by Guru Sri Shukla
©2009 by Guru Sri
Home

Lesson One

Hello, I'm Guru Sri Shukla. Welcome to The Key To It All: "Everything you need to know to Understand." The ultimate and overriding purpose of this series of talks is to teach, in a practical way, the process that is commonly referred to as enlightenment. By the end of these lessons the student will have the basic knowledge necessary to orient himself or herself with regards to this process called enlightenment and to make an informed decision as to how to proceed in life with regard to this process. What qualifies me to produce such a series of talks? Simply put, I have attained a state of enlightenment and have perceived an efficient way to communicate to others the factors involved in this process. I would hasten to add, though, that although I am enlightened, I am not perfect--far from it. Enlightenment does not make a person perfect. I am still a human being and have many flaws. This is one common misperception, one common misunderstanding when it comes to enlightenment, that it makes a person perfect. It does not. Another common misperception about enlightenment is that it is rare. Now, while enlightenment is certainly not present among the majority of people, it is still a fairly common occurrence. And by fairly common, I mean that the vast majority who sincerely strive for enlightenment do eventually attain it. The sad truth is, though, that most people who claim to be working toward enlightenment do not take the work seriously. They do not really want to know the rules governing the process, and if presented with this information in an accurate way, rage against it, since what they are really seeking is not enlightenment, but rather an affirmation that what they already believe is true. This course, then, is not for that category of person. It is not for the person who wants to have his pre-existing beliefs reinforced. This course is for the person who sincerely wants to know the truth about the process of enlightenment and wants to be able to make an intelligent, informed decision in his or her own life regarding that process.

So while I am enlightened, do not take that to mean that I am saying that I am some perfectly chaste, super-moral, supernatural, all-knowing being, because I am not. I am not claiming to be that at all. This is yet another misconception about enlightenment--that it somehow makes a person virtuous or righteous, or otherwise incapable of doing evil. This is simply not the case. There are plenty of enlightened people in this world who do great harm to others, but I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll discuss exactly what enlightenment is in much more detail in the fifth and sixth lessons of this course, but first we need to take a closer look at the origins behind this idea of enlightenment.

The literature on the subject of enlightenment is even more confusing than it is vast. Much of this literature is pure rubbish and does not help anyone attain enlightenment. It is my intention that these basic, foundational lessons will help make sense of this confusion and assist the student, or perhaps we should more properly say the aspirant, in discovering the pearls buried within that great trash heap of teachings on this subject.

When I was in college, I had a biology professor--he taught physiology-- who told us there were two kinds of scientists in the world. The first kind of scientist was called a "splitter." This was the kind of scientist who enjoyed labeling everything and noticing the differences, even the minor, minute differences between things. For example, a splitter might categorize the patterns of the veins found on the leaf of a particular plant and contrast that with the pattern of veins found on the leaf of a closely related plant in order to make a distinction between those two similar plants, in order to be able to distinguish between those two particular plants. So the activity they are engaging in is splitting. They are pointing out differences between things that are relatively similar. The kind of scientists that we call splitters spend their time coming up with distinct labels for everything so as to be able to distinguish one thing from another by its label.

The other kind of scientist, he contended, was a "lumper." A lumper, rather than look at the differences between things and come up with labels to describe those differences, would describe the patterns of similarity between things that were not necessarily similar. A lumper would examine the recurring patterns found in nature and take great delight in finding these same patterns in seemingly unrelated areas of the natural world. A lumper, then, would look for similarities in patterns in things that were clearly different rather than focus on labeling the differences between things. While both kinds of scientists are necessary for science to function properly--I mean we need labels to describe what we are examining, and we need to evaluate the patterns that we find in nature in order to increase our understanding of the natural laws behind those patterns--the kind of science that we will be going into here will be heavy on lumping and light on splitting. This does not mean we will be able to proceed without learning some new terminology--that will definitely be necessary--but we will attempt to keep the jargon to a minimum and emphasize the practical application of the patterns that we will be examining. I must caution you first, though, that what we are doing here cannot strictly be called science at all, because science, at least in my opinion, over the last one hundred to two hundred years--and really this is a trend that has been going on for at least four or five centuries, but especially over the last one to two centuries--science has become an extremely corrupt and really anti-scientific endeavor. It has become so separated from the principles of science that it's amazing we still call it science.

