The Four Planes of Manifestation

By the late Tim Keen

I remember that when I first came to study the Kabbalah, I found it very valuable, but confusing in its terminology.

Neither Dion Fortune, McGregor Mathers nor Crowley seemed able to agree entirely on how the terms should be translated. Now, many years later, I have come to the conclusion that one of the crusty forms of the old order is the use of Hebrew terms to describe concepts for which we should have more expressive, meaningful modern terms. You can look at the issue from many angles, but I am convinced that the New Age requires the breaking of these forms. It is a fact that despite all the so-called New Age activity, we still cling to repackaged versions of old-age religions. We pursue Celtic, Egyptian, Greek, Qaballistic systems – all of which are old-age forms. And I suspect that should one of these priests of old be exposed to our modern version of his religion, he would not recognise it. For the fact is that we have imposed our modern ideas on these old-forms in order to express concepts that are 21 st Century.

In the New Age, we shall require to ditch these false images and replace them with new concepts which are not faked up versions of old religions. It will not be easy, but it will happen just the same; for future generations will not look back to the Old Age, but wish to look forward and base their ideas on images and concepts more in tune with modern thoughts.

Modern occultism will need to take just as much from the well-spring of psychology as was done from the well-spring of the Hebrews, and it is quite clear to me that the two don’t sit easily side by side. When we throw into the melting pot, the opportunities offered to path working by computer induced virtual reality, we see that the old order is being swept swiftly away .

With this in mind, I wish to take an old concept “the four-fold world of the Qaballist” and re-express this concept in ways that younger minds may find easier to come to terms with.

The structure of the universe, as it is taught in the western occult schools, is that it exists in four layers. I should point out that this is only one way of looking at things. This might sound dubious to a generation of those educated in the scientific method, where all things are measured just so, but there are precedents in the scientific world for even such a view. You can regard an election as a particle – or a wave. It depends on how you want to use the knowledge. Both models are valid expressions of an electron’s nature. Equally, you can view the colourful world about you as being a mix of three primary colours, red, blue, green, or indeed as a seven colour model as seen in the rainbow. Both work as a model. So, whereas some Eastern systems are based about a seven-fold model, the Western mind seems particularly fond of the four-fold model, acknowledging that three of those planes can be further expanded into fluid and concrete modes thus making the bridge to a seven fold system. So much for that. The real issue is just what is the nature of these four planes or as they are sometimes called, worlds?

I tend to refer to the four planes of existence as:

The Plane of Idea
The Plane of Realisation
The Plane of Formation
The Plane of Expression
Now I should clear up one matter straight away. All of these planes are “in manifestation” in the sense that we are aware of them. The Plane of Expression could perhaps be better written as the Plane of Physical Manifestation, or the Physical Plane, but it is of no great importance – it is just a question of getting our terms correct and understood. These four planes of existence occur both within the human consciousness and without in the universe itself – or, if we like, in God’s consciousness. For, as Dion Fortune wrote; “The universe is really a thought-form of God” .

The understanding of these planes is not straightforward – when is it ever? – and I have found with such things that it is usually best to start with that which is familiar, in other words the human-consciousness side of the equation. (This is sometimes referred to as the Microcosm or the Cosmos as it is expressed by analogy within Man himself). Each of these planes resides as the source to the plane below and ideas, if you will, flow from the Plane of Idea down through the others to the Plane of Expression or the Physical Plane.

Take the following seed idea and plant it in your mind:

Ideas are realised into Thought.

Thoughts are formed in Imagination.

Imagination is expressed into Form.

To take a specific example, let us consider the invention of the wheel. Firstly, we have the idea or principle of a wheel. This is nothing concrete, you understand, it is a very abstract thing, hard for us to grasp. It might be just a vague something which is there when we look at the way we are moving a large rock by placing rollers under it and pushing it over them. Could we fix the roller so that we might not have to keep picking it up at the back? Then we might have this idea condense out a bit into an actual thought. This idea might now be realised as being a thing circular, but fixed in the centre.

Now we have, at last, got something concrete. The idea is expressed or stated in some mental thought that you might communicate. From this we might visualise, using our imagination, an actual design. It is a slice through a log with a big nail through the centre. It is still only in our imagination – yet, it is in a Plane of Formation – we have given the thought a form, but in our mind. From here, we would wish to make the design, and express it in wood or some physical material. The physical world is the plane in which all ideas must ultimately be expressed or given expression.

