We began at the end, and we end at the beginning. The highest point in the Tree of Life is actually the root of all that the Tree becomes.
Kether is the first sphere on the Tree of Life. It represents the ultimate unity and potential of all things, and the source of everything expressed in the Tree.
Kether is the beginning before the beginning, the moment before the first spark of creation. It is the source of all, but the source of all is inert potential. Kether is like a strand of DNA into which the whole universe is encoded. It is the roadmap, or organizing principle, of what that thing can become. This is part of why we say “Malkuth is in Kether, and Kether is in Malkuth.” Malkuth is the manifested potential of Kether.
Chokmah is the second sphere on the Tree of Life, sitting at the top of the “masculine” pillar, AKA the pillar of force or pillar of mercy. If you think of Kether as a light switch in the “off” position (all potential, but nothing happening), Chokmah is what happens when that light switch is flipped “on.” It’s an explosion of pure energy in every direction, unorganized and uncompensated. It’s not until Binah, the third sphere, where that energy has the potential for form.
Chokmah is about unending motion and expansion, like the universe following the Big Bang. It’s the burst of energy that can be a catalyst for change. Its energy is stimulating and energizing. It is pure force without form, boundaries, or anything to push against.
Binah is the third sphere on the Tree of Life, sitting at the top of the “feminine” pillar, also known as the pillar of form or the pillar of severity. Working down from Kether, Binah is the first point on the tree where the potential exists for form. The spheres that precede Binah are pure unity and potential (Kether) followed by pure energy (Chokmah). Binah takes that potential, and that energy, and does something with it: it gives it shape.
Chesed is the fourth sphere on the Tree of Life, sitting right in the middle of the “masculine” pillar/pillar of force/pillar of mercy, across from Geburah. This is the sphere of vision, of planning, of imagining what’s possible. It’s in a state of eternal dance between “ideal” and “implementable.”
Chesed’s powers are particularly useful when you’re stepping into a role involving planning, but also for pointing us in the right direction for our own future. Chesed is about living your true purpose, when your Great Work on this plane is aligned with your soul.
Geburah is the fifth sphere on the Tree, sitting right in the middle of the “feminine” pillar/pillar of form/pillar of severity. Geburah is commonly associated with war and destruction.
And Geburah is well worth considering, especially as people are taking to the streets to protest abuses of power against people of color this week. Geburah is about destruction, yes, but it’s about destroying that which does not serve, that which is harmful; and white supremacy only causes harm in a society claiming to be the “land of the free.” The actions of the protestors are Geburic actions.
Geburah is about standing up for justice. It’s about not allowing corrupt systems to perpetuate.
On a macro level, Geburah is the metabolism of the universe. Many of us were taught to value creation over destruction, but truly one could not exist without the other. A world in which things are endlessly created would get impossibly crowded. Likewise, a world with nothing but destruction would be barren. These two forces are parts of a necessary, anabolic/metabolic cycle, like plant waste breaks down to become compost, then enriches the soil to grow new food.
Tiphareth is the sixth sphere, and is the central point of balance on the Tree of Life. It sits on the pillar of balance (AKA nonbinary pillar) at the halfway point between Kether and Malkuth.
Many Qabalists focus on “sacrifice” as the key aspect of Tiphareth, but I would argue that Tiphareth’s core concept is one of balance. Sometimes balance is achieved by subtracting that which doesn’t serve, of course. But sometimes moving or reconfiguring something, or adding something new, brings balance. It’s not all about sacrifice, all the time.
Netzach is the seventh sphere on the tree, sitting directly across from Hod and at the base of the “masculine” pillar, also known as the pillar of mercy or the pillar of force.
The dark green color of Netzach brings to mind wild, hot jungles, as well as wild, hot passion. It is a lower reflection of the endlessly-producing energy of Chokmah, at the top of the pillar, and as such, it is wild and untamed in nature. It represents emotion, particularly passionate, romantic love: its planetary correspondence is Venus.
Hod is the eighth sphere on the tree, and the lowest sphere on the “feminine” pillar, also known as the pillar of form or pillar of severity. It’s also part of the lowest pair of spheres on the tree, sitting across from Netzach. It has a critical role to play in our understanding of the world around us, in our magick and interactions with deities, and in our conceptualization of love.
Without Hod, our lives and relationship to the world around us would be chaos. Hod is where language and communication are born, and it is the sphere of labels and names, where we catalog and sort and understand distinctions between different things.
Yesod is the ninth sphere on the tree, sitting directly above Malkuth in the glyph. It synthetizes the powers that flow from the eight spheres above it into a digestible form for manifestation. Simply put, it makes reality possible, and is the final editor of all possibilities before they get to our plane. As such, there are a lot of impossible and untrue things in Yesod, which is why it’s the sphere of illusion.
We begin our journey in Malkuth. To understand the realms beyond physical existence, we must first understand our own plane, which is both our foundation and a reflection of the realms beyond. “As above, so below,” as they say.
Malkuth is the tenth sphere, depicted at the bottom of the Tree of Life, and represents the powers of manifestation. It is everything that ever was, is, and ever will be on this physical plane. It also includes the subtle, psychic aspect of matter, as well as the overworld and underworld – the planes that include those who have previously had physical existence (ancestors) or have an analogue in physical existence (the fae, nature spirits).