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The World of Asiyah

olam ha-asiyah


Asiyah means the "world of making."  Although the details differ among different Kabbalistic schools, the basic consensus is that the Universe of Asiyah constitutes the subspiritual or lower world, from the psychic or the material down to the "husks" of creation (klippot)

Although the Zohar does not have a developed cosmological doctrine of worlds (this only appears a  century later), reference is made to the material world, the world of change and corruption and region of evil spirits.  This is the region of are the grossest sefirot, consisting of material substance.   There are ten degrees, each lower than the other.  Alternatively, there are seven earths (the highest presumably being the earth of human beings, i.e. the physical universe) one beneath the other, and beneath the lowest of them, seven hells, again arranged in sequence.  In contrast to Christianity, the souls of sinners are there not only to be punished but also to be purified, before ascending, the exception being the hell of Abadon, where the soul is apparently destroyed [Paul Krzok, "The Cosmological Structure of the Zohar", The Hermetic Journal, no.20, Summer 1983) pp.33-4].

In the pseudepigraphical Massekhet Atzilut (early 14th Century), in which the cosmology is defined to a somewhat greater degree, and in which the system of distinct worlds or universes is elaborated for the first time, the world of Asiyah encompasses the range of creation from the angels (ofannim - "wheels" - the term being taken from the vision of Eziekal) through the ten celestial spheres to the terrestrial world of matter.[Scholem, Link to Amazon com Kabbalah, pp.118-9].

Kabbalistic Associations

Sefirah: Malkhut
Soul Principle Nefesh
Divine hierarchy: Ofannim
Letter of the Tetragrammaton: Final He

Non-Kabbalistic Associations

suggested quaternal type: bb (old yin)


internal linkAsiyah in Lurianic Kabbalah

web pageAssiyah - at -  a very short description - interprets Asiyah as physical reality


The Asiyatic Universe - a personal appraisal

As can be seen from the following table, the Asiyatic universe is interpreted quite differently within the various schools and traditions off Kabbalah.  So diverse are these distinctions that the term "Asiyah" almost becomes meaningless.

Kabbalistic Paradigm
standardised Universes 
"Asiyah" as material and subphysical 
Asiyah as physical up to the heavenly spheres
Asiyah as formative or archetypal reality
Asiyah as psychic or magickal astral reality
Asiyah as 
physical mundane reality
Zohar in part
Massekhet Atzilut
e.g. Lurianic Kabbalah in part
Hayyim Vital 
also some Hermetic occultsim
e.g. R.Schneur Zalman (Chabad); 
Jewish_Renewal Kabbalah

internal link Rabbi Hayyim Vital on Worlds, Prophecy, and Practical Kabbalah

My own intrpretation, for what it is worth, is to combine all these interpretations and have Asiyah as representing the Psychic and Physical realities.  as such Asiyah, which represents the world of duality, the region where truth and falsehood, light and dark, good and evil, are inextricably mixed, and which contains the "husks" (klippot) of creation, equates very neatly with parallel concepts in other dramaturgic cosmologies: the cosmos of Gnosticism, the Pindi (Body) of Sant Mat (incorporating the lower six chakras), Physical and Vital planes of Sri Aurobindo; even the "3 worlds of Rebirth" - samsara - of Buddhism.

This then is the "world of darkness", or of "matter" or of "duality", above which are successive heavenly spiritual worlds of greater and greater Light, representing higher and higher gnostic planes of attainment and enlightenment, successive "pleromas' to use Henry Corbin's evocative adaptation of the original Gnostic term for universes of Light and Spirit.
Kabbalistic Worlds
Kabbalistic worlds

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page uploaded 16 March 1999