International Order of Kabbalists - Tree of Life (Western Hermetic Tradition)

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Situation on the Tree:
Between Chesed and Geburah.

Key: The Hebrew Letter Teth. Serpent.

Titles: Daughter of the Flaming Sword. Leader of the Lion.

Spiritual Significance: Leo. The Lion.

Tarot Card: VIII - Strength.

Colours in the Four Worlds:
In Atziluth: Greenish yellow.
In Briah: Deep purple.
In Yetzirah: Grey.
In Assiah: Reddish yellow.




The papers below describe the Nineteenth Path of Teth that symbolises the infleunce between Chesed and Geburah. (More to follow)...

(Updated 09 January 2021)


The Path of Strength

By Doreen Sturzaker

The Path is the main girder of the Individuality and on this Path the individual has to face up to everything that has happened to him during the complete span of his personal evolution, without any evasions. It lies between Geburah and Chesed.

In Atziluth the colour is Greenish-Yellow, so the Yellow gives us the idea of great mental activity. In the visible spectrum Yellow is the colour that aids digestion and on the plane of the Archetype it is more to do with the right choice of mental food and its assimilation.

The Hebrew letter Teth has the Kabbalistic function assigned to it of digestion, which has been symbolised as the serpent biting its own tail endlessly, that is, the serpent power feeds on itself, or in other words, it is self-sustaining. This we know to be so for it is a scientific fact that although energy enters into all the many and varied forms of expression yet still the sum total of Universal energy remains the same, it represents the Eternal Law of Transformation and Conservation. This is the Path whereon a final adjustment of Karma has to be made, anything that may have been held over now has to be faced up to and reconciled before any further progress can be made. This is the Greenish part of the Path colour; there is the turmoil and inner conflict as the person tries to balance things up before proceeding on the Chesed, which is the Sphere of the Masters.

The World of Briah is shown as Deep Purple. Very powerful, a royal Ray, a Ray of great strength, which is certainly needed here to face up to everything that may be found on this Path; the lower has finally to be subdued and the animal forces have to be tamed. The lion symbolises all the forces of the lower nature as well as all the sub-human manifestations of the Cosmic Life-energy. It is a testing and difficult Path, but in the World of Briah the reasons for it are possibly well understood.

Binah on the main Tree gives a background of Crimson to the Purple so power and force to act is gained strengthening the Purple. It is the All-Creating Red building up the mental imagery, creating those elemental and natural forces of life which are both without and within the man. The restrictions of Binah press heavily as these elements strive for mastery. On the Outgoing Path, when the individual is descending the planes, he is creating them himself in the mental world, which for him is built anew each incarnation. On the Path of Return back to his source he seeks to control these mental images.

The restrictions of Binah must press heavily upon the individual as he seeks to balance and align his life, but there is also the Wisdom of Chokmah giving him strength and adding to the spiritual dedication of the Ray so that he can see the necessity for clearing away all the past errors he has made and which now press forward to impede his further progress.

In the Sphere of Chokmah the Pure Soft Blue becomes the background to the Purple. This radiant colour of pure Wisdom adds support to the inherent power and spiritual dedication of this Ray. This is the Path where the individual has to face up to everything that it has done or omitted to do during an entire span of its personal evolution. Nothing now may be postponed to a future incarnation to deal with it, in fact, no further progress can be made until all past errors have been faced up to and fully accepted. Once this is seen and responsibility taken then the way ahead is clearly defined. The quality of honesty is within the Purple Ray giving the ability to look at things squarely, without evasion, the power is there too to assist in the control of the unbridled forces within him, harnessing and transmitting them to a more spiritual use.
In the World of Yetzirah the colour of the Path is Grey, indicating that the Path is one of self-control.

In the Sphere of Chesed, tinged with Deep Violet, the genuine humility that can put itself in the place of another, however humble, shines through. In this sphere of the Masters the lower emotions should have been tamed and the Grey of the Path gives a feeling of oneness with all forms of life; consciousness can expand to receive knowledge of the higher Universal Laws. This is not quite so in the Sphere of Geburah, for the bleak severity of the Sephirah can be very daunting and emotionally, in the early stages, there may well be doubts and depression. The prospect of having to face up to all our errors with nothing but pure Justice meted out to us does, perhaps, give a feeling of hopelessness when we first commence treading this Path. Nevertheless, the Orange background underlines the lessons to be learned on the Path of Strength, self-control, the ability to organise and control one’s own environment and that of the wider surroundings, too. In the later stages, when some progress has been made and the lower emotions are more or less under control of the higher nature, then a certain degree of stability is reached. There is built in the quality of endurance and persistence to carry on with the task.

The beautifully clear Pink of sunrise breaks through the Grey in Tiphareth, irradiating the sombre aspects with beauty and harmony. Grey is neutral, tranquil, it has the power to assist an expansion of consciousness enabling it to receive intuitive knowledge of the higher planes. The gentle stimulation of the Pink gives to the neutrality of the Grey the necessary impetus and energy to push through to a deeper realisation of the true meaning of things.

Netzach, the Sphere of Victory, has undertones of Amber accentuating the gentle approach; it is a beneficial kindness in all its dealings. The power of the Sun, symbolised on this Path by the astrological sign Leo, shows an imaginative understanding of the lower forces of nature and the power of benign rulership.

Again, the Violet-Purple of Hod expresses rulership, the faculty of constructing mental images and of controlling them effectively. Great power with gentleness is here expressed. The sharp, probing intellect digs deep and neither large issues nor the smallest detail can escape this searching mind. Its sensitivity is turned towards an aspirational interest in things of the higher mind due to the basic Grey of the Path.

In Yesod the Grey is overlaid with Indigo, giving great fortitude. The lesson, which is to learn to gain control over the lower emotions, is pursued with relentless devotion, an almost fanatical stubbornness at times.

