THE ASTRAL PLANE,
THE BODY OF LIGHT AND
TRAVELING IN THE ASTRAL WORLD I
the Order of the
Thelemic Golden Dawn
(Order of the T\G\D\)
By David Cherubim
(Frater Aurora Aureae)
Copyright © 1993 e.v.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
It is a common belief among members of the Golden Dawn -- and among the occult population at large -- that there exists beyond the physical world another world of a more subtle nature, often termed the Astral Plane, and that also in the physical body there exists a more subtle body of approximately the same size and shape as the physical, often termed the Astral Body or Body of Light. However, as common as these beliefs may be they are rarely proven to be true by way of scientific experimentation, and as such they are of no practical worth. Belief without experience is of no practical use to the student of Magick. In point of fact, the student should believe nothing of which s/he does not understand by way of direct experience; and even after obtaining any experience the student should in no manner become convinced thereby, losing him/herself in the awful abyss of belief which is the annihilation of intelligence. Belief is the enemy of intelligence, the latter being the fruit of experience or the child of knowledge.
If the student of Magick is to advance in the appropriate manner s/he cannot indulge in any form of belief, especially without an experiential understanding of the object of his/her belief. Factor X, the Great Unknown, should always come into play no matter how much you believe yourself to be in possession of the full knowledge of a thing. Scientific progress of any kind is founded on this great principle. True knowledge is the fruit of using this great principle in acts of experimentation. The more we know of anything, the more we should realize the limitations of our knowledge, doubting our current data to make infinite our research. Factor X is a vehicle through which knowledge becomes eternal, revealing the infinite possibilities of the object of our research.
As any person possessing normal intelligence should know, genuine knowledge is not obtained by what you read or hear; for it is an experiential reality derived from the direct observation of or participation in a particular activity or event. To obtain genuine knowledge concerning any branch of Occult Science you must first experiment with its prescribed methods. To have knowledge of the Astral Plane and Astral Body demands experimental work from the student; and such work, be it of a practical kind, will be of an unlimited nature. There is no end to the development of the knowledge of any branch of Occult Science. In fact the goal of all such knowledge is infinite in kind, being perpetual in itself.
The knowledge of the Astral Plane and of the Astral Body, though possessing great variety, is nevertheless bound to the single operation of the Great Work. All occult knowledge of any practical kind is consecrated to the Great Work, which, from the current perspective, is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The student of Magick is to learn the nature and laws of the so-called Astral Plane and of his/her Body of Light as a means of eventually rising beyond the Astral, through direct experience, and attaining that which lies beyond that point in consciousness. What lies beyond the Astral is the Solar (or Mental) Plane wherein one attains sublime knowledge and communication with one’s Holy Guardian Angel or Solar Self.
The Astral World is only one aspect of the Universe, and there are greater Worlds beyond it. It must be passed through if the student of Magick is to attain the goal of the Adepti, and this can only be done through direct experience of that World by traveling therein with a Body suitable to its peculiar nature. Such is one of the fundamental reasons for the formulation of the Astral Body. With this Body of Light the student comes into direct contact with the innumerable phenomena that exist in the Astral World and that are vital parts of the inner workings of the mind of the student. By traveling in the Astral World you make contact with and obtain knowledge of various astral principles which are part of the constitution of the Psyche. This knowledge is not only useful as a means of developing conscious awareness of the deeper elements of existence, but also as a means of learning to creatively manipulate the subtle activities of those elements in accordance with the proper motion of the True Will of one’s Holy Guardian Angel.
In this lesson the student will discover various theories about the Astral World and Astral Body, including the practical methods for formulating and projecting the latter into the former. At the end of this lesson the student will find a ritual which is particularly designed for projecting the Astral Body in the use of what are technically called "Path Workings." A Path Working is a method of traveling in your Body of Light to one of the twenty-two Paths on the Qabalistic Tree of Life contained in the Astral World. Such is called the Yetziratic Tree of Life, and by traveling the Paths of this Tree we are able to obtain a Universal Knowledge.
