Alt.magick Kreeeping OoZe FAQ #10: "What is the Abyss?"
[See the alt.magick KabbalahFAQ for introductory information.]
Within popular Qabalah models (sometimes quite simplistic) there is
presumed to exist a vast expanse between what is called the 'Upper
Triad' (the first three spheres in the Tree of Life) and the 'Middle
Triad' (those directly below the Upper).
Some magicians find value in the notion, using this as a metaphor for
psychic transformation, that one may actually 'jump' or somehow move
past this great gap called the Abyss, wherein a strange 'artificial',
'false' or 'hidden' sphere resides, and 'attain to the highest states
of consciousness'. Sometimes there is supposed to be a guardian of
this Abyss and some have given it the name 'Choronzon' (this being a
name of unknown origin, related to the workings of Dr. John Dee and
his Enochian system).
The nature of this guardian, the Abyss in which it resides, and the states
of consciousness to which one supposedly may be initiated in this endeavor,
are all a matter of debate in alt.magick. Even the entire model is
simplistically related here and by others, as Colin Low and others will
make clear below. Far be it from the Kreeeping Ooze FAQ to attempt to
resolve these issues. What lies below are merely samples meant to prevent
endless repetition. Enjoy.
Our favorite Shava writes about the Abyss with respect to initiation:
Approaching a time of reorganization/initiation/crisis can happen gradually
or all at once. When it happens gradually, a feeling of creeping horror
and insecurity comes upon one, a more classical form of existential despair,
better recognized in wider European culture.
When it comes all at once -- often voluntarily induced by magickal means,
via a spirit journey or somesuch -- it can be so precipitous as to resemble
a complete dissolution of the Ego, all at once. It is this experience of
dissolution to first causes and reorganization from ground zero, which is
the Abyss. One doesn't really *lose* the ego, the way I think of it, but
rather puts the Ego, as a construct, into perspective as a subsidiary
aspect of ones interface.
It is the Ego's (and possibly the Self's) warning mechanism which
gives a sense of extreme forboding -- even panic -- which I believe
is referred to as the Lurker on the Threshhold, or the Guardian of the
Abyss -- is also a construct. For some people, it becomes demonized
such that it seems like a completely separate entity -- which I suppose,
for folks into archetypical manifestations, it might be. To me, it is
much like the constriction in the belly when faced with a sheer height
(ergo the Abyss -- gee...;) -- something that exists as a warning because
of what could happen. If you stay on your own side, you are probably
as safe as before.
The secret is, if you overcome your fear and jump, you might find you
Shava Nerad Averett
John Greer quotes Taarna savet to make a point:
>...Daath lies at the heart of the
>"Path of the Priestess". This path is by no means easy and represents
>the changeover from "mother" to "crone". To make a long story short,
>Daath, or knowledge, is not a __false__ sepheroth, but rather a
>__hidden__ sepheroth, one that can only be revealed after the passing of
>numerous experiences and time.
In another sense, "where Daath is, Kether is not; where Kether is, Daath
From this perspective Daath is indeed a false Sephirah; as Knowledge, it
is a representation (and thus a falsification) of Kether, which is
unknowable. (It is possible to _be_ Kether -- to enter into absolute
Unity -- but one cannot know it, because knowing implies a duality between
knower and known, and there can be no duality whatever in Kether.) Daath
is constructed by every conscious being, as its conception of what Unity/
"God"/what-have-you, and the process of crossing the Abyss becomes one of
removing the image so the reality can manifest itself.
If you happen to be emotionally attached to the image, this becomes the
Dark Night of the Soul; if not, the path of the Camel, which may be slow
(as desert journeys often are) but nothing worse...
-- John Michael Greer
Frater Nigris chimed in with some more extreme view:
Below the Abyss Da'ath and Yesod are parallel. In the Abyss they are
united....After one passes through Tiphareth along the Middle Pillar
one moves into a sort of 'mirrored water' in which one simultaneously
enters Daath and Yesod. From there one steps into both Kether and
Malkuth, again simultaneously, due to their essential unity. It is only
the Abyss (Maya) which makes them appear to be different from one another.
What does crossing the Abyss mean?
Many things. I associate it with the path of ascetic denial of feelings
and exhaltation of the intellectual, objective state of consciousness.
At least this is the first manifestation. The ego blows up and the
mage falls into the pit of their own corpulence. Surrounded by what they
take to be 'reality' and is only their illusory imaginings, they become
what our culture calls 'psychotic'.
