Kabbalah and Business
(For an introduction to the principles of Kabbalah please click here)
This article has been updated from the original version which was published in Spanish under the title "Qabalah y Negocios" in the magazine Escuelas de Misterios. It was also delivered as a paper at a conference of the Toledano School of Kabbalah in Toledo, Spain in 1996.
The evolution of a Kabbalistic model to understand the psychological and spiritual dimensions of money is the subject of It Was Never About The Money.
To understand how a business works we must first realise that this understanding comes at several different levels – we will use a manufacturing company as our example.
At the most basic, physical, level of a business we need to know about operational details such as what temperature the kiln should be set for firing pottery or how long the clay pots should be left in the kiln once it is ready.
To the casual observer this may be all that is happening but the enquiring mind will realise – sooner or later - that there is more to deal with than just physical facts. At the next, non-physical, level we may include the psychology of the people who work in the business and there have been many models evolved which explain this level with varying degrees of accuracy. These individual psyches will combine to form a collective psyche of the company.
Although these psychological models have been most helpful there is a further dimension needed for a complete understanding of how a business is constructed. We might call this the spiritual dimension.
To gain a better comprehension of the overall context in which a business functions and which embraces the spiritual dimension we can apply the principles of Kabbalah.
Kabbalah and Business was originally published in Spanish in 1995.
Kabbalah, a Hebrew word meaning “to receive,” is a body of knowledge which, according to legend, was given to Abraham by Melchizedek, a King and High Priest of Jerusalem. It deals with the fundamental laws of existence and, while it may most commonly be known as the esoteric tradition of Judaism, many of its teachings have common ground with the esoteric forms of other religions. Universal principles are just that – universal.
Figure 1: A Manufacturing Company set on the Tree of Life. The Sefirot – aspects of God – are shown at the top of each circle in italics
While subscription to a particular religion is not a pre-requisite for understanding Kabbalah it does suppose the acknowledgement of God or a Supreme Being or Guiding Force. The names are rather less important than the acceptance of the principle. Before referring to a business in Kabbalistic terms it is appropriate to set out some of the salient features of Kabbalah.
The main tool of Kabbalah is the diagram known as the “Tree of Life” (Figure 1) which consists of ten circles or “Sefirot” (singular “Sefirah”) and twenty-two paths.
There are four trees which interconnect to form a second diagram known as Jacob’s Ladder (Figure 2) This refers to the vision in the dream of Jacob at Bethel of a ladder on which angels could ascend and descend between the highest heaven and the densest parts of the physical world.
The four worlds are known in descending order as Azilut (the Divine or world of Emanation), Beriah (Creation or Spirit), Yetzirah (Formation) and Assiyah (Physical or Action). The human psyche is described by the world of Yetzirah and is the one which is used to map the psyche of a business.
The ten Sefirot are the ten different qualities of God and, because God is everywhere and contained
in everything, then any worldly situation may be placed upon the Tree of Life as a reflection of the Divine.
This last statement has important implications as it means, whatever situation is under review, referring it to a diagram of the “Tree of Life” may help to resolve problems or deepen one’s understanding of the position.
God, according to Kabbalah, created the universe because He wished to behold His own image and, God being perfect, man’s role is to beautify the world in order for the image to be perfected.
The soul is believed to live through many physical lifetimes and actions in any one incarnation may reap punishment or reward in the same or future lifetimes. Eventually the soul is re-united with God but this re-union can not be achieved until all past debts have been paid. This is known as karma in Eastern traditions in the West it is perhaps best expressed by the name of Shakespeare’s play, Measure for Measure.
When we are conscious of how the Tree of Life operates in the context of a business then we will find it easier to keep the business in balance and to make it beautiful. In doing this we are better able to raise the level of the world and polish God’s image a little brighter.
The conventional view of a business is that its purpose is to make money but this is only one of its dimensions. Certainly the more financially successful a business the more it can achieve for all connected with it but to see it simply as a money making machine will ensure its premature breakdown. Good sense as much as Kabbalah should tell us this!
Figure 2: The Jacob’s Ladder showing how the psyche of the compnay is interconnected with the physical world below and the heavenly worlds. This offers a fertile opportunity for carrying out the Work of Unification in which the Kabbalist seeks to create heaven on earth and sanctify the everyday world.
