The Kabbalah, the Tarot and the Middle Way
This paper shows how a detailed and inspirational map of the spiritual quest is created through an extraordinary synchronicity between the Kabbalah Tree of Life, the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path, the text of the Sefer Yetzirah, the Greater Arcana of the Tarot, the Uttaratantra Shastra, the Three Veils of Negative Existence, the Three Principles of the Path (in Tibetan Buddhism), and Madhyamika Philosophy. This synchronicity is evidence that these apparently different spiritual traditions all draw their inspiration from the same divine source.
It provides a map of the spiritual path that is a path of verification, which means that there is a personal scientific basis for the spiritual quest. We progress on the spiritual path not by blind faith, but by a process of verification and direct experience of the truth. This process of verification is brought about by a step-by-step transformation of our being into a progressively better and more compassionate person. At each level, when we have transformed ourselves sufficiently, we verify the spiritual truth revealed at that level by a direct experience of it. This is the nature of the spiritual path.
- Introduction: A Map of Our Spiritual Quest
- A Path of Verification
- An Overview of the Map
- The World of the Resplendent Intelligence
- Laying the Foundation of the Path
- Journey to the Limitless Light
- The World of the Limitless Light
- Stabilizing the Limitless Light
- Reaching for Yetzirah
- Opening the Door to Yetzirah
- Journey to the Limitless
- The World of the Limitless
- Stabilizing the World of the Limitless
- Reaching for Briah
- Opening the Door to Briah
- The World of No-Thing and Beyond
- Conclusion: The Science of Spirituality
1. Introduction: A Map of Our Spiritual Quest
A deep spiritual message, hidden for centuries, lies encoded within a remarkable synchronicity between the Kabbalah Tree of Life, the Tarot, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism which includes Madhyamika philosophy. They combine to provide a map of the path to enlightenment, depicting the stages of advancement of an aspirant on the spiritual quest.
The Tree of Life, the basic diagram of Jewish mysticism, is deep esoteric symbolism. It is multifaceted and delivers at many levels of understanding. Here, it provides the blueprint of the map for the spiritual quest. There are four Trees of Life that overlap on top of each other, to form what is known as Jacob’s Ladder. The paths on the lower Tree of Life (Assiyah) are described by the Hebrew letters and by the cryptic text of a supplement to the Sefer Yetzirah, an early Kabbalistic document. The paths on the higher part of the journey, on the next Tree of Life (Yetzirah), are described by the Tarot.
The Tarot is also mystical symbolism. Although its beginnings in the form of cards can be dated to around the fourteenth century, the origin of its esoteric symbols is lost in its mysterious past. The Tarot images continue the description of the paths beyond those described by the Sefer Yetzirah. The way the paths, depicted by the Tarot, interact in the Tree of Life, in the part of Jacob’s Ladder known as Yetzirah, is identical to the way the paths, depicted by the Hebrew letters and the text of the Sefer Yetzirah, interact in the Tree of Life in Assiyah.
Madhyamika philosophy, also known as the Middle Way philosophy, is a Buddhist philosophy that has been extant in the East for more than two thousand years. Its main proponents are the Indian Buddhist saints: Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Chandrakirti, Shantideva and others. It forms the cornerstone of Tibetan Buddhism. The teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, and especially that of Madhyamika philosophy, lay down the basic principles for the spiritual journey depicted on the Tree of Life.
The synchronicity, in how these apparently different traditions combine to provide us with a map of the spiritual path, is remarkable. This synchronicity exists because the different traditions are all essentially drawing their inspiration from the same divine source.
An extraordinary example of this synchronicity is the perfect way in which the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism fits in with the Kabbalah Tree of Life. The spokes of the wheel representing the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism is represented in the exact same order on the Kabbalah Tree of Life.
The diagram above shows how the Noble Eightfold Path fits into the Kabbalah Tree of Life in this part of Jacob’s Ladder known as Assiyah. Here the Noble Eightfold Path designates, in the exact correct clockwise sequence, the paths that are also described, with remarkable synchronicity, by the text of the Sefer Yetzirah. There is another representation of the Noble Eightfold Path higher up as shown in the next diagram.
This diagram shows how the Noble Eightfold Path fits into a higher part of Jacob’s Ladder known as Yetzirah. Here, the Noble Eightfold Path designates, in the exact correct clockwise sequence, the paths that are also depicted, with remarkable synchronicity, by the Tarot. The synchronicity, by which the Noble Eightfold Path, the Kabbalah Tree of Life, the Tarot, and the text of the Sefer Yetzirah all fit together, is amazing.
Another striking example of synchronicity is the way the four veils to Buddhahood, described in the Uttaratantra Shastra (an advanced Mahayana Buddhist scripture), are depicted in exactly the same correct sequence on Jacob’s Ladder. In other words, the same thresholds or barriers, that need to be crossed on the path to enlightenment, are given—in the same sequential order together with their remedies—in both the Uttaratantra Shastra and the Kabbalah Tree of Life. The lower two of these four barriers and their remedies are described by the text of the Sefer Yetzirah, and the higher three barriers and their remedies are depicted by the Tarot. (This means that the second of these barriers and its remedy—shown in orange in the diagram—is depicted by both the text of the Sefer Yetzirah and the Tarot.)
There is further synchronicity in the fact that the three higher states of realization on the path are characterized by both the Three Veils of Negative Existence depicted in the Kabbalah, and what is known as the Three Principles of the Path in Tibetan Buddhism.
The astonishing synchronicity between these apparently different spiritual traditions is evidence that, even though the spiritual path is represented in a different way in these different spiritual traditions, they are all essentially drawing their inspiration from the same source. It is evidence of the universal Cosmic Mind that highly advanced beings are able to gain access to.
The Tree of Life is a map of a journey each of us is on, regardless of whether or not we are actually making real progress at the moment. This map can serve as a guide on how we can strive forward on our spiritual quest, for in its network of paths and interconnections lie the deep secrets to our spiritual destiny.
Copyright © 2021 by Kenneth K C Chan. All Rights Reserved.