The Year of Jubilee




Chapter Three:

Back to the Garden


“We are stardust, we are golden,

   We are caught in the devil’s bargain,

    And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.”

                                      Joni Mitchell, Woodstock


            “Where was the Garden of Eden?” is a question one often gets from children when they’re told the story of their First Parents.  Even in our own “adult” minds, no matter how jaded and cynical they may become, there always persists the echo of that same question.  As we age — crawling toward that dreadful door which exits this World — the question seems to transform itself into another, more immediate one:  “Where is the Garden of Eden?”

            All of us, in our own way, grope in the darkness for the way to that one gate, the gate that lets us into the hidden Garden.   Sometimes we can almost feel the gate’s latch within our grasp, as we sit perhaps in our own garden on a still, sunny morning.  Or as we look into the innocent eyes of a fawn we have startled in the woods.  Fact is we all have this Garden within us, and we cultivate it, as Voltaire once observed, each after his/her own fashion.

            When we talk about the Garden, then, we must be aware that we are talking about ourselves, that we are peering into our own collective psyche.  And our ability to do this, to think about our own thoughts, is the one talent that sets us humans apart from any other intelligent being in the entire Universe.  Except for God, that is.  By looking at ourselves, therefore, we become like God — or at least like that part of God which invests the material World.  As it turns out, this last qualification is an important one to make.  We must recognize that God in just as much within us as we are within Him/Her.  This presents no problem so long as we don’t distinguish between what’s inside of us, the so-called “Subjective” pole of Consciousness, and what’s ostensibly outside of us, which belongs to “Objective” Consciousness.  But the mere fact that we assign them different names — “Subjective” and “Objective” — shows that we can and do distinguish between our inner and outer realms.

            Chapter Two of this book was devoted to the tale of Lucifer’s Fall from Grace.  In it we learned that Angels represent States of Mind created by God-Elohim before She created the physical Universe.  We also learned that these angelic States of Mind evolved, before the Creation, just as biological Life has evolved since.   The Fall of some of these Angels divided the universal Soul (Pleroma) by withdrawing from it their fragments of Consciousness.   This division of the World Soul involves the separation of the two poles of Consciousness, the “Subjective” and “Objective” poles.  We may think of the latter, the Objective pole, as a Female mode of Consciousness, because it receives the Mind’s action and brings it to fruition.  Conversely, the Mind’s Subjective side, the side which bestows action, may be regarded as having a Male character.  The Male and Female modes of Consciousness roughly correspond, respectively, to the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

            God is both Male and Female, as most enlightened religions acknowledge (if sometimes grudgingly).  So when God created Adam in the Divine Image, She initially created “him” both Male and Female and not-till-later extracted the Female side, as we’re told in the first two chapters of Genesis.  After that, and until their own Fall, Adam and Eve continued to conform to the Divine Image.  From this we may deduce that, when God divided Adam and Eve, God simultaneously divided the Male and Female sides of His/Her own nature.

            This scenario presents us with a paradox, however.  If the Godhead splits into Male and Female sides, how can It remain sublimely One?  It must be that, on the highest level, God remains an inscrutable, ineffable Unity, and that His/Her multi-faceted nature proceeds from thence.   That’s precisely what makes the Tree such a perfect metaphor for the divine “anatomy”, so to speak: because the Tree, like God, is both singular (in its trunk) and multiple (in its branches).

            But any Tree must have roots, and those roots must be planted firmly in the Earth.   In that respect, the heavenly Tree we’re envisioning here is no different from its natural counterpart.  Before divinity’s Male and Female limbs can thrust themselves upward, there must be an Earth to receive the reciprocal downward growth of the “roots”.  Before there can be a Tree, there must be a Garden.  No wonder, then, that our collective Mind keeps bringing us “back to the Garden”.  It’s the proverbial “square one” of the spiritual, as well as the material, Universe.


The Tree of Life

            So let’s recap.  To become manifest, God has to allow for multiple centers of Consciousness.  He-Who-Is-All has to embrace She-Who-Is-in-All.  In that consummated act of Love is conceived a Son, through whom God becomes, quite literally, “All-in-All”.  It’s just as St. Paul explained it:

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death.

For he (the Father) hath put all things under his (the Son’s) feet…

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.[1]


The Son subdues Death by hanging from a Tree, the same Tree that grew in the middle of the Garden, the same Tree from which Eve plucked the forbidden fruit.  By virtue of the Son’s Self-sacrifice, the Tree of Death becomes the Tree of Life.  This happens because the structure of the Tree is conformed to the Body of the Son.  It is through His Body (that is, through the rectified Tree) that God’s nature “above and beyond” the World is linked to the Divine Presence “within” the World.  We can describe the former aspect of God as “transcendent” and the latter as “immanent”.  The Hebrew mystics called the immanent Presence Shechinah — She who is the Son’s Bride-to-Be.  We may also think of Shechinah as being the root of the Tree, its anchor in the Earth, so to speak.

But even an ordinary tree cannot be planted just anyplace.  The location must be right in terms of four principal “elements”: light, air, water and soil.  And even where these elements are felicitously balanced, we can’t simply dig a hole and put the tree in the ground.  The soil must first be carefully nourished and specially prepared, a process known as cultivation.  It’s interesting that the word “cultivation” comes from the Latin culter for knife, blade or ploughshare.  Just as mundane cultivation involves the ploughshare penetrating the soil, so spiritual cultivation requires that the Heavens penetrate the Earth.  Thus does the Roman poet Ovid speak of cultus deorum, which literally means “cultivating the gods”.  For the Tree of Life to flourish, it’s needful that Eternity penetrate Time, needful that the finest threads of Light weave themselves invisibly into the obscure fabric of Space.  We’ll revisit this concept later in this chapter.

For now, however, let’s turn our attention back to the special status of the Earth as the one and only spot in the entire Universe whose “soil” is suitable to grow the Tree of Life.  This notion of Earth’s uniqueness, its central place in Creation, is inescapable in Genesis.  That’s why Genesis is the one book of Scripture which “scientific” materialists can never accept.  Their dogma is that the Earth but one of a myriad of insignificant rocks spinning meaninglessly in an immense void.   Even lower in their esteem is Man himself — a mere biological organism, and a none-too-impressive one at that.  They point back to Copernicus as their authority for this blind faith in the mediocrity of humankind.   But Copernicus said only that the Earth revolves around the Sun, he did not disprove that the Earth is at the center of the Universe.  Indeed, in an infinite Universe, the “center” is wherever the observer is located.[2]

 The only intelligent observer we’ve encountered thus far in the Cosmos is our own species.  It’s ironic that the same “scientists” who dismiss Genesis as a fantasy resort to sheer fantasy themselves when they speculates on the existence of other worlds inhabited by civilizations more sophisticated than our own.  Such speculations thrive solely on the assumption that Man is an “ordinary” creature on an “ordinary” planet.   If that’s the case (so their reasoning goes), then there are about 100 billion other “ordinary” planets out there in Space that must accommodate a comparable number of alien intelligences.

As it turns out, the forgoing beliefs are anything but “scientific”.  Just within the last few decades, cosmologists and physicists alike have come to question certain things that previous generations of scientists had always taken for granted.  They have begun to inquire why the fundamental physical “constants” which determine the structure of the visible Universe have the values that we’ve observed them to have.  These “constants” set the balance between the four fundamental physical forces in which the seemingly immutable “laws of nature” are grounded.  We’re talking about things like Newton’s gravitational constant, the speed of light, the mass of a proton, etc.

This long-overdue line of inquiry has produced some interesting conclusions.  First off, it’s neither necessary nor inevitable that the fundamental constants should be what we observe them to be in our Universe.  If we go back as far as the “Big Bang”, these constants could have assumed substantially different values if the initial conditions of the nascent Universe had been even minutely different.[3]  Moreover, if we go back before the Bang “banged”, as modern “inflationary” cosmology has recently done, we find that even the laws of physics themselves were a matter of random chance.  “In the beginning”, as current theorists see it, our Universe could have, with equal likelihood, followed any one of an infinite number of paths, each with its own peculiar “fundamental constants” and “laws of nature”.[4]   With equal probability, our Universe could have been one in which the particles of light (photons), instead of being weightless and speedy, would be massive and slow.  In such a World, light would literally be darkness, just as Milton imagined it would be in the domain of the Fallen Angels!

This recently recognized “non-inevitability” of the basic physical structure of our Universe has led scientists to explore various “what if” scenarios.  For example, what if the relative strengths of the electromagnetic and nuclear forces were ever-so-slightly different from what they are?  Their answer is that ours would then be a Universe without planets, without stars, even without atoms.  And most certainly without intelligent creatures, human or otherwise.  But we don’t have to go so far as to fiddle with the fundamental constants of nature to produce a Universe categorically inhospitable to any form of life.  Even a minimal tinkering with the resonance energies of the elements oxygen, nitrogen and carbon, for example, would render organic chemistry inoperative and even the crudest biological forms impossible.[5]

All of this inquiry has led to the inescapable conclusion that intelligent life could not possibly exist unless the physical Universe were “fine-tuned” to the infinitesimally precise degree it apparently is.   As immense and ancient as the Cosmos is, it’s actually not a bit larger or older than it needs to be to accommodate the one very precious and extraordinary place we call Earth.  The visible Universe is about 10-15 billion years old and has a radius of about 10-15 billion light-years.  Not coincidentally, it took the stars about 10 billion years to synthesize the heavier elements needed for life from the hydrogen and helium generated by the Big Bang.  Planetary formation and biological evolution account for another several billion years.  So the Cosmos is exactly as vast and aged as it must be to support just one planet hospitable to conscious beings such as ourselves.[6]

For a solitary Universe to emerge by sheer chance with the entire host of finely-tuned prerequisites for life, the odds are, in a word, infinitesimal.   We need only consider one such prerequisite to prove our point.  We’ve just said that it takes about 10-15 billion years for the Cosmos to become capable of supporting intelligent organisms.  During this 10-15 billion years, the Universe has been expanding at a rate that was determined by the potential energy level of the vacuum from which it sprang at the dawn of Time.  Obviously, there could have been no physically precedent cause which would have determined the level of that primordial “vacuum fluctuation”.  Cosmologists consider that the value of this initial vacuum potential was a purely random occurrence.  It turns out, however, that this initial value of universal energy had to be exactly what it was for the Cosmos to be in condition to accommodate life after 10-15 billion years of expansion.   If this value had been higher, the Universe would have expanded so rapidly that, by this time, it would have dissipated into a featureless cloud of frigid, rarified gases, inhospitable to microbes, much less men.  And if its initial energy potential had been lower, the cosmic expansion would have long since have run out of steam and the Universe would have collapsed back into a “black hole”.

In other words, the possibility that I could be here writing these words and you could be there reading them was encoded into the original data of our Universe to an inconceivable level of detail.   If we think of this “code” as a single number, the minimal requirements of biological life dictate all of the digits down to the 102nd decimal place![7]   Tacking on the additional requirements for intelligent life, we’d probably nail down our “cosmological constant” to better than 1000 decimal places.  It begins to become apparent how true was the famous observation of the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras:

Of all things Man is the measure: both of things that are, and of things that are not.[8]

            In reality, there is no boundary between Subjective and Objective experience, between what is “inside” of human Consciousness and what appears to be “outside”.   That’s because Man is truly the “model” from which the entire Universe is erected, the “blueprint” for the minutest detail of its structure.  Thus, what is “inside” of the human Mind is a microcosm of what exists in the Cosmos at large.  As the Kabbalah teaches, the physical Universe is nothing more than an extension of the greater Body of Man.  Each “organ” of that Body dictates the type of physical conditions that are compatible with its growth and development.   For the example, the Eye demands that the relative strengths of the four fundamental physical forces be weighted very much in favor of electromagnetic radiation, of which light is one variety.   The Ear and the Nose prefigure a world with a very specific atmospheric density, while the Tongue specifies that such a world must feature the extremely narrow temperature range of liquid water.

