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Paths on the Tree of Life

The Tree of LifeThe Tree of Life
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The Tree of Life is formed from 32 paths: ten objective paths known as the sefirot and 22 subjective paths that connect pairs of sefirot together. Each path has a number, with paths 1-10 being the sefirot themselves and the remaining paths being numbered 11-32. The Tree of Life is shown above with the subjective paths highlighted. Judaic Kabbalah often employs a Tree with a slight variation in path placements, but esoteric tradition is fairly consistent in presenting the Tree as above.

There is a natural tendency to view the Tree as a series of discrete objects rather than as the unified, undifferentiated whole it actually is, and the paths allow us to begin the process of reintegrating the Tree by exploring the relationships between pairs of sefirot. A thorough understanding of two sefirot and the path between them creates a new unit of understanding that can then be put together with other such units. A solid grasp of the sefirot is required before any path may be usefully meditated upon and followed, and a path is realized through study, visualization, empathy and guided meditation. Thorough knowledge of the sefirot linked by the path and the correspondences of the path itself are an important part of this process.

The 22 paths numbered 11-32 correspond to many things, the most notable of which are the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 22 cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot. The 10 paths numbered 1-10 (the sefirot) are embodied in the Minor Arcana of the Tarot when the Tree is considered in the Four Worlds. The Tarot and the Kabbalah discusses the relationship between the 78 cards of the Tarot and the Tree of Life, and includes a diagram showing the attributions of the paths.

It is up to serious seekers to explore for themselves the values, characteristics, uses and implications of the paths. Important attributions of all 32 paths are available here: click on the relevant sefirot in the Tree of Life above for details of paths 1-10, and follow any of the links below for information about individual paths from 11-32.

Aleph Path 11 - Path joining Kether and Chokmah Beth Path 12 - Path joining Kether and Binah
Gimel Path 13 - Path joining Kether and Tifereth Daleth Path 14 - Path joining Chokmah and Binah
Heh Path 15 - Path joining Chokmah and Tifereth Vav Path 16 - Path joining Chokmah and Chesed
Zayin Path 17 - Path joining Binah and Tifereth Cheth Path 18 - Path joining Binah and Geburah
Teth Path 19 - Path joining Chesed and Geburah Yod Path 20 - Path joining Chesed and Tifereth
Kaph Path 21 - Path joining Chesed and Netsach Lamed Path 22 - Path joining Geburah and Tifereth
Mem Path 23 - Path joining Geburah and Hod Nun Path 24 - Path joining Tifereth and Netsach
Samekh Path 25 - Path joining Tifereth and Yesod Ayin Path 26 - Path joining Tifereth and Hod
Peh Path 27 - Path joining Netsach and Hod Tzaddi Path 28 - Path joining Netsach and Yesod
Qoph Path 29 - Path joining Netsach and Malkuth Resh Path 30 - Path joining Hod and Yesod
Shin Path 31 - Path joining Hod and Malkuth Tav Path 32 - Path joining Yesod and Malkuth

It should be noted when viewing the properties of the paths that a few occultists change some of the attributions. In particular, Aleister Crowley transposes the Emperor and the Star, so that the Emperor corresponds to tzaddi, and the Star to heh. This in keeping with the Thelemic teaching of Crowley's Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law), where it is written "All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star" (chapter 1:57).