Ha Sulam - The Ladder/Scales of Creation and the Four Worlds in Healing and Life
Updated: Nov 2
This blog post is intended as a foundation for posts I have brewing about health and healing, transformation, and the magic of life. I introduce the kabalistic concepts of the four worlds and the sulam or scales/ladder as a way of understanding creation, and how we can apply them in all sorts of ways.
Many ancient wisdom traditions describe our world and experience interms of four levels of being. I'm going to use Hebrew words and reference concepts from Jewish mysticism because this language and tradition are part of my ancestral, cultural inheritance. But the ideas are common to many languages and cultures. I hope you enjoy playing with this orientation to healing and creating.
So lets look at the four worlds, knowing that each level exists within each other level. In Kabbalah, Creator creating creation is described in the reverse order from below: 4, 3, 2, 1. 5 is all of them put together and isn't a separate level in and of itself. I have compiled this information from a combination of books, oral teachings, and personal experience.
The world of action (Assiyah) encompasses the literal level of interpretation (pshat) and the physical level of the being (nefesh). On this level, each being is a distinct individual. In healing work, we can attend to tissues, cells, pain symptoms, nutrition from food, the "lower heavens" or dantien center located in the lower belly, a baby being born. We could associate beta brain waves with this level.
The world formation (Yetzirah) encompasses the metaphorical level of interpretation (remez), the ruach or spirit/breath/energy level of the being (like qi or prana), emotions, fluids, hormones, the endocrine system, communication between levels 1 & 3, and malachim or messenger angels. We can think of individual beings in communication with one another, fascial tissue, organ systems within the body, the heart center, and gestation. Alpha brain waves could be associated with this level.
The world of creation (Briyah), as in, creating something from nothing, encompasses the allegorical interpretation (drush), the soul level of the being (nefesh), the mind/mental, imagination, memory, subconscious, and collective ideas patterns and experiences that transcend the individual as well as time and space. We can work at the level of the nervous system, beliefs, ancestral and collective patterns with a wide, compassionate, reverent presence. I think of the crown center, the Great Self, the long tide in BCST, affirmations, conception, and theta brain wave levels.
The world of emanation (Atzilut), encompasses sod or the mystery level of understanding/interpretation, the level of soul that is shared by all life (Chaya), union, Spirit. This is beyond the level of human understanding. Pre-conception potential for a new soul to enter the world and delta brain waves could be associated with this level.
The unity of all the levels (Yechida), contains all the levels at once and gives us a complete interpretation, a full picture, the whole being, the truth. Pardes is a Hebrew acronym (usually applied to interpretation of the Torah, or Hebrew bible) for pshat, remez, drush, sod, and means orchard. Think of an ecosystem with a canopy, an understory, roots, mushrooms, bugs, birds, animals that creep, and everything in communication and in balance.
Naming these layers can help us traverse them, to explore and experience different depths with focus and intention, and to take on the mantle of powerful co-creators and healers in our beautiful, if broken, world. We can sing the song of creation when we know the scales. In Hebrew, sulam means scales, or ladder.
One magical winter day at the Isabella Jewish Retreat Center, a group of nature educators paused in their play to watch snowflakes fall onto a lake while their mirrored reflection fell up. It was just like the story from the Torah (Hebrew bible) of Jacob's ladder, in which Ya'akov (Jacob) dreams of angels climbing up and down a ladder, from the heavenly to the physical and back!
Climbing up and down the ladder of the levels of being - think swirling double helix - is how we as humans translate our inspiration into ideas into process into realities (going down the ladder) and how we go from experiences in physical reality through interaction with other beings to forming memories (learning) to prayer. This is going up the ladder. For example, we can begin with prayer and receiving inspiration that causes us to imagine something we might like to create. Just by picturing what we want to create, we are lit up with excitement. We then use that energy of excitement to empower and energize our vision and start building it.
Now, lets say we built a house for our family. We have gone from top to bottom of the ladder, for inspiration to physical reality. Going back up means having an experience in the physical that causes us to feel a particular way, which generates an idea, and then a vision or a prayer. For example, lets say we built the kitchen on the third floor. So now we have the experience of having to walk up many flights of stairs carrying heavy groceries. We feel tired and grumpy. We start thinking about how to solve the problem, and now we have an idea to create a pulley system with a basket… this is climbing up the ladder. So this is how we continually cycle up and down.
We can also see visions become ideas that inspire emotions that power physical occurrences on the collective level and may even transcend generations. I find this framework very helpful to me in the collective project to dismantle various forms of internalized oppression. That's a post for another day. Stay tuned for more posts applying this framework on all kinds of topics to do with pregnancy, birth, parenting, healing, personal and social transformation. And please be in touch if you would like to work with me as a doula, childbirth educator, midwife, or Biodynamic craniosacral therapist.
Many blessings to all my co-creators,