From Anthroposophy

Ten Sephiroth make up a spiritual alphabet part of the Hebrew culture in the Third Egypto-Chaldean cultural age, grouped into a symbolic representation called the 'Tree of Life'. Daskalos explained how the Tree of Life was developed by Moses on the basis of an existing older Egyptian Symbol of Life.

Other examples of such spiritual Alphabets are the Book of Ten Pages, the Tetractys, the ten categories of Aristotle, or ten dignities of Raymond Lull.

Rudolf Steiner explains how the spiritual alphabet was used next to the traditional Hebrew alphabet, and the importance of combining the ten concepts and their spiritual meaning as a 'language' for an understanding of the spiritual in Man and the book of nature.

In the Fourth Greco-Latin cultural age, in the centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha and the middle ages, this true spiritual knowledge of the symbol and the spiritual contents of the ten sephiroths and their combinations was lost (1924-05-10-GA353).

Today the Tree of Life is probably one of the most well known or widespread symbols about the spiritual. The huge literature about the Tree of Life is mainly intellectual and of little or no value. However in recent times, some initiates (like Rawn Clark) have started writing again from experience, using the Tree of Life as a schema for the various states of consciousness.

Intellectual study of the Tree of Life is overrated in that it is not necessary or does not contribute to one's spiritual development, for example Franz Bardon's IIH initiation system does not even mention it, Rudolf Steiner only lectured on it twice (once on request of someone asking a question).


  • origin
    • Daskalos explains that the origin of the Hebrew Tree of Life was the Egyptian Symbol of Life. Moses changed this Egyptian Symbol of Life and gave the world the 'Etz Ha' Chayim', the Tree of Life of the Hebrew Qabalah. The names of the Egyptian gods were taken out of the centers or sephira and replaced by Hebrew names like Kether, Chokmah, Binah etc.
    • More on: Daskalos#.5B1.5D - Symbol of Life and origin of the Hebrew Tree of Life
  • a few selected examples of contemporary literature are in the 'Further Reading' section below (to be completed)


Schema FMC00.560 shows, with the three illustrations on the left, the Symbol of Life as painted and taught by Daskalos. On the right, the more widespread Hebrew Tree of Life with the sephiroth.

Compare also with Schema FMC00.133 on IIH.


Schema FMC00.133 shows, on the left, the structure of Man's bodily principles with the threefold soul or Human 'I'. On the right, from a very different angle, a schema by Rawn Clark mapping the ten steps in Bardon's IIH initiation book to the Gra Tree version of the 'Tree of Life'.

Comments on this drawing;

  • the 'archetypal realm' represents the higher Spirit World (or formless arupa devachan), whereas
  • the 'mental realm' below is the lower Spirit World (rupa devachan).
  • Regarding the pillars of form, self and force at the left. This links to the Three dimensions of evolution, see also Schema FMC00.171 on Force substance presentation (or zooming out broader also meta schema FMC00.303 on Creation by the three Logoi). Also compare with the three pillars in the Jewish Kabbalah 'Tree of Life': Equilibrium between Justice and Mercy, see J and B pillars on Golden legend.

This 'concatenation' of the representations shows the pivotal consciousness soul as the central point requires to 'work' Man's higher triad of spirit self, life spirit and spirit man. See also Schema FMC00.128 on the Human 'I' page. More on Schema FMC00.133 under the Discussion section on IIH.

Lecture coverage and references


lecture 'About the Cabbala'

We have seen that the Bible can be more and more deeply understood the more we penetrate into theosophical teaching. Today, however, you will see how theosophy, theosophical wisdom, existed for millennia, merely having different names, words and so an at different times. Today's brief outline will be of something which was taught among the Jews of old. Today, the Cabbala is something the profound wisdom of which is little understood even among Jews. It will sometimes emerge where you would least expect it. If you were to meet a learned Jew coming from furthest Galicia, who does not take much care with how he looks, so that he may Look repulsive to civilized people, you may find that he still knows something of cabbalistic wisdom. In Austria these people are called 'miracle rabbis' for they have some knowledge of magical arts, being able to use suggestion much more effectively than our modern physicians do, for example. They are also initiated to a certain degree.