The Assiatic World is Reddish-Yellow. Yellow is the most activating of all the Rays and combined with the Red it is both out-going and energetic. So we have great activity along this Path, there is nothing static about it. The personality is being tried and tried very hard, for it is a final reckoning-up and adjustment before the Sphere of Chesed is stabilised. There is the fiery enthusiasm and not a little haste for the Man treading this Path realises he has much to accomplish. Pure Justice, which he can expect to get doled out in Geburah, may seem pretty tough and he needs the help of the energising, stimulating Red to push him on to get on with what has to be done. This state of consciousness is one of constant adjustment and so things can be expected to happen thick and fast. The Yellow underlines this for it is the Ray of Creative Activity.  

On this Path he truly gains the Strength for further progression by the blending together of the trinity of the Rays in the physical world. The Red, basic colour of Geburah in Assiah, The Ray of Will and Power, the Blue, basic colour of Chesed in Assiah, the Wisdom aspect combine with the Yellow of Intelligent Activity, to stimulate the individual’s mental capacities and urge him on.


The Path of Strength

A Gabriel Lodge Compilation

By D.M. Dalton (1987)

The position of the card of Strength on the Tree of Life distinguishes this card in several unique ways. First of all, this path connects directly between the mid points of the two pillars at their most dynamic aspects; Geburah the positive aspect of the dark pillar and Gedulah the negative aspect of the bright pillar.

This is the only path on the Tree to be crossed by three others; the path of the lovers, the path of the High Priestess and the path of the Star. As these three crossing influences all link with Tiphareth, there is a strong element of sacrifice associated with this path. It is at this level that a deeper meaning of the giving of oneself without reward is realised. Lying along the Lightning Flash on the fringe of the Abyss, it is very symbolic of the flow of powerful energies at the level of the abstract mind.

Gedulah is the highest spiritual ideal of the self and Geburah is the motivating energy of the will. Gedulah provides the fundamental vision of the course of destiny in life below the Abyss as laid down in Binah and Geburah provides the karmic adjustments which are constantly in motion, correcting the inevitable deviations which arise through the imperfections of life below the Abyss.

This path is therefore one of conflict, trial and testing for it is mainly concerned with the coming to terms with the prospect of directing the will towards the fulfilment of the destiny of the higher self.
The woman on the Tarot card is shown standing partly concealed behind the lion. This again indicates that the actions of the lower ego often hides the very small voice of the higher self.

Intuition is the level of consciousness ascribed to Gedulah and intuition is very subtle and often cannot be rationally explained. This is where faith has to be exercised for sometimes it is faith only which separates right action from wrong. Binah is the parent of faith for as Binah lies beyond the Abyss, faith is the only way of perceiving our destiny which Binah holds in its archetype.

The dilemmas which have to be faced along this path are mainly concerned with the struggles and conflicts which surround the major decisions which have to be taken from time to time through the course of life. There is also the added difficulty in that whatever the outcome of the conflict, this will set in motion new causes which will eventually have their karmic repercussions.

The path of Strength is therefore mainly concerned with resolving the conflicts which arise between the lower desires and the higher ideals when major decisions have to be taken. Strength is gained after the conflict has been resolved for the convictions following the correct decisions reinforce the resolution to pursue the higher ideal.

The keywords of fortitude, strength and victory bear this out, for they follow after times of strife. This implies that there can be no victory until there has been strife and suffering. In other words, this path cannot be reached by a bed of roses through life. The card of Strength is the card of recovery after difficulties and obstacles of any kind.

There is, of course, the negative side to the card as there is to all things. Having achieved victory and reached this path, the power and strength attained can be used in the wrong way, the energies can be applied to the wrong ends, letting the wishes overrule the common sense, it can be using strength to be what one is not; too much pride.

On the positive side of the card it symbolises the flowing in of bodily and spiritual strength. In spite of this, however, the card shows by the position and hands of the woman that we too have to make an effort. Unfortunately, too many people lose the benefit of strength because they use their wishbone instead of their backbone. Each individual has to make the effort to close the lions jaws, complete victory over the lower and animal self. In this respect it is a card of healing at the spiritual level. It is also a card of confidence and assurance; this is symbolised quite clearly by the woman with the lion.
Taking into account the negative as well as the positive side of this card, I feel it answers the age old question, “is the woman closing the lions jaws or is she holding them open?” I think she is doing neither. It is at the point where the jaws are half open, half closed. If the negative side prevails then the jaws will be wide open. If the positive side is uppermost then the jaws will be closed.

This path is concerned with the development of the individuality. It is a classic initiation. Travelling upwards it is the first preparation for entry into the Briatic world, and downwards it is the initiation into the final destiny of the Yetziratic world.
In treading the path of Strength along the outward journey from Geburah, the first of the obstacles to be overcome are the many decisions which have to be made when the path of the Lovers is crossed. Often the decisions have to be made quickly and accurately, for the influence of the Lovers brings in the destiny of Binah. The sign of Gemini on the Lovers tells us that in any situation in life where decisions have to be made, there is only the choice between the two ways, or two loves, at each time and it often requires a lot of strength of character to maintain the decision. Tiphareth, at the other end of the path of the Lovers brings in the influence of sacrifice. In making major decisions it is usual that one path will have to be sacrificed, sometimes painfully, for the pursuit of the other. The vice of Tiphareth is pride and this can also cause problems for the lion is the symbol of pride.

Whether or not one makes the right choice depends on how objective one is about underlying motives. At this level, motives can be so subtle that it is only after the decision has been taken that it shows up in hindsight. Again, subtle pride, which caused the angels to fall, could have been one of the underlying motives. The guidance of the white robed woman is still very distant at this point and we must often rely on faith and intuition that the choice was the right one. The lower ego is a master at convincing us to do things for the noblest of reasons when in fact it is only after self preservation.

