I’m going to go over some basic Kabalism, particularly what a path is, because this concept seems to confuse a lot of people. I’ve even seen some supposedly studied and wise Kabalist who when questioned about the paths obviously didn’t have a firm grasp of the concept. It’s actually fairly simple when it’s broken down, it’s just confusing at first glance.
In order to understand this article you’re going to need to have a basic understanding of the Tree of Life and Kabalistic theory about the make-up of the universe. Unfortunately a basic course on Kabalism for the absolute beginner is beyond the scope of this article.
To start we have the tree of life which is composed of the ten Sepiroth. We also have the tree of knowledge which is composed of the ten Qlippoth. A lot of Kabalistic theory totally dismisses the tree of knowledge and concentrates solely on the tree of life. This is due to warnings against working with the tree of knowledge.
Fortunately I don’t have to go into any great detail about the Qlippoth in order to understand the idea of the Sepiroth. Just know that the Qlippoth also have paths, and Qlippothic paths work the same way as Sepirothic paths.
So we have our ten Sepiroth which make up the tree of life, and within these ten Sepiroth is the entirety of the universe, except for what exists in the Qlippoth.
It’s important to note that the tree of life is really just a model of an abstract, and not a true spatial map of the universe. Each of the ten spheres are infinite in both space and size. Each one is near to each other. And the spatial relationships are simply the order which we decided to lay them out. If you’re in Binah and moving towards Kether, Chokmah is not to your right. The true spatial relationships of these places are beyond the comprehension of our current perspective of the space-time continuum.
The tree of life is also not the only model, these things can and have been modeled in different ways. Personally I like to think of the ten spheres as stacked on top of one another. Most good models, like the tree of life, are not designed entirely arbitrarily, but are done so in a way that is meant to convey more knowledge about these things.
It’s also important to note that the boundaries of the different spheres are not actual boundaries, but are constructs. What I mean to say is that there isn’t some gate or dividing line in Binah and when you cross it you’re over in Chokmah. With the tree of life we’ve divided up the universe into different sections each chosen based on certain classification we’ve found. Once again this isn’t the only model out there. There are other models which divvy up the universe in different ways.
Now we get to what a path is. We have our ten Sepiroth. Each of these individual Sepiroth are unique. So how do we describe each one? Naturally in the universe things are typically defined by comparison and contrast. Sepiroth are no different.
So we pick any one of our ten Sepiroth. Then we go through the other nine Sepiroth and we pick out which Sepiroth it is like and which Sepiroth it is not like. Each Sepiroth will have a unique list of Sepiroth that it is like, and can be defined in this way.
Actually in order to figure out these lists all you have to do is look at a tree of life diagram. See the 22 paths. If the paths connect two Sepiroth together, it means those two Sepiroth are alike. If two Sepiroth are not connected together, it means that they are not alike.
So are the paths really just parts of the diagram meant to better describe the Sepiroth to us? No, they are actual places too. The paths exist, you can go there and walk on them.
Now this is the question that trips up most people, including a lot of so-called learned Kabalist. Where in the universe are the paths located? Here is what we have already stated to be true, “Everything in the universe exists within the ten Sepiroth, except for what exists in the Qlippoth.”
The paths would be part of the ‘everything’ in the universe. So where to they exist? The logical answer to the riddle would seem to be ‘in the Qlippoth of course’, yet we know that answer is completely wrong for many different reasons.
I’ve heard a lot of different wrong answers to this question. I’ve heard that the entire universe doesn’t exist within the ten Sepiroth, but within the ten Sepiroth and the twenty two paths (no, under the construct of Kabalism the entire universe exists within the ten spheres). I’ve heard that the paths are so small that they don’t really count (no, they count, everything does). I’ve heard that the paths exist outside the Sepiroth (entire universe theory again), that they exist in the Qlippoth (as stated this is definitely not right), and even that the Sepiroth actually exist within the different paths which are larger than the Sepiroth and make up the entire universe.
Remember how we said that the Sepiroth were constructs, a method we used to classify the universe, and not a real boundary? We classify things based on their characteristics. We say that certain things are characteristic of Chesed, and if those characteristics are present, you are in Chesed. Other things are characteristic of Binah, and if those characteristics are present, you are in Binah.
But wait! There’s a path between Binah and Chesed. That means in some ways Binah and Chesed are alike. So there is actually a portion of Binah which is exactly the same and has the exact same characteristics as a portion of Chesed.
Now remember that we said that the Sepiroth were actually constructs, not exact places. We define them based on their characteristics. So if you happen to be in one of these places, you really can’t tell if you’re in a portion of Chesed that is just like Binah or a portion of Binah that is just like Chesed.
What’s more, through out the entire universe like attracts like. Yes the Sepiroth operate on a spatial system that is not entirely what we perceive and define as space and distance. But when you have two areas that are exactly alike, like these two areas in Binah and Chesed, they end up drawn towards each other and are mashed together in one big clump.
You can view the paths as actual roads. Imagine you’re on a road traveling from Binah to Chesed. Right now you’re in Binah, and everything looks like Binah so you know you’re in Binah. Eventually you’ll reach Chesed, and you’ll know your in Chesed because everything looks like Chesed. But there’s also a portion of road between where you are and where you’re going that is indistinctive. It looks as if it could be either Binah or Chesed, you really can’t be sure. Since these are really just constructs and not naturally occurring boundaries, there’s not going to be any landmark or a huge sign saying “You are now leaving Binah”.
This indistinctive portion of road is the path. We know that it exists in either Binah or Chesed, we just can’t be certain which one of these two it exists in. On that portion of road, at any given time, we can’t be certain if we’re still in Binah or if we’ve entered Chesed.
Some people however chose to (correctly) view the paths as the points where the Sepiroth overlap. Remember that the Sepiroths are just a construct, and they are a way of classifying an areas. For Binah for instance we might say that an area is in Binah if X, Y, or Z are true, and U, V, and W are not true. Meanwhile we might say that an area is in Chesed so long as A, B, or X are true, and D, E, and F are not true. Now we have an areas where only X is true, or even an area where X, Y, and A are true, but U, V, W, D, E, and F are all false. This area meets the qualifications to be classified as Binah and Chesed, and so some chose to see this as being both.
So the correct answer to the question where are the paths located, is that they are located within the Sepiroth that they connect together.