Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
With a topic like the Four Worlds, anything said about them is necessarily subjective. William Gray’s Ladder of Lights is still probably the best book on the topic, even if it seems dated in some ways.
Grasping that these Worlds are not levels, or harmonics, or aspects of a something is hard. The reality is, we humans are primarily creatures of Yetzirah, the astral/mental world of Formation, and we reflexively reduce everything to Yetziratic terms of reference; even, perhaps especially, when we speak of Atziluth or B’riah. The fact that each World has its own frames of reference, its own “language,” can’t be learned quickly.
The following is edited from a fairly lengthy guided meditation on the Worlds. Anyone who wants to appropriate it can do so, bearing in mind that the imagery used was chosen to be suggestive. Others might need to alter it to fit their own experiences and convictions.
The first World: ATZILUTH
We start with Atziluth, or Emanation, often translated as Origins.
Imagine a pearlescent field of white light. It shines, and it is continuous to the limits of our perception. It is silent. There are no beings here that we could recognise as beings, even if there is existence, consciousness, infinity.
There is nothing here. Nothing, that is, that we would recognise as something. We are looking at an infinite field of Light because that is how our minds conceive of it. But it has no dimensions: no space, distances, time. It exists, only, so far as our reasoning selves can know it.
What there is, though, is energy. It has access to any amount of energy. In ways we cannot analyse nor envisage, there are tides of energy that move through this world of Origins. Nothing obstructs them, nor questions them, nor shape or conditions them. There is no resistance, and so we cannot see their movements as we gaze into the infinite field of Light.
These tides, for want of a more exact term, are Ideas. They are not thoughts, which need time and a string of different words, images or symbols for expression. Ideas are pure things, without aspects or contradictions.
Yet as thoughts are to the human mind, so are Ideas to the Mind of All. Unlike thoughts, they emanate infinitely, there being nothing finite to limit them. We can allow our minds to see fluctuations or variations in the Light-field if we wish, but we must remember that this is a trick of our minds, not an actual representation of Atziluthic activity. There being no obstruction to anything in Atziluth, there is no variation, no lighter and darker.
There is only luminosity. And even what we visualise here is a conceit, since the Light of this Light-field is wholly beyond conventional human means of perception.
Absorb this image, this concept, and let it be. It transcends our own existence, the duration and scope of our own lives, our very conceptions of time and space.
The second World: B’RIAH
That something can be, it must come into existence – it should be created. The name B’riah means ‘Creation.’
Envisage this world, too, as an infinite field of luminescence. But like water, it has shimmerings, differentiation, discernible movements.
There are beings here, though it might not seem so, since they do not conflict or differ in their core purpose. In a fashion wholly beyond our ability to grasp, they receive impressions from Atziluth’s tides, and fashion them into archetypal concepts. You might imagine geometrical shapes here, both simple and complex, that all work and create as in some inconceivably immense cosmic equation.
These are archetypes. These are Archangels, since the Archangels work via archetypal patterning. They do not, except in popular legends, appear and make public announcements, although there are, perhaps, more junior and more senior Archangels, whose function are differentiated.
These shapes, archetypes, discrete yet interdependent consciousnesses, are the servants of the Most High. They are creative, though perhaps we should say they do not themselves create. Rather, it is in their nature to reflect and to capture the meaning of the Light-currents that move in the world of Atziluth, of Emanation. They respond to those currents according to the nature of the World they inhabit, and comprise: They formulate, according to input.
They do not create objects nor events, but they act as multi-dimensional lenses to focus Light into ‘holograms,’ if we can use such a crude term. Their geometry allows them to produce such ‘holograms’ with straight edges and curved, with ellipses and spirals and infinite length or duration … or finite.
They are exquisitely attuned to the primal Light-field, so that going on its slightest perturbations, they can produce immensely sophisticated patterns, with enormous, subtle and multi-aspected potential.
At certain times (using a word that only makes any true sense in Assiah, the Manifest), the shapes and patterns align in immense constellations, and new Aeons are born; or the physical Universe within which such Aeons manifest dies and is reborn. Such things are beyond our understanding.
Their activity is ceaseless, yet it seems to us graceful and without friction. There is differentiation here, but not conflict. The gears do not grind, for all things flow. Even if it is required that there be violent division manifested further out into Manifestation, such division here is simply an efficient redistribution of energies, of quanta of Light.
Only in Yetzirah, the world of Formation, does such differentiation become more clear.
The third World: YETZIRAH
This world is different again, for it is infinitely and dynamically responsive to the motions of B’riah. Here, those exquisitely precise and complex patterns are realised as distinct beings and realities.
