It is quite impossible to give a complete explanation of [the Tree of Life], because (for one thing) it is quite universal. Therefore it cannot mean the same to any one person as to any other. A’s universe is not B’s universe. If they stand side by side and look at a star, the angle is different; although this difference is infinitesimal, it exists. […] This fact is to be emphasized, because one must not take the Tree of Life as a dead fixed formula. It is in a sense an eternal pattern of the Universe, just because it is infinitely elastic; and it is to be used as an instrument in one’s researches into Nature and her forces. It is not to be made an excuse for Dogmatism.
We all spend so much time in our education memorising things, it’s easy to first approach to Tree of Life and the Tarot with the idea that we just have to learn everything before we can use them. While there is a certain amount of structure and information we need to absorb, it is the malleability of both of these tools that make them so valuable, and infinite.
This is particularly true of the Tree of Life. It is a constantly moving energy and the context changes for each one of us. We bring all of our own experience to the Tree of Life, just like we do with Tarot. Instead of seeing someone’s interpretation as ‘wrong’ and someone else’s as ‘right’, we know that it is the variety itself that is so precious. No one of us can know everything, but together, we can know quite a lot.
There is a famous Buddhist story about an elephant. You probably know it. There is one person standing near the front of an elephant, one person standing to the side, and one person standing to the back. They are all asked to describe the elephant and they all come up with a different answer because one can only see the trunk, one can only see the tummy, and one can only see the tail. But none of them is wrong. An elephant has all of these things.
If you choose to work with Tarot and the Tree of Life using only Numerology, that is perfect. If you want to work with Astrology and colour – perfect. If you want to use absolutely everything and spend five hours looking at the relationship between two cards – perfect. You don’t get different answers, just different aspects of the same answer.
The Tree of Life represents the fluid Universe that we all live in, and that we each live in. Here’s what I mean.
Think of all the 4s in Tarot – the 4 of Wands, the 4 of Cups, the 4 of Swords, and the 4 of Pentacles.
Think about what they each mean, and then work them together into a definition of what it means to be a 4 in general. What is the nature of ‘4-ness’? Bearing that in mind place them in Sephira 4 on the Tree of Life:
- It’s ruled by Jupiter (how do you think of Jupiter’s influence?)
- It’s on the Pillar of Mercy (expanding, allowance, indulgence … what else?)
- Its colour is blue (what do you associate with blue?)
- It’s above Sephira 6, so it’s still in the realm of ideas (how conceptual do you think the 4s are?)
How do all those things work into your understanding of 4-ness? And then for each of the 4s?
Most importantly, are all of the correspondences useful for you? Or do you focus on one, or two? It’s your Tree. You choose.
I’m absolutely positive that your conclusions on what it means to be a 4 will be different from mine, maybe so much so that we would just look at each other and throw up our hands and laugh, or maybe in a hundred small ways that are almost too subtle to describe.
That’s the beauty of the universal, infinite, constantly blooming Tree of Life. You might get a rose and I might get a pear. They’re both as real as each other. Let’s share!
 Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth, p. 34-5 (Lightning Source, 2020).