By focusing instead on the consciousness of the company and keeping its true purpose in mind - the perfecting of the world - there lie opportunities of great fulfilment for managers, employees, customers and shareholders alike and financial prosperity will also flow as a natural consequence.
Prosperity resulting from right action in business will be of a far more lasting and stable nature than the money from actions taken for short term gain. This is not to say there will not necessarily be hard decisions and moments of crisis but by understanding the Tree as a frame of reference for the business there is the greater likelihood that difficulties will be overcome.
Looking at the diagram of the Tree we see that there are three pillars; the right-hand pillar is known as the pillar of action and the left hand pillar is known as the pillar of form; this embodies the concept of active and passive and a balance must be kept between the two. When too much emphasis is placed on one side then the laws of nature will swing the whole model back to balance again.
The central pillar is known as the pillar of consciousness and it is the ascent of this pillar which is our task as human beings either as individuals or as part of a company or business. By ascent of this column, by paying attention to our consciousness the Tree - of the individual or the company - remains in balance without the self correcting mechanism which is bound to occur (sometimes painfully) when too much emphasis is paid to either forceful or passive action.
Intention is everything and is best expressed in the words of the song “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”
As we shall see, the triads connected by the Sefirot are also important in understanding the behaviour of a company or individual.
The traditional names and meanings of the Sefirot (shown in italics in Figure 1) can now be set out together with the equivalent way in which they might be translated to the setting of a manufacturing company.
The Crown, contact with the Divine Spirit through which the energy of the upper worlds flow.
The bright idea (Hokhmah) requires full understanding (Binah) before it can proceed to manifest as a business venture.
The creative energy which was present in the founder of the company as the idea of its formation occurred and which continues to exist for the possibility of extensions and growth of the business. It is not the invention of a particular product which is embodied by Keter but the energy flowing into an individual enabling wisdom or insight to be received. One has to be in state of grace before such insight can be gained.
Wisdom, Inspiration or the active intellect.
The inspiration for a new idea or new generic product e.g. the vacuum cleaner or portable telephone. This idea is seen in a flash of clarity which is made possible by the Creative or Divine energy of Keter. This is the 1% of “99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.”
Understanding or passive intellect.
The flash of inspiration which conceives of the idea of a portable telephone may occur in a moment but it must then be translated into circuit diagrams and materials so that it is workable and safe. Binah is the “99% perspiration complementing the 1% inspiration” of Hokhmah.
This is known as a “non-sefirah” or “black hole” through which access to higher worlds may be obtained.
Da’at represents the spirit of the company (as distinct from the mood which is much more transient) which manifests as a set of enduring values.
In the company context this means expansion and enthusiasm and is the place where a genuine love for the work and for all associated with it is generated. When the idea of creating love in business started to be discussed openly in the 1980’s (a successor to Drucker’s Human Side of Enterprise) this was the Sefirah which was being developed. McGregor’s “Theory Y” is also located here.
Strength (also referred to as Discrimination or Discipline).
This is where decisions of a strategic nature are made about the direction of the company although every person, in making decisions within their own sphere of operation, will be using their individual qualities of Gevurah if operating from Tiferet rather than Yesod (see below).
Over reliance on Gevurah produces a harsh kind of environment - the nineteenth century mills were extreme examples - and unless Gevurah is consciously tempered with the loving kindness of Hesed then the Universe brings itself back into balance naturally.
Such one-sidedness helps explain the rise of the Trade Union movement. This was a natural response needed to counteract the employment practices of the nineteenth century which worked too much to the advantage of the employer. Gevurah is the place of McGregor’s “Theory X.”
Beauty or Wisdom - from another name “The Seat of Solomon”.
In an organisational diagram of a company this is the place occupied by the chairman who makes the overall decisions necessary to ensure that the company remains balanced between the active and passive pillars and brings through the Divine Spirit into the everyday world of the company described below.
The chairman needs to maintain a position of neutrality and is not involved in the day to day decision making about the operation of the business. His essential quality must be one of detachment as a representative of the Sefirah of Tiferet.
Although Tiferet is embodied by a Chairman the Tiferet of a company is an essence extending in time beyond individual occupation of that position. The Tiferet of a company is therefore accessible to anyone who aligns themselves with the essential energy of that company. At the individual level, each person has the option of operating from the detached state of Tiferet or the ego centred state of Yesod.
