In the Kabbalah, the Thirty Two Paths of Wisdom are usually understood to be the ten sephiroth and the 22 paths between them on the Tree of Life diagram. However, there are different interpretations, and this article outlines the scheme developed by Alan Bain in his book The Keys to Kabbalah.
The Thirty Two Paths
The Sepher Yetzirah, one of the primary texts of the Kabbalah, opens with a reference to “Thirty two miraculous paths of Wisdom” which by implication are the ten sephiroth and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, although there is no direct reference in the rest of the text.
There is however an appendix found on some manuscripts of the Sepher Yetzirah, which explicitly describes the thirty two paths as a series of different types of ‘intelligences’ – for example, the Tenth Path is called the Resplendent Intelligence. This appendix is later than the Sepher Yetzirah itself .
The Extended Tree
The extended tree (also called Jacob’s ladder) is an interlocking form of the Tree of Life where trees in the four worlds are shown as overlapping, so that for example the tree in the world of formation, Yetzirah, has its base in the sephira Tiphereth in the material world of Assiah. The extended tree was first publicly presented in Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi’s books published in the early 1970s.
Alan Bain’s Arrangement of the Thirty Two Paths
Alan links the first three paths of wisdom to the veils of negative existence: Ain, Ain Soph and Ain Soph Aur. The remaining 29 paths are linked to the sephiroth on the extended tree in the order of the descending lightning flash, as illustrated in the diagram below:
To take an example: the 16th path, which is described as “The Triumphant and Eternal Intelligence. The delight of glory. The paradise of pleasure prepared for the just,” corresponds to the sephira which is at once:
Malkuth of Atziluth (the base of the divine world)
Tiphareth of Briah (the heart of the creative world), and
Kether of Yetzirah (the crown of the world of formation).
The full list is given below .
In addition to this arrangement of the 32 paths, Alan also treated the sephiroth on the central pillar as centres of ‘greater sephiroth’. These are shown as circles on the extended tree diagram above. So for example, the 16th path is at the centre of the greater sephira of Geburah, which also incorporates paths 13, 14, 15, 17 18 and 19.
The full list of greater sephiroth is given below .
 The Thirty Two Paths of Wisdom probably dates from the Gaonic period (7th-10th centuries), later than the Sepher Yetzirah itself (which is perhaps 200 C.E.). In the Western tradition, it seems to originate as an appendix to a Hebrew version of the Sepher Yetzirah by Joannes Stephanus Rittangelius in 1642. William Wynn Wescott’s translation is here: http://hermetic.com/texts/yetzirah.html, but Alan Bain used A E Waite’s translation given in his book The Holy Kabbalah.
 The full list of the Greater Sephiroth is as follows:
 The full list of the 32 paths is as follows:
|2||Illuminating Intelligence||Ain Soph|
|3||Sanctifying Intelligence||Ain Soph Aur|
|4||Arresting or Receiving Intelligence||Kether in Atziluth|
|5||Radical Intelligence||‘Hokma in Atziluth|
|6||Mediating Intelligence||Binah in Atziluth|
|7||Hidden Intelligence||Daath in Atziluth|
|8||Perfect and Absolute Intelligence||‘Hesed in Atziluth|
|9||Purified Intelligence||Geburah in Atziluth|
|10||Resplendent Intelligence||Tiphareth in Atziluth, Kether in Briah|
|11||Fiery Intelligence||Netzach in Atziluth,
‘Hokma in Briah
|12||Intelligence of Light||Hod in Atziluth,
Binah in Briah
|13||Inductive Intelligence||Yesod in Atziluth,
Daath in Briah
|14||Instituting Intelligence||‘Hesed in Briah|
|15||Constituting Intelligence||Geburah in Briah|
|16||Triumphant and Eternal Intelligence||Malkuth in Atziluth, Tiphareth in Briah,
Kether in Yetzirah
|17||Disposing Intelligence||Netzach in Briah,
‘Hokma in Yetzirah
|18||Intelligence of the House of Influence||Hod in Briah,
Binah in Yetzirah
|19||Secret Intelligence||Yesod in Briah,
|20||Intelligence of Will||‘Hesed in Yetzirah|
|21||Rewarding Intelligence||Geburah in Yetzirah|
|22||Faithful Intelligence||Malkuth in Briah,
Tiphareth in Yetzirah,
Kether in Assiah
|23||Stable Intelligence||Netzatch in Yetzirah, ‘Hokma in Assiah|
|24||Imaginative Intelligence||Hod in Yetzirah,
Geburah in Assiah
|25||Intelligence of Temptation or Trial||Yesod in Yetzirah,
Daath in Assiah
|26||Renewing Intelligence||‘Hesed in Assiah|
|27||Natural Intelligence||Geburah in Assiah|
|28||Active Intelligence||Malkuth in Yetzirah, Tiphareth in Assiah|
|29||Corporeal Intelligence||Netzach in Assiah|
|30||Collective Intelligence||Hod in Assiah|
|31||Perpetual Intelligence||Yesod in Assiah|
|32||Assisting Intelligence||Malkuth in Assiah|
This is very elegantly presented and makes it much easier to grasp what is a complex Kabbalistic system, involving the extended Tree. It’s also interesting to note that there can be more than one version in use, which chimes in with historical variations in the form of the basic Tree of Life. There’s good evidence coming up now to show that this diagrammatic kind of Tree may have originated in Assyrian times, and was later adopted into Jewish culture. See The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy – Simo Parpola
Source: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 52, No. 3 (Jul., 1993), pp. 161-208
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Erratum: 24 “Geburah in Assiah’ should be ‘Binah in Assiah.’
There are in fact twenty two levels – or ‘rungs’ – to this arrangement. This means an alternative attribution of the texts to the paths is possible: Paths 1 to 10 correspond to the Greater Sephiroth. The remaining 11 to 32 (which correspond to the Hebrew Alphabet) correspond to all the 22 ‘rungs’ from the top down. Thus ‘Ain’ at the top rung is ‘Fiery’.
This means the Greater Sephiroth have two linked texts (3 if you also include Alan Bain’s arrangement.) for example Greater Tiphareth has Path 6 “Mediating Intelligence”, but coincides with rung 25 “Intelligence of temptation or trial”.
I see no reason why Bain’s arrangement, which offer’s “Faithful intelligence”, is not also a valid attribution.
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