Compare with this the adventure of 'diving into' the Abyss, the path of
euphoric engagement of feelings but denying of intellect. These are but
shadows of the real, successful passage. In this the ego is lost in the
rainstorm of emotion and pain. Disoriented and despairing, they become
what our culture calls 'suicidal'.
The successful passage of the Abyss (over or through) involves something
between these, balancing the intellect and the emotion in a sort of
transcendental weave. Having accomplished this, the ego and the non-ego
come to a final and lasting resolution. There is no longer a distinct
and separate 'self', nor is this self destroyed in its essence with the
Those who say 'nobody makes it to the Other Side as an ego' are correct.
Egotists will tell you 'I will endure to the end' and slave-gods will tell
you that 'the ego must perish', but neither is speaking without a forked
I am I!
Frater (I) Nigris (DCLXVI) CCCXXXIII
Colin Low had this to say regarding Da'ath and the Abyss:
Firstly, the quantity of traditional material on this subject is,
as far as I know, limited. This means that although we all know the
title of the song, nobody knows the verses, and we can make it up as
we go along.
The problem isn't that of trying to establish a consensus about a
standard terminology; the problem is that words exist (Daath, Abyss),
the words are overloaded in that they already have a number of normal
meanings, and there are hints that the words refer to states that most
people haven't experienced. Not the best place to begin a discussion.....
I'll start by discussing the map. We can at least discuss the map.
Whether the territory exists and whether we can agree on our experiences
of it I'll leave until later.
The Extended Tree model of the Four Worlds (as presented by Halevi)
with overlapping upper and lower faces is the most useful model I have
come across. In this model there are 4 Daaths and 4 Abysses. There is an
Abyss between Assiah and Yetzirah, between Yetzirah and Briah, between
Briah and Atziluth, and between the seven lower sephiroth of Atziluth and
the three supernals. There is another Abyss between the Kether of
Atziluth and the En Soph.
The Abyss of Assiah is relatively easy to talk about. Can a cat read
and comprehend Wittgenstein? No. Using the terminology of Kabbalah,
a cat has a Nephesh (animal soul) but not a Ruach. There is an absolute
and uncrossable abyss in Assiah that the consciousness of a cat cannot
According to Kabbalistic tradition, every person has a Nephesh but not
everyone has a Ruach. The Ruach can be acquired, but it isn't standard
issue. If we take this as an assumption, then there may be people for whom
the Abyss is the Abyss of Assiah, and for whom all further Abysses are
For people who are capable of inhabiting both Nephesh and Ruach, the Abyss
does not go away, but it can be viewed from either side. I don't know what
"crossing" means; it is a spacial term, and I don't find spacial terms
to be useful in describing changes of consciousness. "Flipping" or
"toggling" seem to be closer; it's like double-clicking an icon and
instantaneously getting a new window. Breakthroughs in consciousness
tend to be instantaneous, like a light going on.
The next Abyss is the Abyss of Yetzirah, the divide between Ruach-
consciousness and Neshamah-consciousness. Vocabulary becomes an
obstacle at this point. A view of this transition is that it is a change
from a viewpoint limited by the assumptions and limitations of human
identity to something bigger and more general. Just as a cat can't
understand Wittgenstein, human beings don't now how to stop acting
and thinking and classifying the world from a parochial human viewpoint.
This transition means giving up human identity, means giving
up all ego-centred goals, and can be experienced literally as a kind of
death. The Golden Dawn Vault ritual can be viewed as the sacrifice & death
of the King in the Tipheret of Yetzirah and the birth of the Child in the
Malkuth of Briah.
I've nothing to say about the Abysses beyond this.
The essence of this model is that consciousness isn't continuous;
it is discrete, it is quantised like electrons in a potential well.
We don't talk about electrons "crossing" from one state to another;
physics is much more sophisticated than that. An abyss is any
discontinuous change in consciousness. There can be lots of abysses
and there can be lots of lights going on, from little birthday candles
up to huge stadium floodlights. This makes it hard to talk about
"The Abyss" and what it might mean to "cross" it; I think it renders
the whole discussion meaningless.
Where does Daath figure in this? I can't answer this question from any
other base than an interpretation of personal experience; in other words,
I'm not talking about "The Daath", as if such a thing could be discussed
objectively, but "my Daath", the thing I experience and label as such.