Meaning “To make Eternal” or to set cycles in motion.
This is the home of the sales and marketing departments who generate interest in the company products and attract customers. Other cycles of activity are also initiated here such as production of goods and accounting.
Reverberation - the continuation of that which has been set in motion at Netzach. The measurement of cycles.
This is the home of the information systems in a company - everything from time sheets to annual accounts are dealt with here. It is often said that the management of a company in trouble will demand more and more information much to the chagrin of the employees.
In terms of the Tree this means a greater concentration on the Sefirah of Hod with sheaves of reports. If a conscious decision is not finally made using the information received then “paralysis by analysis” occurs (remember, this is the passive side of the Tree) and self correction takes over with the relevant manager deciding to “do” something - “anything” - and another cycle is set in motion by swinging back to Netzach.
The accurate recording of income and expenditure is essential for the efficient operation of a business but must be balanced by the ability to generate sales.
Where a company is “run by accountants” then there is a great emphasis on matters reflecting the sefirah of Hod with the danger that business opportunities are lost since those in charge are not noted for their spontaneity.
At the other end of the scale when a company is “run by salesmen” there is the danger that the company flies by the seat of its pants and every sales opportunity - good or bad - is accepted. Without due attention to good accounting the company tends to swing out of control by, for example, giving away too much discount, and becoming unprofitable. This is also an unstable situation with too much concentration on Netzach - the “courting” of customers and the instigation of the razzmatazz of too much corporate hospitality.
The three pairs of Sefirot on the Tree must always work in harmony with each other for stability to exist.
The Foundation. Sometimes known as the reflection (of Tiferet). The repository of moods.
This is the image of the company and is therefore the sefirah to which most people relate most of the time. Actions are carried out by reference to how the company will be seen or reflected in the eyes of those outside it. However, while the image of the company is important there is no direct connection between Yesod and Gevurah or Yesod and Hesed so that decisions taken at the level of Yesod may often not be for the long term benefit of the company.
In terms of Jungian psychology Yesod equates to the ego while Tiferet is the Self. For example, a company might donate to a local charity but, if this is done solely for the kudos it will bring, then the donation does less good as the energy behind the gift is unhelpful.
The decision about making the gift needs to be taken in the light of which charity is the most appropriate (decision making using Gevurah) and where the greatest love (Hesed) can be created by the gift and expressed by those giving it. A gift made from the consciousness of Yesod (ego) can only access these qualities remotely.
Yesod is also the place where budgets are set and monitored. They govern the life of most of the employees who are usually unaware of their broader implications. For the managers who sit on the pillar of consciousness between Yesod and Tiferet there is the danger that they will be driven downwards to Yesod by the demands of the budget. This may happen even in cases where the longer term good of the company demands a revision of targets which can only be made from the detached position of Tiferet. It is the ego which insists that “it will not give in” when the Self recognises the art of the possible.
We are describing the psyche of a company - the Yeziratic world - but this is interleaved with the Assiyatic or physical world beneath it.
The central point (Tiferet) of the physical world is at the same place on Jacob’s Ladder as the Malkhut of the psychological world. As such the Malkhut of a company deals with its physical nature - both the product and the workplace.
Bearing in mind that the central pillar of consciousness contains the energy of the company it is clear that beautifying the workplace and the physical product will enable greater energy to flow up the Tree.
Similarly, the physical products will carry the consciousness which has come down the Tree in the individual psyches of those people making the products.
A traditional factory representing Malkut – the physical site – of the company. Many modern businesses will leave a much smaller footprint.
The three triads Yesod/Netzach/Malkhut, Yesod/Hod/Malkhut and Yesod/Hod/Netzach represent the day to day way in which the company acts, thinks and feels respectively. It is essential that these three be kept in balance and, perhaps, the most common danger is to act continuously without taking time for serious thought.
However, while this may be true of a private business, the danger in the public sector is the continual round of meetings (thinking) which result in little or no action taking place. Maybe the most common feature in both these traditional types of environment is the lack of positive feeling which is built up so that employees frequently do not feel good about their company. In the absence of a conscious decision to generate a positive feeling the business simply sucks up whatever negativity is swimming around.
As a result of this lack of attention to the feeling aspect in companies the “New Age” business evolved in which much more attention is paid to dealing with the relationships between people in a business and the deliberate generation of a positive and loving atmosphere.