            But if Man is the model that the Cosmos is based upon, this necessarily implies that the idea of Man preceded the formation of the physical Universe.  Since Space and Time only came into being at the inception of the physical Universe, therefore, Man’s existence precedes Space and Time.  It’s also a logical inference that Man will “outlive” Space and Time.  Another way of saying this is that Man is only partly a finite, temporal being; he is also an infinite, eternal Being.

This begs another question, however: Are we humans infinite and eternal in our individual personas, or only in a collective sense?  To answer that, let’s consider the implications of the eternal side of Man’s nature being associated with his individuality.   If that were so, then we’d have two sets of “blueprints” for the Universe at large — a “grand scale” set based on mankind as a whole, and a more detailed set for each individual.  We’d have to write a few more thousand decimal places into our “cosmological constant” to insure that the Universe was capable of producing not only human life in general, but each one of us specifically.

But there’s a hitch.  A single physical Universe can be finely tuned to accommodate mankind, but it cannot be simultaneously optimized for each particular man.  The latter scenario implies multiple Universes, with each of us occupying his or her own “best-of-all-possible-worlds”.  In other words, the proposition that we are eternal Beings in our individual personas necessarily implies that each of us inhabits our own special universe that evolved specifically to accommodate us.  The latter notion is known as “solipsism”.   Solipsism is generally regarded as an absurdity because it’s intuitively obvious that we all share the same Universe.  Hence, if we are not to subscribe to solipsism, we must consign our individual egos to that portion of our being which is finite and temporal — existing, that is, only within the confines of Space and Time.

            Okay.  So we’ve established that the Universe conforms, in its most intimate details, to proportions of the supernal Body of Man.  The next question we would naturally want to inquire after is, simply, “Why should this be so?”  It’s the same question that Job posed to God/Elohim:

What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?[9]


            It strikes us as an outrageous human conceit to look upon the vast Universe as serving no other purpose than to please one particular species of primate on a small planet.  But, in the light of everything we’ve just said, is there any other alternative to this grossly anthropocentric perspective?  If the suitability of the physical Universe to human needs is far too improbable to be considered an accident, then mustn’t we conclude that things were “designed” that way and for just that reason?   Not necessarily.  It’s also possible that our Universe is not the only universe that has ever existed.  It’s conceivable that, before our own World emerged, there was an infinite series of “still-born” worlds passing into and out of being.  In this scenario, the minute fine-tuning of cosmic constants that we’ve described would have been achieved by trial-and-error rather than by explicit design.  This is the identical process of evolutionary “probing” that we’ve ascribed, in Chapter Two, to the pre-Creation development of angelic Consciousness.

            In effect, we’re suggesting that the Universe evolved out of a prior series of “failed worlds” until it struck upon the right combination of conditions to generate intelligent life.  Since the physical laws of the “other universes” were incompatible with the development of sentient observers, these worlds would have passed out of existence “without a trace”.   The Kabbalah expresses this same theory by relating that a number of worlds were created and destroyed while the Tree of Life was maturing into its “rectified” form.  As we’ll discuss shortly, the Kabbalah also associates these “lost worlds” with the shattered Consciousness of the Fallen Angels and the related symbolism of the defunct Kings of Edom.

            Ironically, this “evolutionary” scenario stands Darwinian evolution on its head.  The latter proposes that the human species is what it is because it has adapted itself to the conditions of the physical Universe.  We, on the other hand, propose that the physical Universe is what it is because it has adapted itself to the requirements of human intelligence.

            But why, one may well ask, should we prefer this theory to the more straightforward “design” arguments traditionally advanced by conventional religion?  Why should the Creatrix have tolerated a tortured succession of aborted worlds, when She could have just conceived a suitable Universe outright?  The answer relates to what we discussed earlier in terms of the separation of God’s Male and Female poles during the Creation process.


The Paths of Glory

            As we’ve said, God’s Male and Female poles correspond, respectively, to His transcendence and Her immanence.  Scripture clearly affirms that God has these two distinct polarities.  On the one hand, He is separate from Creation and “surrounds” it like a great cloud whose Glory is concealed from view.  Job speaks of this aspect of God when he says:

And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth and cleaneth them.

            Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.

            Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out… [10]


            Once again, we need to restore some of the nuances of the original Hebrew before we can fully appreciate this passage.  In the first line, the phrase “bright light” is translated from bahir, which signifies brilliance.  The word in the following verse that King James’ scholars rendered as “fair weather” is zohar, which has the similar connotation of brightness.  Interestingly, Zohar and Bahir are the titles of the two principal texts of Jewish mysticism comprising the Kabbalah.  It’s also worth mentioning that zohar comes from the root zahab, the Hebrew word for gold.  Finally, we should note that God’s “majesty” corresponds to the Hebrew noun hod, signifying beauty, splendor, or glory.  Hod derives from the same root as hadar, which likewise signifies beauty and glory.  We learned in Chapter Two that Hadar was the name of the eighth and last King of Edom, and that it also describes a type of tree involved in the eight-day feast of Succoth or Tabernacles.

            Complementing this transcendent pole of the Godhead, we have God’s feminine polarity, which we’ve characterized as immanent.  In this aspect, She is intimately and palpably present everywhere in Her Creation.  She “dwells” (HaDar) in the physical Universe, from the spiral arms of its far-flung galaxies right down to the core of its tiniest particles.  Hers is the Glory which literally fills our World, as the prophet Isaiah hears proclaimed by the Seraphim who attend the Divine Presence:

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts:  the whole earth is full of his glory.[11]


            Isaiah’s choice of words here suggests to us that the concept of Glory is something that is common to both God’s transcendent and immanent sides.  Perhaps we might venture further to infer that Glory constitutes a sort of “bridge” between the two divine natures.  The prophet uses yet another synonym for Glory, the Hebrew word Kavod, whose letters are equivalent to the number 32.  Again recalling our discussion in the previous chapter, we recognize that 32 has a special significance.  The Tree of Life contains 32 paths, paths that connect the Crown (Keter) of God’s transcendent nature with the Heart (Malkut) of Her immanent nature.  Accordingly, the Hebrew for Heart Lev also expresses the number 32.

            The three “holies” that Isaiah hears the Seraphim intoning indicate that the paths of the Tree of Life extend through three domains:  Space, Time, and Spirit.  Let’s consider the spiritual domain first.  The Kabbalah refers to it as the “Soul dimension”.  Since it has to include both poles of the Godhead, the Soul dimension must encompass the Tree’s highest level Keter, as well as its lowest level Malkut.  While all 32 paths originate in Keter, they cannot be comprehended on that inscrutable plane.  Instead, the Soul dimension enables the paths to be experienced by replicating all 32 of them within Malkut, which is the plane of manifestation.  The Bahir expresses this scenario in the form of a parable:

 A king has a palace in which there are 32 chambers.  Leading to each chamber there is a path.  The king’s chamber is the innermost of the 32, and there he keeps his most precious treasures and most sensitive secrets.  His need to keep these things secure presents a quandary, however.  If he makes all 32 paths accessible to everyone in his kingdom, his treasury will be rifled and his secrets profaned.  But if he conceals the paths, then his beloved subjects can never share his presence.  What should be done?  He ponders and arrives at a solution:  He touches his daughter so that all 32 paths are woven into her garments.[12]


            To interpret this parable, we need to recognize the figure of the king’s daughter as an allusion to the following verse from Psalms:

The king’s daughter is all glorious within:  her clothing is of wrought gold.[13]


            Since Glory/Kavod refers to the 32 paths of the Tree of Life, the Psalmist’s imagery depicts the incorporation of these paths within the “daughter”, who is Malkut.  But why is her clothing said to be woven from gold?  In the passage from Job we quoted a little while ago, the image of gold zahab was used to represent the divine brilliance that appears “out of the North”.   The North, as we learned in Chapter Two, is the allegorical locale of the “Holy Mountain” of Elohim, from whence issue human Souls bound for incarnation.  The incarnation of all of the Souls within this “treasury of Souls” is the process by which God is reconstituting the World Soul shattered by the Fall of the Angels.  These Souls we refer to as the “Souls of the Righteous”, and they flow into Malkut from the Vessel (Sephirah) of the Tree of Life which lies immediately above Her.  This next-higher Vessel/Sephirah, from which the Souls of the Righteous descend, is known as the Foundation, or Yesod :

His foundation is in the holy mountains.

The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her.[14]


            The Psalmist here is telling us that Mount Zion is the spiritual “birthplace” of all Souls, Jews and Gentiles alike.  For that reason the Lord is said to “love the gates of Zion more than the dwellings of Jacob”, because the former encompass the entire World Soul, or Pleroma, not just the Righteous Souls of Jacob’s lineage.  There is the idea here that the Souls of the Righteous are the Foundation upon which the entire Universe rests.  In other words, there is an “inner Reality” which extends into and supports the “outer Reality”.  There is a sort of “pillar” that runs through every level of Reality, from bottom to top, holding them together and endowing them with an overall form.  This informing and integrating function of the Foundation Yesod explains why the Kabbalists refer to it as “All”.

            Previously we’ve discussed the masculine aspect of Yesod as the source of “seed” and its association with the Covenant of Circumcision which the Almighty Shaddai established with Abraham.  That Covenant “rectified” the Male principle of Yesod so that the Souls of the Righteous could be conceived and born into the progeny of Abraham.  These Souls were symbolically represented by the letter Heh added to the name Abram as a sign of the Covenant.  We should also recall that the letter Heh was given to Abraham by his wife Sarah from her own name.[15]  Sarah, who also played the role of Abraham’s sister when they were in Egypt, embodies the feminine side of Yesod, which Jewish mystics call Shechinah.  Shechinah is not confined to Yesod, but rather She extends Herself into the realm of the material World, which is Malkut.  Thus, She is “All” in the sense of being “in everything”.  Accordingly, the Talmud says that Abraham’s daughter was named Bakol,[16] which means “in all things”.  This same mystical theme is expressed somewhat more obscurely in Genesis:

                        … and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things (BaKol).[17]

            From the context of this Scriptural passage, one gets the sense that Abraham was blessed by the Promise.   It was the Promise that what had been lost by Adam and Eve in Paradise would be restored to the progeny of Abraham and Sarah.  But it was, even more importantly, the Promise that the Garden which had been forfeited in the lapse of our First Parents would be regained — nay, replanted even more gloriously — by one of Abraham’s own blessed seed.  From the loins of Abraham and the womb of his Shechinah would be born a Messiah — a Messiah who would restore Eternity to Time.  In Him the transcendence of God would intimately embrace and penetrate Her immanence.  The god-of-All and the goddess-in-All would together conceive a Son, who would be Prince of All-in-All.  Out of the womb of Shechinah would gush an endless torrent of Living Water, the divine Light incarnate in the Souls of the Blessed.

            What the Promise is really “all about”, so to speak, is the conception of this sacred procession of Souls, destined to culminate in the Soul of the Messiah, Son of David.  These Souls carry the Light into the World of Darkness, in the same way as the River Pishon flowed out of Eden through the land of Havilah carrying its gold into the Garden.  Let’s see how this explains the esoteric meaning of the “gold” zahab which the Hebrews associated with the Glory of God.

            The Hebrew word zahab is spelled with the letters Zayin, Heh, and Bet.  In the esoteric sense, the middle letter Heh is the omni-Soul Pleroma that links the supernal World with the lower Worlds.  In terms of the Tree of Life, the supernal World occupies its three upper limbs.  These upper limbs are the Sephirot of Keter (Divine Will), Chochmah (Wisdom), and Binah (Understanding), with which we’re somewhat familiar.  According to the Kabbalist system, these Three together correspond to the final letter Bet in zahab.  The lower Worlds (of which ours is but one) are represented on the Tree of Life by Seven Sephirot, corresponding in number to Zayin, the initial letter in the Hebrew word for “gold”.  We’ve already become acquainted with three of these Seven: Malkut (Matter), Yesod (Foundation of All), and Tipheret (Beauty/Symmetry).

            We’ve also touched upon the two opposing sides of the metaphysical Balance defined by Chesed (Mercy) and Gevurah (Judgment).  Located just below the supernal realm, this is the plane where the dynamics of the Tree are generated.  When the Male and Female forces of Chesed and Gevurah are unbalanced, they deflect the Soul from its goal.  When they are in harmony, they incline the Soul toward its true path.  It’s at this level that the Soul is either “launched” on its flight toward incarnation, through the Peace between the Male and the Female, or “grounded” by their discord.

