The Souls
 

Just as there are competing schools of thought about what constitutes a soul, there are different views of how many souls there are, exactly, anyway, and how to assign them onto the Tree. One view, the more common modern thinking, assigns four souls to the four worlds in a descending order of the soul's proximity to the Infinite, thus:

AtziluthChiah (חיה)Vitality
BriahNeshamah (נשמה)Breath, the soul per se
YetzirahRuach (רוח)Wind-spirit, the intellectual spirit
AssiahNephesh (נפש)Animal soul, the soul of the body

(For now, don't worry about what those souls are. We'll get to that in a moment.)

There's another system, however, that recognizes a fifth soul, Yechidah (uniqueness), that is higher even than Chiah. That system has a bit of confusion around exactly which soul goes where, but it generally associates Yechidah with Kether, making it the soul of Atziluth. Then it associates Chiah with Chokmah and Neshamah with Binah, making them together the soul of Briah. That arrangement looks like this:

AtziluthYechidah (יחידה)Uniqueness
BriahChiah (חיה) and Neshamah (נשמה)Vitality (as Chokmah) and Breath (as Binah)
YetzirahRuach (רוח)Wind-spirit
AssiahNephesh (נפש)Animal soul

In Hebrew, these words mean:

  • Nephesh, נפש: soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, appetite, emotion, passion. This is the lowest order of soul. Every living thing is born with it.
  • Ruach, רוח: breath, wind, spirit. This soul contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil. In Genesis I:2, this is the "spirit of God" [1] that "moved upon the face of the waters".
  • Neshamah, נשמה: breath. This soul distinguishes man from all other life forms. It relates to the intellect, and allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. In Isaiah XXX:33, this is the "breath" of the Lord [2] that kindles the fire in the place of burning (Tophet).
  • Chiah, חיה: living thing, animal. This is the part of the soul that allows one to have an awareness of the divine life force itself.
  • Yechidah, יחידה: one, only one, solitary. This is the highest plane of the soul, in which one can achieve the fullest possible union with God.

The Zohar identifies the lowest three souls, saying that Nephesh exists in everything that breathes, but that Ruach and Neshamah are not implanted at birth, but are slowly created over time depending on the individual's actions and beliefs. A Kabbalistic Mishnah [3] called Raaya Meheimna identifies Chiah and Yechidah.

While Hermetic Qabalah generally uses the system of four souls, I prefer the system of five. Among other things, it allows equating souls with Tarot court cards: Nephesh = Princesses, Ruach = Princes, Neshamah = Queens, Chiah = Knights, and Yechidah = Aces.

So far, so good; but both systems leave Ruach covering quite a lot of ground, all six Sephiroth that are Yetzirah. I have questions about that division. It doesn't make a lot of sense according to how I view sense and sensibility. So here is an alternative for you to consider.

(While reading this, bear in mind that the system I propose here is at odds with every other system. Moreover, it presents problems for the common magickal operation of "setting the daughter (Malkuth) on the throne of the mother (Binah)". I don't claim that this system is correct (nor do I claim it's wrong), although it is taught in at least one branch of A∴A∴. I present it for you to consider.)

Think for a moment about the body and the things that make it run. First, most basic, there's the meat, that mass of bone, sinew, and muscle that bleeds when you cut it and objects when you stub its toe. Then there are the autonomous systems that run the meat: breathing, the heartbeat, the complex dance of hormones that cause emotions. Then there's the self-aware bit that interacts with the world, interpreting sensory input, and deciding that why yes, a beer would be just the thing right about now. And finally there's the part we don't generally get to meet, but we're sure is there somewhere, our higher Self: the super-conscious, the part that communes with angels, and which — if we could only talk to it — could teach us to do the same.

Now we'll tack some extra terminology on to those bits: consciousness versus unconsciousness. The conscious part is the third area I mentioned, the part that interacts with the world. That's the part that is the I you mean when you say, I think, and the part doing the thinking. All the other parts are the unconscious[4].

Of those, the autonomous systems and the meat work together to make up the subconscious. They're the feeling part of you, the part that knows anger, fear, or lust. They're also where you store your lower self, your demons.

The last part, the super-conscious, is the higher Self, that seventh Chakra, your conduit to the Almighty. This is what Thelemites call your Holy Guardian Angel.

One characteristic of these four bodily systems is that they have a hard time talking to one another. Communication between the parts is, by and large, only a distant echo of what we normally think we mean by communicating. The subconscious talks to the conscious in dreams or emotions; and the super-conscious seems mostly not to talk to the conscious at all. Or, if it does, it's in a language so rarefied that the conscious doesn't seem to hear it: and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:12

With that in mind, let's go back and look at the five souls.