The High Priestess holds the key to this path for she possesses the scroll of the ancient law, concealed from the profane. It is only after the decisions have been made at the crossover of the Lovers that, providing those decisions were the right ones, her veiled secret will become revealed. The High Priestess represents the influence of the sacrifices of Tiphareth with the union of the self with the totality of Kether. Forever virgin, she represents the freedom from the lower desires. The Moon rules this path and here it is the wisdom of the Moon which must be searched for. Going back to my previous comments regarding the subtlety of motives, it is often the Moon’s influence at this point which can supply the illusions that our motives are truly noble. It can take some time before the true message of the High Priestess is realised.

Eventually, one will reach the influence of the Star, yet another woman! This time she is naked, showing absolute truth and revealing herself as she really is. She pours out the waters of wisdom and truth reflecting the wisdom of Chokmah, the star dwelling beyond the abyss of interstellar space. Again, the Star implies the sacrifices of Tiphareth and selfless motivation in order to achieve the vision of the ageless wisdom. Here we begin to perceive the nature of the timelessness of Chokmah, existing before time came into existence at Binah. As Chokmah lies beyond the Abyss, wisdom can therefore never be possessed, only seen. It is also interesting to note that whenever one perceives wisdom, it takes place in a flash of illumination, revealing the deeper meaning of life which profoundly alters our perception on things, all within a timeless instant. The vision of the Star is the spiritual experience which opens up the way of true humility and finally we become aware of the woman in white, who has patiently waited an eternity and shows us the eventual triumph and victory of love over hate.

On the return journey, this realisation will be brought back to the driving force of the will in Geburah, which will now be directed in the correct way.  This incurs a lot of responsibility for it will be instinctively realised by others that you have found a way to inner peace and you will find yourself in the unenviable position of spiritual teacher.

Following the above comments on the nature of this path, whenever the card of Strength turns up in a spread, it suggests the ideas of struggle and conflict, decision making, a major change in the course of life and having the strength to face up at last to problems which have been avoided or pushed under the carpet for probably a very long time. The path of Strength is probably linked with karmic situations, as well as long term effects. It is a noble path, for it is a calling from the higher self to put away the lesser desires and face up to oneself in trying to determine the deeper motivations for our actions.


The Lion:

The dominant figure on the card is the Lion, certainly at first glance this is so. It is strong and powerful, representing pride, power, strength and cunning.  It’s motivation is instinctual; and so the Lion in this instance may be said to represent the basic instincts of humanity in the more animalistic side of it’s nature. This at the present time is generally predominant in average humanity, so the position on the card in the centre foreground seems quite meaningful.
It is generally accepted that the Lion represents the lower animal instincts.  The woman fights the Lion and is eventually victorious. However, I do not see the card in this way. Symbolism generally does not apply any bestial or base instincts to the Lion. The Lion is the strength which gives the woman calmness, serenity, purity and simplicity.
Crowley, on his card, calls this path Lust and attributes the Lion to the beast mentioned in the biblical book of Revelations. The Lion here represents the lower animal self that has to be controlled.
The Lion brings in links with the biblical story of Daniel in the lion’s den.  Daniel knew that in a physical fight with the lions he would lose, but knowing the protection given to him by God he used the natural forces to subdue the lions and protect himself.

The Hebrew Letter Teth:

Teth means snake and the interchangeability of the zodiacal sign of Leo, the lion and snake symbolism is an important meaning to the card. As the symbols interchange, we understand that the realities which they represent can also be interchanged. The One spirit takes any form it wills which is an important lesson of this path.
The Hebrew letter Teth (f) means a Snake or Serpent, which has long been a symbol of wisdom - “Be ye wise as serpents”.

The sign of Leo is attributed to Strength and it’s symbol is reminiscent of a serpent. This may remind us of the kundalini, the serpent power that when awakened travels up the centres approximating the spine and opens up the spiritual realms of the individual who has prepared themselves for it.  Premature awakening of the kundalini force carries it’s own dangers.

The Lemniscate:

Over the woman’s head is the lemniscate or symbol of eternity. This does not mean, as many people think, that she has also conquered and achieved immortality, it can mean that, but it can also mean that the struggle between positive and negative goes on in never-ending cycles.

Unlike the lower self, the woman does not have to prove anything. The lemniscate of eternity over her head associates her with ageless wisdom and she holds the wider view on life. She sees the temporal existence of the lion and she also knows that it is in the nature of the lion to be king and believing that it rules the lower kingdoms. The woman is a Gedulah figure and, like the Masters dwelling beyond the karmic adjustments of Geburah, will never of her own volition set in motion any cause which would ensnare her back into karmic cycles. Therefore she remains eternal and apart, her purity symbolised by her white robe. It is only through humility and meditation that the lower self will come to realise the wisdom and compassion of the woman in white and, like Jacob wrestling with the angel, it is the lion’s own conflict within itself which must be tamed, by it’s own volition.

The lemniscate of eternity also links the woman with Netzach, the sphere of victory. Netzach means eternity and, like the lemniscate over the Magician’s head, represents the eventual victory of deeper realisation which will inevitably be achieved in time. The woman has all eternity at her disposal and however much the lion may struggle to have it’s own way it is invariably linked to the wider view which will eventually be realised by the lion.

The Garland of Flowers:

The garland of roses, which in some cases is also supposed to be in the shape of the lemniscate, shows that however long the struggle may last the woman is always there, quietly waiting for the lion to realise the true value of surrendering to the higher wisdom. The victory of Netzach will only be achieved after considerable struggle and conflict for the woman represents a complete change of values.

