The second half of a recent talk given by Darren White.
One of the things that makes stilling [the mind] so difficult is the fact that we’re often convinced we can’t afford to let it stop — as though doing so would cause us to lose touch with the all-important subject of the flow of thoughts. The thoughts are not separate from the rest of the mind and body, but a part of them, and working in tandem with them. The thoughts are tied to our more visceral physical and emotional responses, and this is what triggers a fear of letting the thoughts fall away. The process basically works on the same principle as the “Carrot and Stick” approach: just as a donkey might be driven by the lure of a carrot dangling in front of it, or by the whack of a stick from behind, so the Mind drives us with the anxieties of the body’s emotional and physical responses, and lures us with the release of pleasure when we succeed in following its fancy. The kind, degree and duration of pleasure is never guaranteed, however, but of course we generally remain convinced we just need to do that one more thing in order to achieve it. And pain, of course, is an even stronger motivator.
As much as we feel convinced that we need to follow the fancy of the Mind, the reality is really quite simple: If you let Mind settle and fall away, nothing terrible happens. You don’t actually lose anything. Things don’t go horribly wrong. You don’t completely forget that all-important thread you felt you needed to latch onto in order to reach whatever carrot the Mind had deftly convinced you was so important. And when you let go of Mind for a while, you don’t cease to exist, your all-important concerns will still be accessible when you get back, and Mind doesn’t actually disappear for good. What does happen is that you are suddenly able to more fully relax — in your body, your mind, your emotions, and in several other layers of the Mind that you didn’t know you had, or realize were at all connected, and to one extent or another are intermingled.
The stand-point from which we understand ourselves and the world around us, in Qabalistic terms, is the Ruach. The Ruach is the part of the soul that corresponds to the Intellect and the rational mind. To simplify things: it’s the part of the Mind with which we do our thinking, our working-out of puzzles. It’s the part of the Mind that we concoct all these maps and information with, and which utilizes this information to clarify, categorize and valuate things for the Mind, and it’s the part that we generally tend to be talking about when we refer to the “mind” or “consciousness.” But it doesn’t actually make up mind or consciousness entirely, the way we tend to assume. There are many parts of the Mind, and of Consciousness, of which we are normally unaware. Some of these parts we can become conscious of, simply by directing our focus to them. Others we can only see indirectly through their effects on, or interactions with, the conscious mind, such as with the Unconscious. But we view all these parts of Consciousness (or don’t) from the standpoint of Ruach.
Ruach is the part of the soul that exists in the World of Yetzirah. When we are looking around us and interacting with the physical world, we are doing so from the standpoint of the World of Yetzirah, looking into the World of Assiah, which represents (amongst other things) the physical world. This all can get fairly convoluted fairly quickly when initially trying to grasp all these ideas, since the subject of the Qabalah requires some familiarity with the Hebrew terminology. Since my intention here is to attempt to draw some sense of the actual experience underlying the concepts of the Four Worlds, instead of going into great depth technically I will give a quick rundown of the Four Worlds in descending order:
Four Worlds: Hebrew Title, Meaning and Elemental Attribution
Atziluth “World of Emanation” Fire
Briah “World of Creation” Water
Yetzirah “World of Formation” Air
Assiah “World of Action” Earth
As I’ve mentioned, you can think of the airy, flitting nature of the normal mind as seeing the world from Yetzirah, the World of Formation. This Yetziratic mind seems at its most effective when either settled into stillness, or else directing its winds in a willfully-focused direction. Since this is where we spend most of our conscious time, it is initially the most practical of the four to understand, especially as we are able to most efficiently interact with the other three Worlds through our Yetziratic mind. All our symbolic imagery, our Tarot images, our maps and languages and theories, are ways of interfacing, to one extent or another, between the other Worlds and the World of Yetzirah.
Asiah, the “World of Action” and the lowest on the spectrum, isn’t limited to a simple definition as “the physical world,” though this is included in it. It’s the final destination, so-to-speak, the world of manifestation, where things finally lock down into concrete forms.
Moving to the next level above our Airy minds in Yetzirah, we have Briah. This is where most of our deeper spiritual insights, intuitions and experiences come from. Being attributed to Water, its transcendent experience requires the language of words and symbols to translate itself for the Yetziratic mind. At the stage I find myself currently, I feel that a good way to describe spiritual work is that of a process of opening up to, and channeling, Briatic energies. The Initiatory Path at its outset, working up the spheres of the Tree of Life towards the central sphere, can be described as separating one’s elemental constituents one-by-one (Solvé), finally reconstituting them in a refined form (Coagula). In so doing, I believe the Initiate becomes a better channel for the Briatic energies.
Using this idea of the Initiate becoming a refined channel, we can look next at Atziluth. This is the realm of the gods, and here we can place such pantheons as, for instance, the Egyptian gods. Gods are necessarily simple ideas, un-convoluted, the root of Divinity. This World is unattainable by normal human consciousness. I can only speculate upon it, therefore, and say that its effects mainly come to us first through Briah, which is the realm of the archangels, thence translated into Yetzirah, the realm of the choirs of angels. From there, the energies take manifest form in the lowest of the Worlds, Assiah.
Continuing this theme, we can superimpose the process of creation upon the Hebrew God Name IHVH, also known as the Tetragrammaton. This God Name is also described as a Formula. The I is attributed to Atziluth, and represents the Fiery initial spark of creation. The first H is attributed to Briah, and to Water. One of the most important aspects of Water is its tendency to take on the form of anything it enters, and hence the idea of Form is important to it. The V is attributed to Yetzirah and Air, and in the human soul encompasses the normal aspects of the mind, such as intellect, emotions, etc. The final H is attributed to Assiah and Earth, the final creation of the Kingdom.
The formula of Tetragrammaton, IHVH, in this respect can be described as the process of channeling Divine Energy down from Godhead to take form in the manifest world:
I = the Initial Spark of Creative Energy
H = that Creative Energy given Form
V = the refined Creative Energy given Direction
H = the Final Manifestation in the World of Action.
With this in mind, it should hopefully be apparent what facility there might be in seeing the Initiatory Path as, at least in the stages of the Outer Order, being one of refining oneself as a channel for these Energies, and ultimately learning to direct them. Using the Four Worlds as a component of our spiritual map, we are given a general sense of where we are, where we are going, and potentially how to get there. But as always, it is of course important not to mistake the map for the territory itself; and a map is only of facility when put to proper use as a practical guide.