A Dissertation Concerning the Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom.
Paul Foster Case and Michael Whitty (1919)
Received in 1919, by the two Brothers who first recovered the outline of the Book of Tokens.
In the name of ADONAI shall the nations be Blessed.
The Paths of the Tree of Life indicate the order of manifestation after the primary expression of the powers of the ten Sephiroth, indicated by the Lightning-Flash. Now until the paths of the letters are manifested, do the Sephiroth come into full expression. Prior to this they are like unrealized ideas. The paths of the letters make them active.
Elias Rubenstein – Kabbalah – Introduction to the tree of life – Video
Now consider the order of the paths. The 11th (ALEPH) brings WISDOM into activity; the 12th (BETH) UNDERSTANDING; the 13th (GIMEL) BEAUTY, and thus BEAUTY begins to be active before MERCY and SEVERITY, as in creation the beauty of visible nature was manifest before creatures to whom mercy or severity could be shown, were brought forth.
BEAUTY being established, the 14th path (DALETH) unites WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING; and the central point of this path, where: crosses the 13th is DA’ATH (DOTH) in Hebrew Knowledge, for all knowledge has its root: the Divine contemplation of the perfect primal BEAUTY. WISDOM or CHOKMAH, which includes the idea of skill in construction the projects the path of CONSTITUTING Intelligence (15th path) HEH, and through this path BEAUTY, which hitherto has received on the influx of power from KETHER, the CROWN of PRIMAL WILL, now receives the influence of the ILLUMINATING INTELLEGENCE of the FATHER CHOKMAH.
The Constituting Intelligence is the letter HEH “with which creation took place”, hence the next path, that of VAV joins Wisdom to Mercy, for when creatures begin to exist, Mercy becomes active. This is the passage of WISDOM (CHOKMAH) into the self-impartation the Divine Spirit, through the self-contemplation of HIS (or ITS) limitless possibilities as an eternal Spirit of Life.
MERCY (CHESED) is prior to SEVERITY (GEBURAH) for reasons that will appear shortly. Do not confuse this sequential manifestation of the Sephiroth with the instantaneous one indicated by the Lightning-Flash, which brings them all into potential, but not actual expression simultaneously.
The path of ZAIN, Disposing Intelligence suggests by its name the operation of the Supernal UNDERSTANDING (BINAH) (…) SEPARATING THE CREATURES PRODUCED (…) the Constituting Intelligence, into species, classes etc. The fundamental separation is that of sex, and hence this path is indicated by ZAIN the Sword, and by the LOVERS in the Tarot.
Not until this separating influence projected the power of UNDERSTANDING into BEAUTY, can the activity of SEVERITY be manifest through the path of CHETH which, setting off definite fields of operation, and so in a sense circumscribing the expression of the Divine UNDERSTANDING, brings into actual effect the RADICAL Intelligence of GEBURAH.
At this point the Spirit’s full realization of It’s power as a limitless self-imparting Principle, manifested in limited forms of expression, unites the potencies of MERCY to those of SEVERITY, through the path of the letter TETH, called Intelligence of all Spiritual Activities. This path is also called Intelligence of the Secret, because the Great Arcanum is based upon the fact that Limitless Life expresses Itself in limited forms. Therein you may discover the great secret of all magical operations, —– the Arcanum of the equilibrium between SEVERITY and MERCY.
Notice also that this path crosses that of GIMEL. The central point of the magical equilibrium is the realization that the PRIMAL WILL eternally projects Itself in BEAUTY; and this path of GIMEL being that of the Uniting Intelligence, the implicatior is that the true equilibrium can only be attained by means of the conscious self-identification of the personal will with the Universal Self-direction toward the realization of BEAUTY.
Now comes the path of YOD, which carries the influence of MERCY into BEAUTY, concentrated in a complete realization of the cosmic purpose, indicated by the name of the path, Intelligence of Will. In the Tarot, the HERMIT, far from being a conventional type of Prudence, illustrates the masculine expression of Beneficence, (CHESED) through YOD, the letter of the Father. This will be clear upon examination of the 9th Key of the Tarot.
The path of the letter LAMED by contrast, shows a feminine influence (that of the ruler of the sign Libra, the feminine planet Venus) in the activity of Faithful Intelligence which perfects or completes the static manifestation of BEAUTY through equilibrated Action or Work (Karma).
But this static manifestation of BEAUTY is not effected until after the path of KAPH, or Conciliating Intelligence has brought NETZACH into activity by the projection of the influence of CHESED, because Karma does not begin to operate until the turning wheel of manifestation has brought into the field of the unfolding universal self-consciousness a definite conception of the victorious end towards which IT’s self impartation is directed. Karma cannot be supposed to work without an objective, and the nature of Spirit assures us that It’s objective must be the successful overcome of the creative process. Hence LAMED and the 22nd path follow KAPH and the 21st.