Let me first of all say something about what is written in the Cabbala. You will find it said in my book Theosophy, that the occult teaching in the Cabbala agrees with the things taught in theosophy.

The Cabbala distinguishes twelve principles in the world, the first and last of which remain secret because they cannot be put into words at all. Only the other ten are put in words. They are divided into three groups. Firstly, the `spirit world', the world of purely spiritual entities, secondly the world of the soul, and thirdly the world of bodily nature.

A Cabbalist will immediately say to each of his students:

`You will never see one of these three worlds with your eyes, for at any time you can only see the "realm".'

The 'realm' is our own world around us.

I see a person, the Cabbala student will say, but what I am seeing is in the 'realm'. In reality this human being is in the threefold world. He has body, soul and spirit. Through the body he breathes and feeds himself; through the soul he feels, and through the spirit he thinks. All this presents itself to us as a whole, as the `realm'. This is the tenth of the principles. This tenth principle is something in which the other nine come together in many different ways.

Firstly, the world of the bodily principle. This also has three parts. Every body is in itself. If it were not in itself, it would not exist at all. If you come up against it, you perceive its solid state. If it comes up to you, you perceive its appearance. Thus distinction is made between fundament, solidity, appearance. These are the three sephiroth1°3 of bodily nature. We now have four sephiroth:

  • 10 <-> realm
  • 9 <-> solidity
  • 8 <-> fundament
  • 7 <-> appearance

Secondly: soul world. Again three sephiroth.

  • The first is what we now call sympathy in theosophy; the Cabbala calls it love. Love is what the soul body gives off when it comes to another. Just as solidity comes to me from another body, so love is what I give out.            6
  • The second of these sephiroth is grace. This is not merely giving out, like love; it is more held in; it does not give itself the way love does, but gives something 5 to the outside from inside.
  • The third sephiroth is justice, which merely balances 4 things out.

Those are the three soul sephiroth.

Now for the sephiroth of the spirit world. They are the principle which is truly active.

  • The first is called `world mind' in the Cabbala      3
  • The second the `world thought', the mind which has the thought 2
  • The third is the basic sephiroth, called the 'height' or 'crown' by Cabbalists (kether — the height).       1


These are the ten sephiroth. The Cabbalist then says to his student: you have part of each of these worlds in you.

  • From the bodily world you have the vegetative soul (nephesh), plant soul, etheric double body.
  • From the soul world you have the passion soul, the sentient soul (mach), and
  • from the spirit land you have the thinking soul (neshamah).

These are the bare bones of Jewish occult teaching.

[GA editor note: There followed notes referring to early Gnostic teachings. These have been omitted, being not only full of gaps but also distinctly faulty. Nor has it been possible to track the information down in the source works used by Rudolf Steiner. All the notes for the lecture have, however, been printed in their entirety [in German] in Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe Heft 29.]


extract SWCC

What does the Sephiroth Tree mean to the Jewish people?

The Jews of ancient times really put all their most sublime wisdom into this Sephiroth Tree.

It would be fair to say that they have put into it their knowledge of Man's relationship to the world. We have often said quite clearly that Man is not only the part we see with our eyes but also has other, supersensible aspects. We have called these the ether body, the astral body, the I or the I-organization. People knew this instinctively in earlier times, not the way we know it today. This ancient knowledge has been lost, and today people think that something like the Jewish Tree of Life, the Sephiroth Tree, is simply fantasy. But it is not.

Today we'll consider what the ancient Jews really meant with their Sephiroth Tree. You see, they saw it like this.

