“I have given over to you ten keys, and with them you can enter gates that are otherwise closed.” Joseph Gikatalia (1248 – 1325) in Gates of Light.
The Tree of Life (TOL) has become one of the most well-known magical glyphs in the Western world. (1) Mystics have used the Tree as both a focus and a map, to guide them in their meditations, visions, and dreams. Adepts unlocked hidden potentialities and abilities by working with the Tree by means of designated keys – chanting, visualizing, and/or inscribing Holy words or Holy images specifically associated with particular aspects.
In the last century, people in a variety of spiritual traditions have discovered that working with the Tree of Life can enhance their own methods of self-transformation. Similarly, I have found that doing TOL pathwork in lucid dreams makes for a particularly effective – and entertaining! – means of facilitating both Individuation and Self-Realization.
The ancient Sefer Yetzirah, or Book of Creation, written circa 100 – 500 C. E., first presented the specifics of the Tree of Life as we know of it today. (2, 3) An ‘Archetype of archetypes’, every aspect of the Kabbalistic Tree has its root in a specific kind of primordial power and divine light. Indeed, the very organization of the Tree reflects the processes and relationships of the Universal Laws of Life, Death, and Homeostasis. Neither masculine nor feminine, the Tree encompasses both; the ‘Right Pillar’ has a traditional association with masculine qualities, the ‘Left Pillar’ with feminine, and the ‘Middle Pillar’ with a third and distinct quality neither male nor female, signifying balance.
Ancient mystics used the Tree as both a focus and a map, to guide them in their explorations of the Universe in their meditations, visions, and dreams. Adepts unlocked hidden potentialities and brought them into manifestation by working with the Tree by means of designated keys, such as Holy words or images, to open the “Gates of Light”. Practitioners needed to know not only which keys to use, but how to effectively pronounce or visualize them. Even more importantly, they needed to bring the correct Kavanah – a special kind of focused and purified Intent – to the endeavor. In the “Gate of Kavanah,” (4), written in the 13th century, Rabbi Azriel described this Intent in a meditation on light, in which one focuses the mind as follows:
“He must then direct his concentration in the proper manner, so as to perfect it, so that the Highest Will should be clothed in his will, and not only that his will should be clothed in the Highest Will.
The highest influx does not descend except when the individual does this correctly. He must bring himself to the Highest Will in such a manner that the Highest Will clothes itself in the will of his desire.’
It seems clear that that some ancient mystics used what we today would call lucid dreaming and/or intentional out-of body-experiences in their spiritual practices, as a means towards Tikkun olam, of healing the world, and of healing themselves, through experiencing the Divine in all its aspects. One can find many references to “lucid dreaming” (someone knowing that they dream while they dream) in the Jewish mystical literature.
For example, 1 Enoch (5), written over 2,000 years ago, describes the experiences of Enoch, who goes on a guided tour of “Heaven” in a series of “visions’ that we today might call lucid dreams: ‘I saw in my sleep what I now speak . . . And behold I saw the clouds: And they were calling me in a vision; and the fogs were calling me; and the course of the stars and the lightnings were rushing me and causing me to desire; and in the vision, the winds were causing me to fly and rushing me high up into heaven.’ (1 Enoch, 14 2,8)
According to tradition, afterwards God takes him – while still living – from Earth, and transforms him into the Archangel Metatron. As one might expect, Enoch became a prototype for a fully realized Hebrew mystic.
One can even find a likely lucid dream of the TOL in Genesis 28, where Jacob, while sleeping in the city of Luz, dreams of “a ladder” reaching into the Heavens (perhaps the first description of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life), with the Angels of God moving up and down on it. Afterwards Jacob proclaims the city of Luz – the “Door to Heaven” and renames it Bethel, meaning the “House of God.” Although Luz, meaning “almond tree” in Hebrew, has no apparent linguistic connection to lucid (from the Latin, lucidis, meaning to shine), I can’t help finding the coincidence intriguing. According to Jewish mystical tradition, Luz later became the City of Immortals.
Merkabah mystics believed that to ascend through the throne-chariot of God, practitioners had to pass through the Seven Gates of the Seven Palaces in the Seven Heavens. They needed to bring the right seals for the Gatekeepers, but also had to recognize them, in order to call them by their proper names. Before attempting an ascent, adepts would specially prepare themselves, in order to enter a condition of ritual and spiritual purity.
What kinds of “keys” did adepts use to open gateways on the Tree of Life? For the Sefiroth, major energy centers on the Tree, potential keys would include their Hebrew names, their sacred God-Names, or the names of their designated Archangels. Any of these might serve as an effective focus to enable an adept to experience the qualities and attributes of a Sefirah.
With respect to the connecting pathways, I’ve found that simply chanting and drawing the Hebrew letter that designates it, with Intent, can work quite well. Effectively using a key also involves other factors, such as pronunciation, body language, gestures, and imagery. However, I’ve found, like early Kabbalists, that the state of mind one brings to the undertaking, one’s Kavanah, can play an even more important role.