The static expression of BEAUTY being realized, SEVERITY projects SPLENDOR to balance VICTORY, (you will observe that Understanding, Severity, and Splendor are as it were reflexions of Wisdom, Mercy and Victory respectively). The path connecting SEVERITY and SPLENDOR is that of the letter MEM, called “Stable Intelligence”. The fixed unwavering self-contemplation proceeding primarily from the supernal UNDERSTANDING is associated with MEM because it is the reflection in the creature of the CREATOR’s self-understanding. This path refers to a condition of human consciousness.
In the Tarot it is the HANGED MAN, i.e. the “suspended mind”, or manas in the state of freedom form activity which the Hindus compare to a perfectly calm body of water. When this state of the universal consciousness finds expression through a personal from, complete realization of the divine SPLENDOR is made actual.
The path of NUN is the first manifestation of the dynamic or projective aspect of TIPHARETH (as contrasted with the static or receptive aspect). It is called “Imaginative Intelligence” because the primary activity of BEAUTY works through imagination in bringing about new modes of expression. This involves the passing away of the forms which are supplanted by those which imagination calls into existence.
The passing away of supplanted forms is indicated in symbolism of the Tarot Key entitled DEATH, and the fact that the new forms are developments of the old is suggested by the nature of the harvest gathered by the Reaper in the picture. The result is the perfection of NETZACH, for through the transformations wrought by the power of BEAUTY, the final VICTORY is attained.
The path of the “Intelligence of Probation or Trial”, attributed to the letter SAMEKH, follows the path of Imaginative Intelligence because it signifies the testing of the idea and innovations suggested by the imagination. It joins BEAUTY to FOUNDATION, because only by experiments, trials and tests can the harmony of TIPHARETH become actualized in the established certainty implied by the term FOUNDATION. (Note that Foundation is the propagative Sephirah, and you will have a clue to many problems.)
The path of AYIN is perhaps the most obscure of all. The “Renewing Intelligence” completes the dynamic expression of BEAUTY by uniting it to SPLENDOR, on the side of the pillar of Severity. The key to the mystery of this path is the word limitation, and it is the Renewing Intelligence because it is the source of human consciousness of limitation, incompleteness, lack and bondage. Our sense of bondage, after all, is the reflection of our intuitive knowledge of the freedom of THAT, which is the essential SELF of every man. When we consider the small extent of our personal achievements, the essential perfection of the ONE SELF seems to be an unattainable ideal. Millions of people personify this ideal as an externalized deity. It’s opposite, to which they attribute limitation of all kinds they personify as a hostile and malignant agency, the devil. The sense of bondage however, is what drives man to seek freedom, and thus it leads at last to the SPLENDOR which is the consequence of the strict justice of GEBURAH and the outcome of the dynamic impulse toward BEAUTY which pervades creation, while, at the same time, this SPLENDOR is the reflection of VICTORY.
The path of PEH which joins VICTORY to SPLENDOR, is analogous to the paths of DALETH and TETH. It is the “Exciting Intelligence”, and it follows the Renewing Intelligence because the sense of limitation sooner or later gives way to the conviction that this limitation is not permanent. This conviction is man’s chief incentive to the kinds of action which will lead to freedom.
It originates in an intuitive perception that the Spirit of man is one with the Universal Spirit, which as we have seen must necessarily succeed in carrying out the great purpose for which it projects Itself in a universe.
This intuitive perception comes suddenly, like a Lightning Flash, and usually overthrows the whole conception of the meaning of life held previously by him to whom it comes. This is an experience not only of a single person but also of whole races at certain stages of their development. It is the great influence which effects sweeping changes in the thought and work of the world.
This sudden inspiration is followed by the calmer influence of the next path, attributed to the letter TZADI, and called the “Natural Intelligence”. This path represents the gradual unfoldment of man’s instinctive knowledge of truth. This knowledge begins to find expression in his thought as soon as he comes to know that he is not the bondslave of external conditions. It is the projection of VICTORY, which the Divine Spirit in the heart of man recognizes as inevitable, and this is the root of all human hopes.
The next path is that of the letter QOPH, in Hebrew the meaning of this word QOPH is somewhat obscure. Usually it is given as “the back of the head”, and there is no doubt that this agrees with the occult tradition and also with certain facts. But the word QOPH is also translated “ape” and is apparently of obscure foreign derivation. If it means “ape” in the alphabet, it suggests a knowledge of evolution on the part of Quabalists antedating the theories of Darwin by some thousands of years; for the path of QOPH is that of “Corporeal Intelligence”, “which informs everybody in the influence of the solar orb, and is the root of all growth”. (The word informs as here employed, has the sense, now obsolete, of “to form, vitalize, make or inspirit.”)