Time is not as regular as we usually assume time to be, nor are the dimensions of distance as bound by restriction. Yet they do exist, insofar as anything definite can be said to be ‘real.’ For in this scheme of things, we must not forget that the closer we are to the ideal, the closer we are to actuality. The closer we come to what seems to be concrete, the more we are in the field of what we conventionally call ‘mind.’
In Yetzirah are many, many things. Their number and nature are beyond counting. In humans, a few thousand genes in our DNA produce tens of thousands of chemical interactions, and dictate the physical form of our bodies. Just so in Yetzirah, the unseen currents that move through it respond to the patterning that has occurred in B’riah and produce immense diversity.
Here are the so-called angels, the formative forces that we can discern as actual beings: elves and elementals, fairies and neuroses, complexes and salamanders, ghosts and goblins and fears and hopes … and dreams, dreams, dreams. To our human minds, the Yetziratic world is infinite and infinitely varied; and indeed, only by attaining to realisation of B’riah could we make it seem simple. Yetzirah is full of shadows and joys, sunlight and darkness, sadnesses, hopes and ambitions; … and secrets, secrets, secrets.
We think we are human beings, and for most of us, to un-think that is to invite madness. Our object as initiates is to un-think it and not go mad. To do this, we must navigate Yetzirah.
Here is all the content of art and philosophy, crime and brutality, aspiration and idealism. It is taught that if we learn the symbol-language of this world, and understand how it is ruled by the primal currents in the limitless Light-field and join with the pattern-beings, then we can modify our own passage through it.
And this is our world. We see and feel our bodies, which ache and itch, demand and desire, rest and heal, but we do not really feel we are them. We are primarily creatures of Yetzirah, formators in the world of Formation, perpetually working magick but without the proper safeguards of enjoying sacred direction. Our dissatisfaction with our own lives (since we identify a ‘life’ with existence in Assiah, and with the body’s timespan) arises from our inept sorceries and frantically ignorant magick, performed without understanding of the Worlds and their currents.
Yet we can also, in time, learn the principles that underlie and govern Yetzirah, even if we know no names to give to those presiding powers.
Some of us, naturally, are happier magicians than others. Some of us, also, learn to love, and love well, without consciously knowing that the primal Light-field is emanating Love. Magick itself is the conjoining of certain techniques with reverence, the uniting of desire with elevated enthusiasm, so that we can rise above our unhappiness or see past our apparent incompleteness. Or to put it another way, magick is the applied art of Love.
Such magick has its effect in the world of Assiah, which translates as either manifestation or action. Though often, only a very discerning eye can perceive such changes.
The fourth World: ASSIAH
Here the entities and energies of Yetzirah are projected via the lenses of mind into coherent forms and quantities. This is the world of measurement: mass and matter, time and space, duration and durability, stuff and the need for it.
This is the densest of the four Worlds, and it appears concrete. If you question its concreteness, feel free to walk into a nearby wall as a test. Yet it is also mind-stuff: Idea made detectable.
To complete the processes of existence, and to fulfil the unknowable requirements of Atziluth, we manifest and act here. Perhaps this is the great laboratory where God observes Itself in action. Perhaps this is the playing field for the Games of the Gods. Perhaps this is the party-place of all that can be known and that can know itself.
And perhaps, as many scientists and all Buddhists would have us believe, it is a constantly changing environment, where Beingness can experience ecstasy, even in terror. It is actual existence, which is pure joy, if we but know that it is a moment, an unreal reality, an immense, astounding machine that is supposed to decay with entropy into deadness, yet sustains itself in apparent defiance of this. Constantly we discover things about it: its complexity, its dynamics, its immensity. We are Forming it in Yetzirah all the time, according to the patterns determined within Emanation and created via B’riah.
To know this fully is to have the elusive gift of mastery.
Once we thought we dwelt on a flat plane, then we determined we were on a sphere. Then we determined that the sphere was not the centre of all things, but the Sun was; and then we realised that the stars are other suns, and the suns swirl in galaxies, and … Are we really discovering all this, or are we Creating and Forming it as part of the unfolding story that begins, in a way beyond comprehension, in an infinite Light-field?
And does that matter, provided we honour this compilation of Light that is the material universe? This is where we learn about the world of Formation that conditions it.
And, if we still our thoughts and do not force the process of imagining what lies beyond but simply allow it to unveil itself to our patiently disciplined, meditative selves, performing our magick in accordance with the law, of each our own lives, we might learn the ultimate secret: that Assiah, the World of Action, is the World of Emanation, but seen from a different viewpoint.
That realisation, though easy to imagine, lies at the end of a very long journey.
Love is the law, love under will,