            The motion of the Soul, which is imparted at the level of Chesed and Gevurah, becomes manifest on the next level down in the Tree of Life.  This plane comprises the dual Sephirot of Netzach (Victory) and Hod (Glory).  These two are pictured as the “legs” of the Supernal Man, Zer Anpin, whose Body takes in the Six Sephirot from Chesed down to Yesod.  The three “Mentalities” of the supernal World plus the seven “Attributes” of the lower Worlds yield a total of ten Sephirot which “network” together on the Tree of Life.  Figure 1 displays the layout of the Tree as typically represented in the Kabbalist texts.

            We said earlier that the Tree of Life grows in the three “dimensions” of the Soul, Space and Time.  We’ve also seen how the central axis of the Tree from Keter to Malkut defines the Soul dimension.  Defining the dimension of Time, on the other hand, are the Seven Sephirot of the lower Tree.  These Seven line up with the Seven Days of Creation, so that the seventh of their number, Malkut, is identified with the Sabbath.  The Sabbath connects the Soul dimension with the temporal dimension because it signifies the eternal moment of Time in which God conceived the Pleroma, or World Soul.  This is the hidden message of the words the Lord spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai concerning the observance of the Sabbath:

… for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and in the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.[18]


            Again, the King James translation deprives us of the double entendre of the Hebrew word nephesh.  It addition to meaning “refreshed”, nephesh can also signify the past tense of the verb “to soul”, in the sense of “to conceive a soul”.  So God is actually telling Moses that, on the first Sabbath, He/She rested and conceived the Pleroma.  Hence, the observance of the Sabbath is a necessary premise for the conception of Souls.  In the Sabbath is reflected the original state of Peace between God’s Male and Female poles.  Only this “initial condition” of Peace can enable the incarnation of the Souls of the Righteous.  These Souls are the “gold of Havilah”, the mytical Zahab, which the River of Eden (aka Shechinah) carries into the Garden (aka Malkut).  It is this flow of “gold” that restores the wholeness of the Pleroma shattered by the Fallen Angels.

            Okay.  We’ve said that the Tree of Life grows in the three dimensions.  And we’ve already talked about two of the those:  the Soul dimension and the Time dimension.  Referring to Figure 1, we can see that the Tree has 10 Sephirot connected by 22 paths.  Each of the 22 paths corresponds to one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  The Hebrews divided their letters into three classes:  3 “Mothers”, 7 “doubles”, and 12 “singles”.  In the Introduction to this book, we discussed the three Mother letters, Shin, Aleph and Mem, and how they symbolize the three Covenants of the Tongue, the Heart, and the Loins, respectively.  If we picture the human body as a microcosm of the Tree of Life, which it actually is, we can identify the levels of the Tongue, Heart and Loins with the Tree’s three horizontal paths.

            Seven of the Hebrew letters are called “doubles” because they can express two different sounds.  The first two double letters are Bet and Gimel.  Because they are the second and third letters of the alphabet, Bet and Gimel correspond to the second and third Sephirot of the Tree — Chochmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding).  Since Wisdom is a product of the Past, while Understanding anticipates the Future, Chochmah and Binah together define the Tree’s temporal dimension.  The seven double letters are thus seen as designating the seven vertical paths, by which the Tree grows upward, extending itself into Time.

            In addition to the 3 horizontal and 7 vertical paths, the Tree of Life has 12 diagonal paths.  The Kabbalah describes these last 12 as the “Arms of the World”, because they are seen as surrounding the Universe and enclosing it like a great set of tentacles or “arms”.  These 12 “arms” represent the process by which the Tree extends itself outward into Space.  Notice that I say “outward into Space”.  It’s natural to speak of physical Space as something totally outside of ourselves, that is, as something totally Objective.  That’s because Space dominates the Objective or Female pole of Consciousness, just as Time rules the Subjective/Male pole.  And the Soul is the bridge between the Objective and Subjective poles, between the Female and the Male.   Therefore, when the World Soul split and divided in the Fall of Lucifer’s Angels, there necessarily came also a breach between the Objective and Subjective sides of Consciousness.

            If we look at the structure of the Tree in Figure 1, we see that it’s comprised of 3 “Pillars”.  Starting on the right, we find a column of 3 Male Sephirot: Wisdom/Chochmah, Mercy/Chesed, and Victory/Netzach.  Opposite these 3 Males is the lefthand Pillar of 3 Female Sephirot:  Understanding/Binah, Judgment/Gevurah, and Glory/Hod.  And between these opposing Pillars lies the Middle Pillar, which encompasses the 5 levels of the Soul:  the Crown/Keter, Equilibrium/Daat, Symmetry/Tipheret, the Foundation/Yesod, and the Garden/Malkut.  Daat is described in the Kabbalah as a “quasi-Sephirah” because the balance point of Equilibrium is imaginary — or, as the Zohar expresses it, “negatively existent”.[19]

            We’ll have more to say about the concept of “negative existence” later in this chapter.  For now, however, let’s get back to the question of how the Tree of Life extends itself into the Outer World, that is, into the dimension of Space.  The ancient Hebrews, like their Babylonian cousins, were accomplished astronomers.  They observed that the heavens all revolve around an invisible axis, which is “negatively existent”.  They further observed that the motion of a heavenly body traces a helix as it revolves through Space around its axis.  An obvious metaphor for the shape of a helix is a snake with its coils.  So it was natural for the Jewish mystics to describe the imaginary axis of Space as a huge Serpent, whom they called Teli.

            The Serpent, of course, plays the villain in the tragedy of Eden.  In fact, poor Eve really didn’t stand a chance from the moment the old Snake wormed his way into her Garden.  We begin to suspect that, if we find out why and how the Serpent entered the Garden, we’ll also discover why and how our First Parents sinned.


The Serpent in the Garden

            If, as we’ve said all along, Malkut is the Garden, then the Garden is the Womb of Souls.  That’s why one of the four Rivers that flow out of Eden brings gold to the Garden from the land of Havilah.  The gold/zahab, as we’ve just learned, is the portion of the divine Light transmitted to the lower World through the conception of Souls.  As for the land where the gold originates, its name, Chaviylah, is derived from a word meaning “helix”.  And the River that runs through it is called Pishon, a name probably derived from the same source as that of the mythical Greek serpent Python.

            This latter connection is intriguing, because Python was the fabled guardian of the omphalos, or “navel” of the Universe — the same as the “axis” over which the Hebrew serpent Teli presides.    Like the Serpent of the Garden of Eden, Python was seen as an antagonist of God’s transcendent aspect, which the Greeks personified in their solar deity Apollo.  Apollo, whose name comes from the Greek word for “apple”, dispatched Python with an arrow, just as his henchman Hercules did to the serpent Ladon.  Ladon guarded the golden apples of immortality that grew on the Greek version of the Tree of Life.

            Both Teli and Python probably trace their origins to Apep, the demonic serpent of Egypt.  Apep arose out of mud animated by the Sun beating down on the banks of the Nile.  This tells us that Teli is a symbol of Matter, or, more precisely, of the matrix of Matter/Energy which supports the physical Universe.  It is over this framework that God stretches out Her fabric of Creation:

            I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretchest forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself …[20]


The actions of “stretching” and “spreading” that Isaiah expresses in this passage are also attached to the Hebrew name of Pishon, the mystical River of Souls.

            So now we have two concepts that we’ve associated with Teli: Equilibrium and Matter.  Putting them together, we get the notion that the material Universe exists as something to balance or equilibrate the Pleroma. It’s true that the physical Universe, in all its vastness, serves simply as a meticulously precise “setting”, so to speak, for the “gold” of human Consciousness.  The “gold” of the World Soul is bound up with the “ore” of Matter.  But there’s more to it than that.  When bound up with the Soul, Matter becomes transparent to the Divine Image and extends the proportions of the Supernal Man, Zer Anpin, throughout the Universe.  This is the process of “stretching forth the heavens” which Isaiah describes.

            How does Teli, the Serpent of Matter, accomplish this monumental task of imprinting divine Symmetry on an entire Universe?  This question brings us back to the merits of the “intelligent design” approach to cosmology.  “Intelligent design” is the cornerstone of the theology of Deism, whose God is exclusively transcendent.  Deism is implicitly dualistic, because it must view the intelligence of Matter — symbolized by the Serpent — as purely demonic.  This means that Deism is a self-contradictory theology, since an all-encompassing transcendent God cannot co-exist with an autonomous evil Adversary.  The only way to avoid the contradiction of Deism is to consider the manifest Symmetry of Creation, not as a premeditated “design” imposed from “above” and “outside” the physical Universe, but as a pattern spontaneously generated from within it.  And that’s what makes the spontaneously generated Serpent Teli such an apt emblem for the material conduit of this divine pattern.

            It follows then that Matter is invested with an intelligence, and that this intelligence is not innately demonic.  To help us understand how this intelligence works, let’s find an example of it.  We don’t have to look too far — indeed, no further than the computer I’m using to compose this text.  From the moment our species attained Self-awareness, we simultaneously acquired the ability to manipulate the intelligence of inanimate things.  An axe is congealed intelligence; it is the actualization in material form of a purely mental conception of a task.  Why does a being have to be Self-aware to make an axe?  A beaver can formulate the thoughts needed to cut wood.  Why can’t a beaver make itself an axe?  The answer is that the beaver can think about cutting wood but can’t think about thinking.  An animal can’t extract itself from its own thoughts and shape those thoughts the way it can a piece of wood.

            And so we see that the ability of intelligence to act upon itself is a “bonus” that automatically comes along with Self-Consciousness.   This ability involves a process called “recursion”.  A recursive process is one that involves one or more “loops”.  Such a “loop” would consist of a defined set of operations performed stepwise in a fixed order.  When the last step is performed, the loop reverts back to the first step.   We can think of many mechanical chores, such as knitting or rolling dough, which fit into this recursive scheme.  And it’s precisely this motif which governs our everyday thought patterns, regardless of whether we’d like to think of ourselves as a little “loopie”!   But the key to all of this loopiness goes back to the idea of the helix and our serpent friend Teli.  Like the mythical Uroboros, the Serpent “swallows his own tail”, in the sense that the end of the loop feeds back into its beginning.  Since each subsequent run through the loop starts out a “higher” level than the one before, over time the process traces out a three-dimensional helix rather than a two-dimensional circle.

            A recursive process can also involve “loops within loops”, also known as “nested loops”.  In other words, we can have a main loop consisting of a number of steps, one of which is a “sub-loop”.  Let’s say the “sub-loop” is step #8 in the main loop.  Then when the main loop gets to step #8, it will run through all the steps of the “sub-loop” before going on to step #9 of the main loop.  In theory, there’s no limit to how far we can go with this “nested” structure.  We can have loops within loops within loops ad infinitum.  And, in fact, that’s exactly what we find in the structure of the Tree of Life.

            Again, let’s remind ourselves that the Tree of Life is, first and foremost, a network of Vessels (aka Sephirot) which connect God’s transcendent pole with His/Her immanent pole.  Another way of saying this is that the 32 paths of the Tree define the “anatomy” of a Deity who is both “over-All” and “in-All”.  We are in God and He/She is in us.  Since the Essence of God must be indivisible, however, this implies that God is within God is within God is within God, etc.  One might think of the Russian porcelain dolls which fit one inside the other, but that analogy falls short because the Divine Image is reproduced undiminished right down to the thinnest slice of Creation.  That’s why, as modern cosmology is only now discovering, it’s possible for an entire Universe to expand spontaneously out of a dimensionless point in a complete vacuum.

            This is what the Kabbalah is talking about when it says that the 32 paths are gold-embroidered into the garments of the Daughter.   The Daughter, as we know, represents Malkut, the realm of Matter.  But Malkut herself is one of the 32 paths.  Accordingly, the 32 paths comprise a recursive loop.  The loop begins with Keter and ends with Malkut.  But, because Malkut contains all 32 paths within her “garments”, when we get to her we begin all over again with Keter — not the same Keter we started out with, but Keter mirrored on a “lower” level.  And the same thing happens the next time we run through the loop and arrive again at Malkut.  We keep descending down through one sub-loop after another in an infinitely nested array.

