One difficulty facing us from the outset is the fact that models such as the one above have fallen into disfavor over the past few decades. Crowley explicitly cautioned his readers to not attribute any philosophical validity to concepts such as the Sephiroth and the tree of life in general. The marriage of Crowley and punk rock in the late seventies gave us the anti-system of Chaos Magick, an even more overt revolt against the erection of large meta-systems of correspondence and putative ontological structure. The postmodern age just does not cotton to this sort of funny business.
They are, of course, justified in rejecting the ontological validity of a structure such as the Tree of Life. If one searched their entire life, they will never encounter an actual place called “Yesod” or “Geburah.” These things are abstractions, conceptual placeholders. A way to slice the phenomenological pie into digestible bits.
What I find in the Four Worlds model is not some great esoteric key that will unlock “The Secret of the Universe” and give unto me power beyond measure (yea, power beyond measure) but a decent description of how the human psyche operates. I could go into a lot of technical research on human cognition, but I think folks will find that, if they follow their thoughts and actions, they will see a basic pattern. First there is a desire for something to correct a problem or improve a condition. Then, there is an idea about what sort of thing will do the job. Then there is a plan. Finally, one executes the plan. This is exactly the pattern of the Four Worlds, as we would expect if the Microcosm truly reflects the Macrocosm.
Further, nearly every contemplative and esoteric tradition ever created contains conceptualizations that map to the broad formulation presented by the Four Worlds Model. The main differences tend to be in degree of detail (the number of divisions within the four main sections) and culture specific biases toward one level or another. Ken Wilber’s work, whatever it’s numerous drawback, demonstrates this fairly convincingly.
Either we are looking at a real layers to reality, or the way the human psyche relates to them. Which ever may be the case, and I suspect we’re looking at an unsolvable “chicken/egg” problem, the four tiered division of existence seems to be one of those useful things we can’t dispense of without getting into a great deal of trouble. The romance Western Civilization has maintained with one part of its Ruach, and a very low octave of Hod at that, is but one example. The flip side of this is, of course, the self-mutilating done by those who would abandon any aspect of reason and live by “intuition” or some other vague Continental abstraction that boils down to little more than wishing everyone were like oneself.
To give some idea of what “confusing the planes “means, let’s look at two models that parallel the Four Worlds as they play out in Malkut.
The first model I’d like to look at is, as you might have been expecting, the Leary Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness. Now, there are of course eight circuits and not four, but we’re looking at parallels not direct mappings. In any case, we could see the Model as being composed of two sets of four, one personal the other extrapersonal, similar to the horizontal division in a natal chart.
The first circuit is call the Oral circuit, since it is imprinted at the stage of an infant’s development when its nourishment is derived by sucking either on its mother’s breast or a bottle. This circuit relates to security and basic attraction/revulsion dichotomies. It’s kind of an amoeba-like phase in which one can only move toward or away from a stimulus.
Circuit two is called the Anal circuit, since it is imprinted around the age of two when toilet training very generally takes place. This is the vertical relationship, in which one establishes either a “Top Dog” or “Bottom Dog” type of personality. It’s also territorial, and determines how an individual will deal with boundaries.
Circuit one is more or less related to the reptilian part of the brain, circuit two with the mammalian. With the third circuit, we move into the distinctly “human” brain. This is the semantic/logical/symbolic circuit whose imprinting determines how an individual deals with speech and communication. When I refer to a “low octave of Hod,” this is basically what I mean. The ability to manipulate symbols in a manner that creates logical relationships between them. Western Civilization’s rhetoric is a celebration of this circuit.
Robert Anton Wilson says that those with the heaviest imprint on the fourth circuit are “gorgeous.” Since it’s the sexual circuit, imprinted at the first orgasm, this makes sense. It’s also the “moral” circuit, and the way the third circuit was imprinted has a direct relationship with how rigid the morality of this circuit becomes. Narrow semantic imprints create narrow moralities.
There are also dialogues between circuits. The first and second circuits form a natural couple, as do the third and fourth. Often, however, the individual will imprint heavily at circuit two, suffer a narrowly focused third circuit education, and end up latching their sexuality to the strongest imprint. Here you will find fierce ideologues both left and right.
This is not to say that the ideologue is not “intelligent” by third circuit standards. Their knowledge within the sphere of their own world view may be very deep. It’s just not very broad. They relate to their mental space in the same way that they relate to physical space. Any information from outside the bounds of their own set of assumptions becomes an invading enemy. It is not to be studied or understood on its own terms, but destroyed.
So, what we see is a concrete example of “confusing the planes.” One’s brain has misinterpreted which type of response is appropriate for the situation at hand, treating verbal disagreement as a physical threat. Watch your own reactions to arguments online if you want to see a (hopefully) milder example of this basic “address problem.” When you find yourself disagreeing with someone on a fundamental issue, watch your breathing get fast, your heart start to race, your palm get sweaty. Observe the impulse to lash out and call names, even though you could easily let the matter sit until you have calmed down a bit and had time to think about the matter. This is classic “fight or flight” response.
These are the “terrestrial” circuits, and to a certain extent are the main ones that concern us. Later, I will talk about the confusion between terrestrial or personal circuits and interpersonal ones. But for now, I will leave the Circuits behind.