There isn't just "one" Tree, a linear figure running from Atziluth to
Assiah. The trunk of the Tree is the Tree of Atziluth; the Tree has several
branches running through Briah, each with its own Tree. There are billions
of twigs in Yetzirah, each with its own Tree, and billions*squared leaves
in Assiah, each with their own Tree. Daath is like a vertex from which a
multiplicity of Trees are suspended, a junction point between one world
and the next. I have my Tree hanging there, and you have yours.
From the Daath of Yetzirah, Yetzirah is viewed as the multiplicity of
Trees suspended from that point, the union of every perpective, and as
those on the net will know, the union of every perspective and every point
of view is a kind of nothingness, because they all cancel out. Every
statement is annihilated in its opposite, every thesis meets its
antithesis, and in attempting to know everything by assembling and
assimilating all knowledge, one knows nothing.
In Briah, Daath becomes Yesod, and whatever truth there is in the noise
is perceived directly. The sum of everything you can know in Yetzirah
doesn't get you to Briah. Briah can't be approached by any form of
discussion, argument, definition, or dialectic because they all annihilate
in Daath, and a vast emptiness opens up to swallow the ego and recycle it
(as a friend used to say) as Jaffa cakes.....
The 10 sephiroth have clear descriptions. Even tricky sephira like
Chokmah and Kether can be described by the intrepid - just waffle on
for several pages about "blinding white light", "pure being", "Union
with God" and the reader comes away with the impression that this
is terra cognito, and it will all come clear when he or she reaches
the third level of soul development.....
Daath, on the other hand, is like the door in the cellar marked "Do
not Enter. There is Nothing In Here". We all know what's behind the
locked door in the cellar, don't we? We've all seen the film. It's the
most horrible.....well, it may not be the most horrible thing I can
imagine, but it is always the most horrible thing the film director
Now let's back up a little and take a look at the idea of "most horrible
thing". Why is something horrible? Some examples: because it threatens
survival, because it repels, because of a completely visceral sense
of shock. The "threatens survival" example doesn't stand up to
inspection because things are usually perceived as "utterly horrible"
with absolutely no regard to their intention - my sister will climb
walls when I produce the kiddies' rubber spider. I'd like put
forward the idea that things are horrible because they have an alien
quality, a quality of "otherness", and the visceral reaction comes
about because the "horrible thing" is *just different*. Each one of
us has a built in sense of identity which excludes most of the creation,
and apart from those familiar exceptions we are prepared to live with
(e.g. the S.O. ;-)) we try to ignore or exclude "the horrible".
Let's take a look at the Tree of Life. The first 3 sephiroth represent
the Macrocosm, the transcendent Godhead. The next 6 sephiroth represent
a microcosm. Note that I didn't say "the microcosm". In the Golden Dawn
notes it is written quite clearly that there are many microcosms - people,
animals, plants, elemental and supernatural beings etc. Every thing which
has its own identity and free-will is a microcosm, so instead of the
standard Tree diagram you should imagine the 3 supernal sephiroth, and
underneath, billions and billions of examples of the sephiroth from
Chesed to Yesod, each a microcosm. Where do the billions of microcosms
connect? Obviously, in Malkuth if they have a physical existence, and
also at the point where identity (or at least personality) vanishes, in Daath.
(Technically, the Ruach is centred in Tiphereth and embraces all the sephiroth
from Daath to Yesod)
What I've tried to do is approach the same point from two different
directions: the instinctive reaction to Daath as "the door in the cellar",
and the image of Daath as the connection point between microcosms. I
don't think it is a coincidence that Daath is dumped in the abyss along
with all the evil forms of the Qlippoth - Daath is the place where
we encounter all the ghastly "otherness" in creation, and if approached
without "requisite initiation" is bound to produce some strong reactions.
I've seen several horror films using the same images - horrible, evil
creatures coming through a vortex in space and time. The occasional
attribution of Sothis to Daath, and the extra-solar nature of its influence,
is another hint.
I think it would be a grave mistake for someone to attribute a positive
symbolism to Daath other than that of a gateway or hole. The Tree works
because its symbols mean something at many levels, and Daath works as a
symbol precisely because it has no correspondences - it isn't a sephira,
nor is it remotely like one - it is the locked door in the cellar.