This last point is a point of great importance, for unless you actually bring an idea into “Earth”, as it were, it remains unexpressed and not fully in manifestation. It is a duty of those who conscious’ work the planes of manifestation to bring these ideas into physical reality. For example, the ideas expressed herein, would be of no value if I kept them to myself and did not express them at least in speech or in some other physical manner that others could interpret.

So, now you ihould have grasped that the plane of idea roughly corresponds to the well-spring tha lies behind thought. That thought itself is broadly equivalent to your thinking mind, that the plane of formation is like your imagination and the plane of expression is the physical world.

All of this seems fairly simple and so it is. But now you must stretch your mind and try to grasp what this means in the world “out there”. Again, let us try an example.

Let us suppose that there is a concept, that we may call The Principle of Polarity. This principle exists conceptually in the Plane of Idea. I am not going to detail it at this stage, for to do so would bring it out of the abstract plane of idea, into at least the plane of realisation. In fact, we are unable to talk about the concept except in terms of those more concrete planes of Realisation, Formation and Expression.

Let us now say that the great cosmic principle is realised as follows: that things are manifested in the manner of male and female complementaries. In the case of animals, we have this concept formed through the male and female genders of the species. The concept is formed in diverse ways, but it is sufficiently well developed for us to recognise gender when we see it in other life-forms. Life-forms, it should be said, that are as diverse as fish, insects, plants and birds. In the Plane of Realisation, then, we may say that we have the Principle of Polarity as realised by Gender. This is still quite abstract. Only at the next stage down do we get anything like a design. At this level we may form many different designs, just as we form many types of design for a wheel. Nonetheless, all of these designs are follow a form which adheres to the principle realised in the level above. In this specific case, we would have all species of life-form which exhibit gender. Note that we are not talking about the actual living things at this stage, but rather about the species as a whole, such as elephants, finches, apes and so on.

At the next level down, the Plane of Expression, we have the physical expression of Polarity as displayed by these life-forms, in other words, the living animals themselves.

We have talked about the Principle of Polarity but this is merely an example. What you must grasp is that many such principles, emerging in the Plane of Idea, flow down the planes and express themselves in the natural world. Be careful, however, to draw a distinction between the natural world and the man-made world. The latter is an expression of Man and quite likely will express the deviation from Cosmic Principles with which he suffers. Taking the original point a bit further, it is worth realising that one of the main ways that Cosmic Ideas are expressed is through the creation of a life-form. Life-forms that become extinct are really nothing more than ideas whose time has passed. The dinosaurs are perhaps a classic example of this. In fact, it is true to add that it is not helpful to prevent a species becoming extinct if it’s time has come, for to do so will hinder the expression of new ideas which are fundamental to continual evolution. However, this truth is not to be confused with the sorry fact that many species have become extinct before their time due to the foolishness of Mankind, blundering about and generally setting back the course of natural evolution.

One final point, of great practical significance, is that not only can ideas be expressed in life-forms, but also that life-forms can be used to express ideas. The creation of a new species, such as through selecti~ breeding or genetic manipulation, will create a form which will throw the idea up the planes. This is really quite reckless in theory, but in most cases, the life-forms that Man can produce are only slight deviations (in terms of their cosmic principle) from what exists already. Because of this, little damage is expected. However, as we become more proficient the likelihood is that we will produce ever more unique life-forms which will be more and more deviant from existing cosmic principles. This is potentially very de-stabilising and we would all do well to remember the old principle: As Above, So Below and vice versa.

To summarise, then, we may view the world about us as consisting of four planes beginning witha Plane of Idea, which is very subtle, and ending with a Plane of Expression, which is very dense. Each plane is more dense as we go ‘down’ this stack, and each of these planes takes its influence from the plane ‘above’. There is a great deal more that can be said about these planes and the way in which they relate to our own selves. However, these are genuine subjects for meditation and contemplation and it is hoped that we will all continue to bring our minds upon these concepts and thus, through the application of a gentle light, unfold the Truth, just as a flower unfolds to meet the dawn.