            This process of infinite nesting enables the higher intelligence of Matter.  During the past century, mankind has improved on the simple mechanical intelligence of the axe, which rigidly embodies one unalterable thought process.  The improvement is something we now call “artificial intelligence”.   The science of “artificial intelligence” has resulted from mankind’s discovery that inanimate Matter is capable of the type of thinking hitherto believed to be only attainable by humans.  And the “tricks” that make artificial intelligence possible are recursive loops, called “do-loops” by computer programmers, as well as nested sub-loops, the “subroutines” of cybernetics.  In his sometimes comical vanity, Man credits himself with endowing Matter with this higher intelligence.  Actually, however, Matter inherently has the capacity for what we call “artificial intelligence”, and Man’s only real discovery has been how to harness that power for his own ends.

            Man’s cyber-manipulation of the higher intelligence of Matter differs from the natural variety of that intelligence in one important way, however.  Without human intervention, the loops and sub-loops that Matter is capable of executing on its own would go on forever.  To prevent this, the programmer inserts limits or barriers. These are typically in the form of “if” statements that establish certain criteria for the program to abandon the loop it’s been executing and go branching off in another direction.   But the natural tendency of Matter is to find ways of circumventing these barriers and to go on looping happily ever after.  The computer users among us get to experience this particular eccentricity of the Serpent Teli every time our screen freezes and our cursor stops blinking!

            Man is able to circumscribe the higher intelligence of Matter with limits because he has an idea of the information he’s seeking and can tell his machine:  “Okay, you’ve found that piece, now start looking for this one.”  Without this human piloting, the cyber-intellect would only generate endless patterns within patterns — the fractals which characterize a chaotic process.  Although human memory is capable of navigating a certain number of nested levels of thought, at a certain point we become confused and confounded.  As we learned in Chapter One, that’s the reason the Hebrews characterized Chaos as Tohu, “that which confounds”.

            Hence, Man’s ability to control and direct the Serpent Teli (who represents the higher intelligence of Matter) depends very much on his capacity for keeping track of the level on which the Serpent is “nesting” at any given time.   Such tracking is essential if the State of Mind is to remain always on a level above the one on which material phenomena are manifesting themselves.  In our second chapter’s discussion of Lucifer’s Fall, we saw how the relationship of Subject and Object is governed by their relative levels on the “ladder” of spiritual hierarchy.  If the State of Mind retains a position above the physical Universe, then it functions as the Subject whose thoughts encompass and inform the realm of material Objects.  Lucifer, on the other hand, represents the mental State that fell below the plane of manifestation, thus becoming an Object subordinated to the serpentine intelligence of Matter.

            Before we go any further, we need to develop a better understanding of the concepts “above” and “below” as they relate to the different levels of Reality.  What we’re really talking about here are levels of metaphors.  To illustrate this, let’s pick out something very familiar and mundane to serve as our baseline Reality.   If we’re looking for a “baseline”, there’s no better place to go than a baseball field, right?  On the primary level of Reality, we have the actual baseball game itself.  It consists of a sequence of actions: pitches, hits, fielding plays, base running, crowd responses, umpiring calls, etc.   If we are a player in the game or a fan in attendance, then we are “inside” this primary level.   How about if we are reading about the game in the next day’s sports page?  Maybe there’s a photograph of the close play at the plate or a slugger’s homerun swing.  There’s usually a box score that tells us how each of the players performed.  And then there’s some narrative about the key plays of the game.  All of this, we would say, is information “about the game”.  But it’s also more than that.  Its real aim is to recreate the experience of the game on another level, to generate a metaphor for the game — a “meta-game”, if you will.  To the extent the sports writer is creative and eloquent, he or she succeeds in lifting the game up to a “higher”, more imaginative level of Reality.

            Let’s take this example one step further.  A second sportswriter reads the newspaper account of the game and sees that the final score was the MetaMets 24 and the MetaGiants 23.  He writes a magazine article and says: “Too many runs are being scored.  The games are too long and fatiguing for both fans and players.  The rules should be changed to allow just two outs per inning instead of three.”  In this article, entitled “Take an Out from the Ball Game”, the second sportswriter urges the baseball commissioner to change the official rules of the game accordingly.  Here we encounter a third level of Reality, which is not about the game itself, but about the account of the game.   We could call it a “meta-meta-game”, that is, a metaphor for a metaphor.  But something even more interesting happens when the baseball commissioner reads the magazine article and decides to implement the rule change.  Now the primary Reality, the actual game itself, is changed.  What we now have is a loop in which the “highest” level feeds back into the base level and touches off a new sequence of metaphors.

            It’s apparent from all this that there are things we can’t possibly know about the game of baseball until we look at it from the “outside”.   Perhaps this accounts for the strangely galvanizing effect of a home run, something that has no real equivalent in other sports.  In the instant the ball soars out of the park, the game spills over beyond its own boundaries and touches a level of Reality beyond itself.  If we think of baseball as having one ultimate Truth attached to it (as all things must), then we would surely associate that Truth with the home run.  But the point to be made here is that the game cannot reach its ultimate Truth without going outside its playing field.

            What’s true of baseball is also true of any “game” based upon a set of rules or axioms.  Take, for example, the “numbers game”.  Mathematical genius Kurt Gödel proved that there can exist no complete set of axioms capable of verifying all that is true about positive integers.  Even if the set of axioms concerning these so-called “natural numbers” is expanded indefinitely, there will always remain true statements that can only be arrived at by going outside the system.  Similarly, cybernetics pioneer Alan Turing demonstrated that no conceivable system of artificial intelligence, however powerful it might be, can determine in advance whether an unbounded “do-loop” will ever terminate.  In other words, without the limiting “if” statements imposed by the programmer from outside the system, an unguided machine would inevitably become locked up in a never-ending loop before completing its computations.

            It’s interesting that the “Achilles heel” of artificial intelligence identified by both Gödel and Turing relates to its inability to handle self-reference.  This is what makes a machine susceptible to being trapped in an infinite loop.  The classic example is the so-called liar’s paradox, which goes like this:  “The statement you are now reading is a lie.”  Mechanical intelligence must analyze this statement first as true-if-false, then false-if-true, then again true-if-false, and so on and on.  In contrast, the human Mind will, after a few futile rounds, step off the merry-go-round and get outside the paradox.  This simple test proves that human intellect is capable of something that has been mathematically proven, by Gödel and Turing, to be beyond the power of the intelligence of Matter.  It goes without saying that if Man were purely a material being, such a capability would be impossible.

            Human Consciousness is not only capable of stepping outside the bounds of primary Reality, it has an inherent need to do so in order to create meaning out of experience.  That’s why mankind devotes so much its energy to creating the meta-Reality of theater, cinema and literature.  On the level of unsifted experience, Reality is a hodge-podge of many meanings, which tend to obscure and mask one another unless extracted and refined to a higher level.  We find a good play, book or movie satisfying because it strips away the “static” of the extraneous things that clog our lives and exposes the golden vein of concealed meaning.  Shakespeare illustrates this principle brilliantly when he stages the “play-within-a-play” in the third act of Hamlet.   By deftly shifting down one level from the primary drama to a veritable “meta-drama”, the playwright exposes a deeper layer of meaning — the evil lurking beneath the urbane façade of the royal family:  “The [meta-]play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”

            Consciousness is vital and active to the extent that it creates meaning out of experience.  It is fallen and moribund to the extent that it passively receives the imprint of experience.  While passive perception sinks beneath experience into an abyss devoid of any meaning (save brute survival), active perception floats above, distilling the content of experience. This latter variety of sensory perception is a central theme of William Blake’s visionary verse.  In his mystical symbolism, each of the Five Senses represents a level of the World Soul, with the two highest levels corresponding to the Senses of Taste and Touch.  In the Eternity before Time, these two Senses were originally one, Blake tells us, and they will be so again in the Eternity after Time.  The poet uses this supernal Sense of Taste-Touch to represent the active, creative mode of perception.

            Two human bodily functions utilize Taste and Touch together.  One is the assimilation of food — better known as eating.  Eating makes a perfect metaphor for active perception because, when we experience something by eating it, we take it inside of our body and make it part of us.  We act upon our nourishment in a way that makes it part of something more sublime that itself.   By comparison, the self-deprecating motto of passive perception avows:  “You are what you eat.”  This conjures Daniel’s image of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who carried Israel into exile:

… thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men …[21]


            Like his disciple William Blake, John Milton also used eating as a metaphor for the higher mode of perception.  In Paradise Lost, he writes of the Archangel Raphael sharing food with Adam and Eve in Paradise.  Adam wonders at the sight of a Seraph partaking of crude earthly food for nourishment.  Responding to his curiosity, Raphael explains that Eternal Beings enjoy all the sensory pleasures that mortals do, albeit to a much higher degree.  Through the tasting and assimilation of food, the Archangel tells Adam, Matter can be transubstantiated into Spirit.  Raphael then goes on to describe how the Tree of Life functions to assimilate Matter through its roots and progressively refine it, until it blossoms into the fruit of the universal Soul.[22]

            Aside from eating, the other bodily function that involves simultaneous sensations of Taste and Touch is sex.  That’s why feasting and copulating have both been focal points of sacred rituals throughout the ages.   Back in Chapter One, we learned that the penis and the tongue, along with the heart, demarcate the plane of Symmetry in the mystical Body of Man.  This plane is associated with the Covenant of Circumcision, which was intended to rectify a defect or asymmetry in the Body caused by Adam’s Fall.  And at the source of that defect is the notorious “forbidden fruit”, with its double connotation of gastronomical and sexual enjoyment.


The Forbidden Fruit

            In order for a piece of the World Soul to be conceived, there must be intercourse between the two sexual poles of the Godhead.  In Kabbalist terminology, this means there must be Peace between the first Male Sephirah, Chochmah, and the highest Female Sephirah, Binah.  One consequence of this Peace (aka Equilibrium) is that all Ten Sephirot of the Tree of Life become “Personifications”.   Once personified, the Sephirot are said to be “rectified”, as compared to the unrectified state of the Tree during the period when worlds were being created and destroyed.   What this means is that the Tree of Life, like any other tree, must have undergone a process of growth and maturation.   We do not expect a mundane tree to become ready to bear fruit for perhaps several years after we plant it.   Similarly, the Tree of Life had to mature before it could bear the fruit of human Souls.  And because the Tree of Life embodies the sexual polarity of its Right/Male and Left/Female Pillars, the progressive emergence of sexual traits must have been a key part of its reaching maturity.

            In order to bear Souls, the growing Tree had to become conformed to the structure of the Soul, which we’ve described as having five levels.  Consequently, the Tree had to develop five Personifications.  On the highest level is the Personification of Keter, who is known as the Ancient Holy One.  The second and third levels Personifications are the supernal Father and Mother, who correspond to Chochmah and Binah.  On the fourth level are the Tree’s six Sephirot that combine in a collective Person known as the Son or Zer Anpin.  And at the fifth level we have the Son’s Bride, who personifies Malkut.

            The full articulation of each of these five Personifications is absolutely essential to the ability of the Tree to convey Souls conceived by the Father and Mother down into the Womb of Malkut for incarnation.  This is because the Personifications are not mere abstractions, like John Bull or Uncle Sam.  Carl Jung would refer to them as Archetypes — concepts which have the power to impose their Forms on manifest things.  Archetypes have the quality that they can’t be isolated on one level of Reality.  Instead, their intense energy transmits their Forms downward to create counterparts of themselves at every level beneath them.

            We know that the cumulative birth of individual Souls into the material Universe is the means by which God is reassembling the World Soul that shattered with the Fall of the Rebel Angels.   For this process to succeed, therefore, there must be a firm linkage, an unwavering correspondence between the sexual Union of the Mother and Father on the supernal level and the sexual Union of the Son and his Bride below.  This linkage is essential, because it is the supernal Union that conceives the Soul, while the lower Union ultimately renders the Soul as Flesh.  Only when all the Personifications are fully developed and perfectly delineated can this linkage become secure.

