A Medical Career and the Tree of Life
(For an introduction to the principles of Kabbalah please click here)
How are we to know the Divine and be known by the Divine?
Self-realisation can come in many forms and many scenarios - paying conscious attention to the environment in which we find ourselves helps to facilitate this evolution.
Many people spend the a very significant part of their lives engaged in some form of work or career so let us use that as a general example and the career of a hospital doctor as a specific instance.
The diagram of the Tree of Life is built on the ten sefirot (circles) which symbolise the different aspects of God. These, together with the 22 paths which connect them, form three pillars and various levels of consciousness.
The right hand pillar represents the principle of activity, the left hand pillar represents the principle of passivity while the central pillar is that of consciousness itself. The levels of consciousness range from the mineral at Malkut to the Divine at Keter.
We know also that the universe consists of not just one world, but four distinct worlds (Divine, Creation, Formation and Physical) overlaid one upon another.
Click here to read more about the principles of Kabbalah.
The human psyche set on the Tree of Life (after Halevi)
Each of the sefirot has its own particular function and no single sefirah is superior to any of the others. Spiritual consciousness is not superior to physical consciousness – it is simply different. It is the integration of all these levels that are present in a human being which is sought in order to achieve wholeness or self-realisation.
In the present age when so much emphasis has been laid on the material world it is, in the case of many individuals, spiritual consciousness which is required in order to restore wholeness at both the individual and collective levels.
In this example, let us start with a school or college student who has decided that he wishes to become a doctor and has passed the necessary examinations to attend medical school. At this point he is simply an aspirant – he has mastered sufficient knowledge of the sciences to be allowed to join the course of study. This is Malkut, the base level of his career.
The medical education begins after the entrance examinations have been passed.
Instead of continuing to look at the Medical School from the outside he must now enter it and become a medical student where he will learn his craft.
This course will include attendance at lectures where he will be taught the theory of the subject and practical sessions where he will perform operations such as dissecting dead bodies and conducting physical examinations of patients. The lectures represent the thinking triad (Hod-Malkut-Yesod) on the passive side of the Tree. While this
information is vital, it is of no use unless it is put into practice.
The principle of practice demonstrates the active triad of the Tree (Netzach-Malkut-Yesod). In its negative form it can simply be activity undertaken without thought or without making correct use of information.
Our student will also learn how to relate to patients and acquire an acceptable “bedside manner.” This may be learned not only through physical examinations but also by taking the medical history of a patient – a task sometimes requiring the student to ask delicate questions.
This is the feeling triad of the Tree (Netzach-Hod-Yesod). The student must learn the balance between complete detachment and over-involvement with the feelings of his patients and their families – he must be able to empathise without being submerged by their anxieties.
Each of these three components will be worked on for four or five years until our student comes to his final examinations which sit at the threshold of his career – the path between Netzach and Hod. This path is sometimes known as the Bow of Hope – below it lies the student’s training and his past while above it is the future in the shape of his career where he can use the title “Dr.” in front of his name.
Assuming that our student passes his examinations he crosses the threshold of the Netzach-Hod line into
Assisting in an operation is a vital practical component of learning to become a doctor.
his professional career where he climbs through the various grades of hospital doctors until becoming a consultant.
There are, of course, parallel paths offering self-realisation but, in this example, we are following the course of the hospital doctor. It is also the case that relatively few doctors will become consultants – their fulfilment may lie outside this career, perhaps through greater specialisation in clinical or teaching posts that utilise their particular gifts.
During this period our student will develop certain preferences for one or other disciplines in which he will specialise once he has completed his first two years as a junior hospital doctor. These preferences may be a continuation of, or completely different from, the ideas he had about his career as a medical student. As he moves further up the Tree a distinction has to be made between fantasy and reality.
As the doctor progresses to more senior posts within the hospital he is demonstrating the awakening triad – Netzach-Hod-Tiferet. Here is the period where he has to forge ahead of his peers showing both greater skill and dedication to his work. Perhaps eight or ten years after qualifying our doctor reaches the place of Tiferet – the essence of his career – and becomes a consultant.
The various stages of a medical career set on the Tree of Life
He will now have his own team of junior doctors underneath him whom he supervises and guides. He will also have his own reputation to develop and finds that satisfied patients may refer other patients to him leading to the expansion of his practice – Hesed is the principle of expansion and corresponds to the emotional level. New patients will wish to see our consultant not just because of his clinical capability but because of his application of the principle of lovingkindess - another aspect of Hesed.
