Abyss and Back

by Sam Webster ©1988


This is a presentation of the Greater Transabyssal Crossing from the view of the anthropic, subjective Tree. In it the experience of perception is related to the establishment of the mage across the abyss and her return. This work was written in December of 1990 and edited in 2002.

Dear Soror Kia,

A while ago you asked me how I got back from across the Abyss. Since then I have been thinking about it, trying to see if I could answer in more depth than I did your question. The following is a stab at it, Happy Birthday!

The first problem before us really is “What is the Abyss?” Most of the descriptions I can recall are based on vague philosophical notions or mythopoetica that tends to stress the impossibility of crossing it. Neither of these will do for me. Indeed, it would be a useful exercise for some student to track the origins of this mythic image. The first because it is too vague to be clearly descriptive and thus prescriptive. The second because it conflicts with my understanding of the Qabalah, that which we have ‘received’.

There are several ways of viewing the Tree of Life, all of which are ‘true’ in the sense the Tree is ‘true’. There is the Tree as the image of the Cosmos, the Tree as the Process of Creation and the Tree as model of the Divine Anthropos or Human. It is this last view that we will be using here.

I begin all of my thinking about the Tree in the Anthropic mode with the center of my consciousness being in Kether. This is the place where ‘I’ come into being in every moment created anew. When this is expressed in a more completely articulated manner it includes the rest of the supernals which provide the most essential structure. In terms of this structure, Kether is the union of our moment to moment experience in a sense of ‘satisfaction’ that provides or ‘is’ the feeling of that unity. This unity gives us a sense of ‘I’-ness, a sense of selfhood. The two parts that compose this are of course Chokmah and Binah. In terms of this description, Chokmah is the subjective aim of the self that gives rise to its creation. In other words, our purpose for existing gives rise to our existence. Binah is here to be seen as the subjective form with which we perceive the datum of our experience. How we autonomously ‘feel,’ in the largest sense of the word, about our experience. Thus far all of this has been very subjective. The place where the objective world enters the picture is through Daath. Daath is the union of all of the objective data that we perceive into a singular, complex, perception. It is to this that Binah reacts and gives inward form to it while Chokmah determines the nature of that form in terms of originating purpose, and the self-Kether receives it onto the enjoyment of experience. Thus I see that the basis of my existence, in fact all existence, starts across “the Abyss.” Then what is the point in trying to “get back across” it?

To understand this we need to look at the nature of perception. Perception is the essential data of our existence and thence our consciousness. We can say this because in every moment that we know about we are perceiving something. If this is the case, how do we do it? This question becomes important because if we can trace our perceptions from the physical world to ourSelves which lies across the Abyss then perhaps we can unravel this problem. Perhaps then we can find the gap that the hermeticists are pointing to with the word-symbol “the Abyss”.

To begin with we have the perceiving self on one end of the chain. On the other end we have the ‘perceived’. For the sake of this discussion let us conceive that we are perceiving a red ball, held in one hand. But is that what we really are perceiving? No, not really. We know what is out there is a myriad of minute particles whirling about at fantastic speeds creating a structure that provides an interference pattern to resist the pressure of our hand. We also know that the ball is not really red, merely that the light reflected off of it is the frequency that our eyes recognize as red. In fact we are not perceiving a red ball at all. We are perceiving light and feeling resistance. Also it is not we-the-self that perceives the light and the resistance, in fact it is our retina and muscles and neurons that are perceiving the raw sensations and they transmit them to our brains where the data is assembled. But the data is not assembled purely. If it were, we would perceive a less than solid object, even though it is for our purposes solid. Some of the sensations have to get cut out as irrelevant to realizing that we have a ball in our hands. Otherwise we would get caught up in the minutia that is not relevant for us to be able to grasp or throw the ball. Perhaps this is what happens when we are on sufficient quantities of LSD to be overwhelmed by our sensations.

Also the data used to formulate ‘the red ball’ to our minds needs to be supplemented to give our minds, our selves, the impression of ‘the red ball’.  The sensations of a geometric form qualified by a color are then assembled with the rest of our experiences of balls and redness in a massive amount of processing which eventually results in our realization and experience that we have a red ball in our hands.

Thus we have four things here, the perceived thing(s), the raw sensations received by the body, the processing of that into usable form and then the Self which receives the perceptions. Where then is the Abyss?

It can’t be in the perceived, that is fundamentally a given. Nor can it be in the sensations, they are merely a product of our bodily hardware. Nor can it be in ourSelves since that is the simple receptor of all the rest of this chain. It must then be somewhere in the process of assembling the data into that which we think of as perceptions, perhaps in the very place where the assembled data is handed over to the subjective Self to experience it. Here, the method of assembling the data becomes very important as how this datum is presented to the subjective Self will have a profound impact on how the subjective self will incorporate it into its constitution during the process of coming into existence. However the subjective self also has the responsibility of giving subjective form to this datum, through Binah. The split that I see is between the objective realm and the subjective realm, and how the two relate. A classic expression of this difference is “is the glass half empty or half full?”

Our modes of assembling the data become habitual and are strongly conditioned by our upbringing and our culture. But if we could but choose another way of assembling that data we could begin to see the glass as half full instead of, habitually, half empty. Although the glass image is trivial it illustrates how we condition our perceptions by the way we process our information. If such a vast difference is perceptible in a conscious phenomenon how much more so in the unconscious? Normally, then, we are enmeshed in our process and unable to see the forest for the trees.

This is called maya by the hindu and samsara by the buddhists. The Tibetan, Vajrayana Buddhists points to this most clearly when they say that nirvana is samsara. Then we can see with William Blake that “if the doors of perception were cleansed, all would be seen for what it is, infinite and holy.” The trick is to use the accurate translation for maya: it is not illusion in the sense of falsehood and unreality but more delusion from the inaccurate assembly of information, thus maya might better be translated as media, as in the media of the artist.

What is happening when we are crossing the Abyss is we are withdrawing ourselves from the processing of the data harvested by our senses and often as well from our senses entirely. We step outside of our usual way of relating to the world by not relating to the world. What we are relating to is that which is non-temporal, which the Ancients called eternal or immortal, but most often referred to as the divine. We are then given the opportunity to dwell permanently in the divine. However, here is no actuality, simply the whole of potentiality. If we wish to actually exist we then have to come back down the Tree into the world.

But we have torn up our connections with the way we used to process our data. Now we have two basic ways of returning. We can either plug back into our old ways again, living with the vast contrasts now available from having existed without those modes. This tends to make them profoundly irritating. The other option is to either before or after having made one’s first great leap to assemble a new, more effective (or desirable) system of processing. If done beforehand, I contend this is where you will land after the Abyss crossing. If done afterwards, one would need to again cross and then land in the new system there after or by some other means integrate the new system.

This re-systemization I see as the key to being able to articulate ourselves upon returning from the Abyss. There is a vast distance between our perceiving selves and that which we perceive. Similarly there is a vast distance between the willing selves and that which we would effect with our wills. If we can not guide our wills down through the labyrinth of our processes and out into the world we can not be effective. For this reason I feel it is vital to develop the various tools of magick, mind and physical crafting that we acquire the ability to work our will.

I hope this has been of some use to you.

E-mail the author at webster@concrescent.net.

Return to the Index Page