Letting go of ego identification, while “lucidly surrendering” – to use Mary Ziemer’s term, (6) – to a Greater Self, can have amazing empowering effects. For example:
EWK 42 51 (Fully Lucid)”… I go down the hall and down the stairs, lots of flights of wooden stairs, that reminds me of the Tree of Life. I realize I dream, and remember my task. I chant Kah/ VOAD (Kavod, Glory) a couple of times, it feels really good. Two wise looking little girls appear on either side of me on the stairs. “Do you belong to an order of angels?” I ask, curious. I‘ve never seen angels appear in little girl form – they have usually shown up looking like little boys. One offers to take my dog, Shazam, and I let her, with some reluctance, figuring he can return to WPR if necessary.
The other girl, blonde, looking 10 or 11, leads me by the hand, promising to take me someplace interesting. We go down the stairs to an all female section, then the girl, now looking like a 20 year-old black woman, leads me into what looks like a bar. She sits with some friends, I see people drinking, and then smoking as I look for a place to sit. Not my kind of place. However, I see a sunny landscape and beach outside through the back windows of the ‘bar‘, which looks much more attractive. I go through the window, and hear a shout of alarm behind me as they realize I escape. Someone grabs my foot, but I slip out. I now find myself in a bright beach or desert scene. I repeatedly chant Kah/VOAD and feel myself drawn straight upwards into the heavens.
I keep chanting, the chant feels very good, everything turns a brilliant white. I feel ecstatic and find myself surrounded by blinding white light. I notice that my arms feel locked in place, straight out above my head in a sort of V posture, palms down. this worries me a bit – as I wonder what holds them there. I lose my Kavanah, and the feeling of ecstasy diminishes.” RWPR
Comment: I chose to chant the Hebrew word Kavod, “Glory” because of its association with Kether, meaning “Crown”, the first Sefirah of the Tree of Life. After the dream, I realized that the final position of my arms corresponded to the position of a priestly blessing. I also found, in my waking life, an increased capacity to experience the world from an empowered “beyond time and space” viewpoint.
In this lucid dream I described what happened when I merged with a “Higher” aspect of myself. However, self-actualization can also take place through integrating with “lower” aspects as well, as TOL work facilitates connecting to both “the Above,” and “the Below:”
34 60 (Fully Lucid) “. . . I fly out the front window to perform my dream tasks (remembering clearly that I wanted to experiment with the effects of Kabbalistic words in dream reality). I race very fast while chanting: “I call upon the power of Rah/ figh/ALE, to heal my throat and make me well.” I finally yell, “Slow! slow!” and end up in a sort of grassy valley. I lose vision, but hang onto kinesthetic sensations until I can see again, to find myself in a cubic room, 10’x10’x10′, lined with yellow pine. I decide to continue chanting, repeat the Rafael chant, then chant to Ra as I see a wall hanging (papyrus?) that looks vaguely Egyptian, and I think of Ra as a god of healing.
I then chant Geburah and Gedulah while visualizing red and blue energy spheres in my consciousness above me: visualization seems clear – did not take the place of DR environment visually perceived, looked and felt similar (but increased in quality) to visualization in WPR. I also chanted Alef while visualizing this path of self-integration between Geburah and Chesed. I don’t feel much happening, but like doing the chants. I invoke a mirror to see myself: it appears when I turn around. I look like a young, extremely handsome, muscular, and vigorous beast like creature covered almost everywhere with dark long hair except for some white on my chin and forehead. I look audacious.
A young woman, covered with long dark hair like me asks if I’ve finished. I respond, “First, let me ask you your name”. She says “Tia” or “Teeda” and invites me to come in and meet the others like us. I feel extremely powerful, go into a large lecture hall with bleachers – the others look like me but smaller, weaker. I see the woman presiding, and jump easily to the top of the bleachers. An overweight, middle-aged man with a turban climbs up the bleachers and tries to put a spell on me. “Go to sleep. You feel sleepy,” he says. Angered at his presumption, I project an energy ball from my right hand and push it at him.
He looks fearful and realizes that he has made a miscalculation, (that he did not confront a mere animal, but a powerful integration of both Higher and lower aspects of Self). I push him down the bleachers to the floor, overcoming him. Fearful and stunned, he remains on the ground as I leap back up and sit down next to a young beast-woman, who says to her companion, “Oh, I didn’t know Godzilla sat here,” sounding half-mocking, but also, like the others, very impressed with my prowess.”
Comment: This TOL dream had a profound effect on how I experienced myself physically. I felt more vital and alive, and much more in tune through my “inner beast” with my physical environment. Physical activity – even running and exercise, became far more enjoyable, something I looked forward to, rather than something I did out of duty.