All of this should be prefixed by several levels of IMHOs - it is my
way of relating my personal experiences to the Tree, and some may
find it useful, and others will think it's crap. But then, what do you
think sustains the Tree of Life? It's all the bullshit raining down
And finally, LeGrand Cinq-Mars wrote the following while responding to
Daath definitely has an "empty" and
"hazardous" quality in the Golden Dawn material (before
the Stella Matutina text-layer): it is, for one thing,
the point to which the head of the serpent rises after
the Fall, the source of the Four Rivers (watering
Chesed, Geburah, Tiphareth and Malkuth), and the
location of the Kerub with the Flaming Sword. By
implication, it would by a stronger version of the
discontinuity of Paroketh, the veil before Tiphareth.
This earlier understanding of Daath as Abyss (the empty
socket from which the corrupted tooth of Malkuth was
plucked?) is echoed in the notions about Choronzon and
so on in _The Vision and the Voice_, thus the notion of
the "Babe of the Abyss" to parallel the Portal grade.
Thus too the notions of Daath as the "empty room," the
greater Dark Night of the Soul. In one of his earliest
treatments of his Middle Pillar exercise (in _The
Middle Pillar_, in fact) Regardie (using IHVH ALHIM as
the divine name associated with Daath) suggests using
the Enochian angelic names from the Tablet of Union as
the Archangelic names, thus following the line of
Knight (_Practical Guide_), however, suggests using the
names of the four archangels of the elements (or
quarters) for Daath, and even though he repeats the by-
then traditional idea of Daath as the Empty Room,
proceeds to load on the symbolism. I don't think this
is completely off-base, for the following reasons.
First, it brings to Daath the "fourfoldness" motif
characteristic of all the other Sephiroth of the Middle
Pillar. Second, Daath already does have an elaborated
(though not exactly sephirotic, since it regards Daath
not as a Sephira is the locus of the fourfold
conjunctio. As these are not mutually exclsive, I find
it hard to reject one or the other body of symbolism
[In Daath no one can hear you scream...] This is also
an attribute of a certain mode of the primordial Holy:
the utterly alien Real, the thoroughly uncanny and
appalling presence that somehow enters into a covenant
with those beings who somehow exist on the ontological
margins (or so it seems when this promordial Holy is
encountered). The problem is that, once the covenant
is made, it's easy to slip into a sort of coziness,
treat the Holy as something domesticated, leading to a
complacent, self-satisfied proprietary attitude (our
town, and our family, and our tea-set, and our aunt
Jessie, and our God) , and even a proprietary attitude
toward the sheer alien godawfulness of That Thing.
This suggests an odd, fourfold cycle of initial comfort-
encounter-covenant-smug domestication, the last bit of
which may at some point be shattered by a new
encounter. Empirically, however, what one has is an
oscillation between (2) and (4), with (3) occurring as
a moment of dynamic equilibrium as long as enough
insight exists to sustain it. [The "smug
domestication," by the way, has some connection with
the notions of the "second fall" and the "false garden"
that came up here a while back....
The GD paper "On Obsession, Trance and Death" locates
the human psychophysical Daath "at the nape of the neck,"
and makes it the locus of various kinds of obsession
The notion that there is a congruence between Daath
with Yesod is again not recent. For the GD, the station
of Yesod was the station of the "Evil Persona," the
point from which the Candidate is threatened -- but
Yesod is also the location of the "sign of the
covenant," if not the actual coven@i"U"+.Yexists a
mutal resonance between Daath and Yesod, and each has
its particular set of overtones derived from that
I think Daath
does (traditionally, in ways that predate the GD, but
which the GD continues) have correspondences, I think
that this correspondence with Chaos (the Gaping Abyss)
is one of them, as the highly structured quaternary
symbolism of the Zohar is another. The over-arching
symbolism that correlates them all, however, may be the
event-horizon described by Nicholas of Cusa -- the
barrier-field of the conjunctio oppositorum. This
conjunctio is not, in his view, God, but the
singularity that blocks the soul (usually, anyway)
from entering into that part of itself in which it directly
participates in God....
"In Daath the Depths are broken up, and the heavens drop down..." Well,
we have all eternity in which to rest. Now let us cultivate our gardens,
giving thanks for all this abundance of fertilizer.
______________________________________END ALT.MAGICK KREEPING OOZE FAQ #10
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This is from a series of continually-updated posts responding to recurrent
questions in this newsgroup. Please debate anything in here which seems
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