Confusing the Planes Part I: The Planes

Previously, I have spoken of a particular instance of “Confusing the Planes.” The description of what this refers to was necessarily brief. I feel this concept needs further explanation, as much esoteric and magickal writing one finds on the internet tends to lack a general structural understanding. This leads to multiple conflations and confusions that end up breeding serious problems.

First, let me make it clear what these “Planes” are that I think people tend to confuse. Western Hermeticism generally recognizes gradations of “existence,” which in earlier times were taken as literal divisions in the Cosmos. I tend to take slightly different tack, preferring to see the Cosmos per se as One, but with aspects that can only be seen from particular states of consciousness. We have examples of this in more mundane contexts. For instance, an infant looking at these words would not see “words,” would not be “reading” in the sense of understanding. “Reading” takes place in a different “Plane” from the immediately apprehended one available to one who has not been “initiated” into verbal language.

My basic model, or starting framework, is the Four Worlds of the Qabalah. The strange mangling of Lurianic theory that Hermetic Qabalah presents gives us, in spite of its raw cultural appropriation, a useful system of catagorizing existence. We have first, the Tree of Life, with its Sephiroth and Paths. These are nested in Four “Worlds” or gradations of being. The direction “downward” is from the undifferentiated “All” to the Plane of Gross Manifestation, or the Material World.

The first “World” (moving down) is Atziluth, the realm of Divine Emanation. It’s the basic ground of being, from which everything else emerges. There is little which can be said about Atziluth that can be considered accurate, since “it” properly speaking, is not an object. You will generally find this World attributed to Kether, the Crown and the first Sephirah on the Tree. However, it really should be understood as a series from the Veils of Negative Existence to that Sphere. Kether crystalizes the Divine Emptiness into form, which is none other than an aggregate of that Emptiness.

Less confusing is the World of Briah, the realm of Creation. Here we encounter the differentiation from One into Many. This Many is not manifest in material form as yet, but instead exists in potentia. It has been called the realm of story, from whence arise the basic patterns that will be filled in by the proceeding levels. One could also call it the Home of the True Gods, where the living essence of the diverse Dieties dwells.

Yetzirah corresponds to what has been called the “Astral Plane” or the “Treasurehouse of Images.” It’s where dreams happen, as well as providing the etheric skeleton for the manifest Universe. Here we also find Godforms, as opposed to Gods. This is where they put on their makeup to dance with Mortals.

Assiah is where it all comes together in manifestation. It’s the material plane, where things are solid and bound by strict chains of causality. Here are the things you can measure, run into, eat, have sex with, and kill. We live here, die here, and return to the basics components of this world when our flesh begins to rot.

In this schema, there are also various “Souls” or parts of a human being that are most “at home” with these various modes. The Guph (Physical Body) lives in Assiah, the Nephesh (Astral) in Yetzirah, The Ruach (Mental) and part of the Neschamah (Low Causal) in Briah, and the Higher Neschamah (Higher Causal) in Atziluth. There are finer divisions that will become important later. What matters right now is that there are four divisions, each of which is most clearly apprehended from the perspective of a particular function in the human psyche.

The basic method going forward will be to map other models onto this framework, and then give examples of different ways in which people mix up or view a particular circumstance or arena of activity from a perspective which is inappropriate. Hence “Confusing the Planes.”


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