[spiritual forces or influences working on threefold Man]

The human being is here in this world, and the forces of the world influence him from all directions. If we look at the human being as he is here in this world [Figure], we may imagine it to be like this, shown in schematic form. Let us consider the material human being in this world like this. The ancient Jews saw the forces of the world influencing him from all around. I put an arrow here that enters into the heart—the forces of the world acting on the human being; down here is the force of the earth [Figure].

The ancient Jews said: In the first place, three forces act on the human head —I have shown this by the three arrows 1, 2 and 3 in the drawing—three forces on the human middle, on the chest, mainly on man's breathing and the circulation of the blood [arrows 4, 5 and 6]. Three more forces act on the human limbs [7, 8 and 9], and a tenth acts from the earth [10, from below]. Ten forces, the ancient Hebrews thought, influence the human being from outside.

[head and nervous subsystem]

Let us first of all consider the three forces that may be said to come from the most faraway parts, the most distant parts of the universe and act on the human head, really making the human head round, an image of the whole spherical universe. These three forces, 1, 2 and 3, are the most noble; using a later term, a Greek term, for example, they come from the highest heavens. They shape the human head, making it a spherical image of the whole spherical universe.

Now we must right away develop an idea that might upset you if I were simply to tell you what it is. For, you see, the first of these ten concepts, the one the Jews made the first and foremost in their wisdom, was later most dread­fully misused. At a later time people who managed to gain power by force drew the signs of this power and the words for this power down into the external realm of power. And individuals who gained power over nations and passed this on to their descendants laid claim to what we call a crown. In earlier times 'crown' was the word for the highest spirituality that can be given to Man.

And only someone who had become an initiate in the way I have told you, and had therefore gained the most sublime wisdom, was entitled to wear the crown. It was a sign of sublime wisdom. I have explained to you that medals and orders originally all had special meaning and were later worn for vanity and no longer had meaning. Above all, however, we must pay regard to this when we use the word ‘crown’. To the ancients, 'crown' was the quintessence of everything that is greater than human and must come down into human beings from the world of the spirit. No wonder then that kings had themselves crowned. As you know, they were not always wise and did not always combine in them the most sublime gifts of heaven, but they wore the sign on their heads. And when such terms are used according to ancient custom we must not confuse this with the misuse that has developed. The most sublime, the greatest gifts of the universe and of the spirit that can come down to Man, which he is able to unite with his head if he has great knowledge, were called kether, the crown, by the ancient Hebrews.

And this human head also needed two other powers. These two other powers came to him from the right and from the left. The ancients thought that the highest came from above, with the other two forces, two cosmic forces that are present throughout the universe, coming from the right and the left. The one that came in through the right ear, as it were, was called chokmah, wisdom. If we wanted to translate the word today we would say 'wisdom'. And on the other side binah came in from the universe. We would call this intelligence today (2 and 3). The ancient Jews distinguished between wisdom and intelligence.

Today any intelligent person is also thought to be wise. But that is not the case. You can be intelligent and think the most foolish things. The most foolish things are thought out in the most intelligent ways today. Thus if we look at many things in modern science we have to say that it is really intelligent in every respect, but it is definitely not wise.

The ancient Jews distinguished between chokmah and binah, the wisdom and intelligence of old.

The human head, and really everything that belongs to the system of the senses in us, including the nerves that spread in the sphere of the senses, was referred to by the three terms kether, chokmah and binah — crown, wisdom, intelligence.

This is how the ancient Jews saw the human head being developed out of the universe. They thus were very much aware — otherwise they would not have taught this — that Man is part of the whole universe.

We might consider the human body, for instance, and ask what the situation is with the liver. Well, the liver has its blood vessels from the blood circulation; it has its energies from the human environment. In the same way the ancient Jews would say: Man receives the powers from the surrounding universe which then — initially in the womb and also later — bring about the development of his head.

[rhythmic subsystem]

Three other powers [4, 5 and 6] act more on the middle human being, on the human being where the heart and the lungs are. They act on the middle human being, coming less from above but living more in the environment. They live in the sunlight that moves around on Earth, they live in wind and weather. These three powers were called chesed, geburah and tiphereth by the ancient Jews. In present-day terms we would speak of freedom, energy and beauty.