The super-conscious, the holy parts of us, make sense as a Holy Trinity, just the way we already saw them: Yechidah as Kether in Atziluth, with Chiah as Chokmah and Neshamah as Binah in Briah. These are the Godhead.

However, suppose that Ruach is not the entirety of Yetzirah as we are taught. Suppose we instead look at the Tree's Triads, of which there are two in Yetzirah. Those two triads are governed, respectively, by Tiphareth and by Yesod — the Sun and the Moon. The Sun is the seat of Intellect, the Moon of Emotion ... or, being as blatant as I can about the similes, they are the conscious and the subconscious. They are separate systems, and as such we might associate them with separate souls.

The Sun, the conscious, is Ruach. That's the part that interacts with the world and strives to understand and control it, even as did Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God, when It created the world.

Then the Moon, the unconscious, is Nephesh, the animal soul. We call Nephesh an animal soul because even animals have it: they have emotions, memories, desires even as we do. They partake of this slice of divinity with us, but lack the consciousness that gives them a sense of self that can think about itself — the Ruach.

Now think back to the problem I mentioned about how hard it is for our subconscious to communicate effectively with our conscious. We see that written into the Tree, too: there, between the two Triads in Yetzirah, is the veil of Paroketh, also known as the veil of illusion. How much more of a clue do we really need in order to figure out that these two Triads are those two souls?[6]

But now we've run out of souls. What do we do with Malkuth? For this, we turn to an element I haven't brought into the discussion yet, the Guph.

Guph means to be hollow, a shell.[7] It is the vessel waiting to be filled, the flesh waiting to be animated by the Spirit. How better to describe the meat, which until the breath (Ruach) of God breathes life into it is merely a lump of protoplasm?

Even though Guph is not a soul in any sense, we might assign the Guph to Malkuth, the realm of physical matter, where other systems set Nephesh in that place. This lets the souls animate the shell, pouring down from Infinity to inform the body. My sense for this is not that the body is merely soulless clay, but rather that it is the suit that the composite Soul wears to communicate with other Souls. The five souls that comprise that Soul, I leave to inhabit the higher realms, so even as the Light pours down finally through Yesod to form the created Universe in Malkuth, the souls pour into the body to animate it.

Now we could argue, "But Yetzirah is one world, it should have only one soul." And we could say that Assiah, being a world, should have a representative soul. What about that?

Yes, Yetzirah is one world, but it contains two Triads. The two Triads are ruled by different influences, though they are two parts of one system. They are a dyad in their own way, just as Chokmah and Binah are a dyad in Briah. And for all of that, Briah is similarly one world, but the five-soul model places two souls in it, Chiah and Neshamah: vitality and breath, again two parts of one system.

As for the idea that Assiah should have a soul, look at a rock. Find the soul in the rock, and you'll find the soul in Assiah. —Which is to say, there is a place where Soul isn't.[8] There is a veil we must cross, a chasm we must bridge, to breathe life into an inanimate form. Gross matter is the rock, and it sits alone. The animating spark comes to it from above.

As with any other system, these figures for comparison only. Your mileage may vary. And again let me point out that I am not claiming this is a correct system; rather, it's a point for you to ponder.


Read more about:

Worlds | Veils | Pillars | Triads | Soul


[1]רוח אלהים, Ruach Elohim
[2]נפשת־יהוה, Nephashat-YHVH
[3]משנה, "repetition", from שנה, to study, review
[4]Even the meat, I mean: you can sense many parts of your body if you work at it, but most of the time they're just there and you pay them no mind. Even when you do sense them, all you really have to work with is what the autonomous systems tell you about them. The meat can tell you that you've stubbed your toe, but it can't say anything about exactly what's wrong with the toe other than it hurts.
[5]Paroketh is a recent addition to the Tree, and there's some discussion about its provenance. The word isn't Hebrew and its origin is obscure, though its meaning is often given as the Veil of the Temple. Some deny even that Paroketh is a veil, calling it instead a state, or entity. Others assert that it is too a veil, calling it the Veil of Fire that must be crossed to pass from the spheres of Water to those of Fire. I subscribe to this latter theory, and posit water as the subconscious and fire as the conscious.
[6]3,For he is ever a sun, and she a moon. Liber AL I:16
Vau (also the Tarot Princes) is in Tiphareth, and Heh (also the Tarot Princesses) belongs in Yesod.
[7]The one place it appears in the Bible, in Nehemiah VII:3, it means to shut or to close. The noun "guphah", גופה, formed from it means "body".
[8]Besides politics and organized religion, I mean.
[1]רוח אלהים, Ruach Elohim
[2]נפשת־יהוה, Nephashat-YHVH
[3]משנה, "repetition", from שנה, to study, review
[4]Even the meat, I mean: you can sense many parts of your body if you work at it, but most of the time they're just there and you pay them no mind. Even when you do sense them, all you really have to work with is what the autonomous systems tell you about them. The meat can tell you that you've stubbed your toe, but it can't say anything about exactly what's wrong with the toe other than it hurts.
[5]Paroketh is a recent addition to the Tree, and there's some discussion about its provenance. The word isn't Hebrew and its origin is obscure, though its meaning is often given as the Veil of the Temple. Some deny even that Paroketh is a veil, calling it instead a state, or entity. Others assert that it is too a veil, calling it the Veil of Fire that must be crossed to pass from the spheres of Water to those of Fire. I subscribe to this latter theory, and posit water as the subconscious and fire as the conscious.
[6]3,For he is ever a sun, and she a moon. Liber AL I:16
Vau (also the Tarot Princes) is in Tiphareth, and Heh (also the Tarot Princesses) belongs in Yesod.
[7]The one place it appears in the Bible, in Nehemiah VII:3, it means to shut or to close. The noun "guphah", גופה, formed from it means "body".
[8]Besides politics and organized religion, I mean.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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An Interactive QabalahThe Mother lettersSeven of Swords A Brief Introduction to QabalahNepheshSix of Swords Kether, the CrownNeshamahFive of Swords Chokmah, WisdomThe Veil of ParokethFour of Swords Binah, UnderstandingPermutations of the NameThree of Swords Daath, KnowledgeThe Three PillarsTwo of Swords QliphothThe ProfaneAce of Disks Chesed, MercyReflectionKnight of Disks Geburah, StrengthRuachQueen of Disks Tiphareth, BeautySefer Yetzirah, the Book of FormationPrince of Disks Netzach, VictorySeverityPrincess of Disks Hod, SplendorThe simple lettersTen of Disks Yesod, FoundationWhat is a Soul?Nine of Disks Malkuth, KingdomThe SoulsEight of Disks AlefThe Supernal TriadSeven of Disks BetThe FoolSix of Disks GimelThe MagusFive of Disks DalethThe PriestessFour of Disks HehThe EmpressThree of Disks VauThe EmperorTwo of Disks ZainThe HierophantAdjustment ChethThe LoversAeon TethThe ChariotArt YodAdjustmentThe Chariot KaphThe HermitDeath LamedFortuneDevil MemLustThe Emperor NunThe Hanged ManThe Empress SamekhDeathThe Fool AyinArtFortune PehThe DevilThe Hanged Man TzaddiThe TowerThe Hermit QophThe StarThe Hierophant ReshThe MoonThe Lovers ShinThe SunLust TauThe AeonThe Magus The Qabalistic WorldsThe UniverseThe Moon Atziluth, ArchetypesAce of WandsThe Priestess Briah, the CreativeKnight of WandsThe Star Yetzirah, the FormativeQueen of WandsThe Sun Assiah, the ActivePrince of WandsThe Tower The court cardsPrincess of WandsThe Universe The AcesTen of WandsHebrew alphabet transliterations The KnightsNine of WandsThe Triads The QueensEight of WandsThe Qabalistic Veils The PrincesSeven of WandsThe Name of Names, YHVH The PrincessesSix of WandsAlef The TensFive of WandsAyin The NinesFour of WandsBet The EightsThree of WandsCheth The SevensTwo of WandsDaleth The SixesAce of CupsThe double letters The FivesKnight of CupsGimel The FoursQueen of CupsHeh The ThreesPrince of CupsKaph The TwosPrincess of CupsLamed The 32 Paths of WisdomTen of CupsMem The AbyssNine of CupsThe mother letters Adam Kadmon, the Body of GodEight of CupsNun AlchemySeven of CupsPeh The Alef-Bet in Space and TimeSix of CupsQoph The Ari TreeFive of CupsResh The Astral TriadFour of CupsSamekh The double lettersThree of CupsShin The Ethical TriadTwo of CupsThe simple letters the Flash of LightAce of SwordsTau The Gra TreeKnight of SwordsTeth The 72 Hidden Names of GodQueen of SwordsThe Tree of Life The Tree of LifePrince of SwordsTzaddi The Hebrew alef-bet letter classesPrincess of SwordsVau MercyTen of SwordsYod MildnessNine of SwordsZain The Presence of the Most HighEight of Swords