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Strange Maps

224 – The Tree of Life Down the Tube


Madonna should love this map, having both gone all British and jewish-mystical. This map, in the style of the London Underground(*), depicts the Kaballah Tree of Life.

Sephiroth (Hebrew for ‘Enumerations’) is the name for the ten attributes of God in the Kabbalah (a form of jewish esotericism). Ten in itself is of course also a significant number, as it is divinely perfect. The attributes are:

* The Crown (‘Keter’ in Hebrew): the Creator Himself.

* Wisdom (‘Hokhmah’): Divine reality/revelation; the power of Wisdom.

* Understanding (‘Binah’): repentance/reason; the power of Love.

* Mercy (‘Hesed’): grace/intention to emulate God; the power of Vision.

* Strength (‘Gevurah’): judgment/determination; the power of Intention.

* Beauty (‘Tif’eret’): symmetry/compassion; the power of Creativity.

* Victory (‘Netzah’): contemplation/initiative/persistence; the power of the Eternal Now.

* Splendour (‘Hod’): surrender/sincerity/steadfastness; the power of Observation.

* Yesod (‘Foundation’): remembering/knowing; the power of Manifesting.

* Kingdom (‘Malkuth’): physical presence/vision and illusion; the power of Healing.

As befits esoteric systems, the aforementioned terms are anything but elucidating, and furthermore they’re only one of many interpretations of the 10 sephiroth (rabbi Moses ben Jacob Cordovero’s, to be precise).

These 10 sephiroth are arranged in 3 columns, the middle of which is headed by the Crown and is known as the ‘Pillar of Mildness’, the right one topped by Wisdom is called the ‘Pillar of Mercy’, and the left one overseen by Understanding and known as the ‘Pillar of Severity’.

The 22 lines connecting the 10 sephiroth correspond with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Twenty-two plus ten equals 32, which (of course) refers to the number of Masonic degrees, the number of Kabbalistic paths to wisdom and the number of teeth in an adult’s mouth!

If all this sounds like mumbo-jumbo not unlike the sort you would hear from Madame Soleil-type soothsayers, that’s no coincidence. Occultists have connected the hermetism of the Kabbalah with the Tarot. The sephirothic tree of life has even been thought to symbolize the prototypical ‘Heavenly Man’.

I don’t know enough about esoteric card tricks to state beyond the shadow of a doubt that the stations in between the 10 main ones correspond with categories from Tarot, but I’m pretty sure they do.

This map was sent to me by Jamie M.A. Smith, who first saw it in Alan Moore’s comic book series Promethea.

(*) Not, as Kevin Kline’s character presumes in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, some sort of resistance movement.


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