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A Comparison of the I Ching and the Ten Sefiroth in Kabbalah

Yakov Leib haKohain

Dear Chaverim,

I'd like to call your attention to a remarkable "archetypal convergence" between the Masculine and Feminine Principles of "God" in Taoism (as found in the I Ching) and Kabbalah (as found in the Ten Sefiroth). I'll present each in that order and then compare them, below.

In Taoism, the undifferentiated Tao divides into its Masculine and Feminine Principles, as represented by the first two hexagrams of the I Ching. These are shown below:

HEXAGRAM 1: Ch'ien ("The Creative Principle")

________
________
________
________
________
________
________
Construction: Six all male (Yang) lines = Masculine Principle.
I Ching Text: "Vast indeed is the sublime Creative Prinicple, the Source of All, coextensive with the heavens!"

HEXAGRAM 2: K'un ("The Passive Priciple)

___  ___
___  ___
___  ___
___  ___
___  ___
___  ___
___  ___
Construction: Six all female (Yin) lines = Feminine Principle.
I Ching Text: "Exalted indeed is the sublime Passive Principle! Gladly it receives the celestial force of the Creative Principle [Hexagram 1] into itself, wherefrom all things receive their birth."


The Masculine and Feminine Principles of En-Sof in the Ten Sefiroth

In Kabbalah, En-Sof divides into its Masculine and Feminine Principles of Hochmah and Binah, respectively, just as the Tao divides into Ch'ien and K'un, and from these into the remaining seven Sefiroth:




                               [1]
                           KETER
                           (En-Sof)        
           [3]                                   [2]
         BINAH                          HOCHMAH
   (Imma/Mother)                (Abba/Father)

           [5]                                    [4]

                                [6]

           [8]                                    [7]

                                [9]

                               [10]

Comparison of the I Ching and Ten Sefiroth

A comparison of the first two Hexagrams of the I Ching with the first two Sefiroth (after Keter) of Kabbalah clearly shows that both systems conceive of "God" (in its initial, premundane state) as an abstract, undifferentiated deus absconditus "coextensive" with itself, and called Tao in the I Ching and En-Sof in Kabbalah.

Moreover, it is out of the interaction between the first two differentiations of En-Sof in Kabbalah -- "Abba" (masculine) and "Imma" (feminine) -- that the remaining seven Sefiroth are created, in the same way that the second feminine Hexagram of the I Ching, "Gladly receives the celestial force of the Creative Principle [first masculine Hexagram] into itself, wherefrom all things [i.e., the remaining 62 hexagrams of the I Ching] receive their birth." This strongly suggests a striking parallel between Taoist and Kabbalistic cosmology that is most likely archetypal in origin.





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page by Yakov Leib
page uploaded 19 December 1999, last modified 11 November 2005