Let us above all consider the middle power, geburah. I told you I would draw the arrow so that it entered the heart. The power human beings have, the heart quality that is both power of soul and physical strength, is indicated by the human heart. The Jews saw it like this. When the breath enters into the human being, when the breath goes into the heart, it is not only physical forces coming into him from outside but also the spiritual power of geburah which is connected with the breath.

So to put it more accurately we would speak of the power of life, the power which also enables him to do things = geburah.

But to one side of geburah we have the power they called chesed, human free­dom. And on the other side tiphereth, beauty. The human form is indeed the most beautiful thing on Earth! The ancient Jews would say: Hearing the heartbeat I perceive the power of life as it enters into the human being. Putting out my right hand I perceive that I am an independent human being; as the muscles extend, the power of freedom enters. The left hand, moving more gently, able to take hold more gently, brings the element which Man creates in beauty.

These three powers — chesed = freedom, geburah = power of life, tiphereth = beauty — thus relate to everything con­nected with the breath and the blood circulation in man, everything that is in motion and always repeats itself. This also includes the movement of sleep, alternating between day and night. This, too, is an element of movement; Man also relates to this.

[Metabolic limb subsystem]

Man is however also a creature able to change his posi­tion in space, able to walk about, who does not have to stay in one place like a plant. Animals are of course also able to walk about. This is something humans have in common with animals. Animals do not have chokmah, nor tiphereth, nor as yet chesed, but they do have geburah— power of life. And human beings only have the three I have just shown in common with the animals because they have those others.

The ancient Hebrews called this aspect — that we are able to walk about, that we are not tied to a place — netsah, indicating that the fixed state of the Earth is overcome and we move [arrow 7]. Netsah is 'overcoming'. And the principle that acts more on the middle of the human being, where his centre of gravity is — it is really interesting, you know — that is a point which is about here; it is a little higher up when we are awake and moves down during sleep, which also confirms that something is outside us when we sleep — the principle that is active in the middle of the body, that is also responsible for human reproduction and therefore connected with sexuality—this the ancient Jews called hod. Today we would use a term such as 'sympathy' for this. You see, the terms are getting more human.

Netsah thus means movement in the outside world—we go out into space—and hod means inner feeling, inner movement, inner sympathy with the outside world. All this is hod [arrow 8]. Then, under 9: jesod. This is the foundation, the basis on which the human being actually stands. There Man feels himself connected with the Earth. The fact that he is able to stand on the Earth is the basis, is jesod. Man has such a foundation also because those powers come to him from outside.

And then the forces of the earth itself act on him [arrow No. 10]. Not only forces from the outer environment act on him, but also the forces of the Earth. This was called malkuth. Today we would call it the field in which the human being is active, the earthly environment. Malkuth, the field. It is difficult to find a suitable term for this malkuth. We may say realm, field. But all things have really been misused and present-day terms no longer express what the ancient Hebrew would feel: that this was where the Earth actually influenced him.

We only have to visualize that this would be the middle of the human being. There is a thigh bone, on both sides of the human being, and this goes down to the knee, so this would be the kneecaps [drawing]. All these forces also act on this bone; but that it is hollowed out like this, a hollow long bone, is due to the fact that the Earth forces enter into it. And everything where the Earth forces enter would be called malkuth, the field, by the ancient Jews.


So you see we have to consider the human being if we want to speak of this Sephiroth Tree. All ten together: kether, chokmah, binah, chesed, geburah, tiphereth, netsah, hod, jesod, malkuth .. were called the ten sephiroth by the ancient Hebrews.

These ten forces are the actual connection between Man and the higher, spiritual world, though the tenth force, malkuth, is placed within the earth.