Most of us learned in school that many centuries ago religion was the focus of life, and science was looked down upon, and more than occasionally scientists were punished or even sometimes killed for pursuing scientific experiments and expounding scientific theories. I'm sure that school children are still taught how Galileo was hounded by the Catholic Church for his support of Copernicus, among other beliefs, and how religion all-too-often attacked and rejected scientific discoveries--to our detriment--or so we are taught. And there is some truth to this, that religion, in the past, has regarded science as an enemy, and some religions still today regard science as an enemy. It's also true that science has provided humanity with great advances that have led to improved living conditions for most of the world. But, more recently, science has begun to show a very intolerant and irrational side that had been previously attributed to religion.

Science, in this day and age, has become more ruled by corporations and politicians who are subservient to the ebb and flow of money rather than a sincere desire to expand knowledge and bring practical application of that knowledge to our species in general. So we are definitely not discussing science here. Scientists in the past certainly did discuss and debate the subjects that we will be discussing, and such debates were not necessarily immediately rejected as non-scientific, as they would be today. But science nowadays is defined differently and is practiced differently than it was five hundred years ago or even two hundred years ago. So the areas that we are discussing here with regard to enlightenment fall in the realm of religion rather than science, and I would argue, rather than even philosophy. Another warning I must give at the outset is that the areas we are going to go into in this course are vast. They have many, many differing, alternative interpretations, many of which are completely valid and correct. For example, when we discuss the Qabalistic tree of life in this lesson, we will see that there are varying interpretations about what makes up the so-called Four Worlds. There are varying layouts of the ten spheres of the Tree of Life, and there are different interpretations of the Qabalistic terms used for the soul. This does not mean that one interpretation is correct and the other is mistaken. It merely means that one interpretation is using the labels or the symbols of discussion in a slightly different manner than another. We'll get to more concrete examples on this in just a bit.

I should also point out here at the beginning that we will be reviewing a large amount of information with many interconnected concepts. These concepts, this material that we will be reviewing does not follow a linear framework. Therefore, it's practically impossible to present this information in the standard way that so many people have become accustomed to over the last couple of centuries, and especially over the last few decades. This method, involving starting with the very simple concepts first and gradually increasing the complexity of the ideas presented and building one idea upon another--that method with this material will not work. Since these ideas in and of themselves are complex and interconnected it will be impossible to accomplish a linear progression of these ideas. They simply don't fit together that way. I will try as best I can, though, to present this information in that manner as much as I can, but the nature of the information itself is going to limit my ability to succeed at that task. The student may be very confused by something I mention in the first lesson, for example, only to get a flash of comprehension when I discuss something that is interrelated in the fifth or the sixth lesson. So if something seems confusing in the first or the second lesson, as the student continues to learn more of the information and see the ways that the information is connected, the level of confusion should drastically go down by the fifth and the sixth lessons, and I hope that by the end of the course the clarity of what I'm presenting will be obvious.

I will, as best I can, attempt to present this information in as clear a fashion as possible, and I will take great pains to define my terms as the lessons proceed. So what exactly, then, are we going to be studying? Well, the simplest way to put is might be that we will be studying the religious perspective of ancient man with a focus on their view of the soul and of the enlightenment process. From India, from the eastern world, we will be discussing the Vedas. The Vedas are the oldest literary works known to our species, and we will be discussing the derivative works, the derivative disciplines of the Vedas, namely Vedanta, Yoga, and Ayurveda, and we'll be going into each of these areas more deeply as we proceed. From the west, this ancient knowledge has been passed down primarily through Qabalah, which is a body of knowledge that predates religion and has been incorporated extensively into various fields such as Hermetica, ancient Greek philosophy, and Freemasonry. In order to show the practical application of what these ancient priests and philosophers taught, we'll also be studying more recent advances in modern psychology, such as the study of hypnosis and the nature of trance, as well as how the body and mind interact with one another. We will also show very clearly how these more recent scientific discoveries in the area of psychology tie in brilliantly with the knowledge put forth by the ancients.

Let's start, then by examining the ancients' concept of reality, of existence. How did they define reality? How did they describe the totality of existence? Let's examine the ancient texts. The Vedas, as many of you probably already know, are the oldest known books or series of books known to our species. They were originally a series of hymns passed down for many thousands of years--we don't know exactly how many thousands of years--but they were passed down orally from father to son, and in some instances the sons and the fathers had no idea what information they were transmitting as they did not speak Sanskrit, and the hymns were created in Sanskrit. The people passing on the information often spoke a different language and yet transferred these hymns phonetically from generation to generation. For many centuries in India it was forbidden, it was illegal to write down the contents of these Vedic hymns. Eventually of course, they were written down, although there are still parts of the Vedas that have not yet been written down and are still passed on only orally. And then came Vedanta. Vedanta essentially means "the end of the Vedas" or "the conclusion of the Vedas." In other words, Vedanta is a word generally applied to the interpretation of what is contained in the Vedas by those who extensively studied the Vedas. I will, in this course, use those words more or less interchangeably, the Vedas and Vedanta, although strictly speaking the Vedantic literature and the Vedic literature are different.

