The First Atzilutic (Noetic) Plane

The Absolute Divine Reality

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This first hypostasis is so sublime, and so close to the Supreme Manifest Absolute Itself, that at times the terms and concepts used to describe the one would also seem to apply to the other.  In Kashmir Shaivism for example, "Shiva-tattwa" (as opposed to Parasamvit) could equally pertain to the Absolute Divine as to the Manifest Absolute.

In the Siddha-Siddhanta-Paddhati, a profound cosmological text attributed to Goraksha-Nath, the formost representative of Shaivite Tantric-influenced Nath sect, reference is made to the seven universes of phenomenal existence - lokas or jagrats - that unfold within the infinite Cosmic Body of Shiva (Maha-Sakara-Pinda), each ruled over by a Cosmic Personality or Godhead, with the Supreme Godhead as the eighth (or rather, the first) over-ruling everything.  This latter would correspond to the Divinity of the Absolute-Divine plane.  As explained by A. K. Bannerjea:

 "Shiva Himself is...the First Murti, the Supreme Cosmic Personality, Whose self-luminous consciousness is all-transcending and all-comprehending, all-illumining and all-unifying, and Who reigns over and determines the courses of all orders of His Cosmic Body."
 [Philosophy of Gorakhnath, p.132]

Of course, to Vaishvanite it would be Vishnu who is the Supreme Deity here; to a Shakta, the Mother (Shakti); to a Christian, God; to a Muslim, Allah; etc.  One approaches the Supreme according to one's own inclination and bias.

This One Godhead puts forward subsidary aspects of Itself.  As Sri Aurobindo explains:

 "Four great Aspects of the Mother, four of her leading Powers and Personalities have stood in front in her guidance of this Universe and in her dealings with the terrestrial play.  One is her personality of calm wideness and comprehending wisdom....Another embodies her power of splendid strength and irresistable passion...A third is vivid and sweet and wonderful...The fourth is equipped with her close and profound capacity of intimate knowledge and careful flawless work..."
 [Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, pp.25-26 (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1972)]

Thus from the One emerge the fundamental Four.  One can see here the symbolism of the Four Elements in Western esotericism: respectively Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the five Tathagata Buddhas are equivalent to the Four Aurobindoan Powers or Personalities of the Mother.  And in the more iconographically-orientated system of the former, eqach of these Tathagatas is equated with a particular direction, element, colour, "wisdom" (the term as used by translaters of Tibetan Buddhist texts is in no way equivalent to the Western sense), psycho-physical attribute (skandha), animal, chakra, etc etc.

With the Gorakhnathian system, there are not four or five but seven derived Cosmic Personalities or Murtis.  These are not arranged in a mandala, but in linear fashion, each emanted by a preceeding one, and each corresponding to a particular plane of existence.

The Lurianic cosmology balances the "mandalic" and the "linear" perspectives.  From the ineffable first Partzuf of Adam Kadmon emanate two more, the Supernal equivalent of Father and Mother.  These in turn emanate a more demiurgic male-female pair, the Supernal equivalent of God and his Female Polarity.  Each of these is a world or universe in itself, and is associated with a particular sefirot, Divine Name, and stage of manifestation.

As with the ten sefirt of Kabbalah, and the Tibetan Buddhist Five Tathagata Buddhas, Sri Aurobindo refers to four great Personalities or Powers of the Divine Mother [Sri Aurobindo, The  Mother, pp.26ff (Sri Aurobindo Ashram,  Pondicherry)]. These he calls Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati (placing the prefix maha, meaning "great", in front of the names of  these various popular Hindu Goddesses).  Maheshwari represents Wisdom and wideness of consciousness;  Mahakali Strength or force; Mahalakshmi Harmony or sweetness or bliss; and Mahasaraswati Perfection,  organisation and completion.

In  Kabbalah

"in terms of their origin in the En Sof the Sefirot are not differentiated, but in...their activity in the finite  realm of creation they are." [Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, p.100 (Meridian Books)].
Sri Aurobindo also explains that whereas in the Overmind and triple world of Mind, Life, and Matter these Divine powers appear as independent beings,
"they return in the Supermind into the One and stand there united in a single harmonious action as multiple personalities of the One Person, the Divine Purushottama." [Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, p.64]
 Similarily, one could say that the Tibetan Tathagata Buddhas in their mandalic form represent the "Overmental" or Atzilut plane of existence; while in the Supramental or Absolute plane they would exist as a single totality, represented perhaps by Vajrasattva, "the imamnent, all-pervading reality of adamantine  voidness", "the universal state of the all-comprising essentiality" [Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, pp.188, 198 (Rider & Co,  London)], who embodies the entire meaning of Vajrayana Buddhism and is therefore invoked at the  beginning of many Tibetan initiations [Lauf, Secret Doctrines of the Tibetan Books of the Dead, pp.103- 4].  Thus there is a consensus in the different esoteric teachings.  The terminology and details may change, but the basic principles always remain the same.

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page uploaded 18 April 1999