I think the garland slung around her waist with the ends draped over the lion’s neck show clearly that she and the lion are linked, self consciousness and subconsciousness working together harmoniously. She is either opening or closing the lion’s mouth, it does not matter which, it clearly shows that the lower nature or animal instincts have been controlled but not by force. It is done with gentle, loving spiritual power.

The garland is in bloom; through the spiritual flowers she has gained control of not only the natural instincts but of her natural forces, nature with a capital ‘N’ and they are in harmony with her.


It is the 19th path which reduces to one, a number of harmony, initiation, activity, self mastery and subjugation of the lesser forces.

It is interesting to note that the total influences on this path number five, this being the perfect number of man and the pentagram or the symbol of the balance and perfection that man must attain within the world of Assiah. If the path of Strength is also included the number becomes six, the connection with balance, harmony and more importantly the sixth sephirah Tiphareth are then known.

On the woman’s head there are four flowers, four is a number of the Sun but it is also the number of death, again we have the positive and negative. It can be death of the vices or it can be the death of the virtues.

One of the most fundamental teachings of the kabbalah gives is that life is a constant flow of causes and effects in a never ending cycle. The ten of Malkuth reduces to the one of Kether, the first cause, and this means that the final outcome of our actions becomes the cause for the next cycle of events. This never ending flowing of life, or Kether in Malkuth, began before time came into existence and will continue indefinitely. This is what the Buddhists call the santana. The kabbalists in trying to apply the principles of the Tree in daily life will realise that it is pointless trying to speculate on the meaning of life, for the answer is one of the supreme mysteries lying beyond the Abyss, which we cannot comprehend. Instead, like the Buddhists, the kabbalist must align themselves with this flowing of life by balancing up the Tree within. When one has become in harmony with the natural flowing of life, then suffering and conflict cease. The 19 reducing to 1 indicates that the path of Strength is involved in the process of harmonising the ego to the natural flowing of life.

It is the eighth arcanum. Eight is a number of attraction and repulsion, with all kinds of strife and disruption, which is obviously so, situated between opposing forces. It is also a number of justice (Geburah) and fullness (Gedulah) and represents the gate of eternity.

The Elements:

The path lies between force and form, fire and water, and is on the lightning flash - a very turbulent path. Fire and water are opposing energies, but at the same time, if used correctly are complimentary forces. Water tempers the passions and over-enthusiasm of fire. Fire brings warmth and movement to the coolness of water.

Strength leads to the edge of the Abyss. Above is darkness of light; below is pure light. Both have a very powerful influence on this path. It is the outpouring of energy from Chesed to Geburah in the process of manifestation; it is the primary path of the higher self linking the great opposites. Below the Abyss it is the path on which fire becomes light for manifestation in light whereas the supernals are a darkness which is fiery; thus the radiant darkness of the limitless light. The three principle elements of nature are air, fire and water. They are really one in use and substance and are able to change the one into the other. It is the same with thought and speech. They are one and the same themselves.


The yellow background on the card symbolises the active intelligence and creative energy at work throughout the cosmos in all forms of life. The woman and the lion are within nature and together they are in harmony with each other and with nature, who is the truly spiritualised entity.  The blue hills symbolise the wisdom yet to be gained but although they are distant, they are accessible.

The orange ray gives receptivity and self-mastery, with complete control.

The Position on the Tree of Life:

In establishing the position of this card on the Tree, there appears to be very little controversy. It appears that the card of Strength represents the qualities of the 19th path very closely. First of all, the 19th path lies across the Tree, linking the two extreme poles in life, or the positive and negative pillars. This path represents the balancing up of the driving forces of the will and being able to direct the will in accordance with the highest ideal.

This is a particularly difficult path, for at the lower levels, Geburah is the driving force of the ego. Fear is an alternative title for Geburah, and fear of the unknown is a natural survival instinct. The woman in white is standing behind the lion, with the lion in the foreground. The fires of Geburah can stir the mind to the point where actions are taken which could be a waste of time from the wider point of view of Gedulah. There is always conflict here, until the lower self finally submits of it’s own accord, when the time is right, to the wisdom of the infinitely wider view of Gedulah.  The woman wears a white robe, symbolising purity, after the karma has been worked out in Geburah. In order to dwell in levels of consciousness beyond Geburah would require that no causes were allowed to be set in motion which would trap the abstract self back into a cycle of karma, to work out the final effects of even very subtle causes.

The woman represents therefore the nature of Gedulah, in that consciousness at this level is unable to influence or coerce any other mind without beginning a new cycle of karma. Therefore the higher teachers never impose any dogma but make available the higher teachings on the plane of pure mind. Those who are ready will become aware of them. Here then is the meaning of the gentleness of compassion which, when given time, will eventually triumph when the values of the teachings have been accepted by the lower self.


The Path of Strength

By Peter Oddey (2001)

With the path of Teth, to which is ascribed the Tarot card of Strength, we have moved one step away from the paths that cross the Abyss, where the relationship between the higher self ad the Divine is shrouded in mystery and into the world of the higher spiritual self, where we may seek to hold greater personal control.

The paths of Heh, Vau, Zain and Cheth have stated the primordial nature of things and the means of higher attainment within them. For example, on the right side of the Tree, we have constituting intelligence and Triumphant Intelligence, which tell us how creation is brought into being and of the higher life (the Paradise prepared for the righteous), to which we are called. On the left side of the Tree, we have Disposing Intelligence and the House of Influence, which tell us of the work of the Holy Spirit in Binah and of the aspiration to grow in the knowledge of things divine. The four paths which cross the Abyss, balance themselves, as on would expect and are ruled over by the High Priestess of the Uniting Intelligence, who is, “the Consummation of the Truth of individual spiritual things”.

