Sunday, August 3, 2008

ALL 22 Paths are Important

I was talking with a friend about the work we do in the Sangreal Sodality that I work with. Rather than focus on the Rite of Lite like many Sodalites, with the exception of the equinoxes and solstices, our Sodality focuses on the Office of the Holy Tree of Life. My friend has a background in Don Kraig/Crowley derived magick and seemed completely confused about our method and reasoning in working the tree. Specifically he was confused about the route we take..

Since ancient times there has been the idea of a ladder of lights existing between our very dense world of form and a very subtle world of spirit. Most commonly the various rungs on this ladder, or to use another analogy, the spheres that must be passed through, have been prepresented by the planets.

While today we tend to think of the planets as active energies to draw upon or gates to pass through, they represented barriers that had to be overcome or broken through to the ancient mystic. One of the beliefs in Anthroposophy is that Christ actually physically changes them from barriers to gates, as part of his mission on earth.

Either way though, the concept of these ever more subtle spheres exists all over the western mystery tradition, so it is sort of a no brainer to view the khabbalistic tree of life in the same light. God manifests the spheres downward, and we climb upwards. Simple. There is a lightning bolt path that created the tree that flows through all the 10 sephira. There is another path back up the tree called the path of the serpent, basically reversing the lightning bolt zig-zag pattern.

The problem is that the Tree of Life isnt set up as a straight line, or as series of concentric spheres like the old planetary systems. Its not like that for a reason. The 10 sephira are not connected by 10 paths, they are connected by 22 paths. If you just zig zag up the tree from sephira to sephira you wont hit them all. The sephira are important, but the 22 paths are equally important. This is what my friend couldnt quite grasp. To him it was all about those 10 sephira. To us, its much more about the paths than the sephira.

Its perhaps understandable to view the sephira as consecutive steps, given that they are attributed to the planets. But its important to remember that different Rabbi's have assigned different planets to the sephira at different times, and the correlation is not as simple as all that, so we shouldnt apply the planet hopping view to the tree.

The sephira are important nodes of power and influence that carry very specific energies that are reflected in the higher realms, the world we live in, and the inner realm of the mind. When we do the Office ritual we typically invoke two sephira and than the path between it. Our meditations focus in the path and the way it balances the energies of those sephira. We do stop along the way and have nights dedicated to one sephira as we go, but its really to get a firm foundation so that we can work the paths that stem from it effectivly. Like circuits in a board.

You will note of course that in reality the "path of the serpent" is not at all the zig zag up the sephira that my friend seems to think it is. Old images showing a serpent wrapped around the tree are careful to show it touching all 22 paths, and none of the sephira, yet many people seem to forsake these paths, treating the Tree of Life like a ladder of consecutive sephira, rather than the map that it is.

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