            But the rectification of the Tree of Life through Personification does not occur in isolation from the development of the material Universe.  The maturation of the Tree within the confines of the Garden proceeds in tandem with the extension of the Body of the greater Man, Zer Anpin, out into the Macrocosm.  This is the work of the Serpent Teli in constructing the anthropic Universe, the Cosmos fine-tuned to accommodate human intelligence.  In the figurative sense, the Kabbalah portrays the Tree of Life as growing from the circumference of the Garden inward to its center, while the Serpent grows from the outside of the Garden wall and extends into Space.  The two movements — centripetal and centrifugal — are complementary and totally interdependent.  Without the outward expansion of Teli, the material preconditions for the Tree’s growth cannot be secured.  Without the inward growth of the Tree, the direction and guidance of the cosmic expansion is lost, and chaos ensues.

            In many respects, the relationship between the Serpent Teli and the Tree of Life is like the relationship between a biological organism and its DNA.  The inner processes of the DNA are reflected in the outward development of the organism.  Without the outward development, the organism can’t become fit to survive and propagate its DNA.  Without the inner working of the DNA, on the other hand, the growth of the cells goes pathologically haywire and destroys the organism, as in the disease of cancer.  Among the “jobs” which the bodily organism performs for the DNA is to defend it against outside chemical and biological agents that would contaminate it.  Contamination of the DNA can disrupt its operation so as to diminish its control over the development of the organism.  When the normal functioning of the DNA is disrupted, the organism can become deformed or mutated.

            Speaking of mutations, a short while ago we were discussing defects that afflicted the mystical Body of Man as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve.  Such defects are, in fact, the basis of the Christian doctrine of Original Sin and the Jewish Covenant of Circumcision.  In light of our DNA analogy, we’re now in a good position to speculate as to how these defects arose.  Something must have occurred to allow the entry of a “contaminant” into the Garden, a contaminant that found its way to the Tree of Life.  And, based on the story we read in Genesis, whatever this contaminant was, it must have been carried into the Garden by the Serpent.

            But to say that the Serpent brought something into the Garden immediately strikes us as wrong.  The Serpent is Teli and its exclusive domain is, as we’ve said, outside the walls of Eden.  In fact, when things are functioning the way they should, Teli should be insulating the Tree from harmful agents, in same way as the biological organism protects its DNA.   The Kabbalah describes the Tree’s 12 diagonal paths corresponding to Teli as the “Arms of the World”, the supports on which Elohim stretches out the great canopy of Creation:

            There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.

            The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.[23]


            If we think of the Tree of Life as a great magnet, with its Male and Female polarity, then we can picture these Arms as the magnetic field lines which extend outward from each pole and curve back to meet the field lines extending from the opposite pole.  As we know, the Earth itself is a huge magnet, and the “arms” of its magnetic field serve to protect our planet from the harmful radiation of outer Space.  In the same way, the Arms of Teli are meant to enclose the Tree of Life and “thrust out the enemy” before it.  How strange and ironic it is, therefore, to think of the Serpent Teli as the vehicle for bringing the Enemy into contact with the Tree!

            Bear in mind, however, that, without guidance from the Tree of Life, Teli can only act in accordance with the intelligence of Matter.  In the absence of limits imposed from outside its own system, the Serpent will run away with itself like a computer program without “if” statements, driving relentlessly downward through endless nested loops instead of branching outward.  It will grow pathologically in all directions at once, like cancer cells with damaged DNA.  So the thing that goes awry with Teli, the thing that makes the Serpent turn around and drive inward through the Garden wall, must involve some dysfunction in its guidance from the Tree.

            The Tree of Life can only direct the development of the material Universe by virtue of its fruit.  That fruit, we know, consists of the Souls which “hang” from the Tree.  These Souls are conceived by the Male-Female intercourse at the level of the Father and Mother, who are the Personifications of Chochmah/Wisdom and Binah/Understanding.  The Kabbalah calls this level of the Soul Neshamah, which means “breath”.  Below this plane, the intercourse of the Son and his Bride impart motion to the Soul at the level of Ruach, the Spirit Wind.  We recall that the Son, Zer Anpin, is a composite Body consisting of Six Sephira: Chesed/Mercy, Gevurah/Judgment, Tipheret/Beauty, Netzach/Victory, Hod/Splendor, and Yesod/Foundation.  Finally, the Bride herself personifies Malkut, the Womb wherein the Soul comes to rest at the level Nephesh.

            Since the Tree grows and matures in the course of Time, it does not bear all of its fruit at once.  As is true of a natural tree, there is a specific season when the fruit ripens and is ready to be plucked.  In the case of the Tree of Life, this occurs when all of the Souls contained in the Treasury of the mystical Mount Zion have “come out”, and the World Soul, or Pleroma, is completed.  This, then, is the full complement of fruit that must hang from the Tree before the first fruit can be harvested.   Only when the Tree holds all of the Souls comprising the Pleroma can they all merge into the One Soul of the Messiah, the Son of David whose Kingdom completes Time and restores it to Eternity.[24]

            As for the Serpent Teli, the extension of Matter into Space continues until the Form of the divine Body is completed.  Again we go back to the concept of Zahab, with the Universe of Matter being the ore containing the sacred Gold of the universal Soul.  In this sense, the extended Universe of Teli functions as the greater Body of Man and the dwelling place of the Pleroma.  The Serpent expands its coils outward into the erstwhile empty Cosmos so that it may recover the scattered sparks of Consciousness which were carried away by the wreckage of the failed universe which immediately preceded our own.  Thus, the Serpent must, of necessity, also extend into the depths of Hell, the realm of the Fallen Angels that we described in Chapter Two.  Even in Hell — amidst the aborted shells and husks (Qlippot) of negative existence — there are scintillations of  Soul fire, sparks of ethereal Light that Teli must gather up toward the final day of Redemption.

            So we come back to the questions: What determines the endpoint of the Serpent’s extension into Space?  Where is the limiting “if” statement in Teli’s programming?  Where is the boundary of the loop, the criterion that tells the Serpent to stop expanding and deliver up its hoard of gold?  The answer is that the material Universe must go on expanding until the Tree of Life has produced its ultimate fruit, the Pleroma.  And the signal that Teli is given of this “Omega Point” is the harvest of the fruit that begins with the appearance of the Messiah.  At that juncture, Space is gathered up in Infinity and Time in Eternity.

            True to his Biblical character, the Messiah is a Fisherman who casts out his net and, in due time, hauls it in.  His net is the matrix of Matter/Energy represented by the Serpent Teli.  When the Messiah calls for the net to be hauled in, it will restore to the Pleroma the Soul fragments that were carried off by the Fall of the Angels.  This “hauling in of the net” constitutes the final event of Time.  It is foreshadowed in the rather enigmatic story that appears in the final chapter of John’s gospel.  The incident occurs on the Sea of Tiberias (aka the Sea of Galilee), where Jesus had previously walked on the water in the midst of a tempest.  After his death and Resurrection, Jesus appeared for the third and last time to a group of disciples that included Peter and the sons of Zebedee, John and James.  The seven Apostles had been all night on the Sea but had caught nothing.  As the risen Christ stood on the shore and called to them, they did not at first recognize him.  He told them to cast their net to the right side of the boat, the same way as he had instructed Simon and the Zebedee  brothers when he called them to be his first followers — and with the same result.  When the net began to strain under the weight of the prodigious catch, John realized what was happening and exclaimed to Peter:  “It is the Lord!”

            Jesus then built a charcoal fire and invited the seven Apostles to join him in a eucharistic meal of bread and fish.  It’s significant that the Scripture specifies a charcoal fire, since the intense heat of charcoal flame was often used by the ancients as a “refiner’s fire” to separate gold and silver from their ore.  This detail is an unmistakable signature of the Messiah depicted by Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets:

            But who may abide the day of his coming?  and who shall stand when he appeareth?  for he is like a refiner’s fire …

            And he shall sit as a refiner purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as silver and gold.[25]


            Both Malachi and St. John are using the symbolic language of Jewish mysticism to tell us something terribly important.  Part of what they’re saying is similar to what we’ve just been discussing.  In terms of our discussion, the great catch of fish represents the lost “sparks” of the World Soul scattered with the Fall of Lucifer.  The Serpent Teli is the “net” that hauls in this catch from the vast sea of the Universe.  And it’s the Messiah who gives the signal to haul in the net so that its contents may be eucharistically eaten and assimilated to the collective Body (Syntagma) of mankind.  But — here’s the important part — there’s a “catch” involving when Teli’s “catch” may be eaten and restored to the Pleroma.  It may not be eaten until the Messiah has appeared to play the role of the refiner, separating with His sublime Fire the dross of the ore from its golden content.

            So this is where the proscription given to Adam and Eve against eating the “forbidden fruit” comes from.  Unfortunately, conventional religion has drained the meaning from this story by rendering the forbidden fruit as simply a test of obedience to God’s arbitrary commands.  But God’s Will is never arbitrarily imposed.  We are not expected to blindly follow Him/Her without understanding.  Instead, God is present with us always in the form of the Shechinah, who carries with Her the Understanding of our heavenly Mother, the Personification of Binah.  It’s not that our First Parents were arbitrarily excluded from tasting the fruit of the Tree that grew “in the middle of the Garden”.  They were merely enjoined from harvesting the “fruit” — that is, the World Soul — until it was “ripe”.

            There is an ancient Jewish tradition preserved in the Kabbalah to the effect that the Tree from which Eve plucked the forbidden fruit was actually the Tree of Life.  According to this tradition, her Sin consisted of not waiting for the proper time to pick the fruit.  In other words, the Tree of Life and the taboo Tree of Good and Evil were not two different trees.  Instead, the latter was an immature, incomplete version of the former.  This explains why Scripture describes both Trees as being “in the middle of the Garden”.  With this background in mind, let’s now turn our attention from the forbidden fruit to its source.


The Tree of Good and Evil

            Up to the point when Eve did her untimely picking, there was only the Tree of Life, still in the process of growing and maturing.  The fruit of the Tree was not ready to be harvested insofar as its consummate blossom, the Messianic Soul, had not yet unfolded.  The Messiah, as St. Paul affirms, is the “first fruits” of the Tree of Life.[26]  Paul goes on to say, as we noted earlier, that the incarnation of the Messiah is the fulfillment of the Tree’s sacred mission, because in Him are joined God’s transcendent and immanent natures, i.e., His/Her Male and Female polarities.   We should also be aware of the central role that this notion of “first fruits” plays in the whole canon of the Jewish Law:

            And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.

            But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal.

                        And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof …[27]


            The period of five years that the Law stipulates for the eating of the fruit corresponds to the five levels of the Soul of which we’ve spoken.  So the ritual of first fruits relates to the completion of the World Soul.  It signifies that, until the Messiah appears, the Tree remains “uncircumcised”, such that the Body of Man — and the Cosmos which reflects that Body’s Form — remains incomplete.  By the same token, the Law itself remains partial and provisional until the coming of the Messiah:

            The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.[28]


            It’s interesting that the Messianic epithet Shiloh derives from the Hebrew word shalah, which has two meanings.  One meaning is “peace” or “tranquility”, suggesting a linkage with the Equilibrium of the Tree’s Male and Female (Right and Left) pillars.   The other connotation is “extraction”, particularly in the sense of the Soul’s removal from the Body at death.  The latter meaning gets us back to the role of the Messiah as the “refiner’s fire” that separates the gold/zahab of the universal Soul from the crude “ore” with which it’s bound up in the coils of the Serpent Teli.   This reveals something quite significant about the consequences of Eve’s Sin.  We know that the immediate consequence of that Sin was Death.  By picking the Tree’s fruit in violation of the rite of the first fruits, Eve prematurely signaled the Serpent to return to the Garden with its gathered hoard of “ore”.  Hence, the Serpent duly appeared in the Garden, but the Messiah was not there to extract the gold of the Pleroma.  By default, the extraction had to be effected by Teli himself, that is, by the crudity of a purely physical process — the merciless, wrenching, brutal process we know as Death.

