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The concept of special emanations from God originated well before the Kabbalah with both this idea and the Sephiroth appearing in the Sepher Yetzirah, an ancient text probably derived from the Ma'aseh Berashith. During the Kabbalah's early evolution various names and attributes were applied to the Sephiroth, but by the mid 13th century the present names were fairly standardized. Although a great variation still resides among the various Kabbalah traditions concerning the names of God and other attributions corresponding to the Sephiroth.
The Kabbalistic evolution is interesting itself and indicates by the
various names given to the Sephiroth that the Kabbalah possibly meant different
things at different times. Some of the names were "sayings," "names,"
"lights," "powers," "crowns," "stages,"
"garments," "mirrors," and many others.
These enumerable names suggest the Sephiroth has many different aspects. Each Sephirah contains a Tree of Life within itself. Older Kabbalistic teachings hold that each Sephirah "descends into itself," thus creating infinite realms and worlds within itself. Therefore, hidden worlds of mercy, justice, beauty, and many more unfold in each Sephiroth.
The Sephiroth, or Tree of Life, is frequently viewed as the human body, thought to symbolize the first man Adam Kadmon or, as some think, symbolizing the Universe. Each Sephirah within the Sephiroth represents a limb or organ of this Primordial Man.
In current practices of the Kabbalah by those of Hermetic and neo-Pagan traditions the Sephiroth are frequently equated to gods and goddesses of worship. A.G.H.
Greer, John Michael. The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.
St. Paul, MN, Llewellyn Worldwide. pp. 429-430