Tree of Life Etz Chaim Series Part 1 – Correction of Male and Female Sephirot
Whenever I have studied traditional Kabbalah, something about the way the Tree of Life / Etz Chaim was taught struck me as odd and frankly, backward. The cart was being put before the horse, and I think this makes it more difficult to grasp the Tree because it is not harmonious with Nature, as above or below. So then it becomes one of those ‘huh?’ head scratching things that you have to take the teacher’s word for and memorize it that way, because it doesn’t click naturally and make intuitive (Chochma) sense (Bina). Making intuitive sense, or logic that feels right, is a balanced equation that comes alive spontaneously in the memory because it resonates with Universal Truth.
Before I delve more deeply into this most relevant of topics – the question of male and female in Kabbalah – I would like to offer you a quiz. It’s a quiz I put to groups of people that have never studied Kabbalah, never learned it the way it’s been taught for centuries. It’s a few questions that most people answer correctly when they don’t know what the traditional answers are supposed to be. Children get them right without fail.
Before you begin the quiz, here’s some important background information for clues about the cosmic pair of counterparts, the polar opposites, male and female, yin and yang. They are found in all things. Everything has a yin and a balancing yang counterpart. We humans too. Public restrooms have done humanity a great disservice by insinuating that women should go tinkle in the female bathroom and men should stand to piss in the male bathroom. True, women, through the ages, have tended to naturally exhibit more female energies, and men have tended to be more male leaning, but men and women are both male and female. Nature is flexible and not so black and white. To wit, some women for example, despite having very womanly bodies, are very assertive, dominating, and demonstrate great masculine traits. Their astrological charts are possibly heavy in Aries and Capricorn, or their brothers just pounded the heck out of them until they got the message – fight to survive. Likewise, there are some men that are highly in touch with their feminine side, sniffle during sentimental commercials, deflect compliments, and put everyone ahead of them. Their charts could have many of the female planets like Venus and the moon in important positions or they could be clueing in to the global rage of the suppressed Goddess on the planet today and would rather keep their masculine heads down. To encounter a person balanced between the energies of opposites is a rare and special occasion.
In any case, think of the male and female as energies that live in nature and in people, and not just female as women and male as men, although you can think of stereotypical representations of men for male and women for female to help you on your stalwart quest to answer all the following quiz questions qorrectly.
Wisdom, as an attribute, is...
Also sometimes described as intuition, that which is received. In the Tree of Life, this Sephira is called Chochma.
Understanding, as an attribute, is...
Understanding, also known as Logic, and the ability to grasp a meaning or concept. It is not the kind of understanding one has for another's feelings, which is Chesed in the Tree of Life. Bina is the Sephira in the Tree of Life for Understanding.
Mercy, as an attribute, is...
Mercy, also known as Kindness, Compassion, and Gentleness, is known as Chesed in the Tree of Life.
Severity, as an attribute, is...
Severity, also known as Strength, in the Tree of Life, is a form of Discernment and is known as the Sephirah Gevourah in the Tree of Life.
Splendor, as an attribute, is...
Splendor, known as Hod in the Tree of Life, is a form of self-esteem, recognition of self, saying, I am Something.
Humility, as an attribute, is...
Humility in the Tree of Life is called Netzach, and is often called Victory. It is the attribute that says "I am of myself Nothing."
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Now that you’ve taken the quiz, let’s look at how traditional Kabbalah views the male and female in the Tree of Life / Etz Chaim and how I represent the Sephirot in Messianic Kabbalah.
This is the traditional Tree of Life for Kabbalah. I wrote by me, Dr. Moshe, because this is a version I drew up and added my own meaning and commentary, but it’s not mine originally by design at all.