However, the increase in the number of patients he sees may come into conflict with other priorities such as setting up and running research programmes. He will therefore need to reach agreement with his employers that his patient numbers are reduced or cut back so that a balance is maintained.
This is the principle of Gevurah at work – weeding out and refining what is not required while providing the strength and discipline to maintain his work as a clinician and researcher.
Our consultant keeps his clinical practice fresh while carrying out research in a chosen field which
has captured his curiosity and imagination, dividing his time between seeing patients in clinics, supervising research programmes and widening his involvement with other professionals in his field.
The subject of his research should be of specific interest and hold particular resonance for him – as such it will represent the soul triad of the Tree (Hesed-Gevurah-Tiferet) which describes what is most dear to us in a professional sense in this example.
The doctor, at this stage, will also have collected experiences that will have had an emotional effect on him to a greater or lesser extent. Those that have affected him deeply will be held in the side triads of the psyche.
Pleasurable memories will be in the side triad of Hesed-Netzach-Tiferet and might include such occasions as when he was able to perform particularly intricate surgery or successfully delivered a baby when the mother went into premature labour on a Transatlantic flight.
Painful memories are stored in the triad of Gevurah-Hod-Tiferet. One example might be having to attend a train crash or motorway accident where little or nothing could be done to save multiple victims. Another example might be that of a talented colleague to whom our doctor was close and who died at a young age from an incurable disease.
These experiences help to give the doctor a degree of emotional maturity which cannot be gained simply from passing examinations or performing day to day routines.
Sometimes the most honest answer is “I don’t know.”
He will also learn to deal with the projections that his patients – and others – may put on him. He remains a human being rather than a god and there will be occasions when the most honest answer to a question is that he does not know although he may have the ability to find a solution.
Our doctor may now have been established in his post for several years quietly working away on his research and attending to patients at weekly clinics.
Let us suppose that this research has now yielded results. Perhaps he has found that a drug, used for many years to treat a particular disease, can be used effectively for the treatment of a completely different ailment.
Alternatively, he may have hit upon a more efficient regime for the administration of certain drugs resulting in significant cost savings to hospitals.
The findings of these results will be presented to colleagues at various conferences and the results will be written up and published in journals to form part of the established medical literature.
The difference between drug prices in different countries might form the basis of a research project.
Conferences are the events, in a professional environment, representing the oral tradition and fit in the triad of Hokhmah-Hesed-Tiferet while the published papers are the principle of the written tradition and belong to the triad of Binah-Gevurah-Tiferet.
As a result of this public exposure our consultant may be recognised and approached by transpersonal bodies such as governments (or their agencies) or charities having a national or international reach.
This is the level of society which has the widest sphere of influence and is represented by the path between Hokhmah and Binah. It is clearly different from the more localised regime of the hospital where our consultant works and manages his practice which is shown by the path between Hesed and Gevurah.
Hokhmah in this model represents the principle of bringing change to established practice – Binah. Both sefirot are important in order to keep the Tree in Balance.
Our consultant, now working with a government or charity, will need to recognise that there are limits to the speed at which people can move while he is leading teams to institute the changes needed to bring about a better world.
As our consultant reaches maturity he can take satisfaction from reviewing his career and seeing the contribution which he has made to society by bringing forth his own gifts.
The spirit of healing has been the Maggid – or internal teacher – of our consultant and has been with him throughout his career. The degree to which this presence is felt varies from time to time and according to the level of receptivity of our doctor.
It is this spirt, representing Da’at, the place of knowledge, which has allowed our consultant to access the wisdom and understanding not just of the physical world but of all the past endeavours in this world, now present in the unseen realms.
Through a conscious application of the principles in this example the doctor can move from a raw eighteen year old full of hope and vigour to an elder who has learned how the world works and sees his own work in a wider perspective.
There may be moments when, during the fulfilment of a career, our consultant is able to behold himself and the Divine as one.
These will, indeed, be only moments for the power and light would be too much to sustain contact for longer. By remaining conscious and aware of what he is doing in all aspects of his career our consultant is able to endow that career with the Presence and assist in the Work of unifying all the worlds.
© Jonathon Clark 2020