THE ASTRAL PLANE AND
THE GREAT MAGICAL AGENT
The Astral Plane -- called Kama-Loka (World of Desire) in Eastern Philosophy and the Plane of Yetzirah or World of Formation in Qabalistic Philosophy -- is a four-dimensional plane composed of a luminous etheric substance called the Astral Light. It is not the plane of imagination as is so often asserted by those who are inexperienced in this field, but rather is the faculty of imagination a door to this formative world, a passage-way to its mystery. This world is, in theory, the so-called plane of dreams to which we travel in our sleep; and it is also the so-called plane of the dead to which we travel when we physically die. But if we pass on to higher planes we leave this Astral World, severing our connection with our Astral Body, leaving it behind like an empty shell to inevitably decompose.
The word Astral comes from the Latin word for stars, referring to the starry or illumined nature of the Astral Plane. A star is a symbol of Light, which is a metaphor for the primary substance of which the Astral Plane is composed. All other elements, which exist therein, are only modifications of this single substance of Light. In this Astral Light are all physical phenomena contained in their formative astral state of being, and it is from this Light that manifestation is made possible on earth; for it is the link between spirit and matter, and it is the subtle transmitter on earth of the influences derived from the higher worlds. It is through this Light that we are brought into direct contact with the Higher Forces of Nature and the Universe. For this Astral or Yesodian Light is the reflection of the Light of the Sun of Tiphareth; and be it well noted that the Light of the Sun of Tiphareth is but the reflection of the Light of the Hidden Sun of Kether.
The Astral World contains within itself two aspects, one higher and the other lower in nature. We must not assume this to be an actual fact of the nature of the Astral World since experience, I venture to say, may prove otherwise. Rather shall we find it more practical to adopt this dualistic concept for purposes of research, that is, for developing direct knowledge about the nature of the Astral Plane. This Plane of Light is one, of course; but it appears in the form of two, and these two planes are capable of being subdivided. There are, in fact, many different planes in the Astral, but they can be categorized into two specific types, being of the lower or higher substrata of the Astral Plane. These two substrata may be described as being angelic and demonic in kind. Angelic we shall define as "that which is orderly in nature". Demonic we shall define as "that which is chaotic in nature." There are many angelic and demonic beings living in the Astral World, both of which are expressions of the nature of the Astral Light.
These Angelic and Demonic forms live and breathe in their own astral "heaven or hell," which two terms have come to be commonly used for the two substrata, as appellations for order and chaos in the Astral World. However, such terms as these have taken on a rather distasteful color due to Christian dogma and are therefore too limited in their scope. Therefore we shall use instead the terms "Amenti and Tuat," the Upper and Under Worlds of Egyptian Mythology. Amenti is divine and solar in nature; Tuat is gross and lunar in nature. From the point of view of Qabalistic Philosophy, Tuat and its demonic influences correspond with the Nephesch or Animal Soul, whereas Amenti and its angelic influences correspond with the Ruach or Mental Soul.
In terms of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the Lower Astral can be symbolized by the Sephira called Yesod and the Higher Astral can be symbolized by the Sephira called Tiphareth. Yesod is the Sphere of the Moon, which is said to rule the Lower Astral; Tiphareth is the Sphere of the Sun, which is said to rule the Higher Astral. The Moon is an occult symbol of the feminine earthly principle (Yin), whereas the Sun is an occult symbol of the masculine heavenly principle (Yang). This gives us a clue into the nature of the higher and lower planes of the Astral, one being active and the other passive, one being full of life and energy and the other being a place of death and passivity.
The Astral World is the substratum of physical existence, its underlying support or substructure, and the matrix of its various manifestations. From the point of view of that which is beyond the Astral, this so-called plane is an illusion, and one to be transcended in the Higher Visions. But to properly transcend this plane demands passing through it, learning its laws and the elements which make up its nature in both its lower and higher aspects. It cannot be ignored if the student is to advance to the higher planes; for it is the foundation of the Tree of Attainment.
