Assiah, Yetzirah, Briah: Three guides to get through three worlds
by yemeth

‘I am half sick of shadows’, said
the Lady of Shalott.

The Unconscious appears to us as a guide through three aspects or archetypes. In each of the qabbalistic worlds we have to go through in the initiatory path, its task will be to help us reach the next one.

If we adopt the convenient terms Jung coined, these archetypes would be the shadow, the anima/animus, and the Self. We will meet them in the worlds of Assiah, Yeztirah and Briah, respectively. However, it might not be a good idea to resort to Jung for information on the Self; it may appear there was a moment in which he decided he had had enough.

The shadow

The first contact with the unconscious guide happens to the uninitiated seeker in the world of Assiah (Malkuth), and its structure conforms with the archetype of the shadow.

The terrifying shadow is a guide whose goal is opening to us the gates of Yetzirah (the “astral”, Yesod-Hod-Netzach). With that purpose it floods our subjectivity with synchronicities, making us aware of the astral currents which traverse the physical. These currents are shaped by the contents of our personal unconscious. And even though the astral door is already half-open, this initiation is a must for the magician to establish him or herself in the world of Yetzirah.

The shadow holds negative contents from our personal unconscious we may neurotically project over others. These are negative traits we haven’t taken responsibility for. In order to successfully get through this initiation, we’ll have to turn neurosis into psychosis. In lacanian terms, we need to “traverse the fantasy”, after successfully “forcluding the Name of the Father”. We will be dragged by astral currents that will appear to us like all-powerful gods. And once this Lesser Guardian of the Threshold finally allows us to pass, the veil of Qeseth that separated us from Yetzirah will be gone.

“The horror which confronts every adventurer into the Unseen [...] Shall he be condemned to wander in the realms of illusion? Shall he be turned back on to the planes of form, or shall he be permitted to pass on into the Light?” -- Dion Fortune

The Tree of Life and the Four Worlds in the A.·.A.·. system

Anima and Animus

Just like we needed the shadow to reach Yetzirah, we’ll need a different guide to travel from Yetzirah to Briah. In Yetzirah, the guide is the unconscious anima/animus archetype. Whereas the shadow contains the personal unconscious contents we repress and neurotically project onto others, the post-psychotic whose base has been established in Yetzirah needs to integrate a deeper part of the unconscious. This part is usually positive and results in sexual desire when projected onto others. It is the things we desire in others. It is personal power that has been cut from us. We have to bridge the divide and turn the two into one.

That is to say, to reach Briah we need to balance -in classical terms- our masculine and feminine sides. Does this mean there’s truly things that are “masculine” and “feminine”? Absolutely not. It means that due to our gender socialization there’s parts of us that we’ve suppressed because they didn’t match whatever was expected of us. This is a consequence of social and cultural norms and the narrowness of such structures, specifically those related with gender socialization.

The anima/animus work involves taking ownership of those parts of us that form the basis of our sexual desire towards others (remember that Yesod is strongly associated with sexuality!). In addition to the astral relationship with the anima/animus, it seems to be common that a romantic relationship is involved. Usually we project our anima/animus onto our lover, but we must learn to detach it, and this is the meaning of the Ordeal of the Siren/Vampire. Later, after we’ve already detached the anima/animus from our lovers, we will have to incarnate it and integrate it.

At least in the case of male magicians, such anima is as well Hadit and the Kundalini snake. This has far-reaching implications for our magickal practice. This isn’t just detaching the anima/animus from our lovers, but there is a deep work with this archetype in Yetzirah, the astral world.

“I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all.” -- Aleister Crowley, Liber AL II - 22

We need to bridge the divide that is symbolized by The Tower. This Major Arcana corresponds to the path between Hod and Netzach, and symbolically separates both sexes. When the conscious is united with the unconscious that the anima/animus represents, the gates to Briah (the sephiroth of Tiphareth, Geburah and Chesed) can be opened.

The Angel

The third aspect of the unconscious is the one that the western tradition and specifically the A.·.A.·. calls the Holy Guardian Angel, even though this term is used interchangeably to indicate every manifestation of the unconscious as a psychopomp who helps us penetrate the secrets of reality. This “Angel” roughly corresponds to what Jung called the Self.

This liberal use of the name “Holy Guardian Angel” is such that the meeting with the shadow is often called “Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel”. This easily becomes confusing, so it might be better to distinguish between these three phases of the unconscious guide. This is the aim of this article. Often those who’ve experienced the “Vision” mistakenly believe they attained to the “Knowledge and Conversation”, or otherwise think that the frightening travel through the realities astral currents appear to solidify is the crossing of the Abyss that separates Briah from Atziluth. Such things only add confusion to an already complex matter.

In the A.·.A.·. system, the first task of the magician that has rendered the veil that separates him from Briah, is to contact his Angel. This will happen in this third world of the Qabbalah. For the A.·.A.·. this event is so important that the grade that corresponds to Tiphareth is divided in two: “Adeptus Minor (without)” and “Adeptus Minor (within)”, depending on if the magician has attained to the “Knowledge and Conversation” of this guide that will take him to the Abyss.

Our conscious self seems to be unable to attain alone to the next world beyond their world. This happens in each of these three worlds: Assiah, Yetzirah and Briah. In order to reach the next world, we need to take the hand that is extended to us from our personal psychopomp and overcome his ordeals.

The shadow is the guide that manifests in Assiah and helps us open the gates of Yetzirah. The anima/animus is the guide that manifests in Yetzirah and helps us open the gates of Briah. And the Angel is the one who takes us from Briah to the Abyss.

No human guide, no guru, no magickal order. Nobody knows better the intricacies of your mind, nobody knows better which are the appropriate methods for you, nobody knows better how to guide you in the initiatory path, than your own unconscious.