Review of Freemasonry

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by Bro. William Steve Burkle KT, 32°
Scioto Lodge No. 6, Chillicothe, Ohio.
Philo Lodge No. 243, South River, New Jersey

This paper examines features of a Three-Dimensional model of the Sephiroth proposed by Robert Wang, secretary and protege of Israel Regardie of Golden Dawn fame. Wang's three 3-d model portrayes the four worlds with the geometry of the Sephiroth represented as a double cube with a center column as the Pillar of Beauty. The paper includes 3-dimensional computer generated images of Wang's model and a discussion of the unique features of the four worlds which it represents. The paper assumes basic to intermediate knowledge of the Sephiroth and Four Worlds on the part of the reader.

            The concept of the Sephiroth and the Four Worlds is a difficult to understand, but essential, part of Freemasonry. In his exposition upon the degrees within Morals and Dogma[i] Albert Pike provides exhaustive and specific discussion of both the Sephiroth and the Four Worlds in four separate instances including “Knight of the East and West[ii]”, “Knight Rose Croix[iii]”, “Knight of the Brazen Serpent[iv]”, and “Knight of the Sun or Prince Adept[v]”.  Bro. Manly P. Hall considered the concept of the Sephiroth and Four Worlds sufficiently relevant as to publish an English translation[vi] (the diagram was originally rendered in Latin) of Athanasius Kircher’s “Tree of the Sephiroth” contained in Oedipus Aegyptiacus[vii] (1652). Hall further notes in his Secret Teachings of All Ages[viii] that

“the ten globes and twenty-two channels of the Sephiroth are analogous to the Thirty-Two Degrees of Freemasonry”.

Mackey and Haywood note[ix] in the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry that:

“The Sephiroth forms the most important portion of the secret doctrine of the Cabalists, and has been adopted and referred to in many of the high philosophic Degrees of FreeMasonry. Some acquaintance with it therefore seems necessary to the Freemason who desires to penetrate into the more abstruse arcana of his order.”

The relevance of the Sephiroth and the Four Worlds to Freemasonry is therefore extensive, and is basic to even the Symbolic (Blue Lodge) Degrees (forming the concept behind the Three Pillars of Masonry[x]).  This paper examines the Sephiroth and Four Worlds by exploring a three-dimensional (3d) model proposed by Robert Wang. Mr. Wang was a protégé of and secretary to Israel Regardie, of Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn fame. It’s important that I clarify at this time that I do not ascribe to the views of the Golden Dawn, but present this model for the sole purpose of reflecting upon an interesting concept and thereby stimulating thought. I also would like to specify that my approach to the Sephiroth here is consistent with the precepts of Western Herrmeticism, and not Rabbinical tradition.

This paper is not intended to be a discussion of basics, and in preparing it I have made certain assumptions about the reader. It is assumed that he will know something about the Sephiroth, including their basis and associated philosophy, and that the reader will understand the concept of the Four Worlds which is embodied by the Sephiroth. Readers without these prerequisites of knowledge may find it useful to first read one of the many introductory books written about the Sephiroth; my own recommendation to those seeking a basic grounding in the subject is to read (and reread) the introduction provided by MacGregor Mathers in his book The Qabalah Unveiled[xi]. I believe that for the prepared reader, this paper will be both entertaining and thought-provoking. 

The Structure of the Sephiroth

In order to properly address the basic concepts of this paper, an exploration of the structure of the Sephiroth is in order. When I use the term “structure” I am referring to the arrangement in which the individual Sephira are depicted in a glyph intended to illustrate the concept of the Sephiroth. Since the Sephiroth are conceptual, and not a physical reality, it is important not to confuse the Sephirothic Glyph (Tree of Life) with anything other than a postulated structure. Said more plainly, the Sephiroth do not exist as physical entities. The discussion of the structure will be followed by a similar discussion of the Four Worlds.

sephiroth01.jpg - 19121 Bytes The traditional method for illustrating the Sephiroth (Figure 1) is by a 2-dimensional glyph or diagram.  In those instances in which the glyph has been modified by shading in an attempt to add depth (i.e. to illustrate the spheres) the result is a figure which remains essentially planar or two-dimensional. The problem of illustrating the four worlds of the Sephiroth using such a planar model is usually resolved by drawing four separate Sephiroth one beneath the next, often creating a confusing representation of that which it is intended to illustrate.