From the point of view of the Material Plane, the Astral Plane has a water-like or mirror image effect. For it reflects the images from the Physical Plane in reverse order, so that the right eye of your physical body appears as the left eye of your Astral Body, and so on. Of course it is really the opposite of this, with the physical existing in reverse order, being a dense reflection of the Astral. But then again, from the point of view of the Mental Plane, the forms in the Astral are inverted or upside down reflections of principles existing on a higher level. It will greatly benefit the student to invest a good deal of time in meditating on these occult ideas. For it will greatly enrich his/her understanding of the nature of the Astral Plane. However, it should be noted that the word plane can be misleading, causing the unfamiliar student to imagine the planes as existing one above the other, when in fact the planes interpenetrate and coexist with one another. This also will require much meditation to understand.
It is also necessary for the student to grasp the Qabalistic concept of the Four Worlds. It is not only essential for the student to comprehend each world separately, but also the relations that exist between these four so-called worlds. These four worlds are the following:
1. Olahm Ha-Atziluth (World of Emanations. It is also called the Archetypal World).
2. Olahm Ha-Briah (World of Creation. It is also called Khorsia, the Throne).
3. Olahm Ha-Yetzirah (World of Formation. It is also called the World of Angels).
4. Olahm Ha-Assiah (Material World. It is also called Olahm Ha-Qliphoth, the World of Shells).
Atziluth is the World of Emanations and corresponds with the element of Fire and the letter Yod of the Tetragrammaton; Briah is the World of Archangels and corresponds with the element of Water and the letter Heh of the Tetragrammaton; Yetzirah is the World of Angels and corresponds with the element of Air and the letter Vav of the Tetragrammaton; Assiah is the World of Action and corresponds with the element of Earth and the final Heh of the Tetragrammaton. These may also be termed the Spiritual World, the Mental World, the Astral World, and the Material World.
On the Qabalistic Tree of Life, these Four Worlds correspond with the four Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar. Thus Kether is the Spiritual World, Tiphareth is the Mental World, Yesod is the Astral World, and Malkuth is the Physical World. On the other hand, we can also say that Netzach (Fire) corresponds with the Spiritual World, Hod (Water) corresponds with the Mental World, Yesod (Air) corresponds with the Astral World, and Malkuth (Earth) corresponds with the Physical World. These Sephiroth do not actually symbolize the Four Worlds, but they do pertain to the actual principles that govern them. Thus do they indicate in themselves -- and by their arrangement on the Tree -- the nature and order of the Four Worlds.
The Spiritual World is the highest, being the purest in nature or the primordial cause, whereas the three worlds which emanate from it are less divine in nature and are in fact reflections, on a descending scale, of the first world. Thus the Astral World is a reflection of the worlds above it, but it also partakes of the elements of the Physical World. The Astral World contains within itself the reflections of all things, from above and below, in the form of astral figures or objects; and, be it well noted by the student, it is the Formative World of Angels who assist in the formation and ordering of the Material World. It is these Angels who we often encounter in Astral Journeys, and who guide us in our travels in the Astral Body.
As mentioned before, the substance of the Astral Plane is Light. It is the Astral Light of which we find great discourse in the books by the famous 19th Century French Magus Eliphas Levi, who also called it the Great Magical Agent. Concerning this Great Agent of Light, let us take careful note of the following informative words written by Eliphas Levi: "The Great Magical Agent, by us termed the Astral Light, by others the soul of earth, and designated by old chemists under the names AZOTH and MAGNESIA, this occult, unique and indubitable force, is the key of all empire, the secret of all power. It is the winged dragon of Medea, the serpent of the Edenic Mystery; it is the universal glass of visions, the bond of sympathies, the source of love, prophecy and glory. To know how to make use of this Agent is to be the trustee of God’s own power; all real, effective Magic, all occult force is there, and its demonstration is the sole end of all genuine books of science. To have control of the Great Magical Agent there are two operations necessary -- to concentrate and project, or, in other words, to fix and to move. Fixity has been provided as the basis and guarantee of movement by the Author of all things: the Magus must go to work in like manner."