            This, of course, is a radically different take on the Sin of our First Parents from that expounded by conventional religion.  The Serpent does not cause Eve’s Sin, rather he appears in response to it.  Her Sin does, as we shall shortly see, transform the Serpent and the Tree from benign to malignant entities.  But the flaw that triggers this malignancy originates in Eve and Adam.  More precisely, it originates in the interaction between the two of them, in the Balance of the Male and Female principles as they emerge from the supernal realm of potentiality into the lower domain of actuality.  On this score, the Kabbalah teaches that the mere appearance of the Serpent in the Garden is an accusation of Sin, because it shows that the Balance is destroyed.[29]  An analogy can be made to the balance wheel of an old-fashioned wind-up clock:  If the clock keeps bad time, it’s a sign the balance wheel is misaligned.  In the same way, the Serpent’s premature return to the Garden is a sign of an imbalance in its guiding mechanism, which is in the Tree of Life.

            As for the “balance wheel” of the Tree, we know it’s located at the first level of the Tree’s seven lower limbs.  This is the level of Chesed/Mercy and Gevurah/Judgment.  Chesed and Gevurah are the reflections, in the lower Worlds, of the Male and Female principles in the supernal World of the Tree’s upper limbs.  The supernal Father and Mother are Chochmah/Wisdom and Binah/Understanding, who may be pictured as two faces looking at each other.  Again we have the motif of self-reference and recursion.  Without Understanding, Wisdom has no expression, and without Wisdom, Understanding has no content.  This interaction of Chochmah and Binah on the supernal level should be mirrored by the interaction of Chesed and Gevurah on the lower plane.  Accordingly, the two countenances, Male and Female, should behold one another.  Another way of saying this is that the sexual polarization of the Tree must be complete.

            But we recall that the seven lower limbs of the Tree extend from Eternity down into Time.  It follows that the sexual polarity at the level of Chesed and Gevurah must develop over Time.  At the dawn of Creation, Male and Female were combined in the one Body of Adam.  According to the second chapter of Genesis, Adam was in the Garden for some time before the Female pole began to emerge.  Indeed, consistent with the “trial-and-error” pattern of evolution associated with God’s immanent nature, the initial feminine eruption appears to have been abortive.  Thus, Jewish oral tradition compiled in the Haggadah recounts the tale of Lilith, an earlier prototype of Eve.  The legend relates that Lilith was a sort of quasi-male, too intent on being the equivalent of Adam to complement him as a companion.[30]

            It’s significant that Eve’s emergence from Adam took place while he was in a “deep sleep”.[31]  Just as waking life is dominated by a type of Consciousness that we call Reason, in sleep the dominant form of Consciousness is Vision.  In Chapter Two we learned that Vision is the key to escaping the trap of self-reference that snared Lucifer.  Vision is the manifestation of the Soul in the Mind.  It enables the Mind to rise — as if on a Chariot or Watchtower —above the recursive perception of Selfhood that leads down the blind alley of narcissism.  When detached from Vision, Reason is reduced to the one-dimensional rationality of the ego, a rationality which denies the existence of everything that its diminished senses exclude.  Totally obscured by the blind spot of the ego-persona is all that pertains to Man’s eternal Life and immortal Soul.

            When Reason is detached from Vision, then the Male and Female Personifications of the Tree of Life cease to behold one another “face-to-face”.   As a consequence, the Tree’s sexual polarity is scrambled and indefinite.  This, in turn, throws off the Balance of Chesed and Gevurah, which serves as the “gyroscope” of the Tree’s guidance system.   Finally, the breakdown of the guidance system cuts the Serpent of Matter loose to expand wildly, chaotically, and destructively.

            Reason detached from Vision is the characteristic mindset of the ego-persona.  We recognize it as the State of Mind into which the self-adoring Cherub Lucifer fell.  In his prophetic poetry, William Blake refers to the ego-persona as the “Specter” and to its visionless State of Mind as the “Covering Cherub”.  The Covering Cherub represents a State of complete opacity to the Divine Image.  Since Souls embody the Eternal Forms that comprise the Divine Image, they cannot pass through this State.  For the individual Soul, incarnation into this State is literally a “dead-end”, because Death is its only possible route of egress.

            The Specter is characterized, above all, by its inability to deal with its opposite sexual pole “face-to-face”.  Being inherently incapable of accommodating contraries, it reduces them to negations.  Since visionary Self-transcendence is not in its nature, the ego does not perceive forces that contradict itself for what they truly are — stimuli to higher development.  Regardless of the occasional lip-service it may pay, the ego-persona does not and cannot subscribe to the precept, “Love your enemies”.   To love one’s enemies is to accept that which runs counter to one’s own personal will.  Without such Love one cannot truly submit to the Will of God.  Without it, one cannot honestly say that one even loves one’s neighbors, friends or family.  All that the ego can truthfully say is that it loves those who satisfy its desires … but only for so long as they do so.

            Contraries — such as Male-and-Female, Transcendence-and-Immanence, Reason-and-Vision — provide the tension, the energy that propels Creation upward on the ladder of spiritual ascension.  The opposing pillars of the Tree of Life are like galvanic rods generating the “electricity” which animates Matter and endows it with Soul.  But to the ego-Specter, all contraries must be rendered as negations, that is, as Good-and-Evil.  Blake expresses this thought much better than I can:

There is a Negation, & there is a Contrary

The Negation must be destroyed to redeem the Contraries

The Negation is the Spectre, the Reasoning Power in Man

This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal

Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated always

To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.

To bathe in the Waters of Life, to wash off the Not Human …

To cast off the rotten rags of Memory…

To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination.[32]


And again, in Blake’s words:


They take the Two Contraries … with which

Every Substance is clothed, they name them Good & Evil

From them they make an Abstract, which is a Negation

Not only of the Substance from which it is derived

A murderer of its own Body: but also a murderer

Of every Divine Member …

This is the Spectre of Man: the Holy Reasoning Power

And in its Holiness is closed the Abomination of Desolation.[33]


            Blake identifies the dominance of the spectral ego-persona as the eclipsing of Vision and Imagination by Reason and Moral Virtue.  This imbalance has the effect of deforming both the collective Body of Man and the Tree of Life.  With regard to the mystical Body of Man, it can be best be compared to a Temple, with the Soul located in its central precinct.  Within the Soul itself, we have spoken of its “Holy of Holies”, its innermost Heart wherein it has direct contact with the Essence of God through the “speaking silence” of the Chashmal.  The amber-like translucence of the Chashmal faithfully transmits the Divine Image, through the Cherubic messengers of the outer Soul, to the Body of Man, so that it may become the Similtude of the Supernal Man (aka Zer Anpin).

We’ve discussed how the State of Mind represented by Satan seeks to interpose itself between Chasmal and the Soul’s outer precincts, which shape the persona.  To the extent Satan attains this objective, his fallen State of Mind forms, as Blake aptly puts it, an “incrustation” over the Chashmal, obscuring its Light.  That’s why the term “Covering Cherub” — applied by both Ezekiel and Blake to this State of Mind — accurately describes its baleful effects.

Once the Balance between the Male and Female poles of perception has been disturbed, it’s as if the “immune system” of the collective human Body is compromised and weakened.  There now appears a huge gap in the “Arms of the World”, the erstwhile impregnable force-field insulating the Tree of Life from outside contamination.  These “Arms”, corresponding to the twelve diagonal paths of the Tree of Life, are anchored in the dual Sephirot of Netzach/Victory and Hod/Splendor.  Netzach and Hod actually embody the human faculties of Prophecy and Vision, respectively.  These faculties are of supreme importance to the success of the human endeavor, because they occupy the transitional area between Mind and Spirit.

The relationship between Vision and Prophecy mirrors that between Wisdom and Understanding.   Vision is the direct contact of the Mind with God’s Female Presence, Shechinah.  This is why great poets, such as Dante, Milton, and Blake, have always invoked Shechinah as their “Muse”, the source of their poetic Vision.  But, like Wisdom, the actual experience of God’s Glory cannot be directly rendered in images or speech.  Just as Understanding gives expression to Wisdom, so Prophecy gives expression to Vision.  There is a distinction, however.  Wisdom and Understanding operate downward from the upper limbs of the Tree, that is, from the realm of God’s ultimate transcendence (Keter) to the realm of Her ultimate immanence (Malkut).  On the other hand, Vision and Prophecy operate in exactly the opposite direction, that is, from the bottom up.  Both of these two reciprocal directions of movement are essential if the Tree is to accomplish its function of linking God’s transcendent and immanent polarities.  To the extent that the movement is interrupted in either direction, the lines of the divine “magnetic field” are broken and the Tree is vulnerable to attack.

The potential vulnerability of the Tree of Life is presented in allegorical form in the Biblical story of the Israelites’ battle with the tribe of Amelek in the Sinai desert.  Amelek was descended from Esau, or Edom, Jacob’s older brother.  Recall that, in Chapter Two, we identified Edom as an esoteric symbol for the spiritual wreckage of universes that were created and destroyed while the Tree of Life was still maturing into its “rectified” form.  Therefore, Edom and Amelek represent the “wrong turn” in the evolution of Consciousness, the “dead-end” pursued by the Fallen Angels.  The remnants of this false Consciousness and its aborted worlds are known in the Kabbalah as the Qlippot, signifying empty “husks” or “shells”, devoid of true Being.   The Qlippot dwell on the dark side of the realm of “negative existence”, which constitutes the background to the Reality of our Universe.   This background of “negative existence” also has a bright side drenched in the limitless Light of the World to Come.  We approach the World to Come through the door of Imagination, which enables us to continually reshape our selfhood in the patterns of the Eternal Forms.

Getting back to Israel’s battle with Amalek, we read that Moses stood in the “background” of the combat.  Yet it was Moses’ actions that controlled the course of the struggle.  When Moses raised his arms, Israel prevailed, but when he tired and lowered his arms, Amalek had the advantage.[34]  We can discern a clear parallel here between the raised arms of Moses and the “Arms of the World” that shield the Tree of Life.  The connection is much clearer in the Kabbalah, where Moses is seen as personifying the Sephirah Netzach, one of the two “anchors” of these metaphysical Arms.[35]  Since the Tree is a standard Scriptural emblem of Israel, all we need do is recognize Amalek as a symbol for the Qlippot, and our allegory is complete.   When the Arms of the World are lowered, the background of Reality shifts from the visions of the World to Come to the vanities of the worlds that have already failed.

The metaphysical background of “negative existence” plays a key role in the mysticism of the Kabbalah, and we’ll be exploring this subject further as this book goes along.   But, since it also plays directly into the themes of the Fall of Man, we’ll need to understand it a little better at this juncture as well.  We’ve said that meaning is created from raw experience by taking it to a higher level and carving away the extraneous material that obscures its pure Form.  We can liken this to Michelangelo’s well known statement about his chisel merely liberating the figure of David from the block of marble in which it had been hidden.  But it’s crucial to grasp the concept that the figure always remains dependent on the background for its meaning.  By altering the background, Michelangelo transformed the meaning of his material from a block of stone to the royal ancestor of the Messiah.  By pushing some keys, I am now carving dark lines out of the white background of this page.  The letters I type contain meaning, but that meaning can be altered or lost if I change the background of this page, let us say, to a pattern of black-and-white stripes.

The interaction of background and foreground is central to the Kabbalah because it goes to the core of the problem of God’s simultaneous transcendence and immanence.  According to the Kabbalah, the first step in the Creation of our Universe was the so-called Tzimtzum — the establishment of a background from which the ethereal Light was withdrawn.  Hence, God’s transcendent aspect relates to this background, to the Light that is withheld, the Light that is reserved for the World to Come.  Another way of saying this is that the Eternity is the background of Time and Space.  Without access to this eternal background, temporal existence has no meaning and the Consciousness of its sentient creatures descends to that of the Qlippot.  As we said earlier, the cultivation of the Tree of Life demands that the plough of Vision cut through the surface of Space/Time and turn over the underlying soil of Eternity.