One method of illustrating the four worlds was used by Robert Wang as a rear dust cover photo in the hardback version of his book Qabalistic Tarot[xii]. This method involves placing the Sephiroth of each world in true 3-dimensional perspective, with twelve Sephiroth forming a double cube and with a single column of Sephiroth vertically positioned in the center of the double cube. I have reproduced this arrangement in Figure 2 using a computerized drawing system. Please note that in Wang’s model, which appears to have been made of wood, each Sephira and each Pathway is colored to coincide with the beliefs of the Golden Dawn concerning colors and energies. In my reproduction I have not colored, nor have I labeled the Sephiroth or the Pathways. I believe my result to be otherwise true to the Wang model, and have spent considerable time rotating and manipulating the 3d image so that I could examine it just as Wang no doubt examined his wooden model. Note that in Figure 2 I have presented two views of the 3-Dimensional Sephiroth, each rotated to a slightly different orientation to better illustrate the structure as a whole. In Figure 3, I have rotated the model to present a view looking down into the Sephiroth from the very top. My reason for providing this particular view will soon be made apparent.

sephiroth02.jpg - 25525 Bytes The pathways in both views are represented as tubular connectors, which again is true to both Wang’s model and the traditional representation of the Sephiroth. One of the interesting features of the Sephiroth, when drawn in 2-dimensions is that the individual Sephira are laid out in a circular pattern[xiii]. When considering the 3-dimensional model, the layout of the Sephira is spherical. The top view in which the center column, or column of Beauty, is shown fits into this same spherical layout.

Recently, during a spirited Philalethes Society discussion list conversation concerning the phrase “4th part of a circle”, one of the participants offered the following quotation from The Way of The Craftsman[xiv], by W. Kirk MacNulty:

“… Now the circle is an almost universal symbol for the whole of existence, the relative universe which contains the four worlds according to our cosmology. The “fourth part of a circle” makes reference to one of the four worlds”

sephiroth03.jpg - 31037 Bytes If one is to examine the top view of the 3-dimensional model in Figure 3, it becomes apparent that if the top cube of the Sephiroth is circumscribed by a circle, that circle would be divided into four equal segments (by the X-shaped connecting pathways), with each quadrant forming a ninety-degree angle. Each quarter circle then would indeed describe one of the four worlds in our 3-dimensional model.

            While I’m on the subject of 3-dimensional views of the Sephiroth, I would like to offer that there is a strong correlation between the traditional 2-dimensional view of the Sephiroth and the double-cube used by Wang in his 3-d model. In Figure 4 I have provided two views of the double cube used to represent the four worlds (less the inner column) along with a 2-d view of the Sephiroth as it is traditionally rendered.

sephiroth04.jpg - 31014 Bytes             The reader will notice the unusual similarity between the center view of the double cube in Figure 4, and the traditional 2-d representation of the Sephiroth at the far right. This similarity may actually be at the root of the evolution of the diagram of the Sephiroth[xv] since its pattern or form is not specifically established in the Sefer Yetzirah[xvi]. 

The Four Worlds

            The Four Worlds are comprised of: Atziluth the world of Emanation and Deity, which is sometimes considered related to the Christian concept of the Holy Spirit; Briah, the world of creation (or the Archangelic realm) in which the mind is first given expression; Yetzirah, the world of formation (Angelic realm) - equivalent to the Christian concept of Purgatory[xvii]; and Assiah, the material world (the world of action, or movement). Of all of the various beliefs expressed in Kabalistic literature, it is the concept of the Four Worlds which tends to be the most difficult to comprehend  Even the most basic description of the Four Worlds here would be impractical given limitations of the scope and length of this paper; suffice it to say that this is an extremely abstract concept, and that the subject requires a well grounded understanding of the Sephiroth as a whole. I intend in this discussion to stay focused upon a few specific aspects of the four worlds as they relate to the 3-d model proposed by Wang and as illustrated herein. 