This Great Agent of Light -- also called the Soul of the World (Anima Mundi), Luminiferous Ether, Magnetized Electricity, and the Imagination of Nature -- is the Fluidic and Living Gold of Alchemical Philosophy. It is divine and natural, spiritual and material, celestial and terrestrial. It is substance and motion, an ambient and all-permeating fluid and an omnipresent mysterious force in Nature. It is an electro-magnetic-fluidic-essence, which penetrates and pervades every visible form in Nature. This Magical Agent is a universal-plastic-malleable-substance, called by Eliphas Levi "the Plastic Mediator", and it receives and preserves the impressions of all things, the vibrations of all modes of motion and the images of every form. As such, it is the Memory of Nature. All human thought and action impresses itself on this Universal Agent, producing corresponding astral forms that take on a life of their own. These forms can be constructive or destructive, useful or useless, depending on the power of their human source and the degree of their emphasis in the mind.
The subtle particles of this so-called electro-magnetic field of light vibrate at a much higher rate of motion than the particles of the physical plane. This makes the astral forms of this invisible agent imperceptible to our human senses. It is not that such astral forms are really imperceptible to us; it is rather the case that our physical senses simply are unable to grasp them based on the low vibration of the elemental activity of these gross senses in the human body. As shall be expounded later, we can definitely perceive these astral forms, not with the gross physical senses, but with the so-called astral senses which are the peculiar possession of your Astral Body of Light.
It is by way of the Great Magical Agent that all things in the universe are linked with each other. In this Light no man or woman is an island, being that they are connected to all other things through the medium of this Astral Light. It is therefore through this Agent that one is able to influence another, whether such be in the form of a blessing or a curse; for it is the transmitter of thought and feeling between one mind and another; and through it one man can impose his will on another. In common humanity, this Agent influences men and women unconsciously, for better or for worse. The student must become conscious of the subtle activities and influences of this Agent on human behavior that s/he may be able to rise above these influences, becoming their master and not the slave of their unconscious effects.
The Great Magical Agent is symbolized by the Occult Serpent, which is a representation of the phallic or reproductive force in Nature. This force can manifest as Active, Passive or Equilibrated. This theory is embraced in the Hermetic Symbol of the Caduceus. In this symbol there are two Serpents, one active and the other passive; and in the center, at the summit of the Caduceus, shines a Golden Globe of Equilibrated Light. These are the Qabalistic Forces of OD, OB and AOUR. OD (AVD) is the special Fire of the Sacred Magick of Light, Life, and Love. OB (AVB) is the special Fire of Black Magic. AOUR (AVR) is the Balanced Light of Open Day, the divine product of the balanced interplay of OD and OB, or Light and Darkness. To attain this Great Equilibrium is to liberate yourself from the constricting folds of the Astral Serpent.
The student must learn to sublimate and direct this Serpent Force by means of his/her Nervous System to make it a fit instrument for his/her Will to accomplish the Great Work. According to Eliphas Levi, "The Great Work is, before all things, the creation of man by himself, that is to say, the full and entire conquest of his faculties and his future; it is especially the perfect emancipation of his will, assuring him universal dominion over Azoth and the domain of Magnesia, in other words, full power over the Universal Magical Agent. This Agent, disguised by the ancient philosophers under the name of the First Matter, determines the forms of modifiable substance, and we can really arrive by means of it at metallic transmutation and the Universal Medicine. This is not a hypothesis; it is a scientific fact already established and rigorously demonstrable." Azoth is the essence of the Astral Plane, and it is the Great Arcanum of Magical Philosophy which Eliphas Levi sought to depict in his drawing of the androgynous figure of Baphomet, the Mysterious God of the Ancient Templars who is like unto Pan, the Male-Female Quintessential One. Levi wrote, "God, for us, is the AZOTH of the Sages, the efficient and final principle of the Great Work." In Alchemical terminology, it is the First Matter of the Great Work of which Levi wrote, "The Gnostics represented it as the fiery body of the Holy Spirit; it was the object of adoration in the Secret Rites of the Sabbath and the Temple, under the hieroglyphic figure of Baphomet or the Androgyne of Mendes."