Basically, therefore, we have here the physical human being (pointing to the drawing) and around him is the spiritual human being,

  • down below first of all as the earth forces,
  • and then as forces that come closer to the earth but act out of the environment — netsah, hod, jesod. Spiritually the way these forces influence him is part of the human being.
  • Then the forces that act on his blood circulation and breathing — chesed, geburah, tiphereth.
  • And then the noblest powers to influence the human being, acting on his head system — kether, chokmah, binah.

So that the Jews really saw the human being connected with the world in every direction, as I have shown here in colour [Figure]. Man is made in such a way that he also has supersensible aspects, and they saw these supersensible aspects in this way.

[it is not the diagram that matters, as it is a symbol]

We may now ask: What else did the Hebrews want to achieve with their ten sephiroth, apart from insight into man's relationship to the world?

Every student of Judaism had to learn the ten sephiroth, not just to list them. You would be quite wrong to think that the instructions given in the ancient Jewish establishments were such that the essential aspect was the diagram I have drawn for you. Simply to answer the question as to what the Sephiroth Tree was would have taken no time at all; you could have learned that in an instant.

Today people are satisfied if you ask: What is the Sephiroth Tree?

'There is this and that written in it, as I have just shown you.' But that does not relate to the human being! One simply gives ten words and all kinds of fantastic explanations of them. But in relation­ship to the human being it is correct the way I have told you. That was not the end of it in those schools, however, for the Jewish student who was to gain knowledge, as it was then seen, had to learn a great deal more about it.

[The sephiroth as an alphabet]

Imagine, gentlemen, you had merely been taught what the alphabet is, and if someone asked you what A, B, C, D and so on was, you would know the letters A, B, C, D and so on. You would have learned to give the 22 or 23 letters one after the other. One could not do much with this! If someone was only able to recite the 23 letters, he would not be able to do much with them, would he?

And that is how an ancient Hebrew would have been regarded who would only have been able to say: kether, chokmah, binah, chesed, geburah, tiphereth, netsah, hod, jesod, malkuth, that is, been able to recite the ten sephiroth.

Someone giving that as an answer would have seemed to the ancient Hebrews like someone able to say A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and so on. You have to learn more than just the alphabet, don't you? You have to learn to use the alphabet to be able to read, using the letters to read.

Now just think, gentlemen, how few letters there are and how much you have read in your lives! Just think on this. Take any book, let us say Karl Marx's Capital, for instance, and look at it. There is nothing in those pages but the 22 letters; nothing else. Only the letters are written in the book. But it says a great deal in there, and this is all brought about by jumbling up the 22 letters. A sometimes comes before B, then before M, then M before A, L before I, and so on, and this creates the whole complicated content of the book.

  • Someone who only knows the alphabet will pick up the book and perhaps say: 'It is perfectly clear to me what this book contains. It says A, B, C, only in different order; I know everything it says in the book.'
  • But he is unable to read the real inner content and get the meaning of the book; he does not know this.

You see, you have to learn to read, using the letters such as they are. You must really be able to jumble up the letters in your head and mind in such a way that they gain meaning.

And the ancient Hebrews had to learn the ten sephiroth in this way. They were their letters.

[from symbolic languages to Greco-Roman alphabets: the human being as central was lost]

You'll say: Ah, but they are words. But in earlier times letters were referred to by using words. Humanity only lost this when the letters came to Europe; it was lost in Greece.

You see, something highly significant happened when Greek gave way to Roman civilization.

The Greeks did not call their A 'A', but 'alpha'. Alpha really means the spiritual human being. And they did not call their B 'B' but 'beta', which is something like 'house'. Every letter thus had a name. And a Greek could not have imagined a letter to be anything else but something to which you give a name. When the transition was made from Greek to Roman civi­lization people no longer said alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and so on, with each name indicating what the letter meant, but they said A, B, C, D and so on, and the whole thing became abstract. At the time when Greek civilization went into decline, becoming Roman civilization, a great cultural diarrhoea developed in Europe. The spirit was lost in a massive diarrhoea on the road from Greek to Roman civilization.

