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Kether - Full Text

Text description of the nature of Kether
see also:
Kether main page for prose and table of correspondences

Kether, also known as the crown, is the highest sphere of the Tree of Life. It is associated with the number one and the geometric figure of the point. Kether is the singularity from which the world of plurality is originally derived, and this may be interpreted in a poetic or philosophical manner, or in the scientific sense of the singularity at the beginning of time from which the material universe issued in a ‘big bang’, as described in the orthodox scientific theory, and which is much more precisely and eloquently described by the Qabalistic expression ‘The Cause of Causes’, or the hermetic expression ‘prima causi’ (first cause).

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            The Qabalistic Name of God associated with this sphere is particularly enlightening: The transliteration AHYH is given in English as either Aheyeh or Eheh, and can be literally translated as either I AM, or I Will Be; of these two the former is most common as in the biblical passage:


            ‘Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’ and they say to me ‘what is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

            And God said to Moses “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” – Exodus 3:13 + 3:14


            Although in Qabalistic texts the name of God in Kether in usually given simply as Aheyeh, or I AM, we can see that the full title of God given in this passage is I AM WHO I AM, or I AM THAT WHICH I AM, depending on the translation (the passage above is quoted from the New King James Version), which in Hebrew is Aheyeh Asher Aheyeh. This is God is his highest and most aloof nature, God the unknowable and ineffable source.

This is the pure and undifferentiated ground of being, the underlying unity of the cause of causes. It is that aspect of existence which transcends all definitions, which are by their nature partisan. From the perspective of our own existence one might say: I am a writer, I am a webmaster, I am English, and other such things, but all these things are partial and transitory, incapable of expressing your true inner nature; take them away and you are left simply with ‘I AM’, the pure and undifferentiated ground of your being.

In Qabalistic thought light and life / existence are interchangeable concepts, referring to essentially the same thing. And light also is associated with the faculty of awareness; thus we can see that Qabalistic thought is fully in accordance with the eastern philosophies such as Buddhist which teach that ‘mind’ is the fundamental substance of the universe. The pure and undifferentiated being of Kether is an identical concept to the pure mind, distinguished from all contents of mind, which Buddhist enlightenment meditation seeks to experience.

The Sepher Yetzirah (1:7) describes a certain aspect of the Tree of Life which is relevant here:

‘Ten Sefirot of Nothingness

Their end is embedded in their beginning

And their beginning in their end

Like a flame in a burning coal

For the Master is singular

He has no second

And before One, what do you count?’


The beginning of the ten spheres (Sefirot) is Kether, the first sphere, whilst the end is the tenth and final sphere of Malkuth. In his translation and commentary on the Sepher Yetzirah Aryeh Kaplan explains this peculiar assertion that ‘their end is embedded in their beginning, and their beginning in their end’ in the following way:


‘The Sepher Yetzirah likens this to a “flame bound to a burning coal”. A flame cannot exist without the coal, and the burning coal cannot exist without the flame. Although the coal is the cause of the flame, the flame is also the cause of the burning coal. Without the flame there would not be a burning coal. Since cause cannot exist without effect, effect is also the cause of cause.”


The whole concept of cause and effect are necessarily interdependent. You cannot have a cause without and effect, because without an effect it would not be a cause, but just an isolated and meaningless event. In Qabalah Kether is known as the cause of causes and Malkuth, as the world of Assiah, is the realm of effects. Although Kether ostensibly comes first in the sequential manifestation of the Tree, Kether, the cause, cannot exist unless there is Malkuth, the effect, thus the end is embedded in the beginning, for ‘the Master is singular’ – indicating the essential unity of the whole tree, which is divided only for our own understanding.

From a scientific perspective Kether can be likened to pure energy, the active element, whereas Malkuth represent the passive earth of matter. And as Einstein showed in his famous work, matter and energy are contained within one another, two parts of the greater whole of the space-time continuum. This is shown by the equation E=M C squared. In this equation C is the speed of light, which is the universal constant. Light, as I already mentioned, is also an important part of Qabalistic theory. It is interesting to see that in this equation the universal constant is not just C, but C squared, the speed of light multiplied by itself. I personally interpret this relating to the two things which light represents – pure being, and pure awareness. The multiplication of these two by each other gives the universal constant of Kether.

The interpretation of the above passage of the Sepher Yetzirah by Aryeh Kaplan, describing Kether and Malkuth as cause and effect is, in my opinion, only one part of the full meaning – C, but not C squared – light as being or existence but not awareness. This is, however, easily remedied, as the same principle of the interdependency of opposites can also be applied to the light of Kether as pure awareness. In this case the duality of cause and effect is replaced by the duality of subject and object. Kether is then the subject of knowledge or perception, the knower, and Malkuth is the object of perception, or that which is known. These two opposites, the beginning and end of awareness, are contained within one another in the same way that cause and effect, the beginning and end of being, are contained with one another.

This also shows us why Kether is ‘ineffable’, or ‘unknowable’ – quite simply the subject is by definition the knower and not the known; and if in any way the knower were itself to become known then it would cease to be the subject of knowledge (Kether) and become the object (Malkuth), and in order to be known, would require the creation of another subject to do the knowing. Thus if subject and object are taken as universal principle, divorced from any possible contents or manifestations of these principles, the subject, Kether, must be eternally unknowable.

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