One Mass, Four Worlds

T Polyphilus

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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The present paper assumes a working knowledge of qabalistic symbolism and correspondences. There has been some discourse to date regarding the "proper" assignment of the Tree of Life pattern to the physical design and layout of the Temple in the Gnostic Mass of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. But any persistence in the study of the Mass quickly reveals that there are many different methods of drawing such correspondences. Nor is it obvious that any one design of this type should invalidate the others. In what follows, I propose several different sets of assignments, with the object of realizing the Four Worlds of the Qabalah as reflected in four Trees in the blueprint of the Gnostic Mass Temple.

The Atziluthic Tree, representing the primordial World of Emanation, is traced in the Ceremony of the Introit. It is upon and above the High Altar, within the eastern shrine. This Tree has Kether at the Stele, Tiphareth at the Book, Yesod at the Graal, and Malkuth at the Paten. The top rank of candles are Chokmah and Binah, the lower rank of candles are Chesed and Pachad, and the roses are Netzach and Hod.

In Lurianic Kabbalah, the World of Atziluth is the first derivation from the primordial cosmos that is Adam Kadmon. Thus for this view of the Temple, the Stele is the Crown, the Book is the Heart, the Graal is the sex, and the Paten is the foot of the Tree. The Atziluthic Tree is a map of the mechanism which underlies the homologous patterns of all that follows in the Mass, just as human morphogenesis adumbrates the experience and processes of human life. This arrangement in the Mass is the first and "brightest" of the various Trees, and only the Priestess as virgin Sophia comes into contact with it. (It is effaced or obscured upon her return to the shrine with the Priest.)

Atziluth is the world of archetypes free from any descent into phenomena. Its Tree centers on The Book of the Law as an artifact of intelligible, i.e. noumenal, sublimity. Atziluth is the very body of God, shadowed forth in the cakes and wine, the body which can only be perceived by the Chiah or pure life-force.

The Creative World of Briah is represented by a Tree which centers its Tiphareth on the High Altar, decorated with a "fleur-de-lys in gold, a sunblaze, or other suitable emblem." So the Stele is still Kether, and the Book on the super-altar is Daath, i.e. Knowledge. The great candles are the pillars of Mercy and Severity, represented in Chesed and Geburah. Yesod is the top of the dais within the veil, and the temple floor below the steps is Malkuth. The Gnostic Mass Veil represents the outer Veil of Initiation in this scheme, crossing the path of tau, and concealing the higher Tree from the profanum of Malkuth.

This Briatic Tree is especially evident during the first part of the Ceremony of the Opening of the Veil, i.e. before the Veil is closed. The Priest is then on the path of samekh, serving as the alchemical angel who lustrates and censes the priestess. The enthroned Priestess is on the path of gimel overshadowed by teth, thus taking on the potency of Mau or Sekhmet.

Briah is the World most associated with the divine Throne, and so its Tree centers on the High Altar as the throne of the Priestess. The World of Creation is apprehended by the intuition, or Neschemah.

The least evident of the four Trees in the Mass is the one for the World of Yetzirah, or Formation, in which the Veil of the shrine represents the Veil of Paroketh. This Tree is particularly appropriate to the later part of the Ceremony of the Opening of the Veil, after the Priest's circumambulations. In this World, Malkuth is the space before the Tomb, and Yesod is the "Deacon's station" between the font and the small altar. The space between the veil and the High Altar, where the Priestess stands for the Great Invocation, is Tiphareth. Geburah and Gedulah are the pillars. The Superaltar with Stele is Daath.

The supernal triad of Yetzirah remains metaphysical, and must be hypothesized beyond the phenomena of the physical temple: Babalon/Binah, Chaos/Chokmah and Aion/Kether. Compare this arrangement to the Neophyte ceremony of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In that temple, the pillars are below the dais, and they represent Netzach and Hod. Malkuth is attributed to the central double cube. While the officers on the dais are representatives of the Inner Order, and therefore of the Moral Triad (Tiphareth, Geburah, Chesed); there is no representation of the supernal sephiroth in that temple.

Yetzirah is the world of the angels: the imaginal world, in the terminology of Henry Corbin. The Tree of this world centers on the space before the High Altar, where the Priestess and the Priest draw on the supernal entities that resist concrete location, despite the vivid presence of those entities when invoked. Yetzirah is perceived through the Ruach, the mediating spirit or breath of reflective consciousness.

The Tree that comprehends the entire Gnostic Mass temple represents the World of Assiah, or Manifestation. It has Malkuth at the Tomb, Yesod at the Font, Tiphareth at the small altar, Kether at the super-altar/stele, Binah at the north pillar and Chokmah at the south. The Veil (of the shrine) represents the Veil of the Abyss in this scheme, and the veil of the Tomb corresponds to the Outer Veil of Initiation that was represented by the Veil of the shrine in Briah. The Tree of Assiah is especially pertinent to the Office of the Collects and to popular communion.

In the World of Manifestation, the enthroned Priestess is at the juncture of gimel and daleth. The Deacon intones the Collects from the intersection of Samekh and Peh. The Children offering the elements of the eucharist are on the paths of vau (cake) and cheth (goblet of wine).

The World of Manifestation is sometimes characterized as the World of "Action." It is the World in which entities become material or concrete. Its Tree centers on the altar of incense, in its form of a double cube. The double cube has a surface of ten square units, representing the Sephiroth, and it is itself generally a symbol of the Tenth Sephirah, which is the Kingdom of terrestrial phenomena, the Sphere of the Elements. Assiah is the object of the perceiving faculties of the Nephesch or "animal soul." It is the World that has been pulled over one's senses, or as Crowley calls it in Magick, "the world of material illusion." (p. 163)

So each of the Trees descending through the Four Worlds is apparently "larger" than the one before it, expanding towards the western Tomb in the progression of the ceremonies through the course of the Mass. But they all begin with and reflect the pure and universal pattern of the original emanations, so that as each Tree dissolves into its grosser counterpart, we offer in sacrifice the body of God.

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