Background and foreground are classic examples of complementary contraries.  We know that such contraries fall within the “blind spot” of reasoning devoid of Vision.  Such one-dimensional reasoning, as Blake observes, can only deal with contraries as negations of one another.  Consequently, diminished Reason focuses only on the foreground, that is to say, on that which can be demonstrated or proven.  We readily recognize this mindset as the prevailing scientific-materialistic rationality of our day.  Such rationality must, however, always run behind the pace of ultimate Truth in the same way that the fabled Achilles ran behind the Tortoise.  This is because the “background” separating the proposition and the Truth cannot be eliminated without forfeiting the meaning of the proposition, no more than the space separating the figures of Achilles and the Tortoise can disappear without obliterating the figures themselves.  That’s why, for example, Kurt Gödel’s effort to prove all of the truths implicit in the system of natural numbers ultimately produced only a proof that it can’t be done.  Interestingly, the final steps of Gödel’s proof lead to a mathematical statement that contains itself — in other words, a proposition without any background.  Expressed in words, it would look something like this:

This statement contains This statement contains This statement contains

{ad infinitum}  itself.  itself.  itself.


            We immediately recognize this as a variety of our old nemesis, the endlessly convoluted loop.  What Gödel actually proved is that any mode of reasoning which attempts, by brute force, to squeeze the background out of its system will only succeed in constructing for itself an inescapable labyrinth of paradox.  Ironically, the endeavor of the ego-persona to negate its background, and thereby deny the possibility of transcendence, must inevitably cause it to fashion for itself a hellish background, a metaphysical “black hole” from which there is no exit.  This is the message of the Greek myth that portrays the cunning craftsman Daedalus being imprisoned in the intricate Labyrinth of his own design.  The myth goes on to tell of the escape of the hero Theseus from the same Labyrinth by the unwinding of a magical ball of thread, the gift of the goddess Ariadne.   Ariadne, whose name means “most holy Mother”, is yet another mythic rendering of Shechinah, the feminine font of Vision.  According to astral lore, her wedding tiara appears in sky as the circlet of seven stars called the Corona Borealis, the “Crown of the North Wind”.  Celtic legend refers to the same constellation as Caer Arianrhod, the abode of Souls awaiting incarnation.[36]  We can see here an obvious correspondence to the northerly vantage point of the heavenly Mount Zion, which is likewise a repository of Souls.

            In the Kabbalah, the North is the direction from which the Qlippot penetrate the Tree of Life and cause it to produce the Tree of Good and Evil as its offshoot.  The northern side of the Tree is identified as its Left or Female pillar.  Its areas of vulnerability, where the protecting Arms remain open to the evil influx, are the Sephirot of Gevurah/Judgment and Hod/Vision.[37]   On the level of Chesed and Gevurah, the trouble begins when the complementary pairing of Mercy and Judgment degenerates into the crude dichotomy of Good and Evil.  In place of the energy of the supernal Archetypes that activate and inform Vision, the Tree of Good and Evil yields only the moribund Stone of Law.   This Stone of Law serves to beat Souls down to a flat uniformity, to strip them of their aura of godlike Glory, the unique numenosity of their divine origins.  It is this Law that crucified Jesus of Nazareth and that continues each day to crucify the Body of Christ in each and every one of us.

            Without the contention of contraries, the Tree of Good and Evil does not lift its branches to the heavens, but rather shoots them back downward, like a banyan tree.  Blake describes this as the Tree of Mystery, immobilizing and poisoning the Body of his Supernal Man, Albion:

Every ornament of perfection, and every labour of love,

In all the Garden of Eden, & in all the golden mountains

Was become an envied horror …

And every Act a Crime, and Albion the punisher & judge.


And Albion spoke from his secret seat and said:

… All these hills & valleys are accursed witnesses of Sin

I therefore condense them into solid rocks, stedfast!

A foundation and certainty and demonstrative truth:

That Man be separate from Man …

                        … and underneath his heel shot up

A deadly Tree, he nam’d it Moral Virtue, and the Law

Of God who dwells in Chaos hidden from the human sight.

The Tree spread over him its cold shadows, (Albion groaned)

They bent down, they felt the earth, and again enrooting

Shot into many a Tree! an endless labyrinth of woe! [38]


            On this Tree of Mystery, the Judgment of Gevurah becomes the severity of harsh punishment.  Torn loose from the circumscribing background of Vision, Judgment is transformed into an unbridled Wrath that extends itself without limit.  The Kabbalah speaks in terms of the Tree expanding on its Left side, and in the process causing the inflation of the Qlippot that have attached themselves there.  As we have alluded to previously, these Qlippot are portrayed symbolically as the dynasty of eight Edomite kings listed in the 36th Chapter of Genesis.  When Eve eats the fruit of the Tree of Mystery, these impure husks are mixed with the World Soul and must thereafter be “weeded out” over a series of generations.

            We’ve come quite a long way in this discussion, and it would be useful at this juncture to gather together some of our conclusions before wrapping up this chapter:

1.      Ours is not the first or only Universe that has ever existed.  Before our World was created, there was a series of  abortive universes that failed to produce the conditions required for the development of Self-conscious biological organisms.

2.      Before the Creation of our World, God created an ethereal substance embodying His/Her Essence, a “quintessence” called Light.  To form a background (negative existence) for the positive existence of created worlds, God first “withdrew” the Light.

3.      Part of this Light was reserved for the World to Come (i.e., to come after our own).  It nonetheless has a background presence (or negative existence) in our Reality.

4.      The rest of the Light was to be restored to the physical Universe in the form of the Pleroma, or World Soul.  Before our own Universe came into being, a number of the previously failed universes (referred to in item #1) proved themselves incapable of receiving and holding the Light of the Pleroma.

5.      Finally, the last such universe (before our own, that is) developed to the point where it produced Vessels to retain the Light.  These Vessels were States of Consciousness which we know as Angels.  It was the function of one particular order of these Angels, the Cherubim, to receive the Light of the World Soul.

6.      Lucifer, the first of the Cherubim to achieve Self-awareness, fell under the spell of narcissistic self-love and drew a number of other Cherubim after him.  The State of Mind occupied by these Fallen Angels became totally opaque and, rendered thus incapable of any longer receiving the Light, shattered.

7.      With the shattering of the Vessels associated with the Fallen Angels came the splitting up of the World Soul.  Fragments of the Pleroma, in the form of “sparks” or “scintilla” of Light, remained trapped, however, in the opaque shells (Qlippot) of the broken Vessels.

8.      To reconstitute the Pleroma, God shaped the surviving Vessels (Sephirot) into a network called the Tree of Life.  Our World was created and proved itself a suitable habitat for the Tree.  The Tree became manifest in our World through the Sephirah Malkut, the Garden.

9.      As the Tree grew and matured, it came to bear its “fruit”.  That is to say, the Souls of the Pleroma began to assemble in the “womb” of Malkut..  When all of the Souls had blossomed, the Messiah was to appear to bind them all together as One.

10.  The Tree directed the intelligence of Matter (Serpent Teli) in the expansion of a vast physical Universe beyond the bounds of the Garden.  The object of this expansion was to gather up the sparks of Light trapped in the Qlippot in order to restore them to the Pleroma when the Messiah appeared.

11.  Before the Male and Female branches of the Tree had fully extended themselves, its fruit was prematurely harvested.   This commenced the incarnation of Souls before the Pleroma had the chance to complete itself.  The rash harvest also gave an untimely signal to the Serpent to return to the Garden with its “catch” of Qlippot.

12.  Afforded the opportunity to penetrate the Tree’s protective “arms”, the Qlippot attached themselves to branches on the Left (Female) side of the Tree, which expanded into a new offshoot — the Tree of Good and Evil (aka the Tree of Mystery).

13.  The Qlippot mixed with the Souls of the Righteous in the Pleroma.  In order to separate them from the Righteous Souls, it became necessary for a number of generations of Adam’s progeny to be born and to suffer Death.

            When the Qlippot mixed with the World Soul, they generated in it a sort of turbulence that disturbed its Peace and upset its Equilibrium.  But the Qlippot could not penetrate into the Chashmal, the translucent core of the Soul that remains in direct contact with the fountainhead of Righteousness.  Instead, they formed an opaque covering to hide the Light of the Chashmal.  This is the “Covering Cherub”.  It is a false selfhood, an alien persona that imprisons the Soul with fear, doubt and shame.   It instills in our Souls the fear of reaching across the divide that separates us from others, keeping us from those we desperately need to fill our inner voids.   It fills our Souls with doubt of our eternal pedigree, causing us to degrade ourselves to level of animals.  And, most devastatingly, it makes us ashamed of everything inside us that makes us unique, exciting, free and alive.  This is the shame of “nakedness” that afflicted our First Parents as the very first symptom of eating the forbidden fruit.

            Thus, the Covering Cherub constitutes the foundation of the collective False Selfhood of mankind.  And all of the many layers of humanity’s collective and individual ego-personas are built on top of this foundation.  This is the meaning of the composite Statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the book of Daniel:

            This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,

                        His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.

            Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet … and brake them to pieces.[39]


 Beneath the layers of the False Selfhood, which Daniel describes as consisting of clay and metals, lies the “philosophers’ stone” of our true and eternal identity, the “fruit” of our collective unity in the Body of the Supernal Man.  When the Messiah appears, He will cut through the strata of Qlippot obscuring His Body, just as Daniel envisions the Stone smashing the Statue’s feet of clay.

            Because he has so many layers of the psyche to hide himself beneath, the Covering Cherub is elusive, evasive, and chameleon-like.  He is the source of all that is cowardly and ambiguous in a man.  According to William Blake, the primary mission of Prophecy is to expose the Covering Cherub, to compel him to assume a definite form.  In the following passage, Blake refers to the Cherub as the “Reactor”:

The Reactor hath hid himself thro envy.  I behold him.

But you cannot behold him till he be reveald in his System

Albions Reactor must have a Place prepard:  Albion must Sleep

The Sleep of Death, till the Man of Sin & Repentance be reveald.

Hidden in Albions Forests he lurks:  he admits of no Reply

From Albion:  but hath founded his Reaction into a Law

Of Action, for Obedience to destroy the Contraries of Man.

He hath compelld Albion to become a Punisher & hath possessd

Himself of Albions Forests & Wilds!  and Jerusalem is taken! [40]


            As we shall discuss later in this book, the “Man of Sin and Repentance” — in whose individual persona the Covering Cherub will finally reveal himself at the end of Time— is the figure known in Christian prophecies as the “Antichrist”.   Before the reign of the Messiah can begin, the layers of false personas that lie between us and the Covering Cherub must be stripped away, one by one.  Scripture depicts these false personas symbolically as the line of seven Kings of Edom whose deaths are chronicled in the 36th Chapter of Genesis.  We will encounter each of these Kings in our next chapter, when we will venture, in the footsteps of Dante, into our own allegorical descent into the Underworld.  But before we do, we should be reminded of our objective to remove the “incrustations” obscuring the divine core of our Soul, the Chashmal.  For the Chasmal retains the Image of the Divine Man, represented by the eighth King of Edom who, unlike his predecessors, is not consigned to Death.

            As we’ve noted previously, the eighth Edomite King is meant to be a prototype of the Messiah.  His name, Hadar, meaning “Beauty”, identifies him with the Sephirah Tipheret, which is the Heart of the supernal Body of Man, Zer Anpin.  While no queens are mentioned in connection with his seven defunct predecessors, Hadar is accounted as having a wife named Mehetabel, signifying one “rectified by God”.  Rectification, of course, points us back in the direction of the Covenant of Circumcision, the ritual excision of the false covering that obscures the Divine Image in Man.  The rite of Circumcision was given to Abraham in order to remove the obstruction, created by the Sin of our First Parents, to the River carrying the “gold” of Righteous Souls into Malkut’s Garden of incarnation.  This explains the name of Queen Mehetabel’s grandmother, Mey Zahab — literally, the “Waters of Gold”.

            In King Hadar and Queen Mehetabel, we recognize the symbolic restoration of the Balance between the Male and Female principles.  Thus is reestablished the “Peace” between the Sephirot Chesed/Mercy and Gevurah/Judgment that was disrupted by the Qlippot’s infestation of the Tree of Life.   This Peace is effected by the Sephira Tipheret/Beauty, to which Hadar’s name refers.  As we touched upon briefly at the end of Chapter Two, Hadar’s name also connects him to the visionary Jewish festival of Succoth, or Tabernacles.  This eight-day festival involves a ritual enactment of the rectification of the mystical Body of Man and the reintegration of the World Soul.

