Hermetic Qabalah

The Qabalistic Tree
The Qabalistic Tree

by Jan Swanson
from Colin's Hermetic Kabbalah Page


The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

"Qabalah" is the spelling generally used to indicate the use of Kabbalah as an occult and practical magical system.  In it's modern form it is the creation (or adaptation) of Eliphas Levi, and even more so S. L. "MacGregor" Mathers, the co-founder of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  This was a magickal organisation which incorporated Judaic Kabbalah, Egyptology, Rosicrucianism, ritual magic, astrology, tarot, and the Indian tattwa system (as interpreted through Theosophy).

Two of the later Golden Dawn members, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) and Dion Fortune (born Violet Firth - 1891-1946), although very different in personality, outlook, and teachings, each further popularised magic and Kabbalistic cosmology.  Others who have added to the rich symbolism of the Hermetic Tree are Frater Achad, Kenneth Grant; Gareth Knight, and Bill Heidrick, to name just a few.


Qabalah and Kabbalah

In Judaic Kabbalah, the ten essences refer to the ten aspects of the Divine Personality.  They make up the world of Atzilut, high above the phenomenal world.  As in the Christian cosmology, there is an unbridgable ontological gulf between even the knowable God (the ten Sefirot) and the Creation.  The Kabbalist devotes himself to understanding the Sefirot, and by doing so he arrives at an understanding of, and an approach to, the nature of God.

In Hermetic, magickal, Qabalah in contrast, the ten sefirot ("sephiroth") pertain to ten aspects of what could be called the astral or magical world.  In contrast with dualistic theism, but in keeping with a neoplatonic and emanationist understanding, they are the ten intermediate stages between the indescribable infinite or Absolute (En Sof, or "Ain Soph") and the mundane reality.  They are identified with ten grades of magical initiation, the seven planets of traditional astrology (with the lowest sefirah, Malkhut, representing the Earth, and the two highest the fixed stars and the sphere of God) and with a numerological analysis of the numbers one to ten.  The twenty-two paths which link the ten sefirot are identified with one of the twenty-two Hebrew letters and twenty-two Major Arcana tarot trumps).  Thus, not only each sefirah has a particular archetypal meaning, but each path as well, making thirty-two archetypes altogether.  By the proper means therefore it is possible to invoke any of these fundamental essences.  To this end, the Golden Dawn occultists from Mathers on drew up long and elaborate tables of correspondences, listing the precise colour, animal, perfume, precious stone, mythological beings, and so on.  Crowley's book "777" (which may or may not be a plagiarisation of a manuscript circulated by Mathers, with Crowley's additional notes) give a comprehensive list of these tables of attributes.


The Ten Sefiroth

The Ten Sefirot - from Regardie _Garden of Pomegranates_ According to the teachings of Mathers, Fortune, Crowley, and others, the cosmos is divided into ten fundamental archetypal essences; the ten sefirot (or "sephiroth"), which are organised in three pillars.

The Sefirot as understood in the Golden Dawn system are not so much attributes or structures of the body of God (only remnants of the original Jewish theology remained), as occult or psychic  powers or archetypes, which were secondarily located  within the human body.

Mathers also divided the Sefirot into three triads, which he called the "astral", "moral", and "intellectual", the lowest sefirot meanwhile representing the physical world.

This system of ten sefirot and twenty-two paths is used as a stylised "map" of consciousness in ritual magic of the "Golden Dawn" tradition  And while this form of Qabalah is certainly a workable magical system, it bears little similarity to the original Jewish metaphysic from which it was ultimately derived during the Renaissance.

Traditional spelling Golden Dawn
(Qabalistic) spelling
Meaning position on body Astrological correspondence Magickal image Jungian and pseudo-Jungian Archetypes (Dion Fortune etc)
Keter 1. Kether Crown crown Prime Mover (God)
[later, Neptune]
venerable bearded old man - face seen in profile Godhead, God,
the Self
Hokhmah 2.Chokmah Wisdom left side of face Fixed stars [later, Uranus] wise old man, Yang,  male polarity
Binah 3. Binah Understanding right side of face Saturn Great Goddess,
old hag
Yin, female polarity
Daat Daath Knowledge none
[later, 3rd eye or throat]
none [later, Pluto] none none
Hesed 4. Chesed Mercy, generosity Left arm Jupiter King seated on a throne  
Gevurah 5. Gevurah Strength, power Right arm Mars Warrior  
Tifaret 6. Tiphareth Vision of  Higher Self Heart, breast Sun Child, King, Sacrificed God (e.g. Christ) Ego, self,
Netzah 7. Netzach Emotions, spontaneity Loins, left hip, left leg Venus   anima
Hod 8. Hod Intellect Loins, right hip, right legs Mercury    
Yesod 9. Yesod Astral plane, the unconscious Genitals Moon Hermophrodite  
Malkut 10. Malkuth Physical reality (as seen through the imagination) Feet, anus Earth Maiden  