In the path that runs between Chesed and Geburah, we remain in the exalted and wondrous realms of the Tree of Life, but here, we are able to exercise a greater degree of personal consciousness of the higher thought processes. Our ultimate success in walking this path, lies more in our own hands.

The Yetziratic text from the “Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom” for the path of Teth is:
“The Nineteenth Path is the Intelligence of Spiritual Activity and is so called because of the affluence diffused by it from the most high blessing and most exalted sublime glory.”

In traditional Judeo-Christian terms, we are at the very centre of the choice between the merciful loving God to the right in Gedulah and the Judgmental, punitive God to the left in Geburah and this is amplified in the ascription of the Minor Arcana.

In Chesed we have the four Fours:

Wands - Perfected work
Cups - Pleasure
Swords - Rest from strife
Pentacles - Earthly power

In Geburah we have the four Five’s:

Wands - Strife
Cups - Loss of pleasure
Swords - Defeat
Pentacles - Earthly trouble

There seems to be little doubt to the aspiring Kabbalist, which direction we would rather be heading. Indeed, although Teth is a simple letter meaning a snake and related to the fundamental property of taste, its important position between the worlds of Mercy and Judgement reminds one of the stark choice to be found in the path of the Magician, where the double letter Beth is related to life or death.

In our personal spiritual lives, the path of Teth involves our ultimate choice between life or death.

The path of Teth and the Tarot card Strength, holds a number of additional unique features. It is the highest path of the Tree of Life prior to crossing the Abyss and it is the only path to be crossed by three other paths: the path of the High Priestess, the path of the Star (or Emperor) and the path of the Lovers.

In the card of Strength, as with all the cards of the Tarot and particularly the Major Arcana, the female figure, symbolic of the spiritual faculties and the ravening lion, symbolising the baser instincts, relay to the observer a great deal. The allusion in the Old Testament scriptures to this symbolism are numerous.

Samson slays a lion and draws honey from the carcass - Judges 14:5
David slays a lion - 1Samual 17:35
The disobedient prophet is slain by a lion - 1Kings 13:20
Daniel, in a den of lions, is saved by an angel - Daniel 6:16

The Nineteenth path and the Tarot card of Strength, seek to imitate something of the control we do, or do not, exert over our higher faculties. For me, the key to this card is to be found in the path that follows on the outward journey, and precedes on the return: the twentieth path of the Intelligence of Will and card of The Hermit. For as the Yetziratic text from the “Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom” tells us, “The twentieth path is the Intelligence of Will and is so called because it is the means of preparation of all and each created being and by this Intelligence the existence of Primordial Wisdom becomes known”.

Indeed, Dr Robert Wang in his “Qabalistic Tarot” tells us that “...the Golden Dawn text calls The Hermit, the first of three great initiatory cards, the others being Strength and The Chariot. Inn this regard, it should be pointed out that the experiences of all these cards may be gained on the path of the High Priestess. That path not only encompasses all paths above Tiphareth, but crosses the Abyss with its devastating experience of Divine reconciliation through isolation”
It is interesting that the figure created by the three paths of The Hermit, Strength and The Chariot, as set out on the Tree of Life, is the same as the Hebrew letter Lamed - the Ox-goad, to which is ascribed the card of Justice and the Faithful Intelligence. The path of Lamed speaks to us of the inexorable and irrefutable drawing of the creation, the Creator and what this appears to tell us is that ultimately the calling to the higher life, is something divinely inspired and assisted. as Paul Foster Case has it in “The Book of Tokens” - the letter Vau, section eight:

“Thy search for me
Is mine own search for myself,
Nor shall that quest of mine,
Which seemeth now to thee to be
Thine own pursuit of wisdom and of understanding,
Be doomed to failure.
Whosoever thou art that readest or hearest these words,
Know that thou shalt come to me.”


The 19th Path - Strength

By Malcolm Ballan (1997)

“Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves”

This is the nineteenth path, the eighth arcanum and joins Geburah with Chesed (Gedulah). The Hebrew letter assigned to the path is Teth (f), which means ‘serpent’ - more will be said of this later. In the 32 Paths of Wisdom this path is described as “the intelligence of the secret of all the activities of spiritual beings, and is so called because of the influence diffused by it from the most high and sublime glory”.

This path is much concerned with the concepts of Divine Justice and Karma, for it mediates between the sword of Geburah and the rod of Chesed. To walk this path one has to balance all qualities in everything we do and all that which we have done. Within esoteric circles this is the path of the ‘Adeptus Exemptus’ - one has balanced fully the scales of Karma, and in doing so the wheel of incarnation and subsequent re-incarnation will be broken. To do so the soul becomes a ‘Justified One’,  gaining initiation into Chesed, sphere of the Saints. The examining board is comprised of the two archangels from each of the two spheres - Khamael and Tzadkiel, who together examine the evidence and make any final adjustments which may be required to allow the soul to pass on its way. The images associated with this path are the fiery sword, a lion, a serpent, a cat or sometimes a golden lions paw. The sword or the claws of the lion/cat may inflict painful wounds upon those who tread this path but only if they meet resistance to the Laws of Absolute Love which emanates from Chesed. It takes a very highly evolved soul to pass this way unscathed.

To fully appreciate all aspects of this path it is essential to examine the two Sephiroth which it joins, and witness the forces involved between them.