Now, in the Vedantic literature, or the Vedic literature existence is spoken of in terms of something called Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat is spelled S-A-T, Chit is C-H-I-T, and Ananda is A-N-A-N-D-A. This Sat-Chit-Ananda term is sometimes referenced by the term Brahman, B-R-A-H-M-A-N, which is a word representing ultimate reality. While the word Brahman is a reference to a sacred formula, or to a pattern that reveals supreme reality or ultimate reality, in the Vedantic literature you will often see it referred to as the supreme god. This can be a confusing point, since the term that is used for the creator god of the Vedas is Brahma, B-R-A-H-M-A. And these Sanskrit words for Brahman and Brahma are really two different words, two different roots of the words, and are not really linguistically related, although I have seen some authors use the words interchangeably, and that can lead to confusion, so I do want to clarify that point that Brahman and Brahma are really two different concepts, although you may see sometimes in the Vedantic literature a blurring of that distinction. Brahman is more a reference to a sacred formula revealing supreme reality. Brahma is the creator god of the Vedas.

So what exactly is Sat-Chit-Ananda? Well, the view, the perspective, of these ancient priests was that the entire universe, the entirety of existence, including anything that might not be in the physical universe, was still included under this Sat-Chit-Ananda formula. Sat is often translated as "truth" or "existence." In actuality, Sat is a reference to the here-and-now, the physical universe--the entire physical universe. It is therefore dependent upon time, because the physical universe exists only in the present. The physical universe does not exist in the past, and it does not exist in the future. The physical universe of the past is merely a thought once the here-and-now is gone. The physical universe exists only in that brief moment of the here-and-now. Once that universe is no longer in the present, it moves exclusively into the thought world. We in the here-and-now, in the physical universe, have access only to the here-and-now. We cannot pick up a stone that exists only in the future and does not exist in the present. We can only pick up and examine a stone or a leaf, or anything, only as long as it exists in the here-and-now. That is the physical universe, that is what is meant by Sat. It is dependent upon time, and the only time it exists is now, in the here-and-now.

So in other words there are a whole series of nows, of present moments, passing through time, but once that physical universe has passed through that present moment, it is no longer Sat. It is no longer in the material world. It is in the thought world. If it's in the past, then all we have left of it is a thought. That brings us to Chit. Chit, or sometimes it is pronounced Chitta, C-H-I-T-T-A, is commonly translated as "the mind stuff," sometimes translated merely as "thought." So we have Sat, which is the here-and-now, we have Chit, which is the thought world, that is to say a world that exists only in mind, but contains specific elements or forms which we call thought. Chit, then, when contrasted with Ananda, and Ananda is generally translated as "bliss," Ananda may be thought of as that mind or that mind world which is void of impressions, which is void of forms or characteristics or attributes. It is pure bliss that is void of matter, and it would also be void of any thought content, and yet the label of "bliss" really isn't fully accurate either, since bliss has psychological characteristics to it, has attributes to it. The word "bliss" as a translation was probably chosen as the label for this concept as it is a frequent occurrence when a person first attains the highest forms of samadhi. It is the feeling, or kinesthetic, pattern that one experiences or can point to as a characteristic or attribute prior to going into a particular state of samadhi which is commonly referred to as "Shivadarshana." We'll discuss this more when we discuss the nature of samadhi in the fifth and sixth lessons.

This explanation of Sat-Chit-Ananda, then, brings us to an overarching conclusion, and it is a conclusion that other students of Vedanta have come to as well, although, as I mentioned previously, there is not one hundred percent agreement on these things, and these are vast areas with many differing opinions and interpretations. But again, we're being lumpers, not splitters, here. The conclusion, then that we can draw from the concept, the formula, of Sat-Chit-Ananda is that this is a representation of the entirety of existence, and is related directly to the idea of mind. That is to say, Sat, Chit, and Ananda can all be seen as a function of mind, or of being related to the concept of mind. There are those, of course, who will disagree with this conclusion. Many Vedantic scholars will readily agree that matter is a function of mind, that matter, or the physical universe, is a mode of mind, and they will also readily agree that Chit, being the mind stuff, is absolutely related to the concept of mind, but what many Vedantic scholars still have a problem with is the concept of Ananda being related to mind. Many scholars in Vedanta will express the belief that Ananda is something beyond the mind. I would argue that certainly Ananda is something that is beyond thought, Ananda is something that is void of characteristics or attributes, but it is not necessarily beyond mind, because mind can exist in the absence of thought, in the absence of form or attributes or characteristics.

