Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kabbalah: You're Doing It Wrong, part 2 (Beriah)

Start with part 1, here.

So, when last we met, we were talking about the four worlds. We began at Ein Soph, entered into the first world of atzilut.

This world is inspiration, the flash of an idea that provides the impetus to create. The hebrew name for this is atzilut, which literally means "stuff that's next to" but is usually translated as "emanation". It is in aztilut that things first begin to differentiate. In atzilut, things are distinct, and we can imagine qualities that some objects possess and others do not.  This is where things find their first causes, the throne of the Shekhina.  Here in atzilut, things become.  Movement becomes possible, becomes desirable, becomes inevitable.

It is here that we begin the construction of our chariot, by imagining the possibility that there are worlds different from our own, and imagining how we might go about traveling to them. We look out at the infinite line, stretching endlessly behind us, a series of events, almost impossible, and yet inevitable, that brought us to this very moment.  Wait here until you feel the power of that.  If you want a name to open the gate, a mantra to help you find this place, the secret code word is Melek ha'olam.  This is another subtle godname, and one that people don't often think of as a "power name", but it really is.  Usually translated as "Master of the Universe", it's just as legit to render it as "King of the Forever", and I think that's a better way to understand it.  The Place has become the Forever.  When the power of that hits you, when you understand that this is the place where time began, you may find yourself at a loss for words, but say something, anything, that focuses your attention on the Now, and on the eternal path that led here.

Look out over a shining road rolling forever out before us, a limitless future of possibility.  Looking out over it,  decide to build a chariot; commit your will to the endeavor. You may find that a vision (or a voice) of the thing appears, a flickering blueprint of pure of light.  It may appear as a steed; it may appear as a spaceship.  It may appear in an entirely ineffable way, all vibrating crystals and singing angels and quantum entanglement, it might be pulled by creatures made of fire with the faces of men and beasts, roaring a deafening harmonic drone.  The exact form of it isn't so important for right now; you won't be able to hold it all in your head anyway.  If you do get a clear, stable, unwavering, understandable image, you are imagining it.  Clear your head and begin again by contemplating the nature of the infinite one dimensional road of time.

Atzilut is a fully mystic state, and a non-magical one.  Here we experience one-ness while still knowing ourselves; we float in an ocean of endless light.  In atzilut, children (both literal and metaphoric) are conceived.  From below, it appears that this is the union of opposites, the alchemy whereby two things are synthesized to bring forth a third.  And yet, as we proceed from above, we see that, from this point of view, conception occurs when that union is broken; when the eternal One is divided, when soul becomes cloaked in form, when the eternal decides to incarnate.

Once conceived, we proceed to the next world. Again, it would be better not to try to visualize anything yet, but here is what Ezekiel makes of it:  And I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with a fire flashing up, so that a brightness was round about it; and out of the midst thereof as the color of electrum(1), out of the midst of the fire. (Ez 1:4) 

Having now the vision of the chariot, its creation is immanent.  The line spins into a plane; writing, drawing, sound waves, all become possible here.  Here consciousness comes into being.  While the idea that things could be distinct from each other was possible in atzilut, the actual distinctions were nearly overwhelmed by the intensity of the divine presence.  Here, it beriah, the world of creation, G-d becomes separate from his creation; the archangels and Great Gods who live here are aware of their own existence.   "the principal abode of his [the enlightened person's] soul is in the world of Beriah (and only occasionally, at propitious times, does his soul ascend to Atzilut, by virtue of the "feminine waters," as is known to those familiar with the Esoteric Discipline)"  Beriah is the home of the "permanent" spirits, the archangels, the planets, the Great Gods, and the souls of enlightened human beings; what Plato called the "world of forms".  Having now a firm vision of the purpose of our chariot, we can begin to imagine its form and details. While we do not yet have a chariot, we do have a blueprint for it. The Limitless Light that was given structure in Atzilut here is contained, restricted, pressed into form.  Darkness emerges, and things take shape in shadow.

How is it that clarity only begins to arise as a function of Darkness?  Imagine yourself emerging into bright sunshine from a darkened room.  You are blinded!  How do you see?  With sunglasses that filter and disrupt the light, diminishing it so that the contrast between Thing and NoThing becomes apparent.   In azilut, concepts are clear in the mind, but they are not yet explainable; they are still pre-verbal.  In beriah, things are created, spoken into being, written in letters of fire.  Here we can really grasp concepts; beriah is the seat of all teachings.  Here, things become understood as they are explained, prophecy becomes true as it is spoken.  And yet, even as the teacher's mind becomes ordered, the student has not yet appeared.  One explains only to oneself, and in doing so, creates ex nihlo.  Thoughts, given name, acquire an existence independent of the thinker.

The being conceived in atzilut takes shape in beriah; here we grow in the Womb of Being.  Beriah is often called the "Higher Garden of Eden"; it is a place suffused with joy.  "For the intellect of a created being can have no enjoyment or pleasure except in what it conceives, understands, knows and apprehends, with its intellect and apprehension, what is possible for it to understand and grasp of the light of the blessed En Sof, by virtue of His blessed wisdom and understanding which shine forth in the world of Beriah." (Tanya Likutei Amamim, Ch 39)

The magician makes her home in Beriah; this is the place where creation is formed enough to be comprehensible, but malleable enough to be reshaped at its core.  The magics that change the world, those that rewrite reality, warp time, the sideways "slide" between alternate realities; this is the magic we weave in Beriah.  It's DANGEROUS and almost always ill-advised.  These magics are comprehensible only in the moment you weave them; the changes, once made, ripple out and across the shimmering surface of the world in unexpected, unpredictable, ways.  You will never really remember the magic you work here; you will be left only with the sensation that things used to be different; ought to be different.  I am unwise to speak these things, and you far too unwise to hear them.  It's really best if you just forget you even read this whole paragraph, ok?

In the next lesson, I'll write to you of Yetzirah, which will be far more clear.

(1) pro tip: "electrum" is the greek name for amber, and also a word for a kind of ancient alloy of gold with silver. I'm 80% positive this means amber, but not 100%.

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