sephiroth05.jpg - 34458 Bytes When evaluating the four worlds in a 3-d perspective, consideration was given to the manner in which the emanations are propagated from Kether to Malkuth in each of the Four Worlds. Golden Dawn Tradition holds that the pathway for the emanations is a sort of zig-zag pattern (beautifully illustrated in a Plate preceding the Fifth Knowledge Lecture in Isreal Regardie’s The Golden Dawn[xviii]) often called the Path of the Flaming Sword[xix]. Figure 5 illustrates this path two ways; first with the path viewed as it propagates in only one world, and then with the path viewed as it progresses in two worlds simultaneously.  The reader will no doubt recognize that in practice the emanation will progress identically and simultaneously in all four worlds. Note also that as the emanation proceeds from Binah to Chesed, it does not follow an established pathway. The “gap” through which the emanation passes is often considered to represent the Abyss, which is the separation between the three supernal Sephiroth and the seven lower Sephiroth. The concept of The Abyss is often identified with Tohu Bohu (Chaos and Emptiness) in Genesis 1:2 [xx]. Some Cabalists also associate the Abyss with “Qlippoth”, which are scattered shells of Sephiroth which shattered during initial failed attempts at creation as the result of imbalance in the Tree of Life. There are many more explanations for The Abyss, however that which I find particularly compelling is that espoused by Isaac Luria[xxi] (1534 -1572) which came to be known as “tzimtzum” or expansion and contraction. 

            The reader will recall that the Sephiroth in the pillar of Wisdom are considered Feminine and those in the pillar of Justice are considered Masculine, with the center pillar of Beauty considered neutral (i.e. androgynous). This concept is alluded to in the Christian Bible[xxii] (Proverbs 8:1) when Solomon declares:

"Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice” (emphasis is the author’s) 

An even more specific reference to the feminine nature of Wisdom[xxiii] is found in Proverbs 3:13:

 "Happy  is  the man that findeth wisdom,  and the  man  that  getteth understanding....She is a tree of life to them  that lay  hold upon her:  and happy is every one  that  retaineth  her”.

The import of this is that each Sephira at any given moment of emanation is either male or female depending upon which of the outermost pillars it occupies, but combines to beconme androgynous when it occupies the center pillar. This androgynous character appears to separate and recombine several times as the emanations progress throughout the Sephiroth. Some would argue that the androgynous aspect, after passing through Tipareth, is subsequently separated, but  that at the point at which the pathways converge in Yesod the male and female aspects are again recombined and are passed to Malkuth without further separation.

sephiroth06.jpg - 46197 Bytes Tradition, on the other hand holds that the Male and Female aspects are separately passed to Malkuth, and that through the holy institution of Marriage the two are brought back together again. This concept is of course related to the prohibition of divorce in some religious traditions and denominations.

Given the construction of the 3-d Sephiroth, the Sephira designated “Chokmah” in one world would be regarded as “Binah” in that world to which it is adjacent. This interesting characteristic seems to coincide with a passage from The Zohar which (in speaking of the emanation of light) translates as “the Left was included in the Right and the Right in the Left."[xxiv]

Careful evaluation of Figure 5 (Wang’s model) will lead the reader to recognize that at no point is any single Sephira involved in, nor interacts with, more than one world at a given time. I would make the analogy that the Sephiroth is like an automobile engine. In an engine, each cylinder receives a spark in a progressive sequence (as opposed to all cylinders being fired simultaneously). In some cabalistic literature the Path of the Flaming Sword is also referred to as a lightning flash; this would seem to be an especially apt description if the 3-d representation in Figure 5 is indeed correct. I interpret here that a “flash” is a rapid, but discontinuous event, and that the flash is analogous to the sparking of an engine cylinder.

It is apparent from Figure 5 and from Figure 6 (if folded in such a manner as to recreate its 3-dimensional perspective), that each individual World has one Parallel World in which the emanations are in phase, and two Adjacent Worlds which are Perpendicular and ninety degrees out of phase. This is, to say the least, a very complex structure. I leave the reader to ponder the significance of the terms “parallel” and “perpendicular” in this context (hint: what are signs ?). 