Sat-Chit-Ananda, then, can be seen as being a function of the mind, either of a creator, or being the function of the collective minds of every being in existence. The bottom line here is that existence is related directly to the mind through this concept or formula of Sat-Chit-Ananda. So, again, Sat, the here-and-now, the material world, is a function of mind. That, although it is widely accepted in the Vedantic literature, may be a difficult concept for many people who have been exposed only to western thinking. This idea of matter being a mode of mind is a well established concept in eastern thought. The formula Sat-Chit-Ananda should not be thought of necessarily as being three separate things because within Vedanta it is also taught that Sat-Chit-Ananda are actually all one thing, they are all one concept. We artificially separate them out into the three categories. I could go into a number of specific examples of this concept in eastern thought that matter, or the physical universe is really just a mode of mind, it is a solidified form of thought, if you will, but rather than do that I'll simply point to one very well known Vedantic scholar, Swami Sivananda, who is very well known in India, and I would recommend that the listener read or at least look over Sivananda's entitled "Mind, Its Mysteries and Control." In that work Swami Sivananda specifically addresses this concept of matter being a mode of mind. As I say I could go over a number of very specific examples from a number of different Vedantic scholars, but we could end up having a twenty hour or a fifty hour course instead of a six or seven hour course, so I will simply refer the listener to that specific work of Sivananda, and certainly a search on the internet will bring up other similar opinions regarding the nature of reality within the Vedantic framework.

So how does this Sat-Chit-Ananda concept or formula being related to mind, that is to say, showing that ultimate reality is all related in one way or another to mind, how does that compare with western thought? How does that compare with the ancient priests and ancient philosophers from the west? We stated previously that in Vedanta there is not one hundred percent agreement on many of these concepts. When we examine Qabalah, which is really the oldest western knowledge or tradition, we will see that there is even less agreement. We stated previously that the Vedas were handed down generation to generation as hymns, and they were often handed down in a purely phonetic manner with the people transmitting the hymns sometimes not knowing at all what the content of the hymns that they were transmitting meant. They did not understand the language, sometimes, that they were transmitting. In Qabalah, the situation is even worse. In the Vedic transmission of the hymns there is or there appears to be a fair amount of consistency in the transmission of the information without distorting the information as it goes from one generation to the next. In the transmission of the knowledge contained in Qabalah, unfortunately this is not as much the case. That is to say, in Qabalah, there is a lot of disagreement about how various concepts should be interpreted, how various concepts should be defined, or how various concepts should be named.

The knowledge contained in Qabalah is also huge, similar to the vastness of the information contained in the Vedas and Vedanta. So we are going to pick a very limited area to go into otherwise we will never finish the course. Let's examine, first of all, then, the makeup of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. The Qabalistic Tree of Life, in essence, is a series of labels, a relatively small number of labels, identifying certain core concepts that the Qabalists felt were of extreme importance in understanding the nature of reality. In one sense, the Qabalistic Tree of Life can be used as a system of mnemonics that assists the student in ordering the universe, not merely the external universe, but ordering one's internal, mental universe as well. We'll get into more detail about this concept of ordering one's universe in the fifth and the sixth lessons, but for now, let's go over the main concepts of the Qabalistic Tree of Life.

First I guess I should point out that Qabalah, the word Qabalah, means "tradition" or "receiving" or "received doctrine." It was handed down for thousands of years orally, but not with the same rigorous preciseness that the Vedas were handed down. The Tree of Life, generally, is said to consist of ten spheres, and those ten spheres are often arranged in a particular pattern:

Although this is a very common pattern that is used when working with the Qabalistic Tree of Life, it is by no means the only pattern that is used. Sometimes, for example, the Tree of Life is viewed as thirteen concentric circles instead of the pattern that is shown above. This does not mean that one of these is correct, and the other is incorrect. It is simply a different way of organizing the information. Alright, let's specifically, then, get into these ten spheres, how they are named, and generally what they mean.