            In his/her left hand, the Succoth celebrant takes the fruit of the “beautiful” (hadar) tree, a citron that is held over the celebrant’s heart.  The citron represents the Head of the Female (Malkut) aligning with the Heart of the Male (Zer Anpin) during their intercourse.  In his/her right hand, the celebrant holds something called a Lulav, representing the Male principle.  The Lulav is a bundle consisting of the frond of a date palm wrapped around three myrtle branches and two willow twigs.  The date palm represents the Tree of Good and Evil, which must be rectified so that the flow of the “seed” of Righteous Souls from the Male to the Female might resume.   This theme is presented as an allegory in the Biblical story of Tamar, whose name means “date palm”.  Deprived of her husbands’ seed by the wickedness of Er and Onan, Tamar used her feminine wiles to conceive twin sons by her father-in-law Judah, thereby sustaining the royal line that was to culminate in David and Jesus.[41]

            In the Kabbalah, the date palm of the Lulav is also linked with the Cherubim who were stationed East of the Garden of Eden to bar the way to the Tree of Life.[42]  Since, as we said earlier, the Left and Right sides of the Tree are considered to correspond to the compass directions North and South, respectively, then East would be toward the top of the Tree.  We know that the Garden is represented on the Tree by Malkut, so to the East of the Garden would be Yesod, located just above Malkut.  It’s from Yesod that the seed of Righteous Souls enter the Womb of Malkut.  Thus, it follows that the sword-wielding Cherubim — and, by association, the Lulav’s date palm — signify an impediment to the incarnation of Souls, and hence to the reconstitution of the Pleroma.

            Again according to the Kabbalah, the date palm functions to bar our way to the Tree of Life by setting up a network of 32 “Watchers”, each of whom keeps an eye on one of the paths of the Tree.  This message is derived from a rather enigmatic passage in Ecclesiastes, which speaks of the oppression of the poor and the perversion of judgment in the king’s land due to the corruption of the high officials who watch over the lower ones.[43]  The Kabbalah also suggests that these “Watchers” were the Fallen Angels whose sexual relations with the “daughters of man” engendered the race of primeval Giants (Nephilim).[44] 

            The 32 paths of the Tree of Life are mirrored by 32 inverted paths of the Tree of Good and Evil, with the date palm being an emblem for the latter.  Together, therefore, the two Trees comprise 64 paths.  Accordingly, when the Tree of Good and Evil is ultimately rectified, all of these paths will be restored to the 64 Eternal Forms which we discussed in Chapter Two.  We recall that these 64 Forms comprise the Elohim who created the Universe over a period of 6 Days.  The Kabbalah teaches that the 64 Eternal Forms applied over the Creation period of 6 Days produced a 70-fold structure of Space/Time.   These 70 Structures correspond to the 70 varieties of the date palm, each of which supposedly has its own distinctive taste.[45] 

            With this background, we can decipher the esoteric message of a pair of events that occurred in Exodus shortly after the crossing of the Red Sea.  In the first incident, Israel camped at Marah but could not drink the water there on account of its bitterness.  The Lord showed Moses a certain tree which, when brought to the waters, turned them sweet.[46]  In terms of the symbolism we’ve been studying, we can readily recognize the Tree of Life and the Soul-bearing waters that sustain it.  When the Tree is separated from the flow of Living Water, the waters become “undrinkable” in the sense that the Righteous Souls can no longer be assimilated into Man’s collective Body.  In other words, the stream of blessed Souls is choked by weeds of the Qlippot, which render the waters of incarnation polluted and bitter.  The ensuing verse of Exodus then tells of Israel making camp at Elim, an oasis of 12 wells surrounded by 70 date palm trees. The number 70 again signifies the process of rectifying the Tree of Good and Evil, here in the context of the sacred Cycle of Time (Gilgal) associated with the number 12.

            Now let’s get back to the ritual of Succoth.  We said the Female left hand of the celebrant holds the citron fruit covering his/her heart, while the Male right hand holds a date palm frond wrapped around three myrtle branches and two willow twigs.  We notice that the total of five branches and twigs suggests the five levels of the Soul.  The Kabbalists see the three myrtle branches as connoting the Sephirot of Chesed, Gevurah and Tipheret — the triad that establishes the Peace between Male and Female needed to release the flow of Righteous Souls toward incarnation.  The two willow twigs, on the other hand, represent the paired Sephirot of Netzach and Hod, which are seen to function in this setting like two kidneys, mixing the essences of the two streams of fluid flowing into them.[47]  It is here, in the “kidneys” or “reins” of the metaphysical Body, therefore, that the impurities introduced by the Qlippot may be mixed with the Souls of the Righteous and injected into the World Soul.  This process insures that we incarnate Beings all receive some proportion of Darkness mixed in with the Light of our Souls.  In other words, Calvinism notwithstanding, there are no predestined Elect or Damned Souls, because we all get a share of the filth and the fidelity.  It’s totally up to us what we make of it.


The First Jubilee

            If the Sin of Adam and Eve involved not waiting long enough to taste the fruit of the Tree of Life, then we have to ask ourselves the question:  How long would have been long enough?  As we discussed earlier, the Law set forth in Leviticus stipulates that a tree must be “circumcised” before its fruit is eaten.  The Law also requires that a male child be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth.   And we’ve just been through several instances where we’ve seen the special status of the number eight in connection with the process of “rectification” of Man’s collective Body, a process for which Circumcision is a metaphor.

            The reason for waiting eight days before circumcising a male child is to insure that at least one Sabbath will be observed beforehand.  This has to do with the principle that individual Souls are conceived on the Sabbath, when there is Peace between the supernal Mother and Father.   In the case of the World Soul, we would naturally expect a more glorious and extraordinary version of the Sabbath to accompany its conception.  The Book of Jubilees (said to be written by Moses based upon the revelation he received on Mt. Sinai) suggests that this “super-Sabbath” was based on the 50-year Jubilee Cycle.  This Cycle consists of seven “weeks of years”, with the eighth year of the seventh “week” being celebrated as the Year of Jubilee.  According to the Book of Jubilees, Adam and Eve were not able to conceive their first child, Cain, until after the first Jubilee Year had elapsed.[48]  It would make sense to conclude, therefore, that it was only after the first Jubilee that the Tree of Life was meant to bring forth the “fruit” of Souls ripe for incarnation.

            Again according to the Book of Jubilees, Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit after the first “week” of the first Jubilee Cycle.  Adam had been warned that, on the day he ate of that fruit, he would surely die.  That “day”, however, would have been one day by the Lord’s reckoning, which is one thousand of our years.  Hence, Adam lived to be 930 years old, dying 70 years short of the end of his first “day”.[49]   The “remainder” of Adam’s first day of life, consisting of 70 years, then became the basis for the generations to follow, during which the effects of his Sin would have to be purged and rectified.  We’ve just seen how the rituals of Succoth associate the number 70 with this process of rectification, and we’re well aware of that 70 years is the natural life span of Fallen Man.  Let’s also recall the prophetic words of Isaiah concerning the King of Tyre (aka Lucifer):

            And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre … for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord to eat sufficiently … [50]


            Once again, we have here the image of an end-of-Time eucharistic meal, in which the sparks of Light spirited off by the shattered Vessels of Lucifer’s host are to be “eaten” and assimilated back into the World Soul..  The prophet Daniel likewise speaks of a period of 70 “weeks” for the purgation of the Sin of our First Parents:

            Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, an to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.[51]


We should especially note in this passage the reference to “sealing up” Vision and Prophecy.  There can be no doubt that the prophet was a student of the Kabbalah, since Vision and Prophecy refer to the two Sephirot of Hod and Netzach which anchor the protective Arms of the Tree of Life.  Thus, Hod and Netzach would most certainly need to be “sealed up” so that the Tree might securely bear the soul of the “most Holy” Anointed One.  Daniel’s 70 “weeks” represent the 70 Jubilee Cycles destined to transpire between the entry of God’s people into the Promised Land and the ultimate fulfillment of the Promise by the establishment of the Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom on Earth.

            In the period from the entry of Israel into the Promised Land to the suspension of the Jubilee observances by the Pharisees before the birth of Christ, the Jews observed 17 Jubilee Years.  If we take the sum of the numbers from 1 to 17, they equal 153, the number of fish in the miraculous catch orchestrated by the risen Messiah on the Sea of Galilee in the final chapter of St. John’s gospel.   These fish, we’ve noted, represent the recaptured “sparks” of Light that were trapped in the Qlippot after Lucifer’s rebellion.  Their restoration to the Pleroma is the cardinal sign of the beginning of the Messiah’s Kingdom.

            Continuing to count the Jubilee cycles, beginning from the first Jubilee celebrated in the Holy Land in 1337 BC, we find that the 70th, and last, 50-year Jubilee Cycle began on Rosh Hashanah of 1996 AD.  It will end in the final Year of Jubilee that will commence on Rosh Hashanah 2045.  In the seven intervening Sabbath years — 2002/2003, 2009/2010, 2016/2017, 2023/2024, 2030/2031, 2037/2038, and 2044/2045 — mankind will have the opportunity to start stripping away its False Selfhood, to begin uncovering its Covering Cherub, so that it will be prepared meet its true and eternal Self, face-to-Face.

            But before we can rise together to look into that Face of Glory, we must first descend together through the layers of Darkness which cover its Image in our collective Soul.  How precipitous the descent proves to be will depend on how soon we embark upon it.  So let’s begin at once!







[1]  1 Corinthians 15:26-28


[2]  Even in a finite Universe, Einstein’s equations of general relativity yield cosmological models in which only the universal center is conducive to the development of intelligent observers.  See John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 19.


[3]  Id., p. 7-8.


[4]  Alan H. Guth, The Inflationary Universe, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1997, p. 141-142.


[5]  Barrow and Tipler, op. cit., p. 252-253.


[6] Id., p. 203.


[7]  Id., p. 438


[8]  Quoted by Plato in Theaetetus, 160d.


[9]  Job 7:17


[10] Job 37:21-23


[11]  Isaiah 6:3


[12]  Bahir 63


[13]  Psalms 45:13


[14]  Psalms 87:1-5


[15]  See Chapter 1, fn. 41


[16]  Bava Batra 16b


[17]  Genesis 24:1


[18]  Exodus 31:17


[19]  Zohar, Book of Concealed Mystery, ch. i., §5


[20]  Isaiah 44:24


[21]  Daniel 4:25


[22]  John Milton, Paradise Lost, V:470-500


[23]  Deuteronomy 33:26-27


[24]  Bahir 184


[25]  Malachi 3:2-3


[26]  1 Corinthians 15:20-23


[27]  Leviticus 19:23-25


[28]  Genesis 49:10


[29]  Zohar, op.cit., ch. i., §26


[30]  The Other Bible, Jewish Pseudepigrapha, W. Barnstone, ed. (HarperCollins 1984), p.31.


[31]  Genesis 2:21


[32]  William Blake, Milton, Bk.II, 40:33-37 and 41:1-6


[33]  William Blake, Jerusalem, Ch.I, 10:8-16


[34]  Exodus 17:8-16


[35]  Bahir 135


[36]  Robert Graves, The White Goddess (Noonday Press, 1995), p.98.


[37]  Bahir 35 & 42


[38]  Jerusalem, Ch.II, 28:1-19


[39]  Daniel 2:32-34


[40]  Jerusalem, Ch.II, 43:9-17


[41]  Genesis 38


[42]  Bahir 98; Genesis 3:24


[43]  Bahir 95; Ecclesiastes 5:8


[44]  Cf. Genesis 6:1-4  and the Book of Jubilees 4:21


[45]  Bahir 166


[46]  Exodus 15:23-26


[47]  Bahir 176-178


[48]  Book of Jubilees 3:34


[49]  Book of Jubilees 4:30


[50]  Isaiah 23:17-18


[51]  Daniel 9:24