There are three columns in the Tree of Life / Etz Chaim. A central column and a right and a left column. It is accepted traditionally in Kabbalah that the right column is the Source, the spark, the origin of activity / life / energy for a given part on the level of the Tree. For instance, Chochma is the spark or the source on the level of Chochma and Bina. Chochma is the Wisdom of the Creator that is received passively through a divine spark or connection, and Bina is the understanding born from within that divine spark of Wisdom – Chochma. Bina, essentially, cannot truly exist without Chochma because the understanding only arises from the initial reception of the Wisdom.
The same is true for the right column on the other levels. Chesed – Kindness – Compassion – Mercy is the source of energy that leads to Gevourah’s strength and severity. The severity and strength comes from the gentleness and mercy. Chesed, in essence, is thinking of the well-being of the other. It is a most important Sephirah, and as Compassion, is one of the leading tenet’s of Buddhism. Think of the ferociousness that a mother demonstrates to defend her baby, or the force of a father’s love to protect his loved ones. That is Gevourah – Strength, protection, severity, that rises from the care and compassion felt for another in Chesed. Anyone who has done martial arts knows that a good punch starts very gently and ends with great power. My 10+ years training in Karate taught me that if a punch starts with too much strength, it actually blocks the power of the impact. That is because all true power starts softly, gently (Chesed) and evolves toward strength (Gevourah). It is the same with the golf swing. Too much strength in the beginning of the swing blocks the smooth rhythm and will result in missing the sweet spot that comes from an easy swing with explosion immediately before impact with the ball. In any sport or physical activity, too much strength results in fast overtiring and burnout because the power must come from allowing the gentleness to initiate all activity.
The same can be said for Netzach – Humility being the source of life on the level with its counterpart, Hod – Splendor. In Netzach, we recognize the fact that we are only children of God in this vast Universe. We are tiny specks, drops of water in a vast sea. We say “I am of myself, nothing. “But then, as Netzach moves to Hod, the humility turns into recognition that God created us, and since we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we are something, something good, something Godly.
‘You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.’ — Rumi
Now the traditional Kabbalistic approach to the Tree of Life would have you saying the right column is male and the left column is female. Intuitive wisdom, gentleness, compassion and mercy, humility, I am nothing, is male?? Understanding and logic, strength and severity, greatness and splendour, that is female?? No way Jose.
Why or how did they get this essential element backward?
They knew the right column was the source of life in the Tree of Life and the left column was the vessel for the right column’s energy. So they looked at the woman, the vessel for the baby, caretaker of the house (another vessel) and the man, the source of Wisdom and spiritual teachings (Rabbi), and said the man is the right column and the woman is the left column. They did what I said not to do before the quiz. They equated the man with male and the woman with female. They also equated very physical parameters for such conclusions as well. Yes, the woman carries the baby and takes care of the house. Yes, the man studies Torah. Yet they didn’t observe nature enough to verify this conclusion from all angles, all manners of approaching the Tree of Life Etz Chaim. They didn’t see the Universal attributes of the male and female as energies, traits, natures, as I have explained above. And frankly, a man can take care of the house and the woman can study Torah.
If that is not enough to convince you that things have their dawning in the female, we see that every day in the Torah begins with the nighttime, where the female Luminary – the moon – rules.
“And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1:5
Advanced alchemists discover that in order to begin creating the Philosopher’s Stone (The Blood of Christ is analogous to the Philosopher’s Stone) it is necessary to begin collecting the secret fire at nighttime, where the cold fire of the moon and stars initiates the seed that will grow into the Universal Solvent. It is necessary to protect these tender seeds from the direct rays of the sun, until they are fixed and more stable, then the sun becomes a necessary ingredient.
The teachings of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is in accord with this manner of depicting the source as the female and the vessel as male, for it teaches that the Yin / Female organs create the precious substances of the body and the Yang / Male organs store, distribute and utilize that precious substance. Barbara Brennan, in her book “Hands of Light” explains how the chakras on the front of the body are female because they receive the nourishment from the aether, the Cosmos, and the rear chakras are male because they are Will-based and direct the energies received from the front-female chakras. TCM also regards the front of the body as Yin and the rear of the body as Yang.