And you see this is where Judaism showed particular greatness. When they wrote down their aleph, their first letter, they meant the human being. That is aleph. They knew that wherever they put this letter to be perceived in the world of the senses, whatever they brought to expression in this letter must be in accord with the nature of Man. And so every letter used to give expression of the world of the senses had a name. And these names here - kether, chokmah, binah, chesed, geburah, tiphereth, netsah, hod, jesod, malkuth - were the names for the letters of the spirit, for things that needed to be learned to be able to read in the  world of the spirit.

And so the Jews had an alphabet - aleph, beth, gimel and so on - for the outer, physical world, and they also had the other alphabet, with just ten letters, ten sephiroth, for the world of the spirit.

You see, if I give you the names like this: kether, chokmah, binah, chesed and so on, that is like A, B, C, D and so on. But just as we jumble up our letters, so an ancient Hebrew would have known to say: kether, chesed, binah. And if he had said kether, chesed, binah, jumbling up the sephiroth in this way, he would have said: In the world of the spirit the most sublime spiritual power uses freedom to bring about intelligence. He would have been referring to the higher spirits that do not have a physical body and among whom the most sublime power of heaven uses freedom to bring about intelligence.

Or he would have said: chokmah, geburah, malkuth. That would have meant: Out of wisdom the gods create the power of life through which they have an influence on Earth.

He knew how to jumble up all these things just as we do letters. The students of ancient Judaism understood the science of the spirit in their own way with these ten letters of the spirit. This Sephiroth Tree was to them what the Alphabet Tree is to us with its 23 letters.

[development in the fourth cultural age]

Developments took a strange turn in this area. In the first two centuries after the coming of Christianity people knew of all this. But when the Jews scattered over the whole world, this way of knowing things with the ten sephiroth was lost. Individual students of Judaism—you may know they were called chachamim when they became pupils of a rabbi — still learned these things; but even then people really no longer knew exactly how to read by means of these ten sephiroth.

In the twelfth century, for example, a major dispute arose over two sentences. The first was 'hod, chesed, binah'. It was posited by Maimonides. His opponent would maintain: chesed, kether, binah. So they did have disputes over those sentences. You have to know that they come from the Sephiroth Tree; one person would read it one way, someone else another way. But towards the Middle Ages this reading skill had really been lost.

[Raymond Lull]

And the interesting thing is that later on, in the middle of the Middle Ages, a man appeared — Raymond Lully [editor: Lully or Lull, approx. 1232-1316] , a most interesting person .. to get to know such a person is really extraordinarily interesting. Let us imagine there is someone among you who is extremely curious. This individual would say to himself: 'I have heard Raymond Lully men­tioned. I'll go and look him up!' So you first of all take an encyclopaedia, and then some books where it says some­thing about Lully. Well, if you read what it says about Raymond Lully in books today you can split your sides laughing, for that would have been the most ridiculous person you can think of!

People say: Raymond Lully wrote ten words on bits of paper and then he took the kind of thing you have for playing hazard, a kind of roulette, which you turn, jumbling things up, and he would write down what came out of this, and that was his universal wisdom. Well, if you read something like this, that words were simply written on ten bits of paper and jumbled up, and that the man wanted to discover something special in this way, you'll split your sides laughing, for that would indeed be a ridiculous person.

But of course that was not the way it was with Raymond Lully. What he really said was this.

You may search and study far and wide with the knowledge given by your earthly alphabet, but you'll not find the truth. And he then said: Your ordinary heads are not able to find the truth. This ordinary head is like a game of roulette where you turn and there is nothing inside, and so nothing can be selected from it that will make you win. Lully told people in his day that they had really all got hollow heads, with nothing inside  them any more. And he said they would need to put ideas like the ten sephiroth into their heads; then they must learn to turn their heads from one sephira to the next until you learn to use the letters.

This is what Raymond Lully told them. It is also written in his books. He merely used a picture, and the philosophers took the picture literally and thought he really meant a kind of roulette, which you turn to jumble things up, yet his roulette was meant to be supersensible perception in the head.