Geburah is the fifth sphere and the second on the negative pillar - it is the sphere of punishment, rigour, fear and severity, and yet vehement strength is also associated with it. Geburah is the symbol of death, but also of Justice. Its position on the Tree of Life makes it negative to Binah but positive to Tiphareth and Hod. It is also seen as negative to the position of Chesed. Thus the path of Strength is seen as mediating between the two Sephiroth. In Geburah we see Justice in all its varied aspects - at the Atziluthic level the idea or creative spark of Justice is born, from the Briatic world perfect balanced Justice flows creating the Universal Laws, which at the Yetziratic level is formed into an operational system. In the world of Assiah we see the physical aspect of Justice with all its derivations, but overshadowing this is the pure Justice of the higher levels. Thus through the eyes of man does he think that Utopia can be established by fire and sword - two distinct images of the sphere.

The mundane chakra of Geburah is Mars - this brings forth the fiery influence that brings fanaticism into being, either at religious, scientific or political level. Fanaticism can only be avoided if the benevolent sphere of Tiphareth has been entered - only the foolish rise from Hod to Geburah., only to fall back through fanatical cruelty. Geburah is the centre of the dark night of the soul, and its negative aspects include cruelty and destruction at the Yetziratic and Assiatic levels - Justice at its worst is shown through unremitting torture - the use of the scourge, the whip and the spear - all images of this Sephirah. However, it is through Geburah that the vision of power can be experienced - as a reflection of Binah, and by receiving part of the life force directly from this sphere. Geburah is the sephirah of the Radical Intelligence - taking Understanding from Binah and Wisdom from Chokmah. Geburah is feminine in potency, but its attributes are all masculine in nature.

Chesed is the first sephirah below the abyss. It is the fourth sphere on the Tree and is the second on the positive pillar. In contrast it is masculine in potency, yet its attributes are feminine in nature. It is the sphere of Love, emotions, sentiment, feeling and all that is part of an expansive nature. It is a symbol of life and bears the qualities of grace and righteousness. Through the 19th path, it forms a balance between itself and the negative aspects of Geburah. To temper Justice with Mercy is one of its main functions, and it is an important lesson to be learnt.

This level of consciousness is the sphere of the Masters - this is the ‘Measuring and Receptacular Intelligence because it contains and emanates the holy powers and spiritual virtues’. Chesed is the highest sphere below the abyss receiving the Ain force in its nebulous form direct from Binah through the lightning flash. Thus it receives a certain amount of unrestricted force and wisdom through the medium of the 16th path, the Heirophant, from Chokmah. So it is at this sephirah that peace and wisdom maybe more fully understood. It is also the full unfoldment of the Christos Love.

In the Briatic world, we see that Chesed is now beyond the wheels of rebirth, plus it is not restricted by the Laws of Karma. In the world of Atziluth, it is pure compassion and universal mercy. Passing from the Briatic world to the Yetziratic level, Chesed gives out the love and sentiment that is derived directly from the emotional plane. And in the world of Assiah it is the love of physical attraction. The quality of mercy at this level varies in a similar manner to the love aspect at the different levels of the four worlds. The Archangel of Chesed is Tzadkiel (Righteousness of God) and it is in this sphere that the quality of righteousness is so prominent. When we examine the magical weapons associated with Chesed - the wand, sceptre and crook, especially a shepherd’s crook - one cannot help but see the resemblance between the image of Christ, as the shepherd guarding his flock, and his doctrine of mercy, love and righteousness.

At this stage we can see how the 19th path acts as a mediator between the two very different sephiroth - it is the line of harmony and balance, creating a force of equilibrium between Geburah and Chesed. It is a path of fire (the order of Angels in Chesed are the Chasmalim - the bright Shining Ones; and in Geburah are the Seraphim - the Fiery Serpents) and is suitable for burning out the last of the dross. Here Karma, as stated before, is finely balanced and by Chesed is dispensed with - here all last illusions are stripped away. All the aspects that make up the physical and emotional being are slowly peeled away - we may seem vulnerable until we realise that strength is gained from being our true selves.

The image of the serpent as a symbol of wisdom, is a wisdom and knowledge of our true selves. We can open our eyes to face and conquer the dark twin we carry within - hence the Tarot card for this path depicts a woman holding the jaws of the lion not through brute strength but gentle persuasion and control - our higher selves controlling the lower self. The snake also reflects the ancient wisdom of which many are blind to. As a symbol the snake is warning us to be careful of false illusion - but once overcome, we can share the eternal wisdom and a gift for healing.

The astrological affinity to this path is Leo - again a symbol of Fire or a fiery nature. It is a fire of driving force, of passion and yet purifying at the same time. As in the Tarot card - the inner beast must be conquered before the outer can be truly mastered. For those who truly possess the serpent’s wisdom this a is the path of Divine Mercy and Justice. For through the four worlds its application moves from the world of Atziluth where it is a perfect balance of Justice and Mercy, to a biased force at the Briatic level, at the Yetziratic level it is emotionally applied to either, and in the world of Assiah it is a strength of convictions, right or wrong. Especially when one has to take the test of this path - to face up to everything that has happened during one’s personal evolution, accepting it all for what it is, without evasion or repressions. The final reckoning in which one is made to see and understand Karmic Law in action - to also accept in this confrontation the responsibility for our actions. Avoidance can only make matters worse - although through human reckoning, very understandable as we fear the truth and through truth, pain. But it’s realisation and acceptance of our faults and weaknesses, which can only prepare us for the new experiences and understanding beyond this path.

This path is the second and middle barrier to the Tree - on the way down the Tree the Fool acquires the strength and energy to face the conditions on the lower levels and on the return journey, the strength to travel on to the higher realms of consciousness. But this path illustrates that quiet spiritual inner strength and not the brute strength so utilised by humanity on the lower levels. It is the quiet strength that can balance Justice and Mercy - face up to the karmic conditions that prevail over the period of time and gathered upon life’s journey. Once gained this quiet strength can lead on to immortality as symbolised by the eternity sign shown in the Tarot card. For as love and mercy flow from the sphere of Chesed, so from Geburah flows Justice and a driving force that cannot be resisted because Geburah is the fire of the soul.