            In closing, I would restate the fact that The Sephiroth and their related philosophy are indeed an important element in the more philosophic aspects of what is often called Esoteric Freemasonry. Given the importance then of The Sephiroth, an exploration of the more difficult, but related concept of the Four Worlds would seem reasonable. I have chosen just one of the many possible forms of the Sephiroth for discussion here; I hope that the reader will agree that this exploration has been worthwhile, and that with further exploration of other possible structural forms, greater understanding of the Sephiroth will perhaps evolve. I would also like to mention to my Orthodox friends that I understand that much of my speculation could be considered disrespectful of established tradition and deeply held beliefs. I would sincerely hope that they will accept that no offense or disrespect is intended. 

            The author is grateful to Bro. Ben Williams, Telluride Lodge No. 56 (Grand Lodge of Colorado) who kindly reviewed and edited this paper greatly improving it in uncountable ways. Remaining errors, omissions, and poor grammar in this paper remain the fault of the author, so don’t blame poor Ben <Grin>.

[i]     Pike, Albert. (1871). Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Supreme Council for the Thirty-Third Degree of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States. Charleston.

[ii]     Ibid. pp. 268

[iii]   Ibid. pp. 286

[iv]    Ibid. pp. 440

[v]     Ibid. pp. 754

[vi]    Tyson, Donald. Athanasius Kirchner’s Tree of the Sephiroth. Retrieved March 2, 2009 from

[vii]   Kirchner, Athanasius . (1652). Oedipus Aegyptiacus. Accessed March 9, 2009 and Available for Download from

[viii]  Hall, Manly P. (1928). The Tree of the Sephiroth. The Secret Teachings of All Ages: An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic & Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy. Philosophical Research Society; Revised edition (June 1978). . pp 329. ISBN-10: 089314830X; ISBN-13: 978-0893148300.

[ix]    Mackey, Albert Gallatin and Haywood, H.L. (1909). An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Volume 2. pp 924.  Retrieved FebruRY 28, 2009 from

[x]     Burkle, William S. (2008). . The Broken Pillar and It’s Deeper Meaning. 2008. Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry.

[xi]    Mathers, S.L. MacGregor. (1887). Qabalah Unveiled. Reprinted (2006) as The Kabbalah: Essential Texts From The Zohar. Watkins. London. pp. 10. ISBN-10: 1-84293-128-9;  ISBN-13: 9-781842-931288.

[xii]   Wang, Robert. (1983). The Qabalist Tarot. Samuel Weiser. New York. ISBN: 0-87728-520-9.

[xiii]   Burkle, William S. (2009). . Two Esoteric Masonic Concepts Which Are Linked by the Tetragrammaton. Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry.

[xiv]  MacNulty, W. Kirk. (2002). The Way of the Craftsman. Central Regalia Ltd. ISBN-10: 0954251601; ISBN-13: 978-0954251604.

[xv]    Tree of Life or Sephiroth. Encyclopedia. (2008). Retrieved March 2, 2009 from

[xvi]  Kohler,  Kaufmann &  Ginzberg Louis. Yezirah Sefer.  Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 28, 2009 from

[xvii] Bain, Alan. (1992). The Keys to Kabballah. Retrieved March 13, 2009  From

[xviii] Regardie, Israel. (1937). The Golden Dawn. Aires Press. Chicago. pp. 152.

[xix]   Flaming Sword. Qabalistic Dictionary. Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn. Retrieved March 6, 2009 from

[xx]    Tohu Bohu. Babylon Dictionary. Retrieved March 13, 2009 from

[xxi]   Schultz, Joseph P. (1981). Judaiism and the Gentile Faiths.  Fairleigh Dickinson University  Press. pp. 89. ISBN: 0838617077, 9780838617076.

[xxii] Warren, Lee. (1999). Male and Female Androgyny. Plim Report, Vol. 8 #3. Retrieved March 12, 2009 from

[xxiii] Low, Colin (1992). Notes on Kabbalah. Retrieved March 8, 2009 from

[xxiv] The Zohar. (c 1280 A.D.). H. Sperling and M. Simon, trans. (1931-34). pp. 70, cit. Armstrong, Hamilton Reed. Fundamentals of Symbolism Part II: From the Renaissance to Modern Times. Retrieved March 12, 2009 from

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