We will start from the bottom of the tree, at the tenth sphere. The tenth sphere is commonly called Malkoot, or Malkuth. It is often translated as "kingdom," although I have also seen it translated as "dominion," or even "sovereignty." Sometimes the word Shekinah is used to describe it. Shekinah has a number of translations. The literal translation is "neighborhood," or "abiding," but it is often translated as "glory of God," or "spirit of God," or "divine presence," or "presence of the deity." This word is also sometimes referred to the first sphere, Kether, but we'll get to that in a moment. So that's Malkuth, the tenth sphere.

Next, above Malkuth, is the ninth sphere, and by the way the spheres are also known as sephiroth, a single sphere is called a sephira, but I will attempt to refer to them mainly as spheres in an attempt to keep the amount of jargon to a minimum. The Hebrew word sefirot or sephiroth is usually translated as "numerical emanation," or sometimes "enumeration." The word comes from the Hebrew root words for cipher, meaning numeral, and sapphire, which probably is an allusion to light going through sapphire as being like an emanation. Some Qabalists will refer not only to the ten spheres as sephiroth, but also the twenty-two paths connecting the various spheres--these can also be referred to as sephiroth. But for our purposes we don't need to worry about all of that, we'll just refer to the ten sephiroth as spheres. So the ninth sphere is called Yesod. It is often translated as "foundation," or "foundation of the world." Sometimes, instead of Yesod, the word tzaddik is used. Now tzaddik is sometimes transliterated as z-a-d-d-i-k, sometimes it is transliterated as t-z-a-d-i-k, and it means "righteousness," or "a righteous man." Yesod, though, is probably the more common label that is attached to this ninth sphere.

The eighth sphere, which is generally above the ninth sphere and somewhat to the left, as you are facing the page, is called Hod. This is generally translated as "splendor." Sometimes it is translated as "glory." At the same level as Hod, but above Yesod and to the right is the seventh sphere, Netzach. Netzach is generally translated as "victory." Above Hod and Netzach, directly above Yesod, is Tiphareth, the sixth sphere. Tiphareth is usually translated as "beauty." Above Tiphareth and to the left is the fifth sphere Geburah. Geburah is usually translated as "severity." Sometimes it is translated as "strength." Alternate labels for the fifth sphere include Pahad, which means "punishment." The fifth sphere is also sometimes referred to as Din, and Din is usually translated as "judgment." Across from the fifth sphere, to the right of Tiphareth and above Tiphareth, but at the same level as the fifth sphere is the fourth sphere, Chesed. Chesed is usually translated as "mercy" or "kindness." Another label that is sometimes used for the fourth sphere is Gedulah. Gedulah is traslated as "magnificence" or "greatness."

Directly above the fifth sphere is the third sphere, which is called Binah. Binah is usually translated as "understanding." Sometimes it is translated as "intellect," or even "mind." Directly across from Binah, and directly above the fourth sphere, Chesed, is the second sphere, Chokmah. Chokmah is usually translated as "wisdom." And then, directly above Tiphareth, but also above the level of the second and third spheres is the first sphere, Kether. Kether is usually translated as "crown." Now some Qabalists will switch the order of a couple of the spheres. For example, some Qabalists will put Binah as the second sphere, and Chokmah as the third sphere, although usually Binah is the third sphere and Chokmah is the second sphere. I just point this out again to reiterate that there is not one hundred percent agreement on most of these concepts.

Now, within those ten spheres we obviously have a number of concepts--kingdom, foundation, victory, beauty, and so on. Within the philosophy and within the interpretation of Qabalah, the tenth sphere, or Malkuth, kingdom, is usually corresponded to or is usually attributed to the material world. The spheres above Malkuth are usually seen as being concepts that are beyond or are outside somehow, of the material world. We can see already that there is some similarity between the way the Tree of Life is set up and the idea of Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat, we will recall, was the material world. We can see that the idea of Malkuth is closely related, is quite similar to that. Most Qabalists will, from the ninth sphere all the way to the second sphere, and sometimes even including the first sphere, will attribute the labels on these spheres to being aspects of the mind. This is not one hundred percent, all the time, but it is a very common pattern that is seen. We can see then, a similarity again with Sat-Chit-Ananda, that Chit, or the mind stuff, is the second of these three categories within that formula, we can see that within this formula which has ten parts, that from the ninth sphere, at least to the second sphere, these can be seen as attributes or divisions, if you will, of the mind.

