At the end of the twelfth century, the Sefer ha-Bahir introduced for the first time the notion of a Tree of Life as a visual representation of the ten sepheroth which had been explained earlier in the Sefer Yetzirah. In the Bahir was also the first time that the sepheroth are described as "emanations" or attributes of God and as corresponding to the stages in creation; that is, each sphere on the tree corresponded to one of 10 'stages' of creation. But it wasn't until 1516 that the image of the tree appeared in print on Paul Riccius' translation of Sha'are Ora, an account of Kabbalist symbolism. The book was called PortaeLucis (Gates of Light). Note the architectural setting, three pillars.
The new Tree is essentially the nine worlds image stripped of the four direction markers (the Four Worlds of the Kabbalah), where the second sphere from the top has been split in two. The sphere (in black below) that is not used is called Daath, the abyss or veil and is located at Saturn's 'old spot' at the top of the hexagon. Remember that Sat was the only one not indicated in Rev 6 and that he was deposed by Jupiter. Note the pentagon that is formed by spheres two through six and how it overlaps the old hexagon.
In the image above new rules apply, instead of having the Milky Way, the zodiac or the heavens at the top, the Throne of God now occupies the top, the zodiac is now number two and Saturn is now number three. Saturn is Chronos and the zodiac is Nuit or Space; spheres two and three now are space and time below the throne. The lightning strike idea still works. The top three spheres (called the triple crown) are now conceptually seperated from the lower ones, the bottom sphere (the earth) is isolated as usual (as Shekinah).
Now up the center path we see the earth, moon, the sun and the throne of God; or spheres, 1, 6, 9 and 10, for a total of 26. If we add up the numerical value of the four letter name of God we get 26 also, but the important thing is that Saturn has been moved.
The new figure includes 10 spheres (11 with Daath), and four worlds. The difference between the tree and cube is that the tree uses the top two points of the pentagram but not Daath.
In 1652 Kircher published this version of the tree which is the most commonly known arrangement of the Sephiroth and paths on the tree. Note that each sphere is numbered and associated with a celstial body and a keyword. Note as well how spheres two and three are placed. This version of the tree features 22 paths, while the Gates of Light tree has only 17.
I call these the H shaped and A-shaped trees. Each puts the second and third spheres in a different spot. The Kircher tree preserves the notion of three pillars well. The a-shaped tree lends itself to a whole different set of configurations such as triangle shapes and a pentagram.
The Logic of Their Images
It is not uncommon to hear people refer to the Kircher tree as 'Jacob's Ladder," suggesting that it symbolically portrays the Bible story in which Jacob saw a ladder reaching up into heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it.
In A NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA of Freemasonry (p 409) A E Waite suggests that
"Symbolists have the logic of their own images, therefore if their selected type is a tree, then they are not likely to alternatively call it a ladder... Although the Zohar does depict the "just man" as being a Ladder leading from earth to heaven, with his feet on the earth and his head in heaven, nowhere in the Zohar or the Sepher Yetzirah, the oldest text on kabbalism, are the ten Sephiroth which constitute the Tree of Life compared to the Ladder of Jacob's story... The conventional diagram now called the Tree of Life, is a device of post-Zoharic Kabalism. The Sephiroth have always represented the scale of ten; we do not know how they were laid out in the Minds of early kabalists, but it certainly was not a ladder."
So what is the logic of these two images? We know that the creation process was supposedly aided by the ten numbers and twenty two letters, and we see that both have ten spheres (by not using Daath), but that only the Kircher tree features 22 'paths', by altering the original design. Kircher's tree incorporates the notion of three pillars as does the "PortaeLucis" image. Neither matches Metatron's Cube (or the Nine Worlds Image) because they do not use Daath at the top of the old hexagram. Above we see how Kircher's tree matches the Flower of Life, and below how it depicts the 'double cube' all based on the vesica piscis.
Metatron's Cube is a sort of tracing board for the Platonic Solids. Below we see the dodecahedron mapped on the cube. The A-shaped tree only maps to the dodecahedron because of the placement of spheres two and three. Read Plato on the dodecahedron.
This does not work with Kircher's tree
Note how when we remove spheres one and ten we are left with an overlapping pentagon and hexagon, symbols of the microcosm and the macrocosm. Note how they form a rhombus where they lap.