The Tree of Life has had different structures over the years, and interpretations of the structure can change depending on how you see its organisation and source. One interpretation that intrigues me is that Kether is still too divine to truly be a part of the Tree of Life, which means the Tree ‘starts’ with Chockmah. To make up the tenth Sephira, we then include Da’ath as part of the Supernal Triangle. How does this affect the Tree of Life – in fact, does it? And what can it mean for Tarot?
One of the patterns on the Tree of Life is of three triangles plus Malkuth, i.e. three triangles that are each made up of three Sephiroth. The usual way to do this is with Kether as the top Sephira in the top triangle with Chockmah and Binah; the second consisting of Chesed, Geburah, and Tipharet; and the third of Netzach, Hod, and Yesod. This gives us one triangle that faces upward – the Supernal Triangle – and two that face downward.
If we leave Kether to the heavens, though, we can use Da’ath as the third point in the Supernal Triangle with Chockmah and Binah. Now the top triangle is point downward, like the other two:
Assuming the Divine lightning moves in the same way, then it would officially start in Chockmah and move to Binah as usual, and then to Da’ath (which of course we usually kind of skip), then to Chesed, etc.
When you look at this image, does it feel better to you? Like something has been resolved? Or does it feel out of whack somehow? I would say it feels more solid, if not heavy. And internally focused – maybe more cohesive. And I wondered if this change could offer us the opportunity to work with the Tree of Life in a new way.
For example, I wondered what might happen to the numbers. Was the suggestion that now there are 11 Sephiroth? No, this version is still sticking with 10. The possibility then is to shift the numbers along. And of course this matters because the numbering determines the Minor Arcana cards that are associated with the Sephiroth, and affects the Court Cards, too.
If we shift the numbering down – leaving Kether undefined – Chockmah would be 1 and contain the Aces along with the Knights (Thoth system); Binah would be 2 and contain the 2s along with the Queens, and Da’ath would be 3 and contain the 3s. Unless we move the Court Cards too, so that they retain the 2 and 3 Minors. That would mean assigning the Knights to Binah, Understanding, and the Queens to Da’ath.
Da’ath is the Abyss, the leap of faith we have to make in order to cross from Chesed to Binah, and it’s also considered to be the Sephira where all the other Sephiroth are united as one. I think of Da’ath as representative of our voice, since if we ‘step into’ the Tree of Life and plot the Sephiroth on our human body, Da’ath is located at our throat. Speech is of course a divine and mysterious activity, the Word being the first thing that existed, and everything else coming from that. The Magus embodies that energy, emerging from Kether directly into the form of Binah (under normal circumstances). So it’s not a million miles away from the typical association of the Queens with the formation of speech. In this case, we have speech in the darkness of the Abyss. That’s actually kind of interesting.
The Knights in Binah are more awkward. Especially if we consider the basic foundation of the Court Cards, which is the Four Worlds/Elements. In this, Knights are Fire. They have to be Fire. The order is Fire, Water, Air, then Earth and they are not switchable. So I come to an obstacle here. The Knights need to be in Fire, and Fire needs to be first, i.e. in Chockmah.
In addition, the Aces fit so well in Kether even if it’s not connected directly to the Tree of Life. Their all-inclusive, elemental nature is grand enough to reside a step back from creation – and in fact, it makes a lot of sense to do so. When you look at the role of the Aces on the Zodiac Wheel, they are so different from anything else – the divine counterpart to the Princesses in Malkuth – perhaps we should leave things where they are in that respect. That then leaves us with the question of what to do with Da’ath.
Does it need a number? If it’s a ‘real’ Sephira, as it is in this model, where ‘something happens’, then maybe we have to officially bring it into the order of things. This brings us to another obstacle because assigning Da’ath a number would mean changing the paths on the Tree of Life, too – in fact, creating a new path, or rather two: from Binah to Da’ath and then from Da’ath to Chesed. The Tree of Life has 22 paths, each one corresponding to a Hebrew letter. If we add one, or even two new paths, that means we either have to do something clever with the Hebrew alphabet …. or say it doesn’t work.
I’m going to say tentatively that:
- Moving Kether out of the Tree of life, and including Da’ath on the path of Divine lightning instead, is fine.
- If we do that, we keep the usual numbering of the Sephiroth, and the placement of the Court Cards.
- Da’ath needs to remain a fairly nebulous Sephira, different from the other nine, even though its presence in the Supernal triangle implies a more solid ‘path’ in between Binah and C.
- In terms of Tarot, it’s not really possible to entirely remove Kether from the Tree of Life, because the Aces belong there.
Maybe the most significant thing about this structure is what it tells us about Kether and Da’ath in relation to each other. In terms of visual balance, I like having a 5th Sephira on the Middle Pillar – it makes Tiphareth a very clear centre. And maybe Da’ath acts as a reflection of Kether in the way that Malkuth reflects Yesod. To me that feels better than asking Tiphareth to reflect Kether because Tiphareth is part Kether and part Malkuth.
Maybe we can consider Da’ath an internalised Kether, drawing Divinity down to the heart of the Tree of Life like the deep root of a beautiful flower. I like that idea.
I’m still not sure how it would work with Tarot, but maybe it’s not supposed to. Not everything on the Tree of Life has to be tangible, and I kind of like it that way.
 I have a theory about Binah and Chockmah in terms of their order … which I’ll explore in another post.