September 28, 2016:
My Dreams of Gaia card is the Ten of Earth, a repeat. Hmmm . . . lots of Earth cards lately; my card for yesterday was the Seven of Earth, the day before was the Twelve of Earth/The Seneschal, and the day before was the Ten of Earth again. Perhaps I should treat these three cards like a quick reading! The Seven of Earth tells us to ground, integrate and center in order to connect to self, spirit, and the world around me. The Sensechal reminds me that being a leader might not be the best way to manifest my skills for the highest good of all; being an assistant to a trusted leader instead just might allow me to blossom. The Ten of Earth tells me that I have been made stronger by my past experiences, and that all aspects of my life should be coming together in a way that will increase my own confidence and well being. All three cards are related to the physical world, but not just the physical world. They all address the idea of finding a place in my world that will offer me fulfillment, and will allow me to effectively serve myself and those around me that I love.
Okay, so over the past few days I did some research on Da’at on Wikipedia and the Hermetic Library. Yes, I know, there are more complex and complete texts out there on the Tree, but I’m not trying to become an expert, I’m just trying to get enough of an understanding of this mysterious place on the Tree to be able to use what I learn.
The first thing I realized is that the words “Da’at” and “Abyss” are not necessarily interchangeable. Da’at means Knowledge, and it is considered to be a combination of the energies of Wisdom (Chokmah; Wisdom is thought to come from outside our mind and is brought into our thinking) and Understanding (Binah; Understanding is thought to come from within our mind and is the way we process in a personal way the Wisdom being offered). In a way, Da’at can be seen as the mirror image or shadow of Yesod (which can be seen as the bridge between a physical world focus (Malkuth) and an awareness of all the non-physical states of being), as Da’at bridges the gap between awareness of the many non-physical states of being and the ability to perceive and at least partially understand Deity. In this sense, Da’at secures and maintains the bond between Wisdom and Understanding, and can be seen as “hidden knowledge.”
Da’at is seen by some as the sephira that contains all the others, kind of the way that each of the Aces of the Tarot Minor Arcana contain all of the other numbered cards of its suit and The Fool contains each of the Major Arcana cards. This kind of validates an alternate keyword for Da’at: Unification. The Unification of Wisdom (offered by an outside source) and Understanding (making that Wisdom our own). Perhaps we could also call this process “Personification.” In this sense, Da’at serves as the connection between the intellect and emotions/feelings/visions that are tools for understanding Deity. It is this “extending knowledge” that encourages us to act in accordance with our personal “truths” that have been discovered within the alchemic Great Work, and within the living of life with awareness.
So what, you ask, is the Abyss? The best short description I found was that the Abyss is the gulf or space between abstract ideas. Some say the Abyss represents the time before the Creation, but I am coming to see it as a place that exists between cycles of Creation. Perhaps those past cycles failed because of an imbalance in the manifestation of the sephiroth, perhaps they each grew old and irrelevant, and so were retired. Whatever the reason for the failure, the detritus of the cycles have accumulated in the Abyss. Thus, the Abyss can be seen as a place of un-being. To me, this is similar to the dark days of the moon, or the deepest time of Winter, when Nature rests. In the Wikipedia entry, Dion Fortune describes the Abyss as “a cosmic compost heap where form is digested under the dominion of the Angel of Death and turned into something fertile where new growth can take place.” And so, the Abyss does not contain “nothing,” it contains the “un-manifested.”
This idea of a gulf or chasm separating Deity (the upper three sephiroth) from physical world beings and their experiences (the lower seven sephiroth) corresponds with the concept of the Biblical Fall. There are different descriptions of the reasons for the Fall, but afterward a separation was created. Adam and Eve were chased out of Eden and exiled into the outer world, a great metaphor for the reason of the existence of the Abyss and the separation of sephiroth it creates. The Fall is also the reason that Da’at is hidden; after all it contains the knowledge necessary to perceive Deity, and that ability was taken away or separated from mankind after the Fall.
All of this information is echoed in the Tarot Major Arcana High Priestess, the keeper of hidden knowledge. Even her Hebrew alphabet correspondence tells of crossing the Abyss; she is Gimel, the camel who is able to cross the harshest dessert and still live.
This separation of one thing from another or finiteness can be seen as limitation, a necessary part of the Tree. After all, there is a whole Pillar dedicated to Form, which is created by limiting or shaping the energy of Force. But the sephira of Da’at is on the center Pillar, the Pillar of Balance, the same place where we find Yesod. Perhaps the message here is that we cannot cross the Abyss without learning how to balance Form and Force.
In the end, Da’at and the Abyss combine to offer a powerful tool for training the mind (not for informing it, as the keyword Knowledge suggests) as claimed by Dion Fortune. It is the place where we become less aware of what we know and more aware of what we don’t know.