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On the Qabalistic Worlds
A useful model of reality
Nestled within the Veils of Naught, (Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur) which are beyond human conception, springs the first subtle concentration of Something in the form of a single point that in the western Qabalah we call Kether, the One Source. Specifically, this is Kether in Atziluth, the highest of the Qabalistic worlds. It is from that single point that all manifestation is drawn.
Within each of the Qabalistic worlds of Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah is formed a Tree of Life, composed of the ten Sephiroth and the 22 paths that connect them. These four Qabalistic worlds represent a model of reality that portrays how the universe is structured, and they describe how everything in it manifests from the most subtle and ineffable emanations to its most solid and concrete forms.
Atziluth is the realm of divine Godhead, of undifferentiated Ideas. Atziluth is called the world of Emanations, and the 10 Sephiroth in the world of Atziluth are the highest and most subtle and perfect forms of these spheres. Chokmah (Will) is the primary Sephirah here.
Briah is a slightly more substantial realm than Atziluth. Ruled by the Sephirah Binah (Understanding), it is called the world of Creation, the realm of subtle beings that we call Archangels. These beings direct the energy coming from the world of Emanations, and channel them through the 10 Briatic Sephiroth in the form of universal archetypes.
Yetzirah is the realm of form and shape. It is called the world of Formation, and it is a denser condensation of the light coming from the One Source, with more definition, more separation, more individuation. Tiphereth is the primary Sephirah. The subtle beings here are known as the angelic hosts, and they work with the archetypal forces of the Archangels to direct energy into definite forms and logical geometries.
Assiah is the world of Action. It is still a subtle and spiritual realm but has taken on a distinct physical form as the polarized sphere of Malkuth with which we are familiar. Forces at work in Assiah would be called ‘physics’ as viewed by modern science, but also include the esoteric: alchemy, magic, and the astrological influence of the planets.
When magicians talk about the four worlds, it is usually in relation to the Tree of Life, and often it is in the context of ritual magic or the tarot cards. We learn the standard correspondences from Crowley’s book 777 or some other source, and work to memorize the basic attributions.
We say the minor arcana of the tarot are representative of the Sephiroth, for example, and that the suit of the card reflects the Qabalistic world to which it is associated; wands reflect Fire, Atziluth, and the Yod of YHVH, and so on. When constructing and performing a ritual, we incorporate the four corresponding divine names of each world for maximum effect at bringing down the force. Pentagram rituals carry the same symbolism. Any effective ceremonial magic will do this, or something like it.
On one level, the four worlds model is a description. It describes how the universe is structured, and it gives us instructions for how we can invoke universal power to perform magick. It is also a useful reference that adds dimension to the interpretation of astrology charts and tarot readings that otherwise wouldn’t be there.
However, focusing on the four worlds as descriptions like this tends to keep them at a mental distance, and at an impersonal level of understanding. They become reduced to factioids, abstracted philosophical reference points — useful ones to be sure — but it is as though they are far away lands that we hear about but rarely if ever get to visit.
We have the understanding and ability to go beyond the intellectual memorization of attributes as applied to magical exercises, and we can explore these worlds as more than a hypothetical backdrop. Remember that in addition to being a map of cosmological consciousness and power, the Tree of Life is also a map of human consciousness and ability. Specifically, it is a map of YOUR consciousness. As above, so below. Therefore, you are able to make a personal connection with the four worlds as they exist within you.
One example of this way of thinking is found in Dion Fortune’s “Mystical Qabalah” where she talks about the Veils of Naught.
“For the purposes of their system, therefore, [the Qabalists] draw a veil at a certain point in manifestation, not because there is nothing there, but because the mind, as such, must stop there...for all practical purposes, we can understand the nature of the cosmos if we are content to accept the Veils as philosophical conventions, and realise that they correspond to human limitations, not to cosmic conditions...Thus far and no farther can the mind go back; but we must always remember that different minds go back different distances, and that for some the Veil is drawn in one place, and for others in another.”
So the question becomes: Where is your Veil? How far back can you reach in your inner explorations? This is something you can find out for yourself.
Similar lines of inquiry can be made for each of the four worlds descending from the starting point that emerges from Ain Soph Aur. That first cause is where YOU began, and each successively dense world that grows out of it is an aspect of YOUR being, each Tree in each world and each Sephirah on it and each path between them are parts of YOU.
We are individual human expressions of that universal model, and we reflect the same basic macrocosmic structure. Each of us is a four-fold Tree of Life in the same way that the Universe is a four-fold Tree of Life. We each have a foundation in the physical manifestation of Assiah, our bodies, with a mental connection to Yetzirah and a spiritual connection to Briah and Atziluth because we are an indivisible part of the universe. The nature of our being is reflected in the nature of the universe. Those worlds are parts of our being, and with conscious awareness we can make contact.
We are the Universe. The only difference is a matter of scale, the above and the below of the Hermetic axiom, and the apparent illusion of duality that is built into our perception of the world.
This exploration is easiest to start in Assiah, since that is where our attention is focused most of the time. Start with the physical body. Note the sensations you feel right now, of sitting or standing or lying down, wherever you happen to be at the moment. Use all of your senses to feel the existence of your body and how it connects with the world around you.
You will notice sensations in and around you that are of objects that are clearly physical and solid, while others are not, and some are a mixture of physical and non-physical. As you continue, begin to focus on the non-physical parts of your inner world. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories. That non-physical path will eventually lead you into Yetzirah -- specifically your personal connection to Yetzirah.
When we have a flash of creativity, new insights or innovative ideas, when we think outside of the box, these are aspects of Yetzirah which come into our experience. Manifestations coming from Yetzirah appear to originate from the "me" we see in the world because that is our perspective from inside a limited sensory experience.
The road to Briah is more difficult because of the subtle nature of that world, but it is there for you to seek and find. Beyond that, Atziluth awaits in its ineffable glory.
The point here is that the four worlds are present within us at all times, and we are connected to these worlds because they compose our greater being. This greater being is a connective structure of existence that mirrors the Hermetic doctrine of "As above, so below." At a cosmological scale, there are universal laws that guide the condensation of light into material form. Our spirit, minds, and bodies mirror this design because we are the end product of the process.
“We do not come into this world; we come out of it, as leaves on a tree. As the ocean waves, the universe peoples. Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.” - Alan Watts
The four worlds operate on both a universal level and a human level simultaneously precisely because existence is all one thing. Connecting consciously to these aspects of self, understanding the differences and the origin of the qualities and the phenomenon around you is an important key to magical power.
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