Yet, there were more subtle reasons for the cart before the horse rendition of the Tree of Life.
“It is simply because the male energy has ruled for dominant times
and it is feeling threatened now, for it knows that it must have equality
with the female or it cannot survive. All the source of power comes
from the female. By controlling the female, keeping her in bondage and
in servitude he can then own that power, do you understand?” The Only
Planet of Choice p. 305
I deal with this issue at great length in my book “Book 1 of The Last Four Books of Moses” because of its great importance. In short, men did identify with being male and the energy of Mars ruled in them. Women, with the female and Venus. Men dominated the religious teachings and study scene, and knowing the right column was the source of power, they claimed that power and dominance as Mars is wont to do. It is in his nature to compete for control and power. And then the projection of that desire for dominance over the Source of power in the Tree of Life erroneously rendered the right column male, when it clearly, obviously, easy enough for a child to see, is not.
Yeshua came and also brought balance to the Force, and claimed he was equally from the Mother as from the Father. This is seen clearly in the Essene Gospel of Peace. The Pharisees didn’t like that. It causes a conflict inside of each being who is trying to dominate and own the power of the source, of the female. It is still prevalent today. Seeing her free, seeing her set in her rightful place, threatens the power. The more orthodox and Law oriented is the religion, the more the female is kept hidden away and shoved aside to the dominating out of balance male. Extreme Muslim ladies are burqa’d and kept from the public eye entirely. Judaism is not quite so extreme, but that’s where the Muslims got it from and took it to the next level, with the boy over girl preference still palpable and it is only in the more modern sects of Judaism that we see more egalitarian wisdom. Catholicism would have us believe that in the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, that the Holy Ghost is also a He. Really? Are they a gay marriage that adopted, otherwise, how do Daddy and the Holy Ghost make the baby, the Son? So much erasure of the female from religion.
It is the amazing marriage and union of these seemingly irreconcilable opposites that makes the magic of the Child, the Son in Yeshua’s case, the very nature of the Creator. No Thing and the All that is. Gentleness and compassion so tender it melts all violence and strength so immeasurable it can hold an ocean and not spill a drop. Wisdom so subtle and ephemeral it slips through the tiniest of cracks and Understanding, the tangible vessel needed to contain it long enough for it to be ingested. It is in the midst of the marriage of polarities that is the Kingdom of God, and that is why we have trouble spotting our Maker because we tend so much toward the extreme and unbalanced states, feeling more at rest in one of the poles, and visiting the other rarely, only with great necessity and often with such counterbalancing force, it throws us all off kilter.
It is the amazing marriage and union of these seemingly irreconcilable opposites that makes the magic of the Child, the Son in Yeshua’s case, the very nature of the Creator.
Yeshua was a master of the opposites. He said “I am of myself nothing” and “I am the Son of God.” Even Moses was said to exhibit these seemingly irreconcilable opposites, for being seen as the humblest of Jews by the orthodox (see my blog here about that) and according to the Midrashim, he would also have said “Yes” when asked if he was the greatest to ever have lived. Yeshua was also tender, compassionate, cared for and healed the sick, and also turned over the money lenders’ tables. And as such, all of his energy centres were made up of the alchemical union of opposites that creates a rift and opening in this world, that is the gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a world of duality, where the opposites exist dis-synchronously, ie not together, kept apart, teetering back and forth, vying for power, wrestling for position and taught to view the other as the impossible opposite and not the marriage partner for a Child which is both and neither of the two. When there is marriage of the opposites, as in the Tree of Life, then the midway point between the polar sephirot and the central column flows and emanates the very stuff of God Him/Herself.
In part 3 of the Tree of Life Etz Chaim Series, I will deal with what happens to the Tree of Life in duality, and how that plays out for each of us, but first in part 2 of the Series, a look at some important features of opposites and polarities, and a dispelling of common misconceptions.
Peace be with you. Shalom Aleichem. Salaam Alaikum.