Now, as to the first sphere, Kether, there again is a certain amount of disagreement about what Kether is a label for, what concept it represents. Kether, in one sense, is void of attributes or characteristics. There's not much that can be really said about Kether in a concrete sense. We can see already that this is somewhat similar to the Ananda part of Sat-Chit-Ananda. Ananda was also void of characteristics or attributes, or forms. Kether is often described in a similar fashion. There are some Qabalists, however, who would disagree with that and say Kether is also part of the mind and might more accurately be categorized or included, if we had to put it in one of the three categories of Sat, Chit, or Ananda, that is would be better included in Chit. They might also bring up that there is yet another concept, another set of labels that are seen to be above and beyond Kether that are often referred to as the three negative veils of existence. These are Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur. Ain is usually translated as "no thing," "nothing," or "nothingness." Some Qabalists will get very upset if people attribute the word "nothing" to Ain. They say it may be nothing, but it is still some sort of beingness. This of course doesn't help us in understanding what it is, but I'm just telling you what some of the various opinions are about what this label means, how it is translated. Ain Soph means " no limit." Ain Soph Aur means "the limitless light." These three attributes are seen as being beyond Kether. It would be even more void of characteristics or attributes than Kether is said to be.

So I could see an argument that could be made that if we had to try to show the similarities between this Tree of Life pattern and the concept of Sat-Chit-Ananda, we can see a correspondence of course easily between Sat and Malkuth. We can also see a fairly easy correspondence between Chit and spheres nine through two, since spheres nine through two are often referred to as being attributes of the mind. And there would be some disagreement as to whether Kether would correspond better to the concept of Ananda, or whether the three negative veils of existence, Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur, would correspond to Ananda. However, the overall point I'm trying to make is that we can see there are similarities in both of these formulas, the Tree of Life formula, and the Sat-Chit-Ananda formula. I would like to talk a little bit more about the Tree of Life and first go into the concept of the Four Worlds which are attributed to these ten spheres, and then I would also like to go into the words in the Qabalah that are commonly used when referring to the soul, because Sat-Chit-Ananda, which is also known as Brahman, is often in the Vedantic literature equated with Atman, which also is often translated as "the soul."

So we will be getting more into this concept of the soul in a few moments, but I'd like us to learn a few more of these Qabalistic labels so we can more easily understand the process of enlightenment and the nature of the soul as it relates to these concepts held by the ancients in Eastern and Western thought. Before we jump into describing these labels of the Four Worlds, I would like to mention very briefly that the ten spheres are not the only components of the Qabalistic Tree of Life pattern. This pattern that is shown above just shows the spheres, but there are also paths connecting the spheres. These paths that are connecting the spheres are usually attributed to each of the Hebrew letters. There are twenty-two Hebrew letters attributed to the paths connecting various spheres. There are a number of different ways to arrange these paths that connect the spheres because there are certainly more than twenty-two ways to connect the ten spheres. In this course we will not get into the paths connecting the spheres at all. For those who want to study further, though, there's a lot of knowledge, a lot of wisdom that can be derived from studying these paths.

Alright, on to the Four Worlds. The Four Worlds can also be viewed as aspects of mind. You'll be able to see right from the words that are used to describe the worlds how this is so. The lowest world is Assiah. Assiah means "action." and it is sometimes called the "active world." In almost all cases, and I have yet to probably see any Qabalist attribute it otherwise, Assiah is corresponding to Malkuth, the tenth sphere. So Assiah, the fourth world, is attributed to the material world, as is Malkuth. Once again, we can see that this is easily corresponding to the eastern concept of Sat within Sat-Chit-Ananda.

The third of the Four Worlds is called Yetzirah. Yetzirah means "formation." Yetzirah is often referred to as the "formative world." The spheres that correspond with Yetzirah are the ninth sphere, the eighth, and the seventh. Some Qabalists will also throw in the sixth, the fifth, and the fourth. So again, there is disagreement about what specifically what spheres would constitute Yetzirah. The ninth, eighth, and seventh, pretty much everybody agrees on those. Other Qabalists would throw in the sixth, fifth, and the fourth. Some Qabalists would say--no, that's not true--the sixth, fifth, and fourth spheres are more properly attributed to Briah, or the "creative world." Briah means "creation." Other Qabalists, just to show how much disagreement there is on this, would say oh no, the fourth, fifth, and sixth spheres are attributed to Yetzirah. It's the second and third spheres are attributed to Briah. Of course there is not one hundred percent agreement, and other Qabalists yet would say oh no, the second and third spheres are attributed to Aziluth, as is the first sphere. Aziluth is the "archetypal world." Aziluth means "archetypes."