The Corporeal Intelligence is that mode of consciousness which builds the physical vehicle of the soul; and it is the consciousness which has its bodily location in the back of the head, in the cerebellum and the medulla oblongata. In the latter particularly, consciousness is active at all times, even when the higher brain-centers are asleep, for it controls all the principle vital functions.
Now the letter QOPH is associated with sleep in the Book of Formation, as a hint that the Corporeal Intelligence remains active even in sleep. Furthermore, as the Intelligence which informs every body, it is that which effects all structural transformations, and thus it is the immediate agency in evolution.
Hence the Corporeal Intelligence unites the “Occult Intelligence” of NETZACH (the Supreme Spirit’s hidden knowledge of It’s limitless potentialities, which must find expression sooner or later in the perfect manifestation of Itself implied by the noun VICTORY) to the “Resplendent Intelligence” of MALKUTH. Note also that this path corresponds to the zodiacal sign Pieces, which rules the feet, and that it ends in MALKUTH, wherein are placed the feet of the Grand or Macrocosmic Man.
This Corporeal Intelligence act in response to desire even in the lowest forms of living organisms. All structural changes in the evolution of higher types of life from lower ones, as Lamark long ago pointed out, are brought about by effort to gratify some desire felt by the entity in whose organism repeated action directed towards some definite end brings about such changes. In man these changes take place only, or at least principally, within the range of the nervous organism. It is by the transformations so wrought – during natural sleep, be it observed – that the latent powers of man find expression. In other words, the higher faculties which are hidden, or occult, in the masses of humanity, are brought forth into the supernormal powers of adepts, who have become partakers in the Heavenly Kingdom (MALKUTH) through the influence of this path, and these powers constitute Resplendent Intelligence of MALKUTH.
The next path, that of RESCH, is the compliment or reflection of the “Natural Intelligence”. It is called the “Collecting Intelligence” because this path corresponds to the Sun, which is a great storage battery of the cosmic and spiritual fire. This fire is collected in the Sun, and there lowered in vibratory speed so that it becomes perceptible to our gross senses in the phenomena of light and heat. The cosmic energy itself is actively manifest in the “Absolute or Perfect intelligence” of HOD. The sages unite to declare that the fundamental principle of the universe is consciousness, whence it followos that the energy manifested by all modes of activity, whether fine or gross, is inherently mental in quality. This fact is the scientific basis of magic. The cosmic energy is collected or focused as solar force in the path of RESCH, which communicates this force to the ninth Sephira, YESOD.
The next path is that of SCHIN, joining the Perfect Intelligence of HOD to the Resplendent Intelligence of MALKUTH. It is called “Perpetual Intelligence”, because it is subject to no change. Thus it is in direct contrast to the ever-changing Corporeal Intelligence attributed to the letter QOPH. Since this path is attributed to SCHIN, the third Mother-letter, it also refers to the Primal FIRE. This path communicates the influence of the Pillar of Severity to MALKUTH. The Perpetual Intelligence is that which persists through the series of incarnations, as the spark, or core of individuality around which the successive personalities are built.
The last path is that of the letter TAV, the “Administrative or Assisting Intelligence”, which communicates to the Resplendent Intelligence of MALKUTH, the propagative power of YESOD, without which the Resplendent Intelligence would be barren and unproductive.
Compare this path with that of the Renewing Intelligence, also with those of LAMED and TZADI. The point in common is the influence of Saturn, which rules Capricorn (AYIN) and Aquarius (TZADI), and is exalted in Libra (LAMED). The power of Saturn is double. Thus the alchemists say that their Saturn (Lead) is corrosive externally and Lunar Internally. That is, it combines the form-destroying power of corrosion with the perfect reflecting power of that which the alchemists call the Moon.
The corrosive power predominates in Capricorn, or the Renewing Intelligence, the reflective power is active in the Natural Intelligence. This Natural Intelligence through the letter TZADI, is associated with meditation. The path of LAMED represents the equilibration of the corrosive and reflecting powers.
These correspondences are shown in the Tarot, where Justice, a female figure, like her who kneels in the picture called the STAR, holds the sword of corrosion and the scales which symbolize the equilibrium attained through meditation. LAMED moreover corresponds to Work and is thus allied to the Assisting intelligence, which as pictured by the WORLD in the Tarot, represents the perfection of the Saturnine nature.
The Assisting Intelligence completes the sequential manifestation of the Sephiroth. In human consciousness it is expressed as self-identification with the Supreme Spirit, and as the dedication of the whole personal life to the furtherance of the Great Work.
Another interesting text: Elias Rubenstein – The Secret Knowledge of Mysteries