Commendable as this is, it counts for nothing if too much emphasis is given to this area at the expense of the other triads in the lower face of the Tree resulting in an ungrounded, “airy-fairy” environment. Note that the feeling triad is the only one of the three small triads centred on Yesod not in direct contact with Malkhut which represents physical reality.
These triads in the lower part of the Tree are all areas which are the concern of the day-to-day operations and where the ego and image of the company is to the fore.
This is where people argue for “rights and wrongs” collectively or individually and where, for example, the issue of sunroofs on company cars can assume more importance that the long term viability of the business.
The triad formed by Hod/Netzach/Tiferet is where people launch their careers and is inhabited by those who wish to “get on” rather than be one of the
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visiting the Jaguar Car factory in 1994. The presence of a member of the Royal Family will be commemorated by pictures in offices and enter the psyche of the company as a highlight in its positive collective memory. Source: Coventry Telegraph.
masses. Seen as a pyramid with Tiferet at the peak it aptly represents the decreasing number of people who reach the higher levels of management. More and more as these people climb towards the central part of the Tree they find themselves able to take the longer term and more detached view that embodies the state of Tiferet.
Tiferet represents impartiality and neutrality and is one point of the vital triad of Tiferet/Hesed/Gevurah. In psychological terms this is the triad of the soul and for a company it symbolises the Board of Directors of which Tiferet is the Chairman.
For the Chairman, the company may be seen as a child as he gives a little guidance here, a little nudge there. Some brightening of the company’s image may be called for (a polishing of Yesod) or greater discipline regarding safety standards (more Gevurah); a change in the presentation of accounting information (Hod) or the purchase of a new factory (Malkhut).
Not all chairmen, of course, are able to act this way all of the time - indeed, if they could, they would long ago have ascended to a higher and more saintly world - and the challenge for the chairman is to handle this power responsibly.
Where this power is abused and, for example, impossible targets are set for companies or employees are exploited or no regard paid to the environmental consequences of the company’s actions then the Chairman is acting out of his own personal Yesod (ego). It is likely he has mistakenly assumed that the purpose of the business is to glorify him personally rather than be a part of the beautification of the Universe and of God’s Creation.
Few chairmen, unfortunately, are aware of the true nature of their responsibility and there is an old proverb which might act as a salutary warning - “If the head stinks then the whole fish is rotten.”
Either side of Tiferet are the two triads of Tiferet/Netzach/Hesed and Tiferet/Hod/Gevurah. Placed on Jacob’s Ladder these are no longer part of the physical reality of the company but represent the positive and negative emotional experiences of the company throughout its life.
For example, the stories of the wonderful boom market in the 1980’s when profits were high and business plentiful will be passed from generation to generation of employees as a positive experience in the collective psyche.
Conversely, the stories of the ogre of an office manager who retired in 1955 may still be used as a threat to potential miscreants entering the company by those who remember their own tortured apprenticeship.
The reputation of an office manager may extend many years past his retirement.
Tiferet, the Chairman, represents the centre of the company although not always visible but chairmen change as they grow old and retire or as companies are bought and sold.
However, at the centre of the company is its core and this can be accessed even those who are normally concerned with only the day to day transactions. When that core is accessed then the person accessing it is in touch not only with the emotional experiences just described but also with the great intellectual concepts of the triad Tiferet/Binah/Gevurah in which are present the history of the company and code of practice.
In legal terms these are wrapped up in the Memorandum and Articles of Association as well as the drawings of the products and ideas noted in the description of Binah. Only at the Tiferet level of consciousness does one have access to the understanding of what is and is not possible in a company in the broader context of the legal and historical framework.
Someone on the shop floor may have an idea for what appears to be a new production process but, perhaps, only by referring to the minutes of a Board meeting held forty years earlier can the Chairman and the Board see exactly why that practice should not be re-introduced. This information will not be accessible from someone acting only at the level of the company’s Yesod.
On the other side of the Tree is the triad Tiferet/Hokhmah/Hesed - again only accessible from the neutral position of Tiferet – from where all bright ideas and inspirations flow. In the example just quoted one could say that the Chairman would access the idea of changing casting production by reference to the active side of the Tree while the reasons for not doing so would be obtainable form the passive side of the Tree.