image fileMagical Images on the Tree - by Jan Swanson - a nice jpg image (71 kb)

web pagesimage filesThe Tree of Life - an interactive image map - excellent

web pagesimage filesQabalah Map - another good interactive map

Although reference is made to higher worlds, generally the realms the magician journeys to, and the forces he or she invokes, are of an "astral" or psychic nature.  Qabalistic practice involves communing with, and integrating into one's own being, the qualities and abilities of these various astral or psychic forces.  And inasmuch as these forces are often considered to be latent aspects and powers of one's own being - the individual or microcosmic equivalent of the macrocosmic or archetypal forces or "Gods" - the Qabalistic path is in many ways comparable to Carl Jung's idea of Individuation; the integration of all aspects of one's being.  There is sometimes also (although not always!) a tendency here for psychological reductionism: the reducing of the status of all the Worlds "out  there" to imaginings "in here".  But in spite of this, the Qabalistic tree is a profound and insightful map of the various psychic worlds and powers.


Web links Hermetic Kabbalah / Qabalah Links Web links

Hermetic Kabbalah Colin's Hermetic Kabbalah Page - the definitive on-line Hermetic resource.  includes a number of fascinating on-line documents by Bill Heidrick and others.  These are worth printing out for study.  Also an incredible links page. Best on the Web

Symbala Symbala - Beautiful models, visual impressions and teaching aids relating to the Tree of Life. The artist approaches the subject from a visual appreciation and explores 3 dimensional modeling, geometry and visionary arts. Includes a shockwave flash interactive Tree and movies. The Kabbalah Poster and Alchemical Star Print are among the published works on view and available for purchase

Qabalah Study Qabalah Study - discussion forum dedicated to the Hermetic Qabalah

"The Qabalah Study site is dedicated to fostering a greater understanding and personal life application of the principles of the Qabalah. Members are encouraged to share their perceptions, questions, experiences, and intuitions on the Qabalah as well as on kindred subjects such as Tarot, Alchemy, Astrology, and Magick, and the many other pathways of the Esoteric Tradition through the Message Board, Links, and Photos areas of the site. All participation that is respectful, sincere, and on topic is welcome."

web page Quabbalah - The Tree of Life - by  by Karen Chapdelaine.  From a 1994 alt.magick newsgroup posting, this article gives a good very basic intro.  Unfortunately the spacing in the ascii diagram of the Tree did not come out very well in unformatted html

web pagelinks Qabalah Linkz - good page to mostly Hermetic (with a few Traditional) Kabbalah links, arranged according to whether they are Elementary, Intermediate, or Advanced

Web Site My Qabalah - interactive image map, follows basically the Golden Dawn /Hermetic/Dion Fortune/ tradition(s) - gives a list of correspondences for and description of each Sefirah

Web Siteon-line textsAdobe pdf documents The Qabalistic and Thelemic Works of Frater Achad - the complete works of Frater Achad, in both html and pdf format, includes interesting Qabalistic writings, as well as other material - part of Norton's Imperium -- Enochian Magick Papers & Links

Web Site High Magick: The Hermetic Kabalah - original writings on Magick, Hermetic Kabbalah, the Tarot, and more. By Suba

Web Site Qabalah Web - introductory site on Qabalah and related subjects. Includes annoutated recommended reading list

on-line essay The Keys to Kabbalah - by Alan Bain - electronic version of Dr. Alan Bain's book The Keys to Kabbalah. Covers each sephirah, each of the Tarot paths, and includes diagrams, appendix and supplements.


Some Books

In Association with Amazon.com

cover The Kabbalah Unveiled by MacGregor S.L. Mathers - essentially extracts from the Zohar, with Mathers' commentary. A number of Lurianic themes are incorporated here. This was the basic Kabbalah textbook for the Golden Dawn

cover The Mystical Qabalah - Dion Fortune - a popular and very readable introduction to the Qabalah and its symbolism - basically a popularisation of Mather's book and his teachings

cover Key to the True Kabbalah by Franz Bardon - part of Bardon's dense corpus of work - has little in common with the Golden Dawn tradition of Qabalah

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 May 1998, most recent update 17 April 2007