So there is a hundred percent agreement pretty much that the first sphere is attributed to Aziluth, the tenth sphere is attributed to Assiah, and the seventh, eighth, and ninth spheres are attributed to Yetzirah. The second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth spheres, it's not quite so clear. In the fifth and the sixth lessons we will be going over these Four Worlds, and as they relate to the ten spheres, and I think the reason for the discrepancy among these Qabalists will become clear at that point, but we don't have the language, we don't have the labels that we need for me to explain why there is such a discrepancy. What I would like to point out at this point, though, is that Assiah, meaning "action," can easily be seen to relate to the physical world. The Vedantic concept, the Vedic concept of Karma would be closely related. Karma occurs in the here-and-now. Karmas come to fruition in the here-and-now, related again to the physical world.

The formative world, the creative world, the archetypal world, just the names of these show us a high probability that these are referring to aspects or our mind. When we get to some of the later lessons we'll go into more detail of exactly of how the psychological makeup of our mind is related to these specific concepts. But of course, ideas are formed in the mind. We can create ideas in the mind. Archetypes exist, of course, in the mind. These are all aspects of mind. So once again we see this idea of mind being very central to this particular formula within the Qabalistic Tree of Life and its different attributions, just as it was with the Sat-Chit-Ananda formula.

One last thing I would like to go over on the Qabalah in this lesson, before we move on, is the concept of the soul in Qabalah. Now, once again, there is not widespread agreement on exactly what makes up the soul in Qabalah. Some Qabalists would say there are three parts of the soul. Other Qabalists would say oh no, there are five parts of the soul. Yet others would say oh no, there are seven parts to the soul, to the human soul. Let's pick out three that show up in the Old Testament, three labels, three terms that are used to describe the soul in Qabalah and look at how they are used, how they are translated, in the Old Testament. The lowest part of the soul in Qabalistic writings is often referred to as Nephesh. In the Old Testament, Nephesh is translated as "soul" over four hundred times. It is translated as "mind" about fifteen times. Once again we see this concept of mind creeping in in relation to ultimate reality in relation to the soul. It is also translated over a hundred times as "life." There are also other translations such as "body." There are a couple of times it's translated as "dead body," but I want to bring attention to this idea that Nephesh, a part of the soul, is translated as "life," because this directly relates, once again, to the Eastern concept of Sat-Chit-Ananda.

If you go back and look over that Sivananda essay that I mentioned earlier, you will see that Sivananda refers to the interaction to the relationship between Chit and Prana. Prana, in Sanskrit means "breath," "breath of life," or "life energy." Sivananda describes this life energy or Prana as being the outer sheath, or the grosser sheath, of Chit. They are intimately related. Further, as we mentioned previously, Sat, Chit, and Ananda ultimately are all one concept. We split them out, we separate them, for our own clarity, but in reality they really are all one thing. So we can see that this Sat-Chit-Ananda is intimately connected to the life energy, to Prana. This concept is seen over and over again in Vedanta. In fact, oftentimes, thought, or the mind stuff, is said to have a life energy of its own--a similar concept said in a slightly different way. But we see that even in Qabalah, parts of the soul, and again let me remind you, Sat-Chit-Ananda is often referred to as Brahman. Brahman is often equated with the soul, or Atman. So we are really talking about very similar concepts between the East and the West. Again, we're here to show the connections and similarities. This course is not about showing all the distinctions and all the little separate ways that things can be interpreted. It's about showing the broad strokes, the big picture.

So Nephesh, the lowest part of the soul, over a hundred times is translated in the Old Testament as "life." Another part of the soul in Qabalah is the Ruach. Now the Ruach literally means "spirit." Sometimes it is translated as "reason," which is again, of course, part of our mind. The word "spirit," if we look at it's root meaning, has to do with "breath" or "life." Once again, Prana, we remember means "breath of life" or "life energy." Ruach means "spirit," and spirit is related to breath or life energy as well. Ruach, over ninety times in the Old Testament, is translated into English as "wind." I'll interject one more comment about the word "wind." and it's a bit out of place here, as we'll be devoting the second lesson to a discussion of Ayurveda. But in Ayurveda there is a term very central to that discipline, and that is Vata, or Vat. In some dictionaries in fact the etymology of the word "wind" is traced back to a Sanskrit term which is very closely related to Vata, which means roughly "blowing wind." And Vata, the word itself, as we will see in the next lesson is directly connected to both the idea of life energy and the idea of mind, or intellect. Vata is often translated into English as "wind," just as Pitta is often translated as "bile," and Kapha is often translated as "phlegm," but we'll get to that more in the second lesson. I don't want to get too far off track here, so back to the translations of Ruach. Over two hundred times Ruach is translated as "spirit." Once again, spirit, related to breath, related to life energy. Ruach, over twenty-five times in the Old Testament, is translated as "breath." This is becoming a very obvious pattern. The third aspect of soul in Qabalah, the third label that is often used when referring to the soul in Qabalah is Neshamah. It occurs much less frequently than Ruach or Nephesh in the Old Testament, but let's look at the breakdown of how it's translated as well. On occasion it is translated as "soul" or "spirit." Most of the time, though, it is translated as "breath." Once again, breath related to life energy--an obvious connection, since without breath there is no life.