The place of Da’at is best understood by reference to the diagram of the Wour Worlds known as the Jacob’s Ladder. Here it can be seen that that the Da’at of Yetzirah overlays the yesod of Beriah. This is the Foundation of the Spiritual World so that this higher level of consciousness may flow into the corporate psyche through its Da’at.
The Memorandum and Articles of Association are important legal documents. Their contents include definitions of its activities, capital structure and internal power structure.
The chairman of the company has direct access to this place and is in a position to set up and maintain standards and values which are life enhancing and which will endure beyond the relatively short space of time which he may occupy his position.
Above Da’at is Keter and, crossing the abyss from Tiferet, the chairman is able - sometimes - to be given a glimpse of divine light or divine guidance which will enable him to act for the good of the company and of the Universe.
On occasion this may even involve the transgression of earthly laws for the denser the matter the more laws are necessary but such transgressions are not carried out lightly. Knowing when such exceptional actions should be taken is part of the responsibility of operating at a higher level of consciousness and always there is the duty to ensure that it is not the false voice of temptation which is calling.
For the Board of Directors, symbolised by the triad Tiferet/Hesed/Gevurah there is constantly the choice of acting according to the active or passive intellectual triads of Tiferet/Hokhmah/Hesed or Tiferet/Gevurah/Binah respectively or surrendering to the great triad of the Spirit which is represented by Tiferet/Hokhmah/Binah and in the middle of which sits the Abyss of Knowledge which is Da’at.
This last triad also represents the lowest part of the world of Beriah (Creation) and for a Board of Directors and Chairman to surrender their conscious actions to the energy of the higher and unseen worlds from where the Holy Spirit emerges can be a little unnerving to say the least.
The Divine Light is contained in the triad Keter/Hokhmah/Binah and is well above the physical world amongst the angels and archangels. Hovering above the physical and psychological world is the world of Spirit or Creation (Beriah) and, beyond that, the world of the Divine (Azilut) where everything is simply held in potential prior to its creation. Such energies have their part to play although only a few may be aware of them.
As previously stated, the individual always has opportunities to access the upper Sefirot of his own psyche and by doing so it is sometimes possible that the Divine Light in a company is more visible in the eyes of a holy welder than in the Boardroom.
When the energies from those higher worlds can be brought through to benefit our everyday business then we are truly helping to make our companies “on Earth as it is in Heaven” and God will be closer to beholding the Glory of His (or Her, or Its) own Image.
The diagram of the Tree of Life gives us a framework within which to carry out this task and by understanding that structure we make the task of applying our knowledge that much easier.
The structured approach of the Tree of Life might seem at odds with the organisational trends of recent years in which there has been a move away from hierarchical organisations. There was much talk in the eighties of groups of people which would surface within an organisation, perform a task and then disappear, this in stark contrast to the rigid departmental structures which had typified organisations previously.
Even though the names may have changed and “facilitators” and “team leaders” have replaced “managers” the functions carried out within these “new companies” are still capable of being described with reference to the Tree.
Each person still has the choice of acting from Yesod or Tiferet (ego or self) and attention still has to be paid to marketing and measuring (Netzach and Hod). The form may change but the essence remains the same - a fundamental principle of Kabbalah.
Where once, in the Sinai desert, the main activity was the building of the Ark of the Covenant so today the majority of mankind - certainly in the “developed” world - spends much of its time in industry and commerce. While it is evident that the principles of Kabbalah were applied in the construction of the Ark there is still plenty of room for them to make a major impact in today’s business world. It is possible that they provide the key for which many industrial leaders have been searching.
© Jonathon Clark 1994 - 2021
1. For a general discussion of the works of Maslow, McGregor and other related works the reader is referred to Management and Motivation edited by Victor H. Vroom and Edward L. Deci, published by Penguin as one of their Penguin Modern Management Readings.
2. A description of the Myers-Briggs model is to be found in Gifts Differing by Isabel Myers, published by Consulting Psychological Press. See also Please Understand Me by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, published by Prometheus-Nemesis Book Company.
3. Management Teams by R. Meredith Belbin, published by Heinemann.
4. For further study of Kabbalah the reader is referred to the works of Z’ev Ben Shimon Halevi published by Gateway. The Tree of Life is the first of his books and gives a general outline of Kabbalah. For an illustrated background see Kabbalah: Tradition of Hidden Knowledge by the same author published by Thames and Hudson.