND GET ENSNARED BY THEM.
5. DARKNESS ALONE FILLED THE BOUNDLESS ALL, FOR FATHER, MOTHER AND SON WERE ONCE MORE ONE, AND THE SON HAD NOT AWAKENED YET FOR THE NEW WHEEL, AND HIS PILGRIMAGE THEREON.
The ancient teachings are given as tools to help us reawaken to the knowledge of our divine and celestial origins. They attempt to relate ideas of spiritual evolution and brotherhood in the deepest sense. Through self effort, hard work, study and question we can at least, like Socrates, try to ask questions of a penetrating nature. Edison said that invention is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. If we diligently grapple with the universality and wisdom of the inner meaning presented by these teachings we will most often notice the perspiration but, when, in those fleeting moments, we experience inspiration -- a universe within and without opens in a way undreamed of in our wildest flight of fancy. And, let us ever keep in mind these wise words from the great hermetic philosopher, Robert Fludd: "TO BELIEVE IS TO REFLECT, TO KNOW IS TO PENETRATE."