[Aristotle categories]

This Tree of Life, the Sephiroth Tree, is therefore the spiritual alphabet. People who were more to the west, in Greece, had a spiritual alphabet in ancient times. And when Alexander the Great lived, and Aristotle, ten concepts would be given in the Greek way. You still find them in all schools of logic today: existence, quality, relationship, and so on — again ten terms, except that they were different, being more suited to the West. But in the West people understood those ten Greek letters of the spiritual alphabet just as little as those we have been speaking of.

But you see, it is really an interesting development in human history.

Over there in Asia, people who still had some knowledge learned to read in the world of the spirit using the Sephiroth Tree. And in the early Christian cen­turies people who still knew something of the world of the spirit learned to read using the Aristotelian tree of life - over in Greece, in Rome, and so on.

Bit by bit, however, all of them - those of the Sephiroth Tree and those of the Aristotle tree -forgot what these things really were for, and were only able to list the ten terms.

And we now simply have to use these things to learn to read in the world of the spirit, otherwise we shall gradually cease to know anything whatsoever about the human being.

[example parenthesis removed]

It really is true that today we can only gain insight into these things through the science of the spirit. For no one will tell you today that those ten sephiroth were such letters for the world of the spirit. You'll not hear this said anywhere else, and no one really knows this today. So that we may say that the situation is such that modern science no longer knows most of the things that people did know in the past. They have to be regained.

Take just this letter here [drawing]: aleph x. What does this aleph mean in the world of the senses? Well, there stands Man. Thus he stands, sending out his power. That is this line. He raises his right hand — this line — and he extends the other hand downwards — this line. So that this first letter aleph represents the human being. And every letter represented something, in Greek, too, just as this first letter represents 'Man'.

[Aleph - Alpha - Man, the human being]

You see, people simply have no feeling any longer for the way these things hang together. The ancient Hebrews called the first letter, representing Man, aleph, the Greeks called it alpha, and they meant it for the spirit that moves in Man, the spiritual principle behind the human being.

Now we have an old German word that is used primarily when people have particular dreams. When a spiritual human being oppresses them, this is called the Alp. People say something comes and possesses a person. Later Alp became Elp, and then elf — those spirits the elves. Man is merely a condensed elf. This word elf, deriving from Alp,  may still remind you of the Greek alpha. You only need to leave off the a at the end and you have Alph, ph is the same as our f, something spiritual. Because the f has been put, one says: the aleph in Man, the Alp in Man. If you leave off the vowels, as is customary in Hebrew, you actually get alph —elf — for the first letter. Human beings say elf to speak of this spiritual entity.

We talk about elves. Of course, people will now say that these were invented by the ancients, a product of their imagination, and that we no longer believe in them today. But the ancients would say: 'You only have to look at the human being and you have the alph, only that the alph is inside the body and is not a subtle etheric entity in Man but a dense, physical one.' But people have long since for­gotten how to consider the human being.

[spiritism subsection removed]

.. when Greek civilization gave way to Roman civili­zation humanity forgot its aleph. The first letter is A today. Well, to think that the first letter is merely A is to stand and gape. Just like that, you'll get nowhere. ...

Yes, the content has really been lost completely. The Greeks did not think A, or alpha, without thinking of the human being. They would immediately be reminded of the human  being. And they did not have a beta without thinking of a house in which the human being lives. Alpha is always the human being. They thought of something like the human being.

And with beta they thought of something around the human being. So the Jewish beth and the Greek beta became the form enveloping the alpha, which is still inside as a spiritual entity. And so the body, too, would be beth, beta, and alpha would be the spirit in it.

And today we speak of the 'alphabet', which to the Greeks meant 'Man in his house', or also 'Man in his body', in something that envelops him.

[Contemporary encyclopaedia is like a dead skeleton without the ancient knowledge]

Well, gentlemen, it is really very amusing. If you take an encyclopaedia today, you read the whole wisdom of humanity in the alphabet. If someone were to start with A and end with Z — you won't do that — he would have the whole wisdom.

But how should this wisdom be arranged in the human being?

According to the alphabet, according to what can be known about Man. It is most interesting. Human beings have managed to spread all wisdom because they no longer knew that it really points to what comes from the alphabet.

If we translate 'alphabet', we get, putting it a bit differently: 'human wisdom, human knowledge. Using a Greek word this would be 'anthroposophy, wis­dom of man'. And this is what every encyclopaedia says. Anthroposophy should be written in every lexicon, for it is only arranged according to the alphabet, according to human wisdom, 'Man in his body'. It is very amusing. Every encyclopaedia is really a bony skeleton, where the ancient wisdom has vanished in the alphabetically arranged knowledge. All flesh and blood has gone, all muscles and nerves have dropped away. Today you consult an encyclopaedia, and in it you find only the dead skeleton of the ancient knowledge.

We need a new science now that is not just a skeleton, like the encyclopaedia, but really has everything in it again of the human being - flesh and blood and so on. And that is anthroposophy. So one would really like to say all those encyclopaedias can go to the devil — although we do need them today — because they are the dead skeleton of an ancient knowledge. New science must be created.

You see, that is something we can learn, especially also from the Sephiroth Tree if we understand it rightly.


Note 1 - Trees of Life

Jewish and Western Hermetic Tree of Life

Rawn Clark: 'The 32 Paths of Wisdom' (Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, No. 3, Vol 1. Autumnal Equinox 2002)

At the heart of the Western understanding of the Tree of Life, is the little document titled "The 32 Paths of Wisdom". Usually, this document accompanies the English editions of the "Sepher Yetzirah" and is seen as an explanation or clarification of the S.Y. However, the concept of 32 Paths of Wisdom stems, not from the S.Y., but from the Torah, Genesis, Chapter One.[1] Furthermore, the document "32 Paths of Wisdom" comes to us from the late 13th Century, C.E.[2] - centuries before the advent of the Western image of the Tree.

According to the Jewish tradition, the 32 Paths of Wisdom concept is derived from the 32 times that the name "Elohim" is mentioned in Genesis, Chapter One.

The Sepher Yetzirah (circa 1st Century, B.C.E.) incorporates and seeks to explain these 32 Paths of Genesis.

The "32 Paths of Wisdom" document however, was written about 1,400 years after the S.Y. and speaks of these 32 Paths in the context of the S.Y.'s Tree of Life.

At the time that the "32 Paths" document was written, the Tree of Life looked a bit different than the Western Hermetic Tree. It was an ostensibly Jewish Tree that followed the strict rules laid down in the Sepher Yetzirah, whereas the Western Tree follows a different set of rules. Yet modern Western kabbalists have interpreted the "32 Paths" document based upon the Western Tree and not upon the 13th Century Jewish Tree. Which, of course, generates a significantly different understanding of the 32 Paths than is held by Jewish kabbalah.

This becomes an important issue when it comes to a reverse investigation and interpretation of the S.Y. and the "32 Paths" document using the Western Tree as the basis for one's reasoning. Instead of trying to understand the Tree by first understanding its roots, many Western writers have sought to understand the roots by comparing them to the Western Tree. The problem is that the Western Tree has grown too far from its root for this to net an accurate understanding.

So let's do a little back tracking and take a look at how the "32 Paths of Wisdom" document looks when it's applied to the Tree that was prevalent when it was originally written.

According to recent scholarship, the author of the "32 Paths" document was a member of the 13th Century Castilian conclave of kabbalistic writers known as the "Circle of Contemplation".[3] Their primary influences were the Torah, S.Y. and Bahir, and the image of the Tree they would have employed was what I call the "Hebrew Tree".[4]

see also: Mark Verman: 'The Books of Contemplation: Medieval Jewish Mystical Sources' (1992)

Related pages

References and further reading