In the New Testament, and certainly we have Greek Qabalah as well as Hebrew Qabalah--Qabalah is not exclusively Jewish or exclusively Hebrew--in the New Testament, the two terms that are most commonly used for the soul are "psyche" and "pneuma." Psyche, literally means "breath," or "life," and there was in fact in Greek mythology a goddess with that name. Of course in more modern interpretation, we use the term psyche in English in reference to the mind. Again, I think we're seeing a pattern form here between the soul, life energy, and mind. Psyche in the New Testament is translated about forty times as "life." It's translated three times as "mind," and over fifty times as "soul." Pneuma, which is the other common word used for soul in the New Testament, literally means in Greek "breath," "wind," or "soul." Again we see this concept of wind and breath as symbols of life energy as well. Pneuma, in the New Testament, over two hundred and eighty times is translated as "spirit." Again, if we look up what spirit means, where the word spirit came from, it is also directly related to the idea of breath and life. Pneuma, roughly ninety times, is translated as Holy Ghost. Ghost, of course, means the spirit of a dead person, and Holy Ghost is a term often used interchangeably with the term Holy Spirit, which can be a reference to the force that animates a body and gives it life, although it is often considered to continue to exist even after the body has died, and we've already gone over the relationship between the word spirit and "breath" and "life energy" and "soul," and so on.

One last example I'd like to go over regarding how the ancients defined soul is the use of the word nous, usually transliterated N-O-U-S, by the ancient Greek philosophers, especially Plato. The word nous is often translated as "soul" or "mind," or even "intellect" or "reason," so you can right there see the connection to the pattern that we've been going over in this lesson. Sometimes the word nous in English is, especially when capitalized, used as a reference to God, in the sense that God is the supreme mind or intellect. So it may be obvious to some of you already that the next lessons, the next topics of discussion in the later lessons will be a more in depth look at the concepts of the life energy and of the mind, as clearly these were considered by the ancients to be aspects of the soul. And if we want to take care of our souls and enrich our souls we would do well to be educated to some degree on these subjects.

So in the next lesson, we’ll be going over the fundamentals of Ayurveda, which is the ancient Indian system of medicine, and we're choosing that because it acknowledges, unlike Western medicine, the existence of Prana, or life energy. I'll show very clearly how in Ayurveda there is a definite rationale for how the functions of the life energy and those of the conscious mind are intimately related--they're intimately connected. And I would caution those of you who have studied Ayurveda before, even if you've studied it in depth, I would advise you not to skip this lesson, thinking that you might already know all the basics. Because the way I'll be approaching the subject is probably going to be significantly different than what you've experienced in the past when you've studied this subject.

Then in lessons three and four we'll go more into depth into the structure and function of the mind, and how we can maximize proper functioning of our minds, and thus our souls. We'll also talk briefly about economics and the money system, which at first glance may not seem related at all to religion or spirituality, but if we acknowledge that life energy is an aspect of the soul, then we must also admit that work, or labor, is an expression of that life energy, and money, when there is a money system, is therefore a symbolic representation of our life energy, at least that part of our life energy that is expended in work. I know that there are lots of teachings, lots of courses on religion and spirituality that avoid this topic entirely, and certainly we've all been trained pretty much from birth to draw a distinction in our minds between the spiritual world and the material world as if they are complete opposites, polar opposites. But in reality, how we function in the material world, in the here-and-now, in Sat, has a profound influence on the condition of our souls, and we should not avoid examining this area from a religious perspective. Then finally, with all the necessary background material that has been presented in the first four lessons, we'll go on in lessons five and six to discuss in more detail the specifics of the process of enlightenment, especially with reference to how it influences our life energy, and how it influences our minds.

Get the Full Course


All 7 Lectures

image of book cover

Prepare yourself for enlightenment


Organize your Mind and Body

Learn how to prepare your mind and body to work with and promote the process of enlightenment.