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RLG  RLG is offline
Join Date: 19 Mar 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 318


As we all know, the Tree of Life diagram comes in many varieties. Three of the most widely used versions of the Tree are the Golden Dawn/Kircher Tree, the Lurianic Tree, and the Gra Tree. The first one will be ignored, while the other two, which arrange the letters much more sensibly based on their attributions, can be fruitfully combined to make an excellent layout for the tarot trumps.

While the Gra Tree is perfectly symmetrical, and would seem to be the best candidate, this symmetry actually works against it when placing the letters on the Tree according to the SY, as will be shown. The superior arrangement for this purpose is the Tree of Isaac Luria, the ARI. This Tree, like the Gra version, puts the three elemental/mother letters on the three horizontal paths, the 7 planetary/double letters on the vertical paths, and the 12 zodiacal/single letters on the diagonal paths.

However, when it comes to the diagonals, Luria has an idiosyncratic arrangement that is fairly complicated, and so this will not be used - rather, the straightforward approach of the Gra tree will be used, where the zodiac letters are attributed in zodiacal order from right to left and top to bottom of the Tree. Thus the Tree we will use is the ARI Tree, with the Gra path-letters (as indicated in Kaplan, table 29 - not from the usual Tree image that is shown as figure 5 on page 30 of Kaplan).

It may be worthwhile to note as an aside that the Lurianic Tree is also called the Tree of Return, as it indicates the pathway back to the godhead, while the Gra Tree is more the Tree of Creation. In some circles, the Lurianic Tree is considered the ‘Tree of Knowledge (of Good and Evil)’, since it has a place for the sphere of Da’at, (meaning ‘knowledge’), while the Gra version is the ‘Tree of Life’. Both of these Trees are of course mentioned in the book of Genesis.

The paths of the Gra Tree we’re using follow the Sefer Yetzirah, as shown on Table 29, page 164 of the SY by Kaplan. The path of Bet goes downward vertically into the sphere of Chesed, Gimel goes into Gevurah on the opposite side of the Tree, Dalet into Tiferet in the middle, then Kaf into Netzach, Peh into Hod, Resh into Yesod, and Tav into Malkut. This is the first diagram to be investigated.

I’ve borrowed a Tree image from the web, which will have to suffice until I can make a proper one from scratch. In accordance with the chart of the letter-attributions to the trumps, the planetary paths are marked with their tarot cards, as well as showing in the spheres what day of the week is indicated by the letter that flows into that sphere, (this also indicates what planet has influence in that sphere). Following the Sheirat Yosef scheme, the days begin with the Sabbath, and start at Chesed, and then follow their regular order.

One nice thing about this array is that the Fool is the first (and only) path out of Malkut. This seems intuitively correct. But the remaining letters do not show any symmetry. it would seem more useful to have the Sun and Moon on opposite pillars, as well as the Pope and Popess. And we must remember that the letter Tav is supposed to be in the center of the other six letters, which are representative of the six directions (three dimensions) of the Cube of Space. Indeed, some commentators have designed cubes based on having the Tav at the center of the three axes of a cube (as the World card). But Tav is not in the center in this Tree.

One thing this Tree does demonstrate is that using the symmetrical Gra version will not work well for the tarot when placing the letters in order of the days of the week, as Tiferet is above Chesed, and so one has to work forward and backward, since the SY indicates that the planets are created starting at Chesed. This is the main reason why the ARI Tree is preferable, along with the fact that there is only one path coming out of Malkut.

So this Tree is perfectly usable in its present state, and is in line with the SY. But one simple change will make it much more symmetrical in terms of the tarot trumps. We will look at that revised Tree next.

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