The Path of Strength

By M. Y. Piper (1990)

This is the nineteenth Path adjoining Geburah to Gedulah, making the second barrier on the Tree. At each end of the Path lie the extremes of harsh justice and mercy. The basic lesson of this Path is to bring a balance between these two aspects - taking the strength of the lion to attain an inward strength, and to temper this with the mercy of Gedulah to ensure that this is not a violent strength, but that of calm resolution, so taming the "beast within".

The illustration on the card shows ahermaphrodite closing the open jaws of a lion - or is it holding the jaws open? - This is open for personal interpretation, but the point is that harsh justice is in the hands of compassion - here is persuasion, not force. The lion itself can be a brutal predator or a kitten cat. This will depend on how much compassion is used to calm the animal passions and turn it into inner strength and control. This strength will enable the student to face the difficult journey down the Tree, and also give the spiritual strength to come to terms with his Karma (which he must face in Geburah) and so ascend the Tree on the return journey.

Some see the figure as a hermaphrodite and others as a virgin girl. As the latter, she would represent the Moon and the female principle, and the lion the sun, and the male principle. It would show that always the two opposites of negative and positive, passive and active must be brought into balance. Through the negative aspect the student may learn moral and spiritual strength. Once this is achieved, combined with the loving aspect of Gedulah, the initiate can control the animal world, including the animal within. Above the figure's head is the symbol of eternity - once the lessons of this path are learned, they can lead to immortality.

Taking this Path in conjunction with the Tree as a whole, we can see that it lies just below the Abyss, it is so divorced from the supernals, but is linked through its dissection by the High Priestess. She joins Kether and Tiphareth and so cuts this Path of fiery passion with cool reason. She brings direct emanations from Kether which illumine the Path for the student.

The influence of Tiphareth flows up into the Path of Strength. With Tiphareth we have again the element of fire and the link with the Sun. This fire can burn away the old and dead, and lead to an initiation by fire, a purification, then to be cooled by the Waters of the Moon flowing down from the High Priestess. This burning away of old ideas, belongings, etc., can be seen as the material and mind being sacrificed for the advancement of spirit.

The background colour of the card is yellow, which is also the colour of Tiphareth, and the sun, linking in this Leo. The higher level of this Ray is spiritual unity - at the universal level it is one of spiritual activity, mercy, wisdom and justice - which really sums up the lessons of this Path.

The Path of Strength is the Empress on a lower arc - both form barriers across the Tree, both are Paths of initiation. Along the Path of the Empress, which lies above the Abyss flows the creative unifying life force, along the Path of Strength which lies below the Abyss things are not so nebulous, and spiritual unity - being at peace with one's world, with one's universe - flows along this Path. Something we can at least relate to. Passing above the barrier the universe would no longer belong to "us" as we doff our personality to reach higher levels.

The Hebrew letter for this Path is "Teth", which means SNAKE. Symbolic of the serpent of ancient knowledge, the serpent who tempted Eve in the garden of Eden, and running through all occult teachings - the snake is the symbol of "serpent power". It is an ancient symbol and has always been seen as having the dual aspect of good and evil - positive and negative, tempter and adviser of wisdom.

The aphorisms refer to the old saying "snake in the grass" - that wisdom is there, barely hidden, and man is not aware of it. There is no urge to search as materialism takes over the mind and leaves no time for contemplation. Man allows animal passions to dominate in fulfilling its desires for the trappings of modern day life, forgetting perhaps that we are here to learn and improve. Man must learn to control desires - learn self discipline. The beast within must be acknowledged and integrated for it to be of use. Here the influence of Netzach on Gedulah can help to bring harmony out of this inner struggle.

This Path offers the possibilities of self-awareness and a certain amount of power over one's future should we choose to use it. However, there is still the risk of being carried away by illusions - the influence of the Water Palace in Hod flowing up the Tree into Geburah, so self discipline is essential.


The Path of Strength

By Vipin Prithipaul (2000)

Strength is the 8th arcanum and the 19th path on the Tree of Life. It is the second barrier on the path of return and constitutes a Veil before the Abyss of Paroketh.

The path of Strength joins Chesed to Geburah, both of which are the middle spheres on the two outer pillars of expansion and restriction. It bridges antagonistic or opposed forces and “The Strength” is symbolised by the point where the middle pillar crosses this path. The point of intersection represents the perfect harmony or balance between extremes in man - too much severity leads to cruelty and too much mercy leads to meekness. An example of this balance in nature is the willow which bends with the wind instead of breaking because of its flexibility. The Strength we are dealing with is not physical, it is the inner strength lying dormant in man which can only be awakened and usefully used by adequate knowledge and discipline.

The arcanum depicts a girl closing the mouth of a lion. The lion being the king of animals represents the masculine subhuman forces and the girl represents the feminine power of persuasion in men. It can also represent the material and spiritual passions. The picture can also mean or represent severity being controlled and balanced by gentleness, material passion controlled by the spiritual. It is by controlling or stabilising these opposing forces that are mercy and severity that we can unite our lower self with our higher self. It is thus an act of union and not one of conquest.

Depicted on the card, above the girls head, is a horizontal figure of eight - symbol of infinity. Some scholars state that 8 is the number of splendour and symbolises the transformation of man who finally recovers his original faculties in his evolutionary cycle, and thereby man’s liberation, by recovering his original divine faculties.

The Hebrew letter Teth meaning snake is assigned to this path. The snake is amongst others a symbol of secrecy. In many magical and esoteric schools secrecy formed part of the discipline and morality imposed on the new adept. In fact new adherents received severe warnings not to disclose any of the secret teachings imparted to them and they were even threatened by severe penalty if ever they disclosed them to the outside world. Why was that so? I believe that the mastering of magic is one which involves an alteration of our personal psychology and in order to master the art one must undergo “extreme” changes in behaviour, belief, attitude, orientation, etc... So keeping something secret is to start to impose a discipline on ourselves because most of us have very little real discipline in our lives.

The snake is also a symbol of resurrection and renewal of life since it sheds its skin regularly and as such it can be associated to Initiation as the latter is in a sense a resurrection. The snake biting its tail or “Ouroboros” symbolises cycles and also the mystery of time which is cyclical - day following night, seasons follow each other and lifetime follows lifetime thus the Ouroboros represents Time Devouring Itself. The old serpent tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to eat the forbidden fruit bringing about the fall of man, on the other hand it is a symbol of Satan.

The snake on the Tree of Life symbolises the way of redemption by its windings and I believe that it symbolises the serpent as energy in its purest sense. This energy is described in Kundalini Yoga as the power in the form of a coiled serpent residing in the Muladhara chakra at the base of the spinal cord. In most individuals this serpent power ascends through the other chakras until it reaches the sahasrara chakra or thousand petalled lotus. “The yogi then lose his individuality in the ocean of Sat-Chit-Ananda or Existence-Knowledge-Bliss and becomes one with the supreme soul. The yogi becomes a hero having won the battle against illusion, a liberated one who has crossed the Ocean of Ignorance and the transmigratory existence, One who has acquired the capacity to save the other struggling souls of the relative world.” I believe that the seven chakras (levels of consciousness) could represent the seven lower sephiroth, the higher states of Sat-Chit-Ananda could then represent the Supernals and the Ocean of Ignorance that of the Abyss of Paroketh.

It is interesting to note that just as one cannot separate heat from fire, the girl and the lion on the card represent the inseparable feminine and masculine powers in man. Once again, Kundalini Yoga explains the union of the feminine and masculine aspects in the union of Lord Shiva and his Shakti (feminine counterpart) as follows:
“Mother divine, the active aspect of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, Absolute, resides in the body of man and woman in the form of kundalini and the entire Tantrik Sadhana aims at awakening Her and making Her unite with the Lord in the Sahasrara chakra.”

I believe that Shiva should be a god attached to this path. As far as Tantra is concerned it is Shiva who can claim the potency of this path. We again find similarities between Kabbalah and kundalini yoga in their ultimate aim of freeing man. It is only by harnessing the fire passion by transmuting it into a divine, fiery driving force that man can ultimately become one with the Supreme.


Pathworking on the 19th Path - Strength

By Malcolm Ballan (1997)

1) Relax. You are lying in a field of wild flowers, the sun shines in beautiful blue sky, warming you as you lie relaxed upon the ground. The flowers give off a heavenly scent, gently stirred by the breeze. You feel very relaxed - all tensions have melted away, all cares have been left behind - you feel at peace in yourself.

2) Suddenly you hear a voice. You rise to see someone quickly disappear behind a hedge - you walk to the edge of the field and climb the style into the next field. The shadow of the person that called you disappears inside a rickety barn across the field. This you approach and enter - there in the shadows is the person that called you - you do not feel afraid, just a strong curiosity - however this person remains in the shade so you cannot see their features properly. The person points towards a picture hanging on the barn wall - this you look at in the dim sunlight, streaming in through holes in the wooden frame of the barn.

3) It is a picture of a woman holding a lion - at first it looked as if she was struggling with the lion but then you see that she gently restrains the lion. The shadowy person tells you to touch the glass of the picture - this you do and then suddenly your hand moves through the glass and you find yourself stepping into the picture.

4) You find yourself in a vale and before you is the lion and the young woman. She bids you welcome and to come  and stroke the lion - you do so, a little nervously but see that the lion is quite friendly. The woman asks you to walk with her and the lion as she has something to show you - you walk along the vale; as you walk she begins to ask questions about your life - at first these are fairly ordinary but the further you walk the more probing they become. You find yourself telling her about your dreams and hopes, failings and nightmares, your problems and thoughts - here you find yourself talking about things you have never shared with anyone. Yet, you feel totally relaxed with this woman and she appears not bothered by your confessions... in fact she seems intrigued by you.

5) Finally you reach a small hollow and before you lies a shallow pool of crystal clear water - she bids you to sit by the edge of the pool and to gaze into its depths. As you look so images and thoughts begin to appear within the pool - images of things you have discussed with the woman, images of your dreams, nightmares, hopes and failures. Spend a few minutes looking into the pool - for not only do you see these images but if you look carefully answers to your problems can also be glimpsed.

6) The woman arises and breaks our concentration - she bids us to return back to our point of starting. You walk back along the vale but this time in silence - there is much on your mind. When you reach the starting point you see a shimmering doorway hanging in the air and through it the shadowy interior of the barn. You turn to the woman to thank her as she has given you much to ponder over - some of it quite painful - yet somehow she seems to have opened your eyes and also to have shared these thoughts and feelings with you. She gives you a warm smile and then suddenly hugs you - you feel very elated and also inspired by this young woman. You reach down and hug the lion who gives you a gentle lick with its rough tongue, then you turn and walk through the shimmering doorway. As you do so, the shadowy figure steps out into the light to give you a helping hand and you see that it is yourself. You are not shocked by this but amused....even when you try to run away from things there is always a part of you that still pulls you back. Your “otherself” smiles and then climbs into the picture; you turn to see yourself standing with the woman and lion.

You leave the barn and return back to your original spot - to lie down once more in the warmth of the sun amid the fragrant flowers - your mind still pondering on the scenes you have witnessed, but in the bright sunlight many things now seem a bit clearer and even your unpleasant side does not seem quite that bad.